Columns – Press Herald Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:00:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maine Voices: Truly great countries like ours also need to be good world citizens Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Today, we live in a world of unprecedented health and wealth disparities, and in a country in seeming retreat from its responsibilities to be a part of the solution to our most difficult global challenges. While our daily news cycle is dominated by Twitter pronouncements from Washington and Mar-a-Lago, the United Nations’ recent warning that the world faces the greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945 goes largely unnoticed and unheeded.

The U.N. reports that over 20 million people across the four countries of Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria face imminent starvation and famine, hoping to stir the world to action. Today in Haiti, where I write this, the U.N. has raised only 2 percent of the $400 million it estimates it will cost to eliminate the scourge of cholera, a disease that did not exist there until inadvertently introduced by the U.N.

It is in this context that the budget proposal coming out of the White House shows this administration’s priorities and values. In order to find the money for an unprecedented military buildup and for the construction of a huge wall between us and our neighbors, it proposes to make dramatic cuts in many other areas, including foreign aid and global health.

One reason that there has not been a big outcry about the proposed cuts to foreign aid is that a false narrative continues to be perpetuated: that we are giving away so much money at the expense and negligence of our own people’s needs. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that, on average, Americans believe that spending on foreign aid makes up 31 percent of the federal budget. Only 3 percent of those polled know that foreign aid actually accounts for less than 1 percent of federal spending The president has made much of the fact that not all NATO countries are living up to their obligations in terms of military investments, but little is said about our respective humanitarian obligations. While it is true that the United States is the biggest contributor to foreign aid in real dollars, it ranks 20th in the world in terms of contributions as a percentage of gross national income.

Money spent on global health by wealthy nations is less than 1 percent of what we spend on our own health care. Given that, it is hard to see how global health and development expenditures are undermining our homeland needs. In fact, the proposal to drastically cut this support may be compromising the homeland security that the military buildup is purported to be addressing. Even the military elite see this underinvestment as destabilizing and dangerous for the U.S.

Over 120 retired generals and admirals recently signed a letter calling on Congress not to slash funding for foreign aid, stating their “strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe.” Perhaps prophetically, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress in 2013, as commander of U.S. Central Command: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.” That calculation seems to be playing out with the current proposed budget, as foreign aid is slashed to augment the biggest military budget in the world: more than the next seven largest countries combined.

It is true that there is much to criticize about how foreign aid is implemented. As someone who is working on the ground in Haiti, I see that up close and personal. It is very complex and difficult work, and we need to get better at it as a nation. Along with the problems, I also see how well-applied resources make a huge difference in the health and well-being of so many people living on the other side of the wealth-health disparity divide.

Budgets, whether personal or federal, are true reflections of priorities and values, because they play out “where the rubber meets the road” in very concrete ways. I used to tell my kids that the true measure of a person is not how much money he or she makes, but how much positive change he or she makes in the world. The same can be said for countries: Truly great countries are good world citizens.

Fortunately, presidents don’t set budgets – they only propose them. With a closely split Congress, our senators can play an especially important role at this important juncture in making sure that the budget that is ultimately passed reflects our real values. Please join us in contacting your elected members of Congress and asking them to oppose the proposed drastic cuts to these essential programs.


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Jim Fossel: Lawmakers are free to tinker with citizen initiatives – respectfully Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Apart from the biannual wrangling over the budget, much of the focus of the legislative session thus far has been on bills that were already passed. If that seems foolish to you, with Maine facing so many pressing problems that need to be addressed, then rest assured you aren’t the only one.

The problem here, though, is less the content of the bills than how they were passed. You see, these bills were passed as citizen initiatives at the ballot box rather than by the Legislature. That means they didn’t quite have to run the same gantlet as most bills in Augusta, going through committee hearings and floor votes and facing the threat of possible veto by the governor.

Legislators, of course, hate that, as do the entrenched special interests in Augusta. So as is often the case after a citizen initiative has been approved by the voters, many of them are now engaging in efforts to modify these laws after they were approved. Right now, the debate is focused on the tax surcharge that increases funding for education and on the minimum-wage hike. A number of Republican legislators are proposing bills that would limit or completely negate these citizen initiatives. They’re right to be concerned, as there’s good reason to think these new laws could have a negative impact on the state’s economy.

Democrats, of course, seem not to share those concerns: They are standing by the outcomes of the referendums, by and large. They’ve been arguing that Maine voters knew very well what they were doing when they supported these policies, and that Maine legislators shouldn’t override the will of the voters by ignoring referendum results. They’re not wrong, of course: The Legislature shouldn’t just overturn citizen initiatives after the fact or ignore them. However, there’s reason to sincerely doubt their claim to be stalwart defenders of democracy.

After all, Democrats and Republicans alike have ignored the citizen initiative requiring that the state fund 55 percent of education costs for years. Moreover, the budget that eliminated Clean Election funding for gubernatorial candidates was not a partisan exercise but a bipartisan budget that was supported by two-thirds of the Legislature. If those examples aren’t recent enough for you, earlier in this very session Democrats had no problem going along with Republicans to rewrite the law on legalizing marijuana that passed last year. So this newfound respect from Democrats in Augusta for referendum results is welcome, to be sure, but it is so very sudden that it should not be believed.

No, clearly neither party has any problem ignoring, revising or completely rewriting citizen-initiated laws when it’s politically convenient for them. Let’s stop pretending otherwise. Instead, let’s demand that when the Legislature sees fit to meddle with citizen initiatives, it does so the right away. There are a number of ways for legislators who are concerned about citizen initiatives to fix them that respect the will of the people.

Contrary to popular belief, citizen initiatives aren’t just automatically sent directly to the ballot. They are instead referred first to the Legislature, which has the option to pass them as is or vote against them, sending them to the ballot. However, they also can craft a competing measure – make changes to the law instead of simply approving or rejecting it. If those changes are approved, then voters are presented with three options: the amended citizen initiative, the original as written, or they can reject both choices. If any option garners more than 50 percent of the votes, that’s that; if not, there’s a runoff to decide what becomes law.

The other option is to send any legislation modifying a citizen initiative out to referendum itself. This method isn’t often used, but the Legislature can always refer any legislation to the voters – and it’s what should be done with any major changes to laws originally passed by the people. That would give voters the chance to weigh in on the proposed changes, ensuring that they remain a part of the process.

The citizen initiative procedure was intended to give the people a greater voice. It wasn’t supposed to be a way for legislators to duck decisions on the issues. If certain aspects of a referendum are particularly controversial, legislators have every opportunity to make changes – before or after it appears on the ballot. Legislators in both parties should absolutely respect the decisions of voters, but that doesn’t ever preclude them from making responsible changes to the laws that result.

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

Twitter: jimfossel

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Alan Caron: It turns out the Cold War is still alive and kicking in 2017 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 In November 1989, the Berlin Wall was pulled down, reuniting a German nation that had been divided since the end of World War II. Two years later, the Soviet Union, and the communism of Eastern and Central Europe, disintegrated. We clinked our glasses in celebration of the end of the Cold War, but the party may have been premature.

The Cold War, it turns out, never ended. It merely went into a Siberian hibernation while the Soviet Union reinvented itself into the modern Russian state, replacing an aging Politiburo with a new class of brutal billionaire oligarchs, headed by former KGB spy Vladimir Putin.

Cold War 2.0 is upon us, and it isn’t an entirely cold conflict. In the last few years, Russia has invaded the Ukraine, sent jets and advisers into Syria to directly challenge the U.S. and begun to systematically undermine elections in Europe, and now in America, through hacking computers and spreading fake news.

What the Russians did in our last election is, regrettably, now caught up in partisan politics in Washington. But their actions have implications that go far deeper than the politics or the personalities of the moment. In this last election cycle, the Russians not only interfered with our internal affairs and the direction of the country, they also widened our partisan divides by favoring one party over another.

But Russia’s role in our politics is hardly a partisan issue. Consider, for a moment, what could come next in this new cyberwar. Russian hackers are working hard to figure out how to change vote tallies in selected systems, turn off elements of the nation’s power grid, shut down internet links between financial institutions and perhaps even paralyze some elements of the U.S. military and intelligence command structure.

Republicans and Democrats always have had their disagreements, but when it came to the Soviet threat, they stood shoulder to shoulder. In the past, it wouldn’t have mattered if the Russians helped one party over the other. Russian intervention would have generated national unity. That’s because we are first and foremost Americans, not Republicans or Democrats.

Now, in a reversal that must have President Ronald Reagan turning in his grave, a Republican president is dismissing the warnings of all of the country’s intelligence agencies about Russian intervention, smearing the credibility of those agencies and even accusing them of playing partisan politics.

Last week, we learned that the FBI has been engaged in a major investigation, since last July, of Russian meddling in this last election. It is an investigation into both the extent of Russian involvement and whether or not there was any coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

No matter how much partisan Republicans may wish it, this is an issue that will not go away soon, if at all. RussiaGate is a dark cloud hanging over this administration, distracting and sapping their ability to lead. And given this past year’s Russian successes, it is likely to return as an issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

None of us knows where this investigation by the FBI will lead. It may simply paint a picture of what happened and what needs to be done. Or it could lead to the appointment of an independent prosecutor – and even a Watergate-style national crisis or impeachment.

Here’s what we do know, and it is sobering.

 President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has had close relationships with Russia for over a decade. He resigned last summer after documents showed that he had received $12.7 million from Ukraine’s pro-Russian president. As recently as 2009, he was a paid lobbyist for Russian interests in Washington.

 Trump adviser Roger Stone bragged about his connection to WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, which is a code name associated with the Russian hacking team and intelligence agencies.

 Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser amid controversy over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador; it has since become known that he was once a paid adviser to the Russian propaganda channel RT.

 A former Trump adviser, Carter Page, was investigated by the FBI in 2016 for his ties to Russia and his ongoing and loud public defense of Russian foreign policy.

Trump has added fuel to the fire by his admiration of Putin, dismissing the Ukraine intervention, praising the country’s approach in Syria and attacking U.S. intelligence agencies.

This is an issue that challenges us to act together as a nation. This isn’t about Trump or which party wins or loses. It isn’t even about politics. It’s about the future of America.

Alan Caron is the principal of Caron Communications and 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.Fri, 24 Mar 2017 18:46:20 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Trump needs to free himself from the Freedom Caucus Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The last card played by President Trump in the high-stakes game of repealing and replacing Obamacare was the defunding of Planned Parenthood. But his gamble failed, and now’s the time for him to cut a new deal.

Trump, called in by House Speaker Paul Ryan to be the “closer” in negotiations between House Republican factions, tweeted out at 8:30 Friday morning: “The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!”

Limiting the irony of the Republicans’ fiasco of a bill to its failure to mortally wound Planned Parenthood while it had the chance was no accident. The president knows what’s really at the heart of any deal for some in the Republican caucus. The red meat is ideology, not health insurance or governing.


Had Trump more than 140 characters to play with in his tweet, he could have noted several more ironies before House Republican leaders abruptly pulled the American Health Care Act moments before Friday’s scheduled vote. Take the name “Freedom Caucus” for the roughly three dozen hardliners who have been holding America hostage: so-called “pro-life” religious folks hell-bent on taking away life-saving medical care. It’s ironic that these self-described “smaller government” men want, on one hand, laws that require women to bear children and, on the other hand, laws that eliminate maternity and pediatric care as an essential benefit covered by insurance.

The Freedom Caucus says it wants government out of the health care business so people can be free to buy health insurance on the free market, but that’s impossible in the context of the real world in which most of us live.

The Freedom-From-Reality Caucus, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board dubs this group, ignores the reality of laws that require hospitals to treat sick people regardless of insurance or the ability to pay and overlooks already-entrenched and government-sponsored health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Imagine the free market for groceries if stores were required by law to give food to hungry people. Unless you are high on ideology, you simply can’t – but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve a marketplace with a safety net baked in.

In the wake of the humiliating House Republican meltdown on Obamacare repeal, the president should cut a deal with people who want to expand insurance coverage and reduce premiums. That is the “win-win” for the country that his administration needs, as I told him in a tweet: “@realDonaldTrump people want Affordable American Healthcare Act! AACA, or ‘Double A.’ Walk away from Freedom Caucus. They are losers!”

Do I like tweeting to the president of the United States using exclamation points in sentences that state the obvious? No, I do not, but when in Rome do as the Romans do, and when on social media, hurl epithets and exclamation points. It’s the new language of the new administration, and at least some of us are willing to compromise.


The alternative to the ridiculousness on display in the Capitol is easy to conjure for people outside the trench warfare of Washington politics. People want lawmakers to hammer out a deal, the terms of which seem so obvious: Democrats agree to support the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with 60 or more votes, and Republicans agree to improve rather than repeal a 7-year-old health care law that has expanded coverage, reduced the deficit and is very popular. Trump should free himself from the Freedom Caucus and work with Democrats and moderates to cut a deal. That’s the luxury of being an outsider.

In the current political climate of chaos and instability, the Ryan bill’s proposed jettisoning of the mental health treatment mandate is insane, and it’s odious that a group of men is being seduced with the prospect of eliminating women’s health care.

The president’s suggestion in his tweet that the elimination of Planned Parenthood should have made the deal irresistible to the extreme right was a strong message to other lawmakers who might have been on the fence. “Fiscal conservatism” is not driving the House proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Trump called the Republican game Friday, showed the party’s hand and then lost. Some think this will weaken his presidency, but I disagree. People who negotiate and make deals for a living learn from their mistakes. The president is free to deal with others, and I hope he does.

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)Sun, 26 Mar 2017 09:10:26 +0000
Maine Voices: A voice for the common man Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 In October 1965, I was associate White House press secretary. A few hours after President Johnson announced he would enter the hospital for gallbladder surgery, the New York Herald Tribune correspondent asked if their famous columnist, Jimmy Breslin, could call me for a favor.

Sure, I said. I’d idolized Breslin since 1962, when he wrote perhaps the best – and definitely the funniest – baseball story ever to appear in Sports Illustrated. It was titled “Worst Team Ever,” about the 1962 New York Mets, and it made me (and everyone else) laugh out loud every 30 seconds.

I was hooked. Addicted. He was the best, most original, insightful and funniest columnist I ever read. He wrote about people, important people and others who you wouldn’t think were important, but he did.

He wrote often about his neighbors, most of whom he disliked, and about the guys he hung out with: gamblers, petty thieves, sportswriters, street lawyers and bail bondsmen, whom he liked. One time he put up a sign in his front yard in Queens that said “People I’m Not Talking to This Year” and featured the names of several neighbors, including the milkman and the breadman. He began a column about this in the following fashion:

“The wife of a new neighbor from up on the corner came down and walked up to my wife and started acting nice, which must have exhausted her.”


So when the Trib called, I was eager to help. Shortly, Breslin was on the phone. I explained that we’d have a press room at the hospital and provide a press briefing twice a day during the president’s hospitalization and he was welcome to join us. “No, I don’t want that,” Breslin said. Instead, he asked me to arrange for him to interview the surgical nurse who stood over the unconscious president and watched the surgeon make the incision.

That call led to a 50-year friendship. Breslin, who died last week, was one of a kind.

While in Washington I would occasionally fly up to New York and meet Jimmy at a bar, initially at a place next to the New York World-Telegram building on the Lower East Side where he used to work, but most often at Gallagher’s Steak House on West 55th Street, which Jimmy graced for decades, and which is still going strong.

The routine was pretty much the same. Jimmy would be accompanied by Fat Thomas, the bookie, and a few other sketchy friends, such as Hymie Limousine, owner of a one-car limousine service (featuring a 15-year-old stretch DeSoto) who chauffeured Jimmy and his friends around Manhattan. Jimmy never learned to drive.

Jimmy wrote about civil rights and walked with Martin Luther King in the Selma-Montgomery march; he wrote about the Vietnam War and went to Vietnam, and he wrote nasty things about New York politicians who became former friends. But mostly he wrote about very interesting human beings and events that most of us pay no attention to, but that serve to give us a peek at what really is happening around us.

Once, and only once, did he cover a typical presidential trip and temporarily assume the role of White House reporter. Three days with LBJ, beginning with a health care speech at a Catskills resort hotel and finishing in Maine, with stops in Brunswick, the Topsham Dairy Queen, Lewiston, Portland and finally Campobello Island near Lubec.

While all the others wrote stories about LBJ’s health care speech, Jimmy wrote about an older hotel guest, standing in the crowd watching the president’s arrival at the resort hotel, who sported a diamond pinky ring and a beautiful young companion. It was dark when the motorcade arrived. The TV lights suddenly came on, illuminating the entire scene, and instantaneously, the older man, accompanied by what some would surmise as his granddaughter, pulled his trench coat over his face. Breslin had his column, and it wasn’t about health care.

When we got to Maine, Jimmy was done. He looked at me and said, “Why did you make me come here?”


Jimmy was able to empathize with ordinary human beings better than any journalist in America. One night during the chaotic 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, I was trying to find a cab outside the Hilton Hotel to take me to the convention hall, and I found myself in the middle of a riot. Hundreds of Chicago police were beating on war protesters, traffic was gridlocked and I was nervous.

Suddenly a car horn was sounding and someone was calling my name. It was Jimmy and his driver. I jumped into the safety of the car, greeted by Jimmy blasting me for stupidity.

Thinking that Jimmy and I viewed the riot police in the same way, I said the Chicago police were out of control and beating on everybody in sight for no reason. Jimmy responded with his special insight.

“Most of those cops,” he said, “are the sons of immigrants. They didn’t get to go to college. But they have a job that people are supposed to respect. They are moving into the middle class, buying a home and planning to send their children to college. And along come these entitled college kids from the Ivy League who are pissing on them. The cops are enraged. What do you expect?”

Jimmy’s columns described what was really going on in his community. He was often angry, and politicians feared him. He was also kind, thoughtful and caring.

He was not only a great writer, he had an unmatched expertise: people. Jimmy was truly one of a kind.


]]> 0 Breslin, seen in 1986 after winning the Pulitzer Prize, was one of America's most recognized columnists for decades.Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:06:11 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Donald Trump has no idea how to tend his own garden Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 What a world. I spend an evening looking at a friend’s video he shot in Uganda, impoverished people dancing with hands over their heads, overjoyed that a well has been dug and they can drink good water without having to hike for miles. The next day I read about a foundation grant to create storytelling programs in small towns to create radical reimagining of narratives that lead to healing. And then the Boy President on TV with Angela Merkel looking at him and thinking, “Who is that old game-show host standing at the podium? What movie am I in?”

The Ugandans are firmly in touch with reality: Good water is a beautiful thing. Drink it and praise the Lord.

For the storytelling program people, I say: Good luck with that, and don’t forget to serve a good lunch.

As for the man at the podium, you wish that he maybe leveled with her in private (“I have no idea what I am doing most of the time and it scares me to death”) and she said, “Call me whenever you like. Remember, 3 a.m. is 8 a.m. my time. I’m up, I’m happy to take your call.”

Reading the news, I think of Solomon, who said, “The thing that has been is the thing that shall be; and the thing that is done is that which shall be done: there is nothing new under the sun.” That sounds like a joke to me, one that must have been a hoot among the Children of Israel but now is lost in translation. Same with “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” That’s the essence of comedy right there.

So … a guy walks by the Oval Office and hears the president screaming, “Twenty-one! Twenty-one!” It sounds urgent so the guy sticks his head in the door and the president kicks him in the shin and yells, “Twenty-two! Twenty-two!”

Reams have been written about the Democrats’ losses in 2016 and here is my analysis, in fewer than 50 words:

The Democrat ran out of gas and walked to the gas station to buy some, and the station attendant had no gas can, only a chamber pot, so he filled that up for her and the Democrat took it back to the car and poured it into the gas tank and people driving by thought, “She is nobody I’d care to ride with, that’s for sure.”

Okay, 66 words. So I lied.

The nothing-new-under-the-sun view of things is not the view that the speakers at our graduation ceremonies put forth: They seemed to believe we were the vanguard of a new era of enlightenment and progress, and now here we are with this wildly ignorant man who would be more believable as the leader of Aruba or Barbados, who would get in the news once in a while for his belief that he is descended from dolphins and that cashews are a cure for cancer.

My feeling about Trumpism is that it demonstrates the value of hoeing and weeding in human development. Lawn-mowing, vacuuming, laundry – very important, too, but digging in dirt is basic to civilization, and the children of privilege who missed out on that chore are incomplete human beings. I remember the long row of corn extending over the hill and beyond, the sun above, the dust in my mouth, as I chopped at the weeds, a job that seemed endless so you found thoughts to occupy your mind. Reciting poetry helped, Bible verses, song lyrics, limericks, and when you ran out, you invented your own.

The Ugandans know about this and so do you and I.

Barefoot in the warm earth, hoeing up milkweed, thistles and quackgrass in favor of onions, peas and sweet corn, you learn about steadiness and humility and attention to the facts of the matter.

And now, years later, you realize that writing a column of 750 words is not so different from hoeing. Is this president able to put a pencil to paper and write a succession of thoughts? It would seem not. He has impressions but there is not much thinking going on. He hears things that please him and repeats them, like a magpie making a nest. He has no idea how to grow vegetables. We are all in danger.


]]> 0 KeillorFri, 24 Mar 2017 19:25:04 +0000
Gina Barreca: Do we fear listening to the other side? Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 In our conversations, whether political, public or private, we seem to be increasingly belligerent, uncivil and unrelenting, determined to crush the opposition rather than listen to the other side.

Could it be that what we fear most is that our positions might change?

We wrap ourselves in our colors, cocoon ourselves in our ideologies and do everything except stick our fingers in our ears. We hear only what we choose and try to mute other voices as if holding a universal remote to silence those with whom we disagree. We insist on our right to speak up, but the real danger is that we are only making noise and losing our ability to create meaningful discussions.

What seemed true once might no longer be the truth. Some stories, like mistakes, don’t get better simply because they are repeated. Like laundry, some might need to be changed or replaced.

Listening to somebody else’s ideas is the one way to know whether the story you believe about the world – as well as about yourself and your place in it – remains intact. We all need to examine our beliefs, air them out and let them breathe. Hearing what other people have to say, especially about concepts we regard as foundational, is like opening a window in our minds and in our hearts.

Speaking up is important. Yet to speak up without listening is like banging pots and pans together: Even if it gets you attention, it’s not going to get you respect.

There are three prerequisites for conversation to be meaningful:

You have to know what you’re talking about, meaning that you have an original point and are not echoing a worn-out, hand-me-down or pre-fab argument.

You respect the people with whom you’re speaking and are authentically willing to treat them courteously even if you disagree with their positions.

 You have to be both smart and informed enough to listen to what the opposition says while handling your own perspective on the topic with uninterrupted good humor and discernment.

New York Times best-selling author of “Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion” Jay Heinrichs says that “We lose civility when we argue without a goal. What do you really want: a better country, or to prove the other guy is a jerk?”

An old friend from our early days of writing, Jay is now a powerful advocate for the art and importance of rhetoric. He reminds us that, as St. Augustine counseled, it’s imperative that we “hear the other side.” Explains Jay: “Augustine didn’t say that because he was a saint; he said it because it’s the single best way to win people over.”

It’s not only to win people over that we need to exchange stories – although that might be the most fun part – but it’s to remind ourselves of why our stories matter in the first place.

Amy Dickinson, the columnist we know as “Ask Amy” and author of the brilliant new memoir “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things,” says: “It is vital that we continue to talk, and to listen to one another, as we tell our stories. This feeling of connectedness underscores our humanity.” Amy continues: “None of us is alone, as long as we are brave and generous enough to hold onto each other.”

In my youth, I lashed myself down to certain ways of thinking, the way sailors would tie themselves to the mast in a storm, for fear of being moved from the one spot considered safe.

Terrified of change, miserable at the possibility of the slightest disruption, I put myself more in harm’s way with my inflexibility than any shift in circumstances would have done. Only by listening to other people’s stories about how they navigated paths to safe ground did I finally free myself from what held me back – and held me down.

Listening carefully, especially to what we suspect we don’t want to hear, or even to the sides of arguments we’ve shrugged off, is one of the most courageous actions we can take. Paying attention to the other side might put us through the wringer but only rarely is it a mistake.


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Maine Voices: Environmental stewards should stand together against Gorsuch Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 BAR HARBOR — Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, stood up for the health and safety of all Americans by voting against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt was the former attorney general of Oklahoma who regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections, but unfortunately he was confirmed in a close vote.

With Pruitt at the helm of the EPA, clean air and water in Maine, and the health of citizens across the nation, are at risk. The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia is an even more important vote.

Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, has a record of extreme positions that proves he is too far outside the mainstream and too hostile to the environment for this critically important position. Gorsuch has been described as more extreme than Scalia, the most anti-environment justice in recent Supreme Court history.

Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy will limit the access of everyday Americans to the courts and prevent agencies like the EPA from doing their job to protect our air, water and health. This is a dangerous view that will favor polluters and industry over the rights of the people.

On at least three separate occasions, Gorsuch has denied access to the courts for environmental groups. Environmental laws without citizen access to the courts to enforce them are a hollow promise. Citizen suits are the hallmark of our environmental law safety net, yet Gorsuch has a track record of rulings that keep citizens from enforcing the law and that threaten the health of all of us.

Gorsuch is also a firm opponent of the Chevron doctrine: the common-sense rule that courts should defer to the technical and scientific expertise of agencies charged with administering our laws. Without the widely accepted Chevron doctrine, the EPA would have a harder time carrying out its mission and polluters would be emboldened to constantly challenge our environmental safeguards. Gorsuch’s position is worrisome; we need health, safety and environmental standards that are based in sound science, not politics.

Collins, the only Republican who voted against Pruitt’s nomination, defended the EPA when she announced she would oppose the confirmation of Pruitt for EPA chief, saying, “The EPA plays a vital role in implementing and enforcing landmark laws that protect not only our environment but also public health.” If she believes this to be true, she should also oppose Gorsuch.

With so much at stake, we need independent judges who will be a check on Donald Trump when he violates the law or the Constitution. Trump has already overstepped his authority with sweeping executive orders that have been overturned by courts and he has shocked the nation with attacks on the independence of our judiciary.

I have worked for federal judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats. To a person, these judges have valued and embodied the essential role that an independent judiciary plays in our constitutional democracy. Adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution in the face of political pressure is a fundamental cornerstone of this role. Gorsuch’s troubling history of deference to executive power shows that he will not be that independent voice.

Unless Republican leaders violate well-accepted precedent, Gorsuch will need 60 votes to be confirmed. We must hold the Senate to that 60-vote threshold. Anyone who is receiving a lifetime appointment to the most important judicial position in the world should have the confidence of more than a mere majority of the U.S. Senate. Gorsuch’s views place him too far out of the judicial mainstream to earn such support.

Collins and King must raise their voices with us and reject Neil Gorsuch, as they did with Scott Pruitt.


]]> 0 Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP PhotoFri, 24 Mar 2017 22:39:18 +0000
Commentary: With all the outrage about double standards, we forget they’re double the fun Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The sphere of American politics is supposed to be a place of bottomless cynicism, yet the existence of double standards is a constant source of outrage – genuine outrage – for both politicians and commentators. Any time someone on one side does something idiotic or utters some indefensible remark, the other side complains of an insufficient reaction. What if someone on our side had said that? There’d be calls for resignation!

President Trump relishes this line of reasoning. On Wednesday, to take the most recent example, he complained, via Twitter, about a music video in which the rapper Snoop Dogg points a toy gun at a clownish Trump look-alike. (He pulls the trigger, and a little flag protrudes from the gun: “Bang.”) Trump: “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!”

I interpret the phrase “jail time” as hyperbole, a term for general outrage. And I find it hard to disagree with his real point. It’s a preposterous thing for a president to complain about, but true enough: A similar stunt involving an Obama look-alike would have drawn strident denunciations from Trump’s noble despisers.

It’s a double standard. They are everywhere in our society – and indeed in any human society.

Which is what makes grousing about them so irresistible to politicos and pundits of all ideological propensities. Recall, for example, Trump’s suggestion to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that Vladimir Putin isn’t that much worse than other world leaders, even American ones: “You think our country is so innocent?”

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York took to the Senate floor to point out the muted response among his Republican colleagues. “Can you imagine if a Democrat had said that? Every one of these seats would be filled with people decrying that kind of moral equivalence.”

True. It also was true, as Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., remarked around the same time, that if any Democratic president had disparaged the intelligence community the way Trump had, we would have heard “howls from the Republican side of the aisle.”

Complaints about double standards are just as frequent on the right, and just as credible. When, for instance, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., made a nasty joke about Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass couldn’t help noticing that Democrats, theretofore exercised about Trump’s misogyny, didn’t seem to mind. “Just imagine if a Republican congressman said something like that about a Democratic woman?” Kass wrote. “(Nancy) Pelosi would have much to say. And so would organizers of women’s marches and anti-Trump women’s political theater.”

And when Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said in an interview that her “greatest desire” was to “lead (Trump) right into impeachment,” conservative commentator Tyler O’Neil asked his readers to “imagine if a Republican had said the same thing in 2009, or if a Republican had said his or her ‘greatest desire’ was to get Obama impeached. That congressman or congresswoman would have been vilified as discourteous, angry and racist. But when Waters does it to Trump? Crickets.”

Well, crickets and Tyler O’Neil. And a fair number of high-traffic conservative websites.

Alerting the world to the existence of double standards is so easy, and so much fun – easy because the double standards are usually obvious and real; fun because you can put a finger in the eye of your adversaries without bothering to defend or advance your own view. But if the double standards are everywhere, it follows that we’re all more or less guilty of perpetuating them.

Which, inevitably, we are. Double standards are an ordinary part of human behavior and experience. You interpret a passing remark by your mother much differently from the way you interpret the same remark when it’s spoken by that creepy neighbor who lets his dogs roam the neighborhood. Just so, when a politician of whom you approve says something strange or offensive, you construe it in the best possible light; whereas when another, whom you dislike, says something equally strange or offensive, you assume the most uncharitable meaning.

And you’re not always wrong. You like and dislike politicians – and people in general – for a thousand different reasons, many of them valid, and you don’t expect others to adopt precisely your criteria.

Now just imagine if someone criticized your every use of a double standard. Jail time!


]]> 0 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:16:13 +0000
Maine Voices: Bill to lower age for carrying concealed handgun is foolish and dangerous Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 As a hazardous-duty military veteran, a family physician and a father, I oppose L.D. 44, An Act to Lower the Age Requirement to Carry a Concealed Handgun, introduced by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and co-sponsored by Reps. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, and Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea.

This bill would lower from 21 to 18 the minimum age for civilians to carry loaded, concealed firearms in public without getting a permit. (State law already allows permitless concealed carry by Maine residents age 18 and over who are either active-duty members of the U.S. military or honorably discharged veterans.)

There is a time and a place for weapons. Military and police forces know that extensive training is fundamental to safe weapons stewardship and use. L.D. 44, however, would include no training requirement.

When I was in the military, I was not a physician, so I did receive training on a variety of weapons. I earned two medals for expert marksmanship, and on deployment for Operation Enduring Freedom I carried a sidearm pistol when it was necessary. These experiences showed me what sort of training, organization, leadership and oversight are generally necessary for young people to be truly reliable with a firearm.

Now, as a family physician in general practice and in a teen health clinic, I have insights into the often-tumultuous lives of teenagers. Social conflicts, emotional distress, impulsiveness, semi-delusions of invincibility and even youthful bravado are simply part of the picture. We all know that. So why would we mix those ingredients with the lethality of firearms?

On March 17, at the public hearing on L.D. 44, the bill’s supporters essentially argued that there ought to be no limits on the carrying of concealed weapons by adults. I respectfully disagree. There is compelling evidence of known harms, which far outweigh the hypothetical benefits of Brakey’s proposal.

In a 2012 position paper, the American Academy of Pediatrics noted that firearms continue to be one of the top three causes of death in American youth. Most of these gun-related deaths are either homicides or suicides.

Significant risk factors for homicide and suicide include patterns of intimate partner and other interpersonal violence; substance abuse; and depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. Mixing these all-too-common adolescent troubles with firearms would be foolish.

While adolescence is fundamentally similar in most parts of the inhabited world, the availability of firearms is not. This country’s disproportionate proliferation of firearms among civilians has had deadly consequences. The same 2012 landmark paper cited additional research indicating that the U.S. homicide rate among young people ages 15 to 24 is more than 35 times higher than the rate in similar countries – over 35 times higher than the rate of homicide among youths in the very age band this bill addresses.

The quantified and statistical evidence from the medical and public health establishment is incredibly compelling. So, too, are the heartbreaking gun violence stories to which doctors and other health professionals routinely bear witness in primary care offices, mental health centers, emergency rooms and hospital wards.

This is the vantage point of eight health professional organizations that came together in 2015 to sound a call to action about firearm-related injury and death. The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Public Health Association cried in unison for a series of steps to reduce human suffering associated with firearms.

A proliferation of concealed weapons among untrained young civilians would be foolish because it would facilitate homicide, suicide and firearm accidents in the very age group whose characteristics make firearms even deadlier.

I urge the Legislature to kill this bill, not to enable the killing of our people.

— Special to the Press Herald

]]> 0, 24 Mar 2017 11:16:30 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: In Trumpian era, American democracy is not so decadent, after all Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Under the dark gray cloud, amid the general gloom, allow me to offer a ray of sunshine. The last two months have brought a pleasant surprise: Turns out the much-feared, much-predicted withering of our democratic institutions has been grossly exaggerated. The system lives.

Let me explain. Donald Trump’s triumph last year was based on a frontal attack on the Washington “establishment,” that all-powerful, all-seeing, supremely cynical, bipartisan “cartel” (as Ted Cruz would have it) that allegedly runs everything. Yet the establishment proved to be Potemkin empty. In 2016, it folded pitifully, surrendering with barely a fight to a lightweight outsider.

At which point, fear of the vaunted behemoth turned to contempt for its now-exposed lassitude and decadence. Compounding the confusion were Trump’s intimations of authoritarianism. He declared, “I alone can fix it” and “I am your voice,” the classic tropes of the demagogue. He unabashedly expressed admiration for strongmen (most notably, Vladimir Putin).

Trump had just cut through the grandees like a hot knife through butter. Who would now prevent him from trampling, caudillo-like, over a Washington grown weak and decadent? A Washington, moreover, that had declined markedly in public esteem, as confidence in our traditional institutions – from the political parties to Congress – fell to new lows.

The strongman cometh, it was feared. Who and what would stop him?

Two months into the Trumpian era, we have our answer. Our checks and balances have turned out to be quite vibrant. Consider:

n The courts: Trump rolls out not one but two immigration bans, and is stopped dead in his tracks by the courts. However you feel about the merits of the policy itself (in my view, execrable and useless but legal) or the merits of the constitutional reasoning of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (embarrassingly weak, transparently political), the fact remains: The president proposed and the courts disposed.

Trump’s pushback? A plaintive tweet or two complaining about the judges – that his own Supreme Court nominee denounced (if obliquely) as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

n The states: Federalism lives. The first immigration challenge to Trump was brought by the attorneys general of two states (Washington and Minnesota) picking up on a trend begun during the Barack Obama years when state attorneys general banded together to kill his immigration overreach and the more egregious trespasses of his Environmental Protection Agency.

And beyond working through the courts, state governors – Republicans, no less – have been exerting pressure on members of Congress to oppose a Republican president’s signature health care reform. Institutional exigency still trumps party loyalty.

n Congress: The Republican-controlled Congress (House and Senate) is putting up epic resistance to a Republican administration’s health care reform. True, that’s because of ideological and tactical disagreements rather than any particular desire to hem in Trump. But it does demonstrate that Congress is no rubber stamp.

And its independence extends beyond the perennially divisive health care conundrums. Trump’s budget, for example, was instantly declared dead on arrival in Congress, as it almost invariably is regardless of which party is in power.

n The media: Trump is right. It is the opposition party. Indeed, furiously so, often indulging in appalling overkill. It’s sometimes embarrassing to read the front pages of the major newspapers, festooned as they are with anti-Trump editorializing masquerading as news.

Nonetheless, if you take the view from 30,000 feet, better this than a press acquiescing on bended knee, where it spent most of the Obama years in a slavish Pravda-like thrall. Every democracy needs an opposition press. We damn well have one now.

Taken together – and suspending judgment on which side is right on any particular issue – it is deeply encouraging that the sinews of institutional resistance to a potentially threatening executive remain quite resilient.

Madison’s genius was to understand that the best bulwark against tyranny was not virtue – virtue helps, but should never be relied upon – but ambition counteracting ambition, faction counteracting faction.

You see it even in the confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s supremely qualified and measured Supreme Court nominee. He’s a slam dunk, yet some factions have scraped together a campaign to block him. Their ads are plaintive and pathetic. Yet I find them warmly reassuring. What a country – where even the vacuous have a voice.

The anti-Trump opposition flatters itself as “the resistance.” As if this is Vichy France. It’s not. It’s 21st-century America. And the good news is that the checks and balances are working just fine.

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

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Maine Voices: Exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. Period. Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Imagine being a homeless woman. You have just $7 and you are starving, but you’ve just started your period. Now what do you do? Do you go into the store and buy food, or do you buy feminine hygiene products?

For five to seven days of the month, homeless women experience what no one should have to. These women are unable to properly care for themselves during that week. They create makeshift tampons out of tissue paper, towels, cotton balls, pillowcases – any material that is absorbent. Imagine what women would save and, most importantly, what women would gain if tampons and sanitary pads were more accessible and affordable.

There are 50,000 women living on the streets in the United States. These women are experiencing inconsistency in where they will sleep, where they will shower, when they will eat again and how they will stay clean and dignified five to seven days a month.

Low-income women also face the consequences of the unaffordability and inaccessibility of menstrual hygiene products: the “pink tax.” Women are taxed for something they cannot control. We are being taxed because we are women, and we have a uterus.

“I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax (feminine hygiene products) as luxury items,” Barack Obama said last year in an interview with YouTube personality Ingrid Nilsen. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”

Let’s just remember: Out of the 45 states that have a sales tax, 44 states don’t tax Viagra (Maine doesn’t), and eight don’t tax Rogaine. But 38 states – including Maine – tax pads and tampons. Apparently, getting an erection and having hair are not luxuries, but menstruating is.

I had no idea that menstruation was luxurious – bleeding for days straight, having painful cramps, and (the worst part) feeling dirty. When you are able to bathe, and change your clothes regularly, it is easy to manage. When you are living on the streets, what do you do then? Get creative, deal with unsanitary conditions, face an increased risk of infection and hope for the best.

On average, a woman has her period from five to seven days, and the average woman menstruates from age 13 until 51. That means the average woman endures some 456 total periods over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period, or six years and three months of her life.

Feminine hygiene product companies instruct women to change their pad or tampon every four to eight hours to protect against bacteria that can cause serious health issues. When women are bleeding more heavily, pads and tampons may have to be changed more often.

At Walgreens, a box of 36 regular-sized pads costs $7, or 15.5 cents each. On average, menstruating women will use six pads a day, averaging one box of 36 pads a cycle.

Thirty-six pads per cycle, multiplied by 456 periods, equals 16,416 pads in a lifetime. At 36 pads per box, that’s 456 boxes in a lifetime; at $7 per box, the cost is $3,192.

You’re instructed to change your tampon every four to eight hours – every six hours, on average – so that is four tampons a day, and 20 tampons per cycle. A box containing 36 tampons costs $7 at Walgreens.

Twenty tampons per menstrual cycle, multiplied by 456 periods, equals 9,120 tampons in a lifetime. At 36 tampons per box, that’s 253.3 boxes in a lifetime; at $7 per box, that equals $1,773.33.

Think about all the other expenses women endure during their period. Think about all the underwear women go through, requiring them to purchase new ones, if they can afford them. Pain is bad? You go to the store and purchase Midol. In order to regulate periods, women use birth control. At Planned Parenthood, a woman could pay anywhere from zero to $50 a month, all dependent on her income or lack thereof. Being female is fun.

This session, the Maine Legislature is considering L.D. 206, a bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Campbell, R-Orrington, that would exempt feminine hygiene products from the state sales tax. That is the right step in the right direction. New York City requires free tampons and sanitary pads in all homeless shelters, public schools and jails.

Let’s end this stigma and start talking about blood – period – and about what we can do as a society to make Aunt Flo’s visit as “luxurious” and affordable as possible for all women.

]]> 0 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:56:07 +0000
Commentary: Lawmakers must protect Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid patients Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to decide on a number of health policies that will have a very real impact on people here in Maine, such as whether to rip health care away from thousands of Mainers by repealing the Affordable Care Act, or whether to block Medicaid patients from receiving basic health care at Planned Parenthood.

As a health care provider who has worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years, I know firsthand that Planned Parenthood health centers are an irreplaceable resource for women, men and young people in our community. Each year, our health centers in Maine provide lifesaving health care, including cancer screenings, birth control and disease testing and treatment, to about 10,000 people. Our motto is care no matter what. We see patients regardless of their ZIP code, income, race, immigration status or gender identity. Our patient-centered care means we are open evenings and weekends and are able to see people the same day or next day for an appointment.

I, along with the entire Planned Parenthood of Northern New England staff, work hard to ensure that our patients and their families are always able to access affordable, high-quality health care in a safe and caring environment.

As the health care home for our patients we treat a wide array of issues in an effort to improve their health and well-being. Sixty-six percent of our patients live at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Most are uninsured or underinsured and our health centers are their only access to care.

Here in Maine, we provide affordable birth control and family planning counseling to more than 7,000 people a year. Last year, we provided more than 1,000 Pap tests, 1,300 breast exams and nearly 20,000 STI tests and treated countless other primary care needs from smoking cessation to vaccinations to wellness exams.

Behind each of these numbers is a story. A patient. A person.

These are people like Miranda, who wrote, “Planned Parenthood has always been a judgment-free experience for me. I have always felt 100 percent comfortable talking with the friendly staff about any issues I have had, whether they be physical or mental.”

Leah, who was sexually assaulted in high school: “It was such a shameful experience for me, but I went to Planned Parenthood so that I could take care of myself,” she said. “Because I didn’t know how to tell my parents or my primary care doctor – even my gynecologist – the health care providers who helped me at Planned Parenthood were my only line of defense against what had happened to my body. If I hadn’t been able to go to Planned Parenthood for help, I don’t know where I would have gone.”

And Stephanie, who had a bad reaction to the birth control implant she received at her doctor’s office. She went to the emergency room and was told she needed to have the implant removed. When she called her doctor, she was told her doctor couldn’t remove it for two weeks. So she called Planned Parenthood and we were able to treat her the next day. “If it wasn’t for Planned Parenthood, I would be in massive pain and probably be put back in the hospital,” Stephanie said.

Miranda, Leah, and Stephanie are not alone. Across the state, nearly 1 in 3 women have visited a Planned Parenthood health center for care.

For many in Maine and across the country, we are the sole access to care. Which is why it is frustrating to hear politicians repeatedly claim that other health care providers would be able to step into a gap of this magnitude and serve Planned Parenthood patients. It’s simply not true.

In fact, Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, has said it is “ludicrous” that providers like community health centers could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.

Yet today, the House of Representatives will likely vote to prevent Planned Parenthood health centers from being reimbursed for care provided to Medicaid patients.

Since more than 25 percent of our patients in Maine are on Medicaid, the effects would be devastating. This is cruel, discriminatory and defies decades of medical and public health expertise.

Our leaders in Congress have the responsibility to keep Americans safe and healthy. Without a doubt, cutting access to Planned Parenthood will put lives at risk.

Our elected leaders must reject any attempt to cut off millions of women from their trusted, irreplaceable health care provider and access to lifesaving preventive care.

]]> 0 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:02:35 +0000
Maine Republican leader: Our state needs workers, not welfare recipients Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 I am the daughter of Greek immigrants. Growing up, I worked in my parents’ seasonal restaurant all summer long so that I could afford to go to the University of Maine. My family, friends and, for that matter, most Mainers have the will to work hard for the betterment of their families.

That is why it was so shocking to me to hear two Maine lawmakers discussing immigrants and Maine’s workforce in the way they did.

In a work session in Augusta recently concerning welfare for noncitizens, Rep. Jennifer Parker said, “Mainers can only last at the backbreaking work for a certain amount of time.”

Excuse me? It is hard to tell from this quote whether Parker, a new Democratic lawmaker representing parts of South Berwick and North Berwick, is calling Mainers weak or lazy. Neither is true.

During my travels across Maine there is one thing that is clear, Mainers are some of the toughest, hardest-working people I know.

From our factories, forests and farms to our fisheries, hospitals and restaurants, anywhere you go in Maine you will find some of the most industrious and persevering people in the world.

In that same work session, Parker also suggested that crime would go up if we cut state welfare funding for noncitizens.

Apparently, Parker worries that these same new immigrants who work so much harder than Mainers are also holding us hostage and will commit property crimes if Maine taxpayers stop footing the bill on their welfare programs. Parker presents us with quite a conundrum, if this is true.

Parker’s colleague, Democratic Rep. Scott Hamann of South Portland, another misinformed legislator, even went as far as to suggest we “double down’ on the millions we spend on noncitizen welfare if it would bring in more workers.

This whole episode has the feel of insult and exploitation of entire groups of people.

For one, if Maine needs workers, we need workers. Growing a welfare program while refusing to institute some work requirements when able and possible, or volunteerism, will in no way grow our economy – it will shrink it by taking money from people who are working hard for a better life and filtering it through a wasteful bureaucracy.

It’s really hard to understand how we can make Maine a more attractive place to work when our own lawmakers say that increasing taxes and spending on those who work to pay for those who don’t might be the “silver bullet” (as Hamann put it) to Maine’s economic challenges.

If jobs are going unfilled, it stands to reason that either immigrants who can legally work would come in and fill them – no welfare required – or wages would rise to attract workers to fill the jobs. Neither of these require taxpayers to fund a welfare program at any level to attract jobs.

If Parker truly feels that not providing welfare for noncitizens would increase crime, it is reckless of her to push for us to bring more people in “for the benefits.”

If Hamann truly thinks Maine’s welfare benefits should be used to draw people to our state, he should find another line of work.

And if either of these representatives truly thinks that using exploitative language about immigrants and insulting the work ethic of generations of Mainers is the path to political success, I have news for them.

It is not.

The wealth extracted from the back-breaking work of millions of Mainers over generations paid for everything they have at their jobs in Augusta today. From the roads and buildings to their very paychecks. It’s time they recognize that.

Stop undermining the value of the labor of Maine workers. Stop exploiting the work of noncitizens. Stop insulting the work ethic of Maine people. And most of all, stop putting a faulty ideology ahead of Maine. Put Maine workers, Maine taxpayers and the Maine people first.

]]> 0 Photo by John Ewing...08/11/06...Mexican laborers cut broccoli stalks for Smith Farms' crew A as the harvest season gets underway at a Smith Farm's field near Fort Fairfield in central Aroostook County. Smith Farm's employ over 150 migrant workers to help in their harvest of both broccoli and potatos.Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:55:04 +0000
Thanks to Comey, Trump may finally have to face the music named truth Wed, 22 Mar 2017 10:00:00 +0000 On Monday, accountability finally arrived for Donald Trump. After 70 years spent largely skating free of consequences for his puerile misbehaviors and diarrheal mouth, he likely found it something of a shock. Seven decades is a long time, after all, and if the so-called president has learned nothing else in those years, he has learned this: Accountability is for other people.

Received a bill? Stiff the vendor.

Get caught in a lie? Tell another.

Say something stupid? Blame somebody else.

To watch him over the 21 months of his political career has been to suffer a kind of nauseated awe as he repeatedly brazened and bluffed his way through scandals, lies and acts of bungling incompetence that would have sunk … well, anybody normal. You had to wonder if the chickens had forgotten how to come home to roost. You had to wonder if gravity still works.

But accountability arrived this week in an extraordinary open session of the House Intelligence Committee. There, FBI Director James Comey laid waste to Trump’s contention that he was “wiretapped” by then-President Barack Obama during last year’s campaign.

The bizarre claim has already been roundly shredded in the two and a half weeks since Trump first made it in a series of early morning tweets. But the so-called president has clung to it with a stubborn insistence. He discomfited German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he tried to joke about it during their joint news conference. And he outraged the British when they were forced to refute a – pardon the tautology – baseless Trump claim that they had participated in the alleged bugging.

So it was gratifying to hear the head of federal law enforcement say definitively that there is zero evidence to support Trump’s contention. That, however, was just the hors d’oeuvre. The main course was Comey’s confirmation of media reports about an FBI investigation. Yes, he said, the FBI is looking into whether Trump’s people colluded with Russia as that country was meddling in last year’s election with the express aim of electing Trump. The probe could dog the White House for many months.

Cornered, Trump and his apologists tried familiar dodges. They cried, “Fake news!” They misrepresented Comey’s words. They tried to change the subject. Surrogate Jeffrey Lord even insisted the problem is that Trump has been “misinterpreted.”

It all felt even more threadbare than usual. It was hard not to imagine Trump drenched in the flop sweat of a birthday party magician who just realized he left the rabbit in his other top hat.

Small wonder. The tactics that have always served him will not work here. You can fool some of the people all of the time and you can fool all of the people some of the time. But good luck fooling the feds any of the time.

Heaven only knows where this will end up. Maybe the campaign will be exonerated. Maybe we’ll discover the Russian meddling was plotted by Trump and Vladimir Putin over drinks in a hot tub at Mar-a-Lago.

Either way, there is something to be said for the simple fact that the investigation is underway, that Trump and his team will finally be forced to answer serious questions from serious people who will not be impressed by alternative facts and brazen deflections. It’s the kind of knowledge that renews your faith in the system. And in karma.

Turns out the chickens know their way after all, and gravity still works just fine. Accountability has arrived. She’s seven decades late, so she and Donald Trump have a lot of catching up to do.

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

]]> 0 Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 21 Mar 2017 20:30:57 +0000
Increased screening for colorectal cancer could save thousands of Mainers’ lives Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 There are far too many cancers where the opportunity for either prevention or early detection simply does not exist. In these instances, we often find the cancer only when it becomes symptomatic in an advanced stage. But this is not the case for all cancers. In fact, for some cancers, such as colo- rectal cancer, we have highly effective methods to prevent the cancer or to catch it at an early and highly treatable stage.

This March, we celebrate Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Given the fact that colorectal cancer remains a leading cause of cancer deaths and that almost 50 percent of colorectal cancer cases can be prevented through screening, the public health significance of screening and early detection is clearly evident. Right now, with approximately $51 million in grant money, the American Cancer Society is supporting 92 cutting-edge research projects focused on ending colorectal cancer. However, it is still imperative that we do all we can to raise awareness about colorectal cancer and the importance of screening. Research has already shown us that screening works.

A collaboration of more than 1,300 organizations nationwide have come together in an effort called 80% by 2018, with a commitment of educating about the importance of screening and improving access to those screenings so that by 2018, 80 percent of adults aged 50 and older will be regularly screened for colorectal cancer.

Maine has achieved a 73 percent screening rate of those 50 and older. If Maine achieves that 80 percent goal by the end of 2018, then by 2030, we will have helped 1,046 Mainers avoid ever getting cancer and saved 767 more lives from cancer death. While Maine’s screening rate is one of the top in the nation, to reach our goal means that we still need to make sure that 92,000 more people 50 and older get the colorectal cancer screenings that they should.

If the entire country meets its 80 percent screening rate by 2018, the results would be phenomenal. By 2030, 277,000 people would never get cancer. It could be completely prevented. And an additional 203,000 more people would live. They would not die from a colorectal cancer diagnosis.

Getting screened doesn’t need to be as invasive or as difficult as some people may believe. There are now several effective options available for colorectal cancer screening, including colonoscopy, fecal immunochemical tests and virtual colonoscopy.

Despite the availability of highly effective screening tests, a significant percentage of individuals over the age of 50 are not screened as recommended. Statistics show that nationally almost 40 percent of individuals over the age of 50 have not received the recommended colorectal cancer screening; within certain populations, this percentage is even higher.

More public education to raise awareness about the risk associated with colorectal cancer and the importance of screening is a clear first step to improve screening rates. But we must go beyond that; we must ensure that awareness campaigns reach every corner of our community and screenings are made widely available to those who need it.

We must also address the barriers patients face when trying to get a colonoscopy or other screening test. Some screening tests require significant preparation and time off from work, and they also require patients to have someone available to take them home following the procedure. Addressing these challenges can be a vital bridge to a successful screening test.

We can all play a role in increasing colorectal cancer screening rates. Do you know someone who is over 50 and hasn’t been screened yet? Help them learn more about the importance of screening (the valuable information posted at is a great first step) or encourage them to speak with their doctor about screening. Providing a ride for a neighbor, colleague or relative who has a scheduled colonoscopy can be the critical difference between a screening that is completed and one that is not.

This March, let’s all work together to get more people screened, reduce rates of colorectal cancer and save lives.

]]> 0 Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:10:11 +0000
Rep. Chellie Pingree: Passing ‘Trumpcare’ would take us backward Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 WASHINGTON — Last weekend, hundreds of Mainers turned out for a town hall I held on the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Trumpcare. People who attended shared their battles with cancer, disease and poverty and described how the Affordable Care Act, while imperfect, had opened a door for them to access care and prevent bankruptcy.

I’d be the first to say the Affordable Care Act has room for improvement. I was disappointed that we did not accomplish single-payer health care or a public option and that the ACA did not go far enough to hold down costs and keep insurers from unreasonably raising deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. However, nothing in Trumpcare will address rising health care costs. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office said the first draft of Trumpcare will increase out-of-pocket costs for older Americans by as much as 750 percent and immediately drop 14 million people from their coverage.

Trumpcare not only undoes the gains of the Affordable Care Act, but will actually lead to higher numbers of uninsured than before the ACA was passed in 2010.

Trumpcare is Robin Hood in reverse. It takes health care dollars away from poor, rural, and older Americans in order to give tax breaks to insurance companies, drug companies and the wealthiest Americans. The numbers are simply staggering. Trumpcare will give insurance companies a $145 billion tax break and require individuals who have a gap in their coverage to pay a 30 percent premium surcharge to the insurance company for a year. It will reduce taxes on drug companies by $15 billion and give top earners a $158 billion windfall.

At the same time, the CBO estimates that a 64-year-old man earning $26,500 a year who previously paid $1,700 for his coverage will pay $14,600 under Trumpcare — that’s more than half his income. Inexplicably, Trumpcare also strips federal funding for Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide basic health care services to thousands of low-income Mainers and millions of Americans nationwide. President Trump recently asked, “Who knew health care could be so complicated?”

Obviously, he’s never had to navigate the health care system alone and cannot imagine what it’s like to lose his health insurance or have his coverage denied. Most Americans know health care is very complicated. Just take Ed Saxby of South Portland, who attended my town hall on Sunday.

Ed stood beside his wife, both military veterans, and their granddaughter as he bravely told hundreds of strangers about his battle with cancer. He said that the odds of survival are against him because Trumpcare will take away the tax subsidies he needs to afford health coverage as a retiree living on a fixed income. Ed told the room, “We cannot repeal and not replace — that will be an American genocide.”

If there were a quick fix to reform our health care system it would have happened 50 years ago, but there’s a reason the Affordable Care Act took two years to pass – we allowed the public to be a part of the process.

As a member of Congress when the ACA was passed, I remember hundreds of hearings were held and thousands of amendments were considered before President Obama signed the law.

In stark contrast, Republicans have fast-tracked Trumpcare without holding a single public hearing. Some Republican members will not even face their constituents back home who rightfully want to know how Trumpcare will impact their daily lives.

No one can avoid illness or aging — that’s why health care policy is deeply personal and important to us all. It is unlike any other issue we work on in Congress.

At my town hall, Ed Saxby’s wife, Jill, asked if those who are championing Trumpcare would be willing to trade places with those who it will harm. It’s a question I’ve posed to my colleagues in Congress and hope they will consider when they vote on Trumpcare on Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Charles Lawton: For productivity and its growth, similar areas hold lessons for regions in Maine Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 One of the most important forces in human affairs is the power of example. Sometimes it manifests as competitive resentment or envy – “If he/she can do it, why can’t I?” In other cases, it emerges as sympathetic inspiration – “If so-and-so succeeded after enduring such a horrible event as that, surely I can overcome my own less catastrophic history.” In both cases, it is possible to find motivation and inspiration from the example of others.

It is interesting, in this regard, to search for whatever lessons may be learned from an examination of the position of Maine’s three census-defined metropolitan areas within the list of 382 such areas across the country. Using labor productivity – defined as the dollar value of total economic output per worker in each area –as one metric, it is generally true that the larger an area’s total population, the higher its labor productivity.

The New York metro area, with an estimated 2015 population of 19.6 million, has a labor productivity of $148,000 per worker. The smallest metro area – Carson City, Nevada, with a population of just over 55,000 – has a labor productivity rate of $99,000 per worker. The average labor productivity rate of the 10 largest metro areas was $128,000 per worker, while the average for the 10 smallest areas was $96,000 per worker.

Just as importantly, this productivity differential between large and small metro areas has been growing. The average inflation-adjusted increase in labor productivity for the top 10 metro areas between 1978 and 2015 was 1.2 percent. For the bottom smallest 10 areas, it was 0.8 percent.

While these general trends are not rigidly true across all areas, the general pattern is apparent – and the same pattern is evident in Maine’s three metro areas.

• The Portland metro area (Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties) ranked 104th among the nation’s 382 areas. Its labor productivity in 2015 stood at $87,000 per worker, and its increase in real productivity since 1978 stood at 1.1 percent.

• The Bangor metro area (Penobscot County) ranked 268th. Its labor productivity in 2015 stood at $78,000 per worker, and its increase in real productivity since 1978 stood at 0.5 percent.

• The Lewiston metro area (Androscoggin County) ranked 342nd. Its labor productivity in 2015 stood at $81,000 per worker, and its increase in real productivity since 1978 stood at 1.2 percent.

While the national pattern of labor productivity declining with population size held true for Maine’s three metro areas, both the Portland and Lewiston areas exhibited growth in productivity that nearly equaled that of the nation’s top 10 metro areas, surely a positive sign. It is interesting, therefore, to dig a bit deeper to see how Maine’s three metro areas compare to their peers – here defined as the four metro areas above and below them in the population size list.

For the Portland area, its eight peers include Spokane, Washington; Santa Rosa, California, and Lexington, Kentucky. The average labor productivity for this group of nine peers (the 100th through 108th largest metro areas) was $102,000 per worker, and their average productivity growth since 1978 was 0.9 percent.

Comparatively speaking, the Portland area was last among the nine in level of worker productivity at $87,000 per worker, just below Lexington and far below Santa Rosa’s $126,000. In productivity growth, Portland fared better. Its 1.1 percent growth ranked fifth among the nine, well above the peer average but far below the leaders. Perhaps a closer examination of the patterns of growth in these areas would give Portland some insight into how to accelerate its economic growth prospects.

For the Bangor area, its eight peers include Decatur, Alabama; Jefferson City, Missouri, and Wichita Falls, Texas. The average labor productivity for this group (the 264th through 272nd largest metro areas) was $91,000 and their average productivity growth since 1978 was 1.0 percent.

Within this group, the Bangor area was last among the nine in level of worker productivity at $78,000 per worker, far below the top figure of $107,000 for Wichita Falls. In productivity growth, Bangor’s rate of 0.5 percent ranked 8th in the group, barely above Decatur’s 0.47 percent increase. Again, a closer examination of the patterns of growth in Bangor’s peer areas might provide some insights about how to adjust its economic growth strategies.

Finally, for the Lewiston area, its eight peers include Michigan City, Indiana; Sumter, South Carolina, and Lima, Ohio. The average labor productivity for this group (the 338th through 346th largest metro areas) was $94,000, and its average productivity growth since 1978 was 0.9 percent.

The Lewiston area ranked eighth in its group in worker productivity at $81,000 per worker, well above Sumter’s $68,000 but far below Lima’s $107,000. In productivity growth, Lewiston ranked second among the nine at 1.2 percent, falling below only Lima’s 1.4 percent growth.

In all of these comparisons, Maine’s metro areas show some signs of strength and some of weakness. My point here is simply to say that by considering their economic fates in context rather than simply as some individually fated good or poor luck, they would all gain by a careful comparison of their standing relative to somewhat similar areas.

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

]]> 0, 20 Mar 2017 19:11:13 +0000
Maine Voices: A little money goes a long way at the Portland Museum of Art Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 About a week ago, I had the pleasure of hosting the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, William “Bro” Adams, at the Portland Museum of Art, giving him a tour of the newly reopened museum. This was no happenstance: The NEH awarded the PMA a $400,000 grant for our multiyear project, “Your Museum, Reimagined,” which allowed the museum to reinstall every piece of artwork and reposition itself as a welcoming space for everyone.

As I walked with Adams through our galleries, the conversation kept coming back to our community. “A little money goes a long way at a regional museum like the Portland Museum of Art,” he said, “which is so much more significant in the lives of local citizens than the giant urban museums.” That struck a chord with me, because one of the central tenets that currently drives the PMA is to connect and engage with our community in meaningful ways.

These grants and awards do not simply benefit cultural institutions like the PMA, but allow the museum to hire local tradespeople, businesses and experts throughout our community. I can’t begin to count all the electricians, contractors, architects, tech developers, educators, painters and designers who helped make the newest iteration of the PMA a success. The National Endowment for the Humanities, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services – both of which support the museum as well – provide funding to important projects that spur economic development, provide jobs and reverberate throughout the cultural economy. Make no mistake, national endowments like the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services are critical to the growth of our region, the success of our businesses and the future of our people.

When these endowments were created in 1965, they were done with the acknowledgment that our society must fully value the arts and humanities and work to advance our cultural landscape. “An advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone,” says the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, “but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future.”

More recently, the Maine Office of Tourism has launched campaigns to position Maine’s cultural offerings alongside the well-known tourism narratives of outdoor activities and our food industry. This has been imperative to the PMA in recent years, and we have seen an increase in visits from tourists from New York and Boston, D.C. and Dallas, and everywhere in between. The message is clear: our culture is unique and a powerful contributor to our economy, and we need to welcome that.

The Portland Museum of Art is not alone in this important national discussion. There are hundreds of organizations throughout all 16 counties in Maine that receive support from the NEA and NEH. The eight museums along the Maine Art Museum Trail have all benefited from these programs. Small projects – including the redesign of Congress Square Park just across the street from the museum, and the research and development of the St. John Valley cultural heritage trail guide in Madawaska – have also been positively affected by the endowments. But unfortunately, the NEA and NEH are just a few of the federal organizations that are facing proposed defunding. Our friends at Maine Public are also at risk, as are countless others who will bear the brunt of this most recent push to reduce support for these endowments.

As with any discussion on federal spending and national budgets, it is difficult to see the forest for the trees when talking about the value of cultural organizations like these. However, I feel that speaks to their vast and immeasurable impact, rather than an ill-informed notion pointing to government excess or waste. To understand their importance and embrace their missions, we need only to take a walk through our communities, visit a local business and speak with our neighbors. Supporting the arts and humanities demonstrates the pride we have in our culture – America’s culture. We cannot be great without them.

]]> 0'l;k';lk;l'k .... "Woman in the Woods" by Alex Katz is now on display near the entrance at the Portland Museum of Art. ..... sdfa;klj asfdhsadfljk; sfda;ljk fsda;kl asdfhasd;fklj erwa;hl asfl;jk a;lsdfhk asdfkl;j sadflk;j sadflk;j sdaf;lkj sdaf;lkj sadf;lkjewra;jklrweakljwarewaer.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:26:06 +0000
Kathleen Parker: Presidential budget logic: Help single moms by building the wall Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 From Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” to Donald Trump’s “Detroit single mom,” the unmarried mother remains a constant fascination to Republicans wielding budget-cutting scalpels.

Whereas Reagan was propagating a stereotype of the fraudulent abuser of public largesse when he popularized the term in 1976, framing welfare policy thereafter, Trump’s budget blueprint purportedly is aimed at helping single mothers (in Detroit, for some reason) by building a better military.

If you’re having trouble connecting the dots, welcome to the fracas.

The budget, which includes massive cuts to spending in the arts, sciences (including medical research) and diplomacy – mostly in the interest of increasing military spending by $54 billion and subsidizing that blasted wall – was designed by asking: Can we ask the single mother in Detroit to pay for this?

This is how White House budget director Mick Mulvaney explained the administration’s calculations on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Apparently cognizant of diversity’s fealty to both sexes (not to be confused with genders), Mulvaney also mentioned coal miners (with apologies to Barbara Burns, noted groundbreaking female miner).

“One of the questions we asked was, can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?” Mulvaney queried. “The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”

Are there really no single mothers in Detroit listening to NPR’s “Fresh Air”? Or whose kids watch “Sesame Street”? Although the CPB receives $450 million annually in federal funds, much of that money is distributed to local television and radio stations and producers. National Public Radio, long an object of Republican contempt, probably will be fine thanks to donor support, but not so the local shows, which often are educational and/or public safety-oriented.

The end objective, Mulvaney said, is to keep Trump’s campaign promises while not increasing the budget deficit. Among those promises: Build the wall (delete: I will make Mexico pay for that wall); and beef up national security.

And, of course, the ultimate goal in whittling away programs that serve the poor or protect the environment is to Make America “Great” Again. “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means,” as Inigo Montoya said in “The Princess Bride.”

Before we parse the meaning of the word “great,” a few facts: The proposed budget, which is really just a collection of bad ideas or suggestions, doesn’t stand a chance of congressional approval as is. To pass the Senate, over which Republicans hold a relatively slim majority (52-48), it would require Democratic support. The blueprint’s strong emphasis on defense and security, notwithstanding cuts in airport policing, at the expense of domestic programs is a no-go.

Although many Republicans also oppose some of the more draconian cuts, others want yet more defense spending. Both Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and John McCain, R-Ariz., chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, respectively, want $640 billion rather than the measly $603 billion proposed.

Given Trump’s commitment to a military buildup – and the formerly silent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent remarks that military action may be necessary to end North Korea’s nuclear games – investing in defense might not be a bad gamble.

But hope for a cancer cure might be. The National Institutes of Health – the nation’s premier research institution – is threatened with losing about 20 percent of its budget. And bets on climate-related concerns would be long shots. Among many related cuts, the budget would eliminate four NASA missions, including the Deep Space Climate Observatory, which monitors climate change from its position 1 million miles from Earth. Collect information that might suggest the need for environmental regulations? LOL.

By tragic coincidence, we learned the day before Trump’s budget was released that vast portions of Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, one of Earth’s largest organisms, are dead from overheated seawater caused by greenhouse gases emitted via the burning of fossil fuels.

But never mind. Greatness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder – and Trump’s idea of both tends toward reactionary excessiveness unburdened by history’s future judgment. Besides, what do NASA missions have to do with coal miners or single moms?

Not one thing, other than a future for all those fatherless children in Detroit – and the coal miner’s daughter, who probably needs essential social services more than she does that blasted wall.

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

]]> 0, 20 Mar 2017 19:04:59 +0000
Maine Voices: Business experience doesn’t necessarily mean economic success Mon, 20 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — There has been a long-standing belief among Americans that experience in business prepares one for political leadership. Yet although we have elected plenty of businesspeople as governors and presidents, their economic record has never been any better than that of their peers without business backgrounds. It does not matter which economic indicator or when measured: A relationship between a chief executive’s business experience and his administration’s economic success does not exist.

Part of this is because of the near powerlessness that a governor or president has in the face of significant economic change. Economies change because of social and economic factors beyond the control of the chief executive.

No matter how much we all want a pulp and paper economy to return to this state, for example, no executive action is going to make the people of the planet want to read newspapers and store information in paper files anymore. The president or governor may use his personal authority to stop a major company from relocating to Mexico, but he cannot stop the loss of 5 million manufacturing jobs to automation and foreign competition. These are market forces well beyond the immediate control of any law, policy, tariff or trade agreement. The chief executive may be able to influence smaller events on the margin, but diverting an economy of 350 million people is like trying to change the direction the wind is blowing.

Of course, it’s not popular to look at facts and confirmed scientific data, so none of this analysis is likely to go far with the voting public. In today’s world, truth is anything that gets you elected. There are, however, more compelling reasons to question the value of business leadership.

Businesspeople see money only once. A client pays for the product and moves on. To the business owner, the transaction is done and profit realized.

In an economy, however, every time that dollar gets spent, the community is one dollar richer. Our business owner uses his profits to buy a new car at the local dealership, the dealer uses the money to buy groceries for the week, the grocer uses the money to build a deck on his house and on and on it goes. The money keeps circulating until it is gradually absorbed through saving, and every time it circulates through a new set of hands, the economy is one little bit more wealthy.

To a business owner, paying for disability claims, medical services and education is little more than red ink on the debit side, but in an economy, this is only the first round of spending. Whatever budgetary gains are made by a cut have to be balanced against the future budgetary loss resulting from reduced economic activity. Planning what to cut from a governmental budget, and how much, is not nearly as straightforward as it is in a business.

Successful business owners have to be familiar only with their own segment of the economy. If you run an insurance agency, what goes on in restaurants along the coast or in the potato industry in Aroostook County has little to do with you. Business owners know their market better than any scholar or government agent. You couldn’t find anyone on the planet who knows more about purchasing discount clothing and used household goods than our governor. To be a chief executive, however, you have to understand the economy at large, with its thousands of businesses and markets, and make decisions based on that understanding.

Business leadership is far more authoritarian than governmental leadership. In a business, the jobs and chain of command are clearly defined and unquestioned. Leadership decisions are usually unquestioned and mistakes are contained, and hidden, within the books of the business. They may go bankrupt, grow exponentially or something in between, but the leadership is clear and the mandate to lead unchallenged.

In a democratic economy, however, leadership is not nearly as clear cut. The Legislature, Congress, the courts and the voting public all have their own power base and can confound any attempt by the chief executive to make significant change on his own. In an economy, gains are made through compromise and conciliation, not through individual action from the top.

We have had remarkable leaders who were businesspeople, but we have had more who were just citizens doing the job as best they could. In the end, what has always made a successful chief executive in both national and state government is the ability to help contending groups forge a tolerable compromise and a vison that extended beyond the next election. All those who think that that is what we have now, raise your hand.


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Maine Voices: Lilley delighted in punching upward Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Dan Lilley (who died March 11 at the age of 79) was one of the best, most expensive defense attorneys in Maine. Dressed to the nines, with haute couture suits and shoes so shiny the courtroom lights bounced off them, he worked a jury like a symphony, rising from the purr of violins to the clash of cymbals.

Tony DiMillo was a feisty kid from Munjoy Hill who quit high school to be somebody and succeeded, perhaps beyond his own wildest dreams. By the time the feds charged DiMillo with bank fraud and tax evasion, he owned the largest, most distinctive restaurant on the Portland waterfront and was a friend to cabbies and governors alike.

It helped to have money if you were hiring Dan Lilley, but he sometimes took on cases because he believed in them. The charges against 15-year-old Seiha Srey, accused of killing an 18-year-old in Portland in 1998, were withdrawn after Lilley exposed weaknesses in the case.


But the 1985 DiMillo case was among his best-known, one that resonates still in these anti-government times. I covered courts for the Press Herald at the time and watched the drama unfold.

DiMillo may have started out on an equal footing when he got into the ring with the feds, but by the end the Internal Revenue Service and the federal banking system were down for the count, felled by an attorney who could portray even millionaires as the little guy.

Lilley had a worthy adversary in Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Groff, who daily punched away at the intimidating authority of Judge Gene Carter, asserting his own interpretation of the federal rules of evidence. But Groff didn’t stand a chance. Lilley’s blame-the-government strategy was everything.

DiMillo had made deposits ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 in two Portland-area banks, but the banks didn’t file “currency transaction reports” as the law required. “How come they don’t have to (follow the law), and he does?” Lilley asked.

The IRS didn’t look into the deposits until five years later, and it had other failings. They may have looked like technicalities, but they were right there in the tax law, and even a law student with bad eyes could have found them.

The IRS in Maine didn’t know what its Andover, Massachusetts, Service Center was doing, the Andover Center didn’t know what was happening in the IRS in Maine, “and (a government employee) named 37, who has a number, doesn’t know what either of them was doing,” Lilley said. Yeah, OK, so maybe DiMillo should have told his accountant about the money. But although DiMillo, the banks and the IRS all made mistakes, only DiMillo was on trial. “That’s not the American way,” Lilley said.

DiMillo had told the IRS that the money wasn’t his. It was a loan from Frank Goldman to help him complete his floating restaurant.

The IRS later learned that Goldman was really Frank Venditoli, a 72-year-old with a criminal record dating to 1943 who was known by Rhode Island police to have ties to organized crime.

The jury didn’t hear the words “mob” or Mafia. It may have concluded that DiMillo’s tax problem was really Venditoli’s problem, that he was the bad guy, who’d used an alias, didn’t pay his taxes, spent time in prison, perhaps even used DiMillo for his own nefarious ends.

The jury didn’t know that Venditoli died in a Providence hospital during the trial.


Lilley didn’t put DiMillo on the witness stand, and with good reason. Steamed at having been audited by the IRS so many times, livid about the slur on his reputation, DiMillo might not have been the man the jury saw in the gallery, sitting quietly with his wife and some of his nine children.

Lilley was an aggressive advocate for his client, but he didn’t come off as brash or arrogant.

His courtroom theatrics were so sophisticated, his arguments so convincing, that the jury bowed to his will. It acquitted DiMillo.

After the verdict, DiMillo told reporters he was happy to be the little guy from Munjoy Hill who had beaten the mighty U.S. of A. But he didn’t think his troubles were over.

“I want everybody to know that the IRS is going to come back at me again,” he said. “They’re going to give me a little more time to make money for the lawyers.”

Lilley, a Houlton boy and a genuinely nice guy, let DiMillo have the last word. DiMillo died in 1999 at age 66. His restaurant, popular still, is now run by his family.

If the IRS ever came after Tony DiMillo again, it didn’t make the news.

]]> 0 Lilley, pictured in 2013, won an acquittal in the DiMillo tax case by successfully putting the government on trial.Sat, 18 Mar 2017 17:55:22 +0000
Maine Observer: Dog spurs his owner to hit the ski trail Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Now that I have a dog again, I try to go cross-country skiing as much as possible, so he can romp through the snow as I ski the groomed trails in the woods around my neighborhood.

It has become our after-school ritual; because Corely (a nickname for his real name, Corleone, named after the infamous Godfather from John’s favorite story), looks forward to it so much, I feel terrible if I cannot take him. As a result, I end up skiing in some pretty awful conditions and on some pretty slushy or icy trails.

His enthusiasm has made me more resilient and less choosy when it comes to conditions these days. With so much heavy snow this winter, I have had to bushwhack my way through some snow-laden nether regions where I often stop to release the trees from their heavy snow bondage. As I hit the trees with my poles, I often think of Robert Frost and his poem “Birches,” as many of the arched trees are birch trees. I am not sure I am supposed to be inflicting myself on the natural world in this way, but the trees seem so happy when I am able to knock some of the heaviest snow off the branches and they spring up with life, soaring heavenward.

Corley and my neighbors have also inspired me to try skiing at night this year. Joyce and Bruce, also avid skiers, walk their two dogs nightly, using headlamps to guide them around the neighborhood. Because John gets home after dark in the winter, night skiing would enable him to get some trail time in during the week, so I went out and bought headlamps. And we walk the dog every night anyway, so why not ski with him instead?

The only glitch came when my youngest daughter was immediately worried about the coyotes Corley might run into in the woods at night. I hesitated but had already bought the gear, and knew Corely would love this version of a nighttime walk. So I decided to give it a try, with leash in hand, just in case.

To cross-country ski during the day is beautiful and soul-enriching every time I go, but to do it at night is truly magical, almost like being in the presence of the northern lights every time. The headlamps make the snow glisten as they light our way, and to my surprise and delight, the dog stays in the lighted path; he has no interest in romping anywhere away from us. I love the tranquility; the winter sky is bright and clear; we can see myriads of stars when we get to the clearings.

The woods, as the other Frost poem declares, are truly “lovely, dark and deep” and I am so warm despite my frosty breath. On moonlit nights, we almost don’t need the headlamps, but I am so happy we have them and this beautiful winter experience.

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Cynthia Dill: A dangerous plunge into a frigid pond raises regrets Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 One regret I had while falling through the ice in 6-degree weather as the sun set last Saturday was the lukewarm chicken cacciatore I had cooked the night before. My last supper before almost dying while walking the dog in the woods behind our house wasn’t hot enough, and nobody complained – a sad acknowledgment of my fallibility, a characteristic made more obvious by the bone-chilling water flooding my boots and rushing up my legs to above my waist.

What mattered most while mostly underwater in the pond on the coldest day ever recorded in March was that key relationships with my family and friends were healthy and intact and that the last words uttered to my children were kind. I was glad I had recently called my mother – and oddly felt a tad lucky that just weeks prior, I happened to watch a video online called “How to survive a fall through frozen ice.”

“Frozen ice” is obviously redundant, and as I lunged toward land in a horizontal position, hauling what quickly became 300 pounds of drenched winter clothing with me, the video tip “don’t take off your clothes” seemed rather obvious too. What kind of fool would strip naked after suffering the humiliation of falling through the ice?

Then again, tip No. 1 in the video, “Don’t break the ice,” seems pretty obvious too, in retrospect.

Dramatic and breathless classical music is a decent soundtrack for crashing through a 4- or 5-inch-thick white frozen crust into frigid black water. The ominous crescendo of violins and what sounds to the untrained ear like a French horn in the video, as the cute cartoon boy donning green mittens and a blue woolen hat adorned with snowflakes falls through the ice and makes his way to safety, perfectly matched the pitch in which the wet coldness entered me. On shore, a frenzied rhythm of shock and spasm immediately popped me up off the ground and sent me running like mad toward home.

Shouting “help!” and “help me!” over and over was not something recommended in the video, and it proved to be useless. The echo of my terrified voice only confirmed we were alone, but Marley rose to the occasion and helped by being semi-obedient for the first time in her 8-year dog life. Instead of running away from me as I sloshed along on the slippery path shedding water, waving my arms and talking to myself like a lunatic, Marley was at my side in a joyful canter, barking “make way” and seeming to thoroughly enjoy being my hero.

There’s a reason animals don’t come in denim, I remember thinking as my legs began to stiffen. Marley hadn’t read the recent story about the 97-year-old twins from Barrington, Rhode Island, where I grew up, who recently fell on ice in frigid temperatures and froze to death – probably stuck to the ground by their designer jeans. If Marley slipped and fell escorting me the mile or so out of the darkening woods, her canine legs wouldn’t adhere to the frozen ground – in fact, she was probably warm as toast running and barking and helping. I know because the sheepskin in my mittens and boots was soaking wet but nonetheless generated a welcome modicum of warmth for the tips of my fingers and toes as I gingerly ran – in contrast to my legs, which were stiff as poles encased in frozen cotton, with the potential to stick like super glue to the Earth’s arctic surface. How tragically ironic would it have been to survive a polar plunge, then capitulate to my favorite Lucky jeans?

Where there used to be a bridge at what looks like the midsection of an hourglass-shaped pond, now there is none – by design. The walking trail has been rerouted and an old loop discontinued, but old habits die hard, and on some cold days Mother Nature provides an ice bridge for people who like to walk in circles. It’s true I stepped on the ice last Saturday heading in the wrong direction, knowingly defying the wishes of tireless volunteers who maintain this pristine public space – good people trying to redirect foot traffic for a good reason – but it’s even worse than that.

Pride goes before a fall, which explains how I convinced myself I could walk across ice where others could not. You see, when I first arrived at the spot where I hoped Marley and I could quietly cross the pond in violation of the trail map, somebody before had already attempted it and failed. Their foot-sized hole was only about four feet to the left of where I subsequently made a body-sized hole.

Hubris is what I should have been regretting as I sank. Lukewarm chicken cacciatore is not a sin.

To my consternation and mild comfort, though, there are multitudes of sinners like me. I know because the day after my baptism by ice, I went back to the spot in the woods on the pond where I almost died and saw a third hole – smaller than mine but larger than the first – made by someone trying to cross from the other side. I hope they saw the video.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 0, 22 Mar 2017 10:25:33 +0000
Alan Caron: Trump owes Obama an apology Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 You can tell a lot about political leaders by how they act when they make a mistake or say something that is not true. Do they have the strength of character, the humility and the basic honesty to admit their mistake? Or do they launch into a set of juke moves, smoke screens and dance steps?

Two weeks ago, President Trump accused former President Obama of “tapping” his phone at Trump Tower. This wasn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, conspiracy-fueled bombast, like the one a few months ago when Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote because millions of illegal voters had supported her.

This is far more serious. It was a direct attack on a former president who, regardless of your political persuasion, served the country honorably for eight years, seemed to be a solid family guy and left without major scandal. And it was essentially accusing that man of breaking the law.

What makes Trump’s claims suspicious is the timing of the accusation – 6:45 a.m. on a Saturday – and the reality of how surveillance actually happens in this country.

There are only three possible explanations for Trump’s charge. One is that Obama intentionally violated the law to scuttle the Trump campaign, bypassing the courts, the FBI and other intelligence agencies. That would be a scandal on the order of President Nixon’s Watergate.

The second is that law enforcement or intelligence agencies legally secured a warrant to bug Trump’s offices. If that’s true, it could only have happened if there were a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign underway, or if they were suspected of operating as agents of a foreign government.

And the third is that Trump is wrong and there never was any surveillance at all.

Americans will need to come to their own conclusions on this, using their best, unbiased judgment. They can start by looking at who is making the accusation. Trump has been monitored by virtually every fact-checking organization in the country for well over a year. He’s been found to thrive in a world of outrageous claims and unsubstantiated attacks. Obama denies ever ordering the bugging of any American.

It doesn’t seem like a tough call.

If we rule out Obama breaking the law, the next best scenario for Trump is that he made a mistake or, as some might say, he lied. Mistakes happen. We’re all human, and we’ve all made mistakes. I’ve made more than most, I suppose.

The key for a political leader, or anyone, for that matter, is what you do after you’ve misrepresented facts or unfairly accused someone. The honorable response is to admit your mistake, apologize to anyone you’ve done injury to and learn from the experience. We’re a forgiving people, and in most cases when someone admits an error and asks for forgiveness, we accept it and move on.

The dishonorable response is to deny the mistake, muddy the waters, shift the blame and change the topic.

Here’s what Trump has done over the last two weeks, since tweeting that Obama’s action was like “Watergate” or “McCarthyism.”

• Although he’s been pressed daily to provide proof of his claim, he has produced nothing.

• Trump asked the congressional committees investigating Russia’s influence on the election to give his claims equal time. Apparently now whenever Trump misspeaks, Congress is supposed to stop everything to prove him wrong.

• His press secretary argued that when Trump said Obama had “tapped his phones,” he didn’t really mean Obama and he didn’t necessarily mean actually tapping, or even, for that matter, phones.

• Other aides insinuated that perhaps Obama had used other devices to spy on Trump – like microwave ovens.

In what will come as a shock to many, Trump is not going to own up to his mistakes. He never does. He’ll just shift the blame and move on. The problem is that when you’re president of the Unites States, your words matter. And they don’t go away.

What should we do as citizens? Demand the facts. Demand an apology. And never let this kind of scurrilous attack – which is truly reminiscent of McCarthyism – become an accepted part of America’s democracy.

Accusing former leaders and political opponents of nefarious crimes is what happens in places like Russia and banana republics. If we let it take root here without any consequences, it will only get worse.

Here’s the right thing to do, Mr. President. Get on the phone with Obama and apologize. Then, swear off Twitter before you insult someone who doesn’t love this country and who can do us real harm.

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

]]> 0, 17 Mar 2017 18:29:03 +0000
Jim Fossel: Timing of requesting expansion of Medicaid in Maine is surprising Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Over the past several years, a curious dichotomy has emerged in Maine: Liberal ideas succeed at the ballot box, while liberal candidates fail time and time again.

This first began to appear in 2012, when progressives were able to pass marriage equality. Buoyed by this success, they turned their efforts toward the 2014 elections, when Gov. Paul LePage was up for re-election and they had the opportunity to keep the 2nd Congressional District in Democratic hands.

Not only were both of these efforts failures, Republicans also retook control of the state Senate and gained seats in the House. This pattern repeated itself in 2015 and 2016, when progressives successfully used the referendum process to expand Clean Elections, raise taxes to increase education funding and raise the minimum wage, while Democrats failed to recapture the state Senate or defeat Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

So on some level, it was no surprise when the Secretary of State’s Office announced that activists had gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on Medicaid expansion. After all, they’d been pushing for Maine to do so ever since a federal court ruling made that part of the Affordable Care Act optional, but it had been consistently stymied by Republicans in Augusta. With their lack of success in the 2014 election, initiating the process by citizen initiative would seem to be their only remaining option.

What was surprising was their timing: Proponents reportedly collected most of their signatures on Election Day in 2016, and the referendum will appear on the ballot in 2017. Had they begun earlier, it might have been a lengthier (and more expensive) process to collect the signatures, but putting it on the ballot in 2016 could have helped turn out voters to elect Democratic candidates statewide. Failing that, they could have delayed their process slightly and timed their submission so that it would be on the ballot in November 2018, possibly helping to elect a Democrat to the Blaine House.

That means that not only will candidates not benefit from the referendum, the referendum won’t benefit from candidates either. In an even-numbered year, both parties put enormous effort into voter ID and turnout, and that boosts referendums as well. In an odd year, these operations will be entirely up to the referendum supporters.

Data at a national level have suggested that in midterm elections, turnout is lower and voters tend to be older and less diverse, which helps Republican candidates. It’s tough to measure turnout in odd years – only a few states hold statewide elections of any kind – but they’ve been a mixed bag in Maine in the past.

In 2009 – the last odd-numbered year to have a wide variety of referendums – the first attempt to pass marriage equality failed, but so did several tax-cut measures, and an expansion of medical marijuana succeeded. In 2017, Medicaid expansion will only share the ballot with yet another gambling initiative and a bond measure. There’s no doubt what will be the center of attention. Putting the measure on the ballot next year not only provides zero ancillary benefits to Democratic candidates, it’s also a risky decision for Medicaid expansion proponents.

Putting aside politics, the election of President Trump and the continued Republican control of Congress mean that all aspects of the Affordable Care Act are up for review (or “repeal and replacement,” if you like). The so-called promise of federal funding for most of Medicaid expansion always has been a dicey one at best. There’s no such thing as a guarantee in life – if you don’t believe me, just ask Hillary Clinton or the Atlanta Falcons.

However, with avowed Obamacare opponents in complete control of the federal government, that promise has gone completely out the window. Right now, Maine is just as likely to receive zero dollars in federal matching funds as it is 90 percent – and if that gets resolved before November, the number is a lot more likely to be closer to zero.

Of course, it’s questionable whether Maine could have even afforded the 10 percent contribution required under the current law. We remain a poor state, after all – and in other states, the cost of Medicaid expansion has outstripped expectations.

However, now that we have no idea what the federal matching funds might be, proponents are essentially asking a state to write a blank check. That’s not a reasonable or responsible approach to governing, and it’s one that Mainers should reject no matter who’s doing the asking – or for what program.

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

Twitter: jimfossel

]]> 0 Sunday Telegram columnist Jim FosselWed, 22 Mar 2017 10:38:38 +0000
Will Sen. Collins take a stand against companies that want to sell your data? Sat, 18 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 FREEPORT — Companies like Charter, Comcast and others want to sell your browsing history without your consent – and a resolution introduced in Congress last week will let them do just that.

Sen. Susan Collins hasn’t made her position on this issue clear, but she needs to stand up to these internet providers and ensure that Mainers’ privacy is not sacrificed in the name of profits. This issue could receive a vote as early as next week, and given the margins in Congress, she could easily be a deciding vote.

A rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last year requires internet providers to ask customers’ permission to use or sell their sensitive data – such as their Web browsing history, when someone signs in and out of an account, or even their location information. Taken together, this data could paint an intimate picture of a person’s religion, medical conditions and even their hobbies, like visits to a gun range. This is why the rule also contains important data security requirements, to ensure that companies appropriately protect their customers’ information.

But providers like Charter, AT&T and Verizon want to protect their profits. That’s why they’ve spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress – including tens of thousands donated to Sen. Collins – and have repeatedly urged the FCC and Congress to halt the rule. Unfortunately, these companies could get their wish now that a group of senators has introduced a resolution to overturn the rules wholesale, using a rare expedited procedural maneuver contained in the Congressional Review Act. If passed by both chambers, the resolution will not only kill the rules, but also prevent the FCC from making similar privacy-protective rules in the future.

This anti-privacy approach robs consumers of their choice. For many people in our state, there are few options for getting broadband internet service. This fact cuts at the arguments made by some that the free market will correct these types of abuses. Customers may not be able to simply pick another provider that better respects the privacy of their information. And anyone who has ever tried to negotiate their terms of service or bill with one of these companies knows what an uphill, and often impossible, challenge that it can be.

While internet service providers are by no means the only companies collecting our data, they have a unique vantage point into our lives. Companies like Charter and Comcast, by the nature of being gatekeepers to the internet, are able to comprehensively see what we do online. And using their services is not just a luxury we choose. We need high-speed and reliable Web access to pay bills, study for school and shop online – no Mainer should have to choose between getting internet and giving up privacy.

Even more, for many in our community, this privacy is essential to protect against discriminatory pricing and advertising. There is a long history of companies discriminating against individuals based on their location, age, gender or race – in some cases even advertising higher prices based on some of these attributes. Consumers can and should be able to prevent this data from being sold without their permission and being used to discriminate against them.

Passage of the Senate resolution would leave an enormous regulatory gap when it comes to internet service providers and privacy. As a result of recent court decisions, some companies, such as AT&T, do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission, who many in industry have suggested should be responsible for policing privacy abuses of internet service providers. Even if it did have jurisdiction, the FTC lacks the appropriate authority to create rules and take other actions that are necessary to proactively protect Mainers’ privacy.

The privacy of internet users in Maine is at stake. Susan Collins must take a stand against business interests that would auction off your personal information to the highest bidder. Customers deserve a choice in how their data is used and sold, and the FCC’s rules are an important step to ensuring just that. Sen. Collins should stand up and vocally state her opposition to this resolution.

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Mar 2017 19:29:04 +0000
The humble Farmer: Maine’s old men and the sea were once young men at sea Sat, 18 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The email said that the “St. George Community Sailing Foundation teaches sailing, seamanship, and water safety to young sailors, ages 9-18, of all skill levels in beautiful Tenants Harbor on the coast of Maine.”

Five instructors were listed, along with the fact that tuition is $190 for residents and $380 for youngsters from away.

Learn how to sail a boat. What a fun thing for kids to do. In 1946, we had a few old neighbors who used to sail boats and a lot of neighbors who earned a living in power boats, but back then I never heard of one kid in St. George who wanted to learn how to sail a boat.


Do you know what kind of memories talk of sailing a boat invokes in an old man who was born in a community that went to sea? When I was 10, I listened to old men who had learned to sail when they were children.

Captain Thomas told me of hearing the mate’s boots clumping down the ladder to wake him in the morning – and what it was like to work up in the rigging, who knows how far from the deck, trying to straighten things out in a gale – when he was 14 years old. If you couldn’t hang on, they probably didn’t ask you to do it again.

I can still see Captain Thomas looking down at me with a smile as he shook his head and said over and over, “You don’t know. You don’t know.”

Can you imagine letting a 14-year-old work on a vessel hauling freight between New York City and Japan? For generations of St. George people, going to sea before you were old enough to shave was the norm.

By the time he was 19, Ardie Thomas was a captain. As I recall, the ship’s owners wrote to St. George and asked for A. Thomas, his older brother Arthur, but Ardie took the job instead. Although he’d been at sea for four or so years by then, he said he learned celestial navigation by some serious reading in his cabin very soon after he had become captain of his own coaster.

He told me that he could come up from Cuba to New York City and, when he couldn’t read the stars, put his bow right on the Ambrose lightship with only dead reckoning and a lead line. He said that the masts were so high on one of his ships that he cleaned off the topmost flag going under some bridge coming into New York.


Captain Thomas’ great-grandfather was a brother to my Great-Grandfather Gilchrest. On one side of his gravestone is carved “Lost At Sea.” Mother said that Andy Wyeth painted a close-up of that side of the stone years ago, but I never saw it.

The H.S. Gregory, a big square-rigger, was built in Thomaston by my grandfather’s uncle. The captain was his cousin, Ed Watts. One of the chief owners was Samuel Watts, a distant cousin.

In 1882, my mother’s father was on this H.S. Gregory, hauling wheat from the West Coast to Ireland, when it sprang a leak off Cape Horn in a storm. The carpenter died trying to fix the pump, which was clogged with wet wheat. The captain and all but five of the crew were blinded by the fumes. Six hundred miles off Ireland, they were finally sighted by another vessel and were taken by breeches buoy into a lifeboat. When Grandfather finally got home he could have been captain on his next voyage, but thought better of it and never went again.

When I was a kid, some of my neighbors couldn’t look at a painting of a schooner without pointing out that this or that line was missing or in the wrong place.

So now another generation of St. George kids who can raise the cash for a two-week class can learn how to sail. The course is taught by people I don’t know who can do things I can’t do. We appreciate their willingness to teach young people how to sail, and hope that the students will always have the time and resources to support their hobby.

The life of a sailor is not without risk. More than a few St. George people left the dock and did not come back.

I might have told you about Captain Freddy, who went to sea at 17, rather late in life. He’d been asked to go before when Captain Watts wanted him to help haul a load of coal from Baltimore and around Cape Horn to Japan. Because most of the crew were from other countries, Captain Watts liked to have a few local boys aboard.

Freddy’s mother had lost so many relatives to the sea that she pleaded with him to not go. In telling about it 60 years later, Captain Freddy said, “Kind of funny how that turned out. That vessel simply disappeared and they never found a trace of it. I suppose it’s just as well that I didn’t go.”

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

]]> 0, 17 Mar 2017 19:32:13 +0000
If Gov. LePage really meant his apology, he will stop making racially divisive remarks Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 YARMOUTH — My name is Garrett Stewart, I am 50 years old, I live in Yarmouth and I have been a Maine resident my whole life.

Last Wednesday, I went to a town hall meeting in my town to ask Gov. LePage why he keeps making divisive racial comments. I explained to him that when my children and I hear these comments on the news, it is hurtful. He apologized to me, and I thanked him for his apology. I hope he really understood what I was trying to tell him.

My grandparents came to Portland during World War II, when my grandfather was sent to work at the South Portland shipyard. My family planted strong roots in Portland, and you may have met them throughout the years. They are business owners, law enforcement officers, ministers, pro athletes and laborers like you.

In the 1960s while Jim Crow laws were dividing the South, my father, Willie Stewart, was a regular on “The Dave Astor Show,” performing side by side with local white teenagers. At that time, a young black man dancing with a white girl was unheard of, but week after week teenagers in Maine looked forward to seeing him on the show.

Growing up, I encountered racism here and there, but for the most part my family was accepted and well loved. When I was in high school, my father bought a home in Naples and I graduated from Lake Region, where we were the only black family. I’ve worked as a deputy sheriff and as a meter reader; now I am a structural fitter at Bath Iron Works, where I have been for 14 years.

Over the past six years, I have heard comments made by Gov. LePage that have greatly disturbed me. Many of his statements are meant to stereotype and divide. These race-driven and divisive comments have affected my family and me. They have affected my whole community. They make people less safe in their own communities.

African-American Mainers are like everyone else. We work every day. We take care of our families. We have children and grandchildren who watch the news. We deserve the same respect and dignity as everyone else. We are not going to stand for this anymore.

I was at home watching the news when I heard the governor insult U.S. Rep. John Lewis. This was the final straw. I knew I had to do something. Lewis is a civil rights icon who has stood up for his beliefs his whole life. He put his body on the line in the fight for equality. With his comments, Gov. LePage misrepresented history and did a great disservice to our state. Having the leader of our state – and now the president of our country – talk like this has a ripple effect, and I see it more than ever.

Never before in my life have I encountered the level of racism I have in recent years. I have seen people become more bold and direct with their statements. Posts on social media, comments on news reports and everyday looks, remarks and actions have increased my awareness of the effect statements like the governor’s have on our society. I have heard people make disparaging remarks toward me, insinuating that my 14 years working as a structural fitter at BIW, which I am proud of, are just a result of affirmative action and nothing to do with my work ethic.

Using racially divisive language is not a mistake or an accident. Political leaders are intentionally invoking racial fear to divide working people. This is a deliberate strategy. It’s also the oldest strategy in the book. Call it divide and conquer, scapegoating, or what you like. You pit one set of people against another so that a very small elite benefit.

There’s been a clear strategy used by too many pundits and politicians – like our president and governor – to try to convince white folks that “undeserving minorities and immigrants” are getting all the benefits, while they struggle to get by. The reality is most of us are struggling to get by and our economy and our government are increasingly working for those at the very top.

There’s also almost always a link between divisive, racially charged rhetoric and policies that hurt working class people and people of color. When the governor rails against immigrants or asylum seekers, or calls people of color “the enemy,” what usually follows is more tax cuts for the wealthy, underfunded schools, rollbacks of workers’ rights and an effort to kick more people off healthcare. Scapegoating rhetoric that divides us leads to policy that hurts most all of us.

I’m involved with my union, Machinists Local S6. As union members, we know that unity is our power. It’s everyone standing together that makes us strong. We know that an injury to one is an injury to all. When we unite around a common purpose, using our differences as strengths, we can win. We need to figure out this unity among the whole working class and in our broader society so that we can build a state that works for all of us, not just those at the top.

I am glad Gov. LePage listened to me, and I accept his apology. I hope we will see a change in his final two years in office – in his comments and his policy. If he really meant his apology, he will stop making these false and racially divisive comments. Enough is enough.

]]> 0 Paul LePage speaks during Wednesday night's town hall meeting at Amvets Post 2 in Yarmouth. Several hundred people turned out.Fri, 17 Mar 2017 14:21:53 +0000
Commentary: Health care overhaul bill just a first step, Rep. Poliquin declares Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The Obamacare law is failing. It’s taking the health insurance market down with it and hurting tens of thousands of Maine families. We must fix this serious problem, or it’ll get worse.

When the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was passed, we were told we could keep our health insurance plan and doctor, and our insurance cost would drop $2,500 per year. That has not happened.

This year, monthly Obamacare premiums for thousands of individuals and small businesses in Maine have risen, on average, another 14 percent to 24 percent. Deductibles commonly reach $6,000 to $7,000 per year so families end up paying for health care services out of pocket and never even use the insurance.

And it’s getting worse.

The largest Obamacare health insurance provider in Maine is Community Health Options in Lewiston. Last year, it lost $58 million.

Anthem is one of only two other health insurance companies doing business in Maine. Last week, it announced it would begin the process to stop writing Obamacare coverage in 2018 if the collapsing law is not changed.

Many fellow Mainers pushed out of health insurance by the ACA law have no other option but hospital emergency rooms when they get sick or have an accident.

This is not fair, and this is not right. If we do nothing, Obamacare will continue to implode and more Maine families will lose their health insurance.

We can do a whole lot better. And, that’s what I’m working hard to do.

It will take time to unwind the damaging parts of the ACA law and provide incentives for the competitive market to take hold. Since being elected to Congress two years ago, I have opposed doing away with the Obamacare law without a common-sense free market solution in its place.

At the time, the Portland Press Herald’s editorial board wrote, “Poliquin’s opposition to his party’s measure showed that he’s prepared to put his constituents ahead of party politics.” I’m doing exactly what I said I’d do. The hard work is paying off.

The proposal introduced last week is a first step. This proposal includes a number of successful common-sense reforms, some of which Maine has already used, including making sure nobody is denied health insurance if they want it; no lifetime caps on coverage; family members up to age 26 can be covered on their parents’ plans; and coverage for pre-existing health conditions.

It shouldn’t surprise you that the media claims that I endorse this first draft of the House Republican proposal in its entirety. Like every proposal that comes before me, I am thoroughly and carefully studying the bill, looking for ways to improve it.

I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to fight for our Maine families. Every week, my office receives and responds to roughly a thousand phone calls, emails and hand-written letters from constituents. During most weekends, I crisscross our sprawling 2nd District to meet with hundreds of more fellow Mainers, listening to what’s on your minds.

I don’t shy away from making tough decisions and tackling difficult problems.

After years of others trying to get it done, I took on the entrenched Pentagon bureaucracy, Washington special interests, and members of my own party to finally help secure 900 shoe making jobs at New Balance factories in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway. This big win for Maine workers requires U.S. taxpayer dollars to buy 100 percent American-made athletic shoes for our new military recruits every year.

Opposing my own party leadership and Washington special interests, I voted, twice, against fast track trade promotion authority, which would harm Maine jobs. I also opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement because it, too, could harm Maine workers.

I battled Washington regulators and Wall Street lobbyists to stop their plan to do away with paper reports on retirement savings for our seniors. Twin Rivers Paper Co. in Madawaska manufactures that specialty paper – 600 good-paying jobs with benefits in the St. John Valley. The full-page attack ads didn’t stop me from doing what’s right for Maine workers and seniors.

Last month, I helped an outstanding woman-owned business, Auburn Manufacturing, and its 40 employees beat back unfair and illegal Chinese trade. Americans can compete and win against anyone when the playing field is level.

I’m using my new role on the powerful Veterans Affairs Committee to push for quicker and easier access to health care for our heroes who live in the most rural parts of Maine.

I’m not in Congress to provide soundbites. I’m in Congress to get things done. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing since Day One.

]]> 0 Thu, 16 Mar 2017 20:21:49 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: For those trying to replace Obamacare, all options lead to trouble Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it’s not that easy. Once something is given – say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans – you take it away at your peril. This is true for any government benefit, but especially for health care. There’s a reason not one Western democracy with some system of national health care has ever abolished it.

The genius of the left is to keep enlarging the entitlement state by creating new giveaways that are politically impossible to repeal. For 20 years, Republicans railed against the New Deal. Yet when they came back into office in 1953, Eisenhower didn’t just keep Social Security, he expanded it.

People hated Obamacare for its high-handedness, incompetence and cost. At the same time, its crafters took great care to create new beneficiaries and new expectations. Which makes repeal very complicated.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that, under Paul Ryan’s Obamacare replacement bill, 24 million will lose insurance within 10 years, 14 million after the first year.

Granted, the number is highly suspect. CBO projects 18 million will be covered by the Obamacare exchanges in 2018. But the number today is about 10 million. That means the CBO estimate of those losing coverage is already about 8 million too high.

Nonetheless, there will be losers. And their stories will be plastered wall to wall across the media as sure as night follows day.

That scares Republican moderates. And yet the main resistance to Ryan comes from conservative members complaining that the bill is not ideologically pure enough. They mock it as Obamacare Lite.

For example, Ryan wants to ease the pain by phasing out Medicaid expansion through 2020. The conservative Republican Study Committee wants it done next year. This is crazy. For the sake of two years’ savings, why would you risk a political crash landing?

Moreover, the idea that you can eradicate Obamacare root and branch is fanciful. For all its catastrophic flaws, Obamacare changed expectations. Does any Republican propose returning to a time when you can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition?

It’s not just Donald Trump who ran on retaining this new, yes, entitlement. Everyone did. But it’s very problematic. If people know that they can sign up for insurance after they get sick, the very idea of insurance is undermined. People won’t sign up when healthy and the insurance companies will go broke.

So what do you do? Obamacare imposed a monetary fine if you didn’t sign up, for which the Ryan bill substitutes another mechanism, less heavy-handed but still government-mandated.

The purists who insist upon entirely escaping the heavy hand of government are dreaming. The best you can hope for is to make it less intrusive and more rational, as in the Ryan plan’s block-granting of Medicaid.

Or instituting a more realistic age-rating system. Sixty-year-olds use six times as much health care as 20-year-olds, yet Obamacare decreed, entirely arbitrarily, that the former could be charged insurance premiums no more than three times that of the latter. The Republican bill changes the ratio from 3-to-1 to 5-to-1.

Premiums better reflecting risk constitute a major restoration of rationality. (It’s how life insurance works.) Under Obamacare, the young were unwilling to be swindled and refused to sign up. Without their support, the whole system is thus headed into a death spiral of looming insolvency.

Rationality, however, has a price. The CBO has already predicted a massive increase in premiums for 60-year-olds. That’s the headline.

There is no free lunch. Republican hard-liners must accept that Americans have become accustomed to some new health care benefits, just as moderates have to brace themselves for stories about the inevitable losers in any reform.

That’s the political price for fulfilling the seven-year promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Unless, of course, you go the full Machiavelli and throw it all back on the Democrats. How? Republicans could forget about meeting the arcane requirements of “reconciliation” legislation (which requires only 51 votes in the Senate) and send the Senate a replacement bill loaded up with everything conservative – including tort reform and insurance competition across state lines. That would require 60 Senate votes. Let the Democrats filibuster it to death – and take the blame when repeal-and-replace fails, Obamacare carries on and then collapses under its own weight.

Upside: You reap the backlash. Downside: You have to live with your conscience.

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

]]> 0, 16 Mar 2017 20:40:20 +0000
Commentary: Portland taxpayers would gain from go-slow approach to school renovations, Councilor Duson says Thu, 16 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 My mother’s voice, interrupting our heated quarrel, admonishes my brother and me to “take a breath and work it out.”

She isn’t just trying to bring down the noise level; she is teaching us the art and skill of dialing it back – to really listen, to truly hear each other.

I am forever grateful for this early lesson in navigating relationships with family, friends and community.

The current debate over bonds to renovate Portland’s elementary schools is an appropriate opportunity to invoke this “stop and listen” approach.

One deep breath is all it takes to see that there is unanimous agreement on the City Council about what needs to be done and in what time frame. Nine councilors are committing to an eight-year renovation plan for Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools.

Nine councilors understand and agree that when we invest in our kids and our schools, we are investing in a stronger city and a brighter future for Portland.

So, despite the confusing and high-intensity rhetoric, the question before us is not “if” or “why” we should renovate four schools in eight years, but “how” we achieve that shared goal.

How do we minimize the load for Portland taxpayers and maximize the buying power of local dollars?

And how do we best achieve the longer term need for achieving similar updated and high-quality learning environments in our middle and high schools?

Let’s take that deep breath as we move toward a hearing and debate next week. We have a responsibility to fully review all proposals.

The “local dollars only” proposal would ask Portland voters to approve the sale of $64 million in municipal bonds and pay back those bonds by raising the local property tax.

The price tag for this approach would be $92 million over 20 years. The “local dollars only” approach would void Portland’s eligibility to draw down state funds for any part of the costs of renovating these four schools.

The “2+2” proposal would renovate the same four schools in the same 8-year time frame (2018-2026), but it would allow for the possibility that up to $32 million in state funding could replace local bonding and reduce the subsequent increase in property taxes.

This option would request voter approval for the sale of an initial $32 million in municipal bonds. And, instead of funding the entire price tag with local bonds, the “2+2” proposal would include application for $32 million in state funding for the remaining two schools.

State funding awards will be announced by November 2018. If state funds are not secured for the full $32 million, the “2+2” approach calls for a return to the voters with a second local bond that would fund the balance needed to complete the four school renovations within the eight year time frame.

The price tag for the “2+2” approach would be the first bond for $32 million over 20 years plus interest, plus an additional $17 million to do one school or $32 million if both schools fail to survive the state process.

Under the “2+2,” we do our due diligence to pursue all opportunities for funding outside of municipal bonding and property tax increases. It gives us flexibility, the potential to minimize cost, and the opportunity to save local resources that can be used to fund future infrastructure needs in our middle and high schools.

We all want to live in an affordable city – a place where people from everywhere and every background make up a caring community – where kids can get a great education and a strong start on building successful lives. We want people living here to stay, and we want new people to join us.

Not every story has to have a bad guy. This isn’t Hollywood and it isn’t hyper-partisan Washington, D.C. We’re not filming a modern-day Western or battling the tobacco industry.

We’re Maine people who care about our kids and our communities. My hope for the next few days is that we really listen to each other.

Let’s not make this an “all or nothing” choice with “winners” and “losers” and a community left divided. Let’s focus on what’s important: safe schools for our kids and affordability for our residents.

And let’s go back to what we do best in Portland: finding collaborative and ingenious solutions to problems, helping our neighbors, and making wise use of resources to invest in our children and make our city stronger.

]]> 0 Wed, 15 Mar 2017 18:34:45 +0000
Commentary: Bring all four Portland schools up to date with $64 million bond, Mayor Strimling urges Thu, 16 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 It’s no secret that I’m a strong advocate for giving Portland voters a voice this June on a $64 million education bond in order to ensure equality for Portland’s elementary school students.

Our young learners currently face an unfortunate reality. Students at Lyseth are forced to attend classes in hallways. Presumpscot kids must put on their snow boots to get to the bathroom from the trailer they call a classroom.

Six-year-olds at Reiche have to wear headphones to drown out the noise so they can read. A Deering Center third-grader who uses a wheelchair has to be transferred to a school across town because he can’t take classes on the second floor of Longfellow with his classmates.

These are inequities that none of us find acceptable.

Thankfully, for the first time in 25 years, the council is poised to vote to send a transformative bond to Portland voters that would finally guarantee that a child’s address will not dictate his or her educational experience.

Sadly, there’s still talk about cutting the two neediest schools from the bond, Longfellow and Reiche, in the hope that the state will fund them instead. This option was brought up months ago and was rejected 7-1 after careful consideration by a select committee of the council and school board.

The argument is enticing.

They say, “These two schools were close to getting funded on the last state list, so we should have a good chance of getting funded next time. Since we won’t be able to build all four schools at once, why not simply wait a few years and save local taxpayers money?”

Honestly, who wouldn’t want the state to pick up the tab, especially if the schools can be improved on the same timeline? Why would we turn down a win-win?

Except, as with most arguments that appear too good to be true, this one is too.

The fact is the state has already rejected these two schools four times (once through formal appeal) and little has changed in the state scoring to increase our chances (the state website spells it out this way: “Unless there have been significant changes aligned with the scoring system within a building, repeat applications typically fall within similar scoring ranges.).

Perhaps most importantly, cutting our neediest two schools from the bond could delay their rehabilitation by years – and could jeopardize their getting fixed at all.

If we don’t act now, there is no way to guarantee a future council would step up and do so. By the time we know whether the state would fund these schools (probably two years), six current councilors will have been up for re-election.

Turnover, a change of heart or different priorities could jeopardize a future bond. Moreover, the careful consideration many of us have given the issue this time around has taken over a year. As scenarios change, that analysis will need to be updated, taking time and further delaying a future decision while our kids and our schools suffer.

Finally, the oft-repeated claim that fixing two schools instead of four will equal significant taxpayer savings is simply untrue.

The reality is that a four-school bond would cost an average homeowner in Portland $8.67 per month. If we opt for a two-school bond and the state reverses course by funding one of them (it has never funded more than one per cycle) and we go back and fund the other locally, we would be saving taxpayers a grand total of around $2 per month.

The wishful thinking of a state-funded solution that cuts two schools is a gamble for our children and our city’s future that I am simply unwilling to take – especially if the reward is simply to save $2 a month.

A far better way to utilize the state process is to pursue state funding for Casco Bay/PATHS and Portland High School. These are large facilities where our capital needs assessment shows we have a good chance at securing state dollars.

Funding our elementary schools locally means we won’t be competing against ourselves at the state level for these other needy projects.

But regardless of what any of us might personally feel, it is time to finally give the voters in Portland their say on this four-school, $64 million bond.

I believe they will overwhelmingly vote in support of rebuilding these elementary schools, because ensuring equality for our kids is a value all of us embrace, and the alternative is no longer an option.

]]> 0 Wed, 15 Mar 2017 19:15:27 +0000
Maine Voices: When climate change affects livelihood, adapting trumps ‘believing’ Thu, 16 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 LEWISTON — One day late last month, as I walked across the Bates College campus on my way to teach my environmental literature seminar, I began peeling off my layers. First I took off my hat. Then I unwound my wool scarf and removed my gloves. By the time I reached the Carnegie Science building, my coat was in my hand. I sensed then, as I do more and more often these days, that something, or everything, was off.

Over the last 120 years, the average temperature in Maine has gone up by 3 degrees. And in the next hundred years it is expected to rise as much as 10 more. It turns out that it was 48 degrees that afternoon, a solid 23 degrees higher than the historic end-of-February average for Lewiston. These wild temperature swings – part of a larger overall trend – are already affecting Maine’s iconic industries. Last spring, my students and I interviewed those living and working on the front lines of climate change. Instead of asking foresters, farmers and fishers whether or not they “believed” in global warming, we inquired about the ways in which they were trying to adapt to the profound environmental transformations already reshaping their lives and livelihoods.

Those whose work is directly affected by climate change often live in rural areas, far from the center of political discourse. They are rarely invited to speak for themselves about their own experiences and are often skeptical of the grounds on which the public discussion of climate change takes place. Candis Callison writes about this gulf between local and national vernaculars in her book “How Climate Comes to Matter.”

Recalling her time in an indigenous fishing village in Alaska, she writes, “I experienced not an explicit questioning of climate change but a flat-out rejection of it as a term that described what direct experience with climatic changes feels like.” When warming in the Arctic is publicly discussed, it appears either as a statistical anomaly or as a catastrophic event, neither of which map onto the lived experience of the people Callison interviewed.

In Maine, many of the folks directly affected by climate change – lobstermen, maple syrup farmers, indigenous peoples, timber workers – are, like the groups that Callison profiles, reticent to use the terms dictated by national discourse. But they will happily relate the very specific ways in which their industry has been transformed by the recent string of abnormally warm winters.

In Jay, a longtime forester described how warmer winters were costing the lumber industry money because removing trees over half-thawed, muddy ground – as opposed to frozen land – requires that new roadways be built. In Phippsburg, a lobsterman spoke of how warming in the Gulf was pushing lobster offshore into colder water, causing him to spend more time away from home. And in Mechanic Falls, a local farmer spoke of the negative impact erratic winter temperatures were having on his peers throughout the valley.

“Plants can take incredibly cold temperatures,” he said. “But what is difficult is when you start to get temperatures that jump up above 45. The Christmas Day warmth this year is probably when people lost their peaches. That warm spell brought the peaches out of dormancy, and sap went up into the trees and broke the tissues.”

Perhaps what most surprised my students was that many of their interviewees self-identified as conservative and they were deeply invested in Maine’s environment. Nine times out of 10, environmentally progressive legislation is labeled “liberal.” But what my students’ interviews suggested is that perhaps that knee-jerk pairing will soon be out-of-date.

Two days after I sweated my way across campus, I attended a presentation by Daniel Richter, legislative director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I went in search of a set of tactical responses to President Trump’s recent string of anti-environmental executive orders, and I left with encouraging news. Richter reported that in the House of Representatives, the Climate Solutions Caucus now has 13 Republican and 13 Democratic members. But what is more encouraging is that many of those Republicans acknowledged that climate change was real, was human caused and demanded a response as part of their candidacy. Here was proof that it’s possible to be an environmentally progressive conservative and to win.

In Maine, where so much of who we are and what we do depends on the environment, it is time for our elected officials to reflect the lived experience of their constituents. As I write, it is 45 degrees again and I wonder what this means for those farmers in the valley, whether their peaches will make it through another strange winter and whether any of their elected officials are paying attention.

— Special to the Press Herald

]]> 0 Phelan/Kennebec Journal Dalziel Lewis, of Dig Deep Farm, says she can imagine the life-or-death challenges faced by farmers during the Year Without a Summer, when many families left Maine.Thu, 16 Mar 2017 10:06:49 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Fat-cat dismissals of the poor’s health care needs will always be with us Wed, 15 Mar 2017 10:00:41 +0000 Suddenly, there was just blood everywhere.

It erupted from my father’s mouth as we sat watching television. I was still struggling to process this horror when my mother, too shaken to drive, asked me – 17 years old and still on my learner’s permit – to get us to the emergency room.

Somehow, we made it. But the ER was crowded with folks like us, poor and bearing loved ones in distress. The hospital couldn’t get to my dad right away. They didn’t even have a room to put him in.

Instead, my cancer-ravaged father lay for hours on a gurney in a hallway crowded with gurneys, just one more stick figure huddled under a thin blanket. The air reeked of misery and rotting things.

I still remember how angry I was at our inability to have better. I felt abandoned, felt as if we lived unseen at the dark end of a bright and gaudy street.

So I have a visceral response when some well-fed congressman airily suggests, as Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., recently did in a CNN interview, that if a cancer patient needs treatment, he can just “show up to the emergency room.”

I’d like to see DeSantis explain that to some out-of-work father whose kid was just diagnosed with leukemia. I’d buy tickets for that.

But then, Republicans have been saying a lot of dumb things about poor people and health care in their zeal to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., went biblical to explain why we shouldn’t be overly concerned about making sure the poor have access to doctors. In an interview with Stat, a medical-affairs website, he opined as follows: “Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

Meantime, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said poor people need to get their priorities straight. “Rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that,” he told CNN, “maybe they should invest in their own health care.”

For what it’s worth, Chaffetz and Marshall walked those comments back. Forgive me if I am not impressed. Actions, as they say, speak louder than words and their party’s recent action – a bill to replace the ACA – is a bullhorn touting its scorn for the poor. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Republican bill would result in 24 million people losing their coverage by 2026. Medicaid would be slashed by $880 billion. Planned Parenthood would be effectively defunded for a year.

While the wealthy get big tax cuts.

One hopes poor people are paying attention. It is infuriating to watch politicians pontificate about the underclass – iPhones? Really? – without the bother of actually understanding what life in the economic margins is like.

They never speak to the poor, but only about them – or rather, about some abstract stereotype of them.

The poor can be safely ignored largely because they allow themselves to be split along tribal lines of creed and color and kept at one another’s throats. Then they are nickeled and dimed and robbed damn near blind by monied interests and their political henchmen. The new health care bill is a prime example.

Things like this will continue until the poor understand themselves as a constituency and organize their votes accordingly. It’s easy to insult people when you don’t have to answer to them.

It’ll be different the instant politicians feel compelled to seek poor people’s votes. Let’s hear them say those insulting things at the dark end of a bright and gaudy street.

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

]]> 0 Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 14 Mar 2017 19:00:02 +0000
Greg Kesich: Gov. LePage still spreading his alternative facts about opioid crisis Wed, 15 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Gov. LePage – the man in charge of the state’s public health – has once again showed off how little he understands about the opioid crisis that is killing Mainers at a rate of more than one a day.

On his regular Tuesday morning talk-radio call-in to WVOM in Bangor, the governor had a lot to say in a little time, and all of it was wrong. Some highlights:

Drug treatment doesn’t work: “With heroin, it’s a 90/10 split. Ninety percent will die and 10 percent will survive. And that’s where we’re at right now.”

Addicts don’t want treatment: “You can’t force them into rehab. It’s not like you can put people in prison. We can’t do that, they either come or they don’t get in.”

 Treatment is free to anyone who wants it: “Drug addiction and rehabbing has nothing to do with insurance. That is a freebie that the state gives.”

The state is adequately funding treatment in Maine. “We spend $80 million a year of General Fund money, now listen to me, $80 million a year on drug rehab.”

If the human cost wasn’t so horrible, we could have a good laugh at the how little he gets right about this crisis. But people are dying, so it’s no laughing matter.

For the record: Drug treatment does work. “Facing Addiction in America,” the surgeon general’s 2016 report, found that “well-supported scientific evidence shows that substance use disorders can be effectively treated, with recurrence rates no higher than those for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension. With comprehensive continuing care, recovery is now an achievable outcome.”

But only one out of 10 affected people gets treatment, not because being a heroin addict is so much fun that they don’t want give it up, but because of factors such as long wait lists and cost.

Treatment is not “a freebie the state gives.” It’s expensive, and people who don’t have private insurance or coverage under Medicaid will probably have to pay out of their own pocket if they don’t get lucky with a grant-funded program.

And that $80 million a year that the governor says we spend from the General Fund on drug rehab? Don’t look for it in the budget, because it’s not there. The state share for providing the two most common treatment drugs, methadone and suboxone, wouldn’t add up to one-tenth of LePage’s figure.

That particular line item exists only between the governor’s ears and slips out of his mouth now and then with great conviction. Even if he’s counting the total cost of a new treatment facility near the prison in Windham – not really an every-year expense – his number makes no sense.

Here’s the real problem: Gov. LePage came into office thinking he knew more about drug addiction than the experts, and he has made it his job to push through public policy that sounds good on talk radio but has made things worse.

In his first budget he insisted on a lifetime two-year cap on Medicaid reimbursement for methadone treatment, although 40 years of research has shown the drug to be effective at curbing drug abuse and reducing drug-related crime and the spread of infectious diseases.

Then LePage took a stand against the distribution of naloxone, the overdose antidote drug, which he claimed did not save lives: “It merely extends them.”

And LePage has kicked non-disabled adults off Medicaid, while continuing to veto expanding federally funded Medicaid, cutting off treatment options just as the overdose deaths began to climb.

Keep in mind, this is a governor who flew into action for a made-up emergency in 2014, mobilizing the police and courts to forcefully quarantine a nurse who had been exposed to the Ebola virus. At the time he claimed that he had “robust authority to address threats to public health.”

Ebola, of course, resulted in zero fatalities in Maine, causing not even a significant sniffle. But since LePage issued that statement in October 2014, more than 650 Mainers have died of drug overdoses – 378 last year alone.

When LePage was gently reminded by his radio interviewer that there aren’t enough drug treatment services available, he pushed back hard.

“Oh, so you’re saying that we have to put more money into it?” he said as if he’d caught her hiding her real agenda. “So when is it enough money to solve this problem? If somebody could tell me that, then we could have that debate.”

Yes, Governor, let’s have that debate, but instead of counting the dollars that you say you have spent, maybe we should start by counting the bodies that have been buried since you took over.

And then you could ask those families if they think that you’ve done enough.

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)Wed, 15 Mar 2017 16:10:31 +0000
Maine Voices: Small businesses are, and always have been, Maine’s economic mainstay Wed, 15 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Maine’s 197th birthday is today, and we thought that an appropriate opportunity to reflect on the role that manufacturers have played throughout the state’s history and, importantly, today. New England in general and Maine in particular are and have been havens of small business and manufacturing for a long time.

Whether it’s the can’t-get-there-from-here reality of living in northern New England, or the simple fact that Mainers would rather buy goods and services from their neighbors than from strangers, we think of small business when we think of Maine. This is a legacy of which we are proud to be a part, and we are proud to see so many of our neighbors among the ranks of Maine entrepreneurs.

Manufacturers in Maine and throughout the country are skilled at leveraging their small size for agility, creativity, innovation and re-imagining the way things are done by the big, cumbersome corporations. Some of Maine’s most iconic and successful businesses are – or started – small. These include Bath Iron Works, Idexx, The Jackson Laboratory, Allagash Brewing, Coffee By Design and nationally renowned restaurants like Primo, as well as innumerable small individual makers serving their local communities.

The thing all these manufacturers have in common is that they did what it took to make it in Maine, because they believed in our state. They trashed the conventional wisdom playbook so they could do things their own way. They also do things in a way that’s better for their communities – our communities. They are job creators, change makers, philanthropists, leaders.

At Zootility, our version of this is to take manufacturing as it’s done by big, inefficient companies and invert the process, scaling maker principles to a manufacturing setting. Through this, we can make high-quality, affordable, well-designed metal products in Maine, creating 24 jobs so far in our community, all while making things we love.

GE or Ford might never manufacture in Maine, and that’s fine with us, because like the rest of you Mainers, we’ve always been do-it-yourselfers. We believe that this approach – our approach, and the approach of small businesses across Maine – is that doing things our way is the authentic Maine way. It’s better for our economic well-being and yours if businesses are small, production is local and anyone can be an entrepreneur. We don’t think we’re the only ones who feel this way.

Maine is home to approximately 1,100 small manufacturers (defined by the Small Business Administration as manufacturers with 19 or fewer employees) and these businesses employ thousands of people in our state. We see new businesses emerge constantly, something which we strive to encourage and promote. Maine is also lucky to have groups like the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Small Business Administration that can help entrepreneurs realize their goals to make it in Maine.

We believe that as a small manufacturer, we should help other small businesses learn and grow. Our staff is involved in small-business mentorship, and we want to share our experience, knowledge and resources with people looking to start their own businesses.

These are the tenets of a free market: that anyone should be able to start a business where they want to live, and be able to see it succeed. States like Maine, with lots of small businesses and a strong entrepreneurial spirit, are best poised to weather future changes, whether in climate, economics, politics, society or demographics.

Of course, Maine has lost a lot of manufacturers over the years to economic and social change. These losses have been devastating to communities across Maine, but we can only hope that entrepreneurs will continue to reinvigorate our communities. We are lucky that Maine has a supportive community of businesses who want to see each other succeed. We are lucky Maine is populated by creative, resilient folks who are willing to go to great lengths to do things the way they think is right, to bring jobs to communities across the state, to keep production local and small businesses alive and thriving.

We don’t need to do things the way anyone else does. As long as entrepreneurs in Maine continue to challenge the status quo, small business will bring renewed prosperity to all corners of our great state. Zootility’s contribution is just a small part.

]]> 0 etched Hedgehog multi-tools, each the size of a credit card, are inspected at Zootility Tools’ Portland facility. The Hedgehog small steel comb that also serves as a wrench, bottle opener, phone kickstand and chip clip. (Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer)Wed, 15 Mar 2017 16:13:56 +0000
Kathleen Parker: Congress considers a grizzly betrayal in Alaska wildlife refuges Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 In its zeal to repeal, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule forbidding the baiting, trapping and “denning” of bears and wolves in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.

The Senate is poised to consider the resolution as soon as next week.

Distilled to its essence, Alaska’s politicians want to reduce bear and wolf populations so hunters will have more moose and caribou to kill. Alaska’s full congressional delegation – Rep. Don Young and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (all Republicans) – is behind the push.

Arguing for passage of H.J. Res. 69, Young told of entering wolf dens and killing mother and pups back when he worked as a bounty hunter of predators. Presumably, this was intended to impress his fellow legislators, as are his office walls, which are bedecked with animal trophies. One eye-catching exhibit consists of a gargantuan grizzly-bear hide tacked to a wall, the beast’s hind legs framing a piece of the Alaskan pipeline.


This isn’t an anti-hunting column, I should say upfront. I’m on record supporting humane hunting for food (but not for trophies) and I recognize that without hunters, many of whom are ardent conservationists, many wetlands would have been drained for commercial development.

This is a plea for common sense, compassion and conservation. What are wildlife refuges, after all, if not refuges for wildlife?

The underlying so-called principle behind the resolution is the Republican promise to reduce job-killing regulations. While zealous regulation has led to some corporate outsourcing – and responsible tweaks can be made here and there – not one job is protected nor one dime saved by overturning the wildlife agency’s rule.

One could even argue that Young’s move is anti-business. Alaska’s greatest resource second only to oil is tourism. People go to Alaska to hunt but also to visit the parks and see the animals.

Watching animals, in fact, brings Alaska more tourism dollars than hunting does, according to Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game.

The sheer savagery of what would become lawful if the Senate falls prey to its companion resolution (S.J. Res. 18) should give pause to anyone with a heartbeat.

Hunters could scout grizzlies from the air and then be deposited on the ground to kill them. (Aerial shooting is still forbidden.) They could hunt wolves during denning season, either shooting a mother wolf, thus dooming her babies, or entering the den and killing all, frequently with gas. Hunters could also bait, trap or snare, causing an agonizing death usually exacerbated by freezing temperatures. The traps are steel-jawed. A snare is a wire that wraps around an animal’s neck, then tightens as it tries to pull away.

These enhanced methods would target animals at their most vulnerable, in other words, and cause maximum suffering for no tenable reason. Moreover, artificially reducing the number of predators winnows down diversity essential to a healthy ecosystem, which can lead to unintended and disastrous consequences.

One potentially lethal consequence for humans is that baiting bears with food such as doughnuts habituates them to the human scent, thus increasing the risk of attacks on people. Remember “Don’t feed the bears”?

Of hunters, one must ask: Where is the sportsmanship in all of this?

To Young and his like-minded colleagues, such a query is beside the point. Ultimately, they say, this is a states’ rights issue. There it is, the love Republicans can’t quit. In fact, no law grants state land managers authority to overrule federal land managers’ decisions related to federal land – for good reason.

Without the National Park Service, we might have had mining in the Grand Canyon, noted Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (where my son works), in a telephone interview. “Without federal protections, what’s to stop Wyoming from authorizing hunting grizzlies in Yellowstone?

“States’ rights simply don’t apply when you have a federal category of lands authorized by Congress,” he said. “This is really our Serengeti.”

As a humane matter, there’s no defending House Joint Resolution 69. As a regulatory issue, it defies logic. As an economic concern, protecting wildlife from cruel hunting practices makes sense.

Senators should vote to leave the protective rule in place – not only to protect our wildlife from politicians’ predatory practices but also to reassure Americans that the chamber still has a conscience.

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

]]> 0 grizzly bear cub forages for food a few miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont. American Indians across the Western United States have stepped into the debate over plans to remove federal protections for grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies, saying they oppose trophy hunting of an animal that many tribes consider sacred.Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:35:36 +0000
Charles Lawton: Value of labor rises in Maine, but prosperity depends on many factors Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Nationally, recent news from the labor market has been positive. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 235,000 in February, and the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.7 percent. The number of people not in the labor force – people who had given up even looking for a job – has fallen slightly. Average earnings for the year were up nearly 3 percent.

Similarly encouraging news is evident in Maine. According to quarterly census of employment and wages data, the state’s total payroll employment growth accelerated in 2014 over 2013 and again in 2015 over 2014. If seasonal patterns hold true (Maine’s employment totals always peak in July and August), this acceleration of employment growth will hold true for 2016 over 2015.

A similar but more rapid pattern holds true for Cumberland County. Here, employment growth was 0.8 percent in 2014, 1.4 percent in 2015, and is likely to be 1.4 percent or more in 2016. All of these numbers are stunningly slow compared with historical averages and fall far below national growth rates, which have recently exceeded 2 percent.

But even in these dire times, the law of supply and demand seems not to have been repealed. An apparent beneficial effect of this slow growth in the number of people employed has been an increase in wages. In 2012, average weekly wages in Maine rose 1.5 percent. In subsequent years, that rate accelerated to 1.8 percent, then to 3.0 percent, then to 3.3 percent, then to 3.9 percent. In Cumberland County, the acceleration was even greater – 2.1 percent to 2.9 percent to 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent.

Both of these rates of acceleration exceeded the national rate, with the result that average weekly wages in Maine rose from 77.5 percent of the national average to nearly 80 percent. For Cumberland County, the comparable increase was from 89.7 percent of the national average to nearly 92 percent.

The rising demand for labor in Maine is driving up its value. This fact poses the immediate question, “OK, so what? What do rising wages in the labor market have to do with anything else?”

For anyone interested in increasing prosperity in the state – both for those hoping to find jobs and for everyone else – the answer is “a lot!”

The health of the labor market depends on the health of the housing market, and on the quality of our educational institutions, and on our state’s reputation in the rest of the world. If we cannot continue to supply the labor market with a steady flow of at least trainable candidates for jobs, or offer a range of housing options (in terms of both price and location), or demonstrate that our educational institutions (from pre-K to post-doctoral) provide a wide variety of quality learning experiences for a wide range of topics and in segments that are affordable to a wide range of households, and if we cannot demonstrate that our communities are safe, friendly, welcoming places for job holders to live, congregate and play, it won’t matter that wages are rising. If any of these non-labor-market factors – housing, education, community and reputation – are inadequate to draw the candidates our employers – both current and (we hope) new – need to fill the positions required to grow their companies, they will close or choose to grow elsewhere. Neither our labor market nor our economy can be seen in any useful way as isolated problems to be solved on their own while someone else solves other problems. We are the problem – the whole messy collection of us all.

We can say, “I can’t afford to solve this problem, forget it, I have more pressing problems to deal with.”

Each of us in our own little cocoons can say the same thing. And the only result will be greater isolation and greater inequality (as some of us solve our personal problems for ourselves), and the majority are left to watch things fall apart.

The good news in our labor market is really a call to take a larger view, to see that there are streaks of light on the horizon, but that they will continue to brighten and spread only if we connect them to the far larger and intricate network of social connections that make us operate as a collective, as a town, as a state.

Until we can understand and act on the belief that the health of our entire body can never be better than the health of our sickest part, we will only continue to squabble and watch our opportunities fade away.

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

]]> 0, 14 Mar 2017 18:16:25 +0000
Maine Voices: Med students share concerns about the American Health Care Act Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Editor’s note: Tufts medical students Rajesh Reddy and James Lee also contributed to this op-ed.

When each of us chose to pursue medicine, we did so for various reasons. But as medical students training in Maine, we have united around a common purpose: to serve the people of Maine. We have grown sensitive to the health needs of our future patients as we witness the challenges of the Mainers who come into our clinics. After learning of the potential changes outlined in the American Health Care Act, we are deeply concerned about the impact that this bill would have on the people of Maine.

As students at Maine-affiliated medical schools, we are concerned by record drug overdose deaths in our hometowns and the growth in premium rates. We agree with the authors of last Thursday’s editorial: These effects burden all Mainers, but the underserved and uninsured suffer most. When we work in clinics across the state, we see what happens when our poor cannot afford care: patients with diabetes losing their sight, elderly patients missing medications, women diagnosed with breast cancer too late.

We are anxious about the impact that the American Health Care Act would have on our patients who need care the most, especially our elderly and poor. For these groups, the proposed tax credits would provide weaker support than the Affordable Care Act subsidies now offer. Many of those Mainers who manage to afford insurance will find themselves paying more for less care. Patients who depend on Planned Parenthood for their health care would be left without access to care.

We are especially worried for our patients with addiction, who, more than most, are threatened by loss of care. Even now, patients who seek treatment for drug addiction have a difficult time getting it.

At this critical point, Mainers need a law that will maintain or increase access to affordable, quality coverage while containing premium costs. We believe that the AHCA would not only fail both goals, but also would withdraw protections for Maine’s more vulnerable citizens. We want to highlight several of many aspects of the proposal that will threaten our patients across Maine.

Maine has the oldest population in the nation. The ACA prevents insurers from charging older patients more than three times that of young adults. Under the AHCA, they can be charged five times as much; while a young adult might pay $200 a month, an older Mainer could pay $1,000 a month for the same coverage.

The AHCA proposes significant changes to the Medicaid program, which serves Maine’s low-income and disabled populations. If those changes result in less federal support for Maine’s Medicaid program, Maine’s ability to respond to increasing health care demand from its most vulnerable citizens would be severely impaired. The current opioid epidemic also has a disproportionate impact on Medicaid beneficiaries. Any reduction in coverage, benefits or resources for the Medicaid program would leave Mainers on their own and hinder our ability to fight the ongoing epidemic.

Maine would suffer from a nationwide increase in premiums, estimated to increase by $2,409 by 2020 for an average enrollee in the individual market. Enrollees would also lose the ACA’s subsidy system. Under the AHCA, a 60-year-old Cumberland County resident could see subsidies decrease by as much as $5,290, leaving the rest to be paid out of pocket. Mainers between 55 and 64 and those with low incomes would be hit harder by the rigid tax credit system.

The AHCA threatens the sustainability of rural Maine hospitals. Maine’s rural hospitals are struggling to maintain access to care today, and they will be seriously challenged to care for a growing uninsured population. Rural hospitals are at greater risk, as their patients disproportionately rely on ACA exchange subsidies and government plans for their coverage. If further challenged by increases in bad debt and charity care, rural hospitals would face very difficult decisions about the programs and services they provide and the staff they employ.

As Maine’s future physicians, we are committed to providing health care for anyone who needs it. We believe that the American Health Care Act would hurt our most vulnerable patients and undermine accessible, affordable and high-quality care for all Mainers. Maine has an opportunity to show the nation that the health of its citizens supersedes politics. Dirigo means “I lead.” Let’s lead by supporting more and better access to health care, not less.

]]> 0 Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, center, with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California, left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.Tue, 14 Mar 2017 12:20:09 +0000
Maine Voices: Honesty, establishing trust are keys for Trump becoming a leader Mon, 13 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 BATH — Speaking as one who had opposed the election of Donald Trump, I believe most Americans felt that his speech to Congress, except for the reference to the construction of the wall, presented a leadership vision to inspire our efforts.

With humility, I would like to try to frame a response those Americans might support.

While all of us will view this vision from different eyes, I believe there may be a strong consensus that would support a focus on reviving the dignity of the many disadvantaged Americans, the effort to seek jobs and establish health care for everyone and the rebuilding of our infrastructure and strengthening our military.

I also think we would respond to the challenge of completing this program on our 250th birthday in 2026, much like John F. Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon in a single decade.

But having lived through the Depression and World War II, I believe that fulfilling this challenge would require a truly great leader. In the darkest of times, Franklin Roosevelt was able to rally us by simply saying, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

America is a very complex nation of free people who think for themselves, and whose institutions are built on a basic respect for the individual. That Roosevelt was able to maintain this deep trust of free-thinking individuals during those difficult years certainly defined him as a great leader.

So how does one of us become such a great leader?

I was fortunate to have as a Hyde parent Warren Bennis, who then graciously became an adviser to me and Hyde Schools. Until his death last year, it is fair to say Warren was known as the world’s guru on leadership, writing countless books on leadership and counseling presidents.

Warren firmly equated two things: personal growth and leadership. Organizations today focus training programs on personal growth as a means to develop performance and leadership.

This leadership focus on personal growth is not new. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led our Gulf War efforts in the 1990s, observed, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

I believe that President Trump sincerely seeks to be a great leader. I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but I believe that anyone who understands leadership and how America functions knows he must make some significant personal growth changes if he hopes to become that great leader.

In those early years of Hyde Schools, when we ran into problems, I had a student named Rick who would come to my office, talk about it and say, “Maybe you’re failing as headmaster.” He helped me learn humility by making me look first at myself as the cause of our problems, not at others. Humility is essential to the right relationship between the president and free-thinking people. So a great president must:

Transcend his ego. This is not about what he achieves; this is about what he is able to help Americans achieve. It is their country; he needs to help them realize their potential to meet the challenge. They will earn the victory; but he will experience perhaps the deepest satisfaction of his life in helping them do it.

 Establish trust. Be rigorously truthful. He must try to tell people what they really want to know, not what he wants to tell them. People know the difference. By getting honest, they are able to identify with and trust a leader who is imperfect and human.

 Always take the high road. He is launching a new vision for 325 million free-thinking people. Everything he does can inspire them and their efforts to achieve it. However, whenever he takes a lower road, so will they.

 Develop a strong sense of integrity. The Catholics have a pope; Americans have a president. The new order of his priorities: family, then the American people, then himself. (He knows where his religion fits.) We hope it becomes a mark of pride that his presidential integrity reflects this.

Mr. President, you are an American and a very successful one. Many of us strongly hope this challenge appeals to you.


]]> 0 Trump privately signed a revised travel ban Monday while Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally unveiled the new edict.Mon, 13 Mar 2017 10:56:39 +0000
Maine Observer: The lost joy of surprise snow days Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Lions and tigers and blizzards, oh my! Lions and tigers and whiteouts, oh my! Lions and tigers and cancellations, oh my! What have we come to? Don’t we live in Maine, and don’t we have winter weather? Now we get cancellations a whole day before the events.

Please don’t get me wrong. I absolutely realize that we are safer and that we have avoided countless accidents with the proactive weather reports. And after spending almost 50 years working in school systems in one capacity or another, I still love getting the notification that schools are closed. If and when I truly retire, I think that’s one of the things I will miss most. But just a little bit of me wishes for the “olden days.”

That’s when we really didn’t have great weather forecasts, at least ones that I was privy to. Yes, you heard people say, “Sky looks pretty gray, looks like snow.” My favorite were the accumulation predictions based on the size of the flakes: “Small snow equals big snow; big snow equals small snow,” which actually is usually pretty accurate.

But more often than not, you went to bed after completing your homework, and you woke up and heard the fire station whistles and knew school was canceled. It was actually quite a great surprise because you weren’t planning on it. Now we have snow cancellation apps for your phone. I mean, really, how much fun is that? Where’s the wonder? Where’s the surprise?

But now, in the interest of full disclosure (I do want to be politically correct), it may be that in the 1950s and ’60s there were great weather forecasts. It could very well have been that my parents never paid any particular attention to the weather forecast. I have no recollection of them ever listening to a radio weather forecast or even talking about the weather. I’m not even sure we had a working radio. They were from Aroostook County, and I think those people just kept on keeping on. “Too much snow, well, bring on the horse and the roller. Cancel an event? You must be kidding. How would we let people know?”

My parents would put all five of us in the station wagon and head for Mars Hill in a heartbeat. I’m pretty sure we didn’t have car seats, but we did learn to sing all the verses to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

As I write this, I hear our wonderful South Portland maintenance vehicles going past our house clearing the road. They will do this many times during the night. I feel quite safe knowing they are watching out for us. I know that because of advance cancellations, there will be fewer vehicles on the road and everyone will be safer. But just a little bit of me misses the surprise I had as a child, of waking up to see mountains of snow around my windows and wondering what the day would bring.

]]> 0 Fri, 10 Mar 2017 18:59:59 +0000
Commentary: Supreme Court nominee poses a challenge for Sen. King Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 U.S. Sen. Angus King held what was, apparently, a civil and orderly “listening session” in Portland last week to hear feedback on President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the lack of anger that has been so evident at congressional town hall events of late doesn’t mean this is an easy issue. Indeed, the nomination of Gorsuch presents King with the toughest test of his political career.

In his selection of Gorsuch, Trump has chosen a brilliant, widely respected conservative jurist who is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. That sets Gorsuch apart from some of Trump’s other controversial nominees, who have been criticized by many as inexperienced or unprepared. It’s impossible to say that of Gorsuch, who’s been a federal judge for over a decade. In considering this nomination, King faces the question of whether to support a strong nominee despite their profound political disagreements.

King, after all, has made his career as a pragmatic centrist untethered by political parties and ideology. As governor during prosperous economic times, that was a fairly painless path to take: He could freely borrow ideas from the right and the left, bringing the two parties together in Augusta. But as one of 100 senators in a much more polarized time, it’s an entirely different story.

At first glance, it might seem as though King has little to lose regardless of how he votes on this particular issue. After all, he won his first term relatively painlessly based on his popularity as governor. However, he faces challenges unshared by any of his colleagues thanks to his status as an independent: the possibility of his vote on this issue animating a general-election opponent no matter which way he goes.

If you’re a Democrat from a state that Trump either won or narrowly lost, you might consider voting to confirm Gorsuch. If your vote on that one issue does anger the base enough to inspire a primary opponent, you can likely make the case that they can’t win a general election in your swing state. Moreover, if a primary starts looking competitive, Democratic leadership will swing into action to bail you out. Then, you have the time to pivot in the general election and argue that you’re bipartisan, while painting your Republican opponent as an extremist.

King won’t be able to make that pivot. He’ll likely face both a Democrat and a Republican in the general election, just as he did in 2012. As much as they might like to, national Democrats – though they may well abandon the candidate – can’t stop someone from claiming their party’s nomination. If they’re smart, that candidate could make a compelling case against King, animating the liberal base that is incensed by Trump. Voting for Gorsuch could be just the spark that the grassroots progressives needs to turn on King.

But King can’t afford to simply ignore Trump supporters. Even if the vast majority of those who attended his recent listening session were against Gorsuch, that’s hardly a shock at an event held at USM in Portland. If King holds more events on this topic around the state, he’ll likely find a very different crowd with different views on the nomination. That’s no surprise, of course; not only is Gorsuch’s nomination unifying for conservatives across the state, Trump also got more votes in Maine than any Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

Of course, King – along with his Democratic colleagues in even more conservative states – does have a third option; even a nomination isn’t a simple decision. He could oppose a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination – avoiding hypocrisy and affirming their stance that Merrick Garland deserved an up-or-down vote – but vote against his confirmation in the end. That could be the option that wins out for King, as it preserves his principles, but it may be threading the needle a bit too finely for liberals to tolerate, while simultaneously angering conservatives.

If King is really independent, he should follow the lead of Sen. Susan Collins, who tends to only vote against nominees that she considers unqualified. This has often drawn her the ire of both sides, as she’s voted to confirm conservative and liberal jurists to the Supreme Court, but it’s the right approach to take.

King should give Gorsuch full consideration on his own merits, putting aside the failed politics of the past, and urge his colleagues to do the same.

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

Twitter: jimfossel

]]> 0 Sunday Telegram columnist Jim FosselFri, 10 Mar 2017 18:29:31 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Patagonia founder takes on Gov. LePage over monument Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Another clash of brawny titans is coming to us from the Lewiston area, but unlike the championship boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston in 1965, this time there’s only one heavyweight: a guy named Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, the super cool, multimillion-dollar outdoor apparel and equipment company.

Chouinard says Gov. Paul LePage’s opposition to Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and his plea to President Trump to send back the recent gift addressed to the American public because of states rights, is “baloney.”

“American politicians have always been obsessed with running government ‘like a business.’ They promise to make bureaucracies leaner and let the free market fix all our problems.

“Well, if America’s public lands were a business, shareholders would be shocked by the gross negligence of some of their top executives,” Chouinard said about LePage and others in a recent column first published in the Los Angeles Times.

“Every American citizen owns stock in 640 million acres of federal public lands. We hire public servants to manage our precious assets for maximum return. For decades, we’ve taken these sizable holdings for granted, assuming they’re in good hands. But we’ve let the fossil fuel industry into the boardroom. We’re allowing gas and mining companies to boss around our elected officials.”

In other words, Governor, opposing the 87,500-acre monument for hiking, camping, fishing and paddling along the East Branch of the Penobscot River and Wassataquoik Stream, as well as hunting and snowmobiling in designated areas, plus a $40 million endowment, is nuts, and you should be fired.

The new national monument has already proven to be an economic boon and attracted pledges of over $5 million in local investment. There are new businesses sprouting up, real estate deals closing, roads being built and bridges improved. Moral and civic pride in the area is rising. Curious tourists with fists full of cash are slowly rolling into Millinocket.

It’s fitting a burly, super-fit businessman from Lisbon is the guy one-upping LePage on his no-park pluckiness, but don’t blame bariatric surgery for making the governor a lightweight. It’s probably something in the waters of Washington, D.C., where LePage has been spending a lot of time trolling for a job in the Trump administration and setting the foundation for his anticipated 2018 U.S. Senate run, that afflicts him – a disease that’s been afflicting men in power for ages.

“Potomac fever” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “a disease peculiar to the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area that presents chiefly as an intense desire in the infected to be associated with the power and prestige of the United States federal government, particularly the Executive Branch,” and you don’t need a medical degree to spot it.

What else can explain LePage’s anti-economic growth state of mind? Any self-respecting businessman who seeks to reverse progress and reduce revenue needs help. Whether Potomac Fever is covered by Obamacare is a topic for another day, but there’s no doubt LePage’s tough talk to his political enemies is a challenge to their strength.

“Regarding the national monument designation, ‘those cold timid souls who neither know victory or defeat’ argue that you, as president, cannot undo a national monument because it has never been done before,” LePage wrote in his letter to Trump.

Cold? Chouinard spent 45 years developing the world’s coziest sleeping bag and purposefully drank unpurified water to toughen up his ripped six-pack of a belly. When asked about the best survival skill in a Men’s Journal interview in 2010, Chouinard said, “I’ve been preparing myself for tough times by drinking out of every river I fish in ever since I was very young. So I got a good gut. I can go to any country and eat out of the bazaars, and I don’t get sick.”

Chouinard’s not cold and he’s not timid and he’s not sick with fever. He’s tough. The guy has a scar from being attacked by a black bear, the kind of wild animal you might see milling around our new national monument.

“In the early ’60s, my friend and I were probably the only climbers left in Yosemite in November, and the bears were going nuts, attacking everything, trying to eat as much as they could before hibernating,” Chouinard told Men’s Journal. “They ripped off the top of my old Model A Ford. I got so mad I got this one bear up in a tree and just pelted him with rocks. That night I was sleeping on the ground, and he attacked me in my sleeping bag and tussled me all around. I don’t know whether he bit into my forearm or clawed me, but I had a cut there. I screamed my head off, and he finally left.”

Sometimes it takes a tough guy to put another tough guy in his place, and LePage has met his match with Chouinard, whose life story trumps the governor’s childhood tale of woe and offers an American perspective worthy of a national monument.

Chouinard left Lisbon, but instead of taking the shuttle to Dulles International Airport like LePage, Chouinard drove to the tip of South America and skied, surfed and climbed mountains. His experience outside our beautiful state helped create one of the most successful, ecologically responsible businesses in the world, and he supports Maine’s massive and wild national monument because it makes sense. Being in the wilderness develops character and is good for the planet, and don’t worry if you get lost on a mountain in the new Maine monument. With a pot, a rock, a stick, some string and a few squirrels, you won’t starve, according to Chouinard in the Men’s Journal interview.

“I was in the Canadian Rockies with a friend, and we were starving for protein, so we started eating ground squirrels. We used your typical Boy Scout trap, where you put food under a pot and a rock on top, and you lift one edge with a stick. When the squirrel goes in, you pull a string on the stick. But then how do you get this pissed-off squirrel out? Well, you put white gas around the pot’s edges and light it, and that sucks all the oxygen out of the pot. Wait a minute or two, lift the lid, and there’s a dead squirrel,” Chouinard recalled when asked the best way to find food in the wild.

There are good businessmen in Maine from away, and there are good businessmen from Maine who went away and got stronger and more successful drinking from wild rivers instead of sipping D.C. Kool-Aid from cups – like Chouinard, the 78-year-old Lisbon native who this week threw down the gauntlet on LePage.

Now is not the time to turn back the clocks. America and Maine spring ahead with the new monument.

CORRECTION: This column was updated at 11:18 a.m. on March 13 to correct Chouinard’s home town.

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)Mon, 13 Mar 2017 11:20:36 +0000
Alan Caron: Is Trump starting to lose his grip? Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 I’ve been working on being sympathetic to President Trump. Not toward his policies, but to him as a human being. This has been a tough, miserable, nasty and just plain sad couple of months for the new president, and I’m trying to feel his pain.

His whole agenda is way behind because he can’t get his team in place, in part because some of the people he’s asked to join him are just too “busy,” or they can’t seem to tell the truth to Congress. I bet that’s been about as fun as being dropped into a pool of water filled with ice cubes.

Being president is especially tough for someone, like you, Mr. President, who is accustomed to getting your way through tantrums and threats. People say you’ll be a good president because you’ve run a successful business. But they aren’t at all the same thing, are they? You built a company that is so tightly controlled that blood relatives are just about the only people let into the inner sanctum. You run the show. You hire and fire.

Now you find yourself president of the United States, for gosh sakes, and it’s not like that at all, is it? Sure, you’ve got the nice plane and the house with the columns, but it’s a complicated, mentally exhausting job with a bewildering array of new demands. Plus there are people on all sides who have to be consulted and won over and who won’t just follow orders.

During the campaign, you could pretty much say whatever you wanted – the wilder the better. You could promise earth-shaking change. Deporting millions of immigrants. Bringing back all those blue-collar jobs. Making America great again!

Now, it turns out, all those things are tough to get done. Sure, you can fire off some executive orders, but you’ve already seen their limits. Most of your Cabinet nominees made it through, but that’s small potatoes, everyday stuff. The tough work is just beginning. And it all has to go through Congress, which is a mess.

In Congress, it’s a hundred times easier to stop things than to get them done, as the Democrats learned with Obama and as your Republican allies are about to be reminded of. You have to put your big ideas into detailed bills. Then they need a majority of votes in both houses. (I know, it seems crazy.)

I’m beginning to understand why you admire Russian President Vladimir Putin so much. He doesn’t have to deal with this stuff. Anti-government leaks? They have the Gulag. Opposition party? Just cyberattack the voting machines. Courts to protect the law? Not if judges like to look at jails from the outside.

But that’s all a dream, and you’re stuck here in the reality of modern America. Or are you?

What about if you stop listening to all those people with their alternative facts? Like the media. The courts. Moderate Republicans. The FBI and CIA. Scientists at NOAA and NASA. They’re all out to get you and ruin your best-ever presidency.

Stick with the people you trust. The ones who see through all that liberal, swampy Washington stuff. Like Steve Bannon. And the talk shows. And Fox. All those conspiracies they whisper about? True. And scary, very scary. The crime rate is raging because of Mexicans. Muslims are all secretly terrorist supporters. Democrats sold our industries to the highest bidders abroad. The CIA and FBI are agents of the Democratic party. And you were bugged by all of them, with President Obama leading the charge.

This is where my sympathy for Trump, as a human being, is challenged and my fear of him increases.

Last week, the president kind of lost it. First he told an interviewer that he felt “besieged” on all sides. Then he flew into a rage about his attorney general recusing himself from the Russian investigation. Two days later, he was tweeting explosive charges against Obama that he’d heard as conspiracy theories the night before on some of the right-wing echo chambers.

All of it made me wonder if this president can handle the job. If he knows what reality is. And if he’s beginning to lose his grip.

The president seems to have no desire to hear facts that don’t confirm his beliefs, combined with a dangerous habit of lashing out with whatever is within reach to attack someone or something that he perceives as a threat. None of it bodes well for America in the months ahead.

Let’s hope that Trump learns how to govern more and tweet less before we see a complete meltdown.

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, 10 Mar 2017 18:35:50 +0000
Maine Voices: Republican Party has lost its way Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 COLUMBIA FALLS — What thoughts should an elderly, agnostic Republican share with others in regard to the state of the party of his grandfather, when the party leadership seems comfortable with alternative facts and doublespeak?

Elderly I am; agnostic in all things, religious and political, and I did register as a Republican. So, why all the confusion in recent years, which has only gotten worse in the past several months?

It is impossible to again have a youthful mind with limited knowledge and experience, unless one seriously considers a lobotomy. Therefore, we are destined to become older, and hopefully a teeny bit wiser.

One knows everything at the age of 17, upon graduating from high school with honors and scholarships, then suddenly discovers in, say, five-year increments, that there is so much more to learn.

After many such increments, the awareness grows that one knows so, so little, and that the best state of mind is being agnostic in nearly everything, if one is ever to have peace of mind.

The only other label that one could change is to leave the Republican Party and again become independent, or join another party. Or stay in the party and try to contribute to an image that we could all again be proud of. Silence is not what makes a democracy healthy and strong!

For example: Why am I left with the feeling that the abortion issue seems to almost boil down to a religious issue, one that our party should stay out of – no matter what religion is currently involved? The soft-speaking, elderly lady on the other end of the phone conversation asked if I was “pro-life.” My response was: “I most certainly am, and I have never met anyone during my lifetime who was not pro-life.”

I followed by saying, “If this call is for the purpose of raising money to increase education for women so that they may be better informed to help them prevent an unwanted pregnancy, then count me in.” After a long silence, she again spoke in a kind, soft voice and said, “Thank you,” before hanging up the phone.

Those of us who have experienced abortions by loved ones, who believe that abortion is a horrible solution to an often-horrible situation and remember the knitting needle and coat-hanger days, just don’t see the wisdom in defunding Planned Parenthood or any other organization that is working so hard to help women of all ages to better control their own bodies and the quality of their lives.

To focus only on last-resort abortions, when these organizations have done so much to reduce the number of abortions, seems like such a senseless waste of time, energy and money. All efforts to help women not have an unwanted pregnancy should be the goal of all of us, regardless of party or faith. Why not Republicans in support of Planned Parenthood, if we share their goals?

Had I followed the Catholic faith of my father’s family, I would still be asking the same questions of the Catholic Church that I am now asking of the Republican Party. What is the morality of being on an overcrowded spaceship, with limited resources and an unfillable need for jobs, when artificial intelligence is making inroads that were unthinkable a few years ago – while still this faith goes beyond being against abortion and is also opposed to birth control? Are we all insane?

Each day of the primaries leading up to the election, as I listened carefully to all involved, I could not believe the outrageous things being said by our party candidates, and we elected someone who appears to have the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder!

Grandfather was a Chrysler man, and he did not approve of government subsidies. A more simple time when our party philosophy was that the best government is the least government?

]]> 0 calling for Planned Parenthood to be stripped of its federal funding carry signs outside a Van Nuys, Calif., Planned Parenthood health center Feb. 11. A reader questions criticism of Planned Parenthood and other organizations that help women prevent unwanted pregnancies.Sat, 11 Mar 2017 18:43:47 +0000
Pruitt ignoring science consensus could have dire consequences for Maine Sat, 11 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 WALPOLE — I spent Valentine’s Day making a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C., on behalf of my company, Mook Sea Farm, an oyster farm on the Damariscotta River. For 32 years we’ve been raising oysters from egg to market size and selling seed oysters to other East Coast farms. I made the trip to oppose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

On the trip to Washington, I thought long and hard about what I might say that would make a difference, especially to Sen. Susan Collins, who at that time had not yet announced her position on the Pruitt nomination. It seemed unnecessary, given the widely publicized information about his record, to point out Pruitt’s lack of fitness for the position. So, I decided to focus on my own story.

I talked about almost being forced out of business in 1998 by illegal dumping of septic and chemical waste next to my hatchery, and the personal anguish and stress this caused for an entire year. Mook Sea Farm would likely not have survived had it not been for the Clean Water Act.

I also explained that a decade or so later, the impact of carbon emissions suddenly became very real – no longer an abstract, future problem. Carbon dioxide emissions, dissolving in the ocean and changing precipitation patterns in the Northeast, had slowly degraded the lifeblood of my company: the seawater we pump into the hatchery. Our shellfish larvae were having a tough time growing shells in seawater as it became increasingly acidic. Production became erratic, forcing us to adopt a suite of remedies that include buffering our seawater (think of taking Tums).

The challenges hardly end there. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost anywhere else on our planet. For us as oyster farmers, this means we must now follow expensive harvesting and handling guidelines to ensure consumer safety. It means that our crops are now threatened by shellfish diseases that were once common only in southern waters but limited by our cold winters. One only has to look to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to know that warming temperatures also spell a very uncertain future for Maine’s lobster industry, the cornerstone of Maine’s marine economy.

We’ve seen big changes in precipitation with more runoff from land. This brings more frequent closures of clam flats and other shellfish growing areas – and, of far greater concern, the Gulf of Maine’s ecosystem is threatened. Organic matter dissolved in runoff is linked to a fivefold decrease in photosynthesis by marine phytoplankton. This is the very foundation of the food web that supports our fisheries.

While we shellfish farmers and harvesters may be able to adapt to higher storm surges and flooding along our shores as sea level continues to rise, the major coastal markets for our seafood will increasingly be thrown into chaos by storms like Superstorm Sandy.

There is a lot at stake when it comes to environmental protection. I have traveled a long and challenging path to build a company that is sustainable, provides good jobs and contributes to the local and state economy. Backtracking on existing environmental laws crucial to my business, and clinging to a fossil fuel-based economy, threatens not just the future of Mook Sea Farm, but also the economic future of all whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Gulf of Maine.

Waiting in the airport on the trip home, I heard the news that Collins had announced her opposition to Scott Pruitt’s nomination. Although I guessed that my visit wasn’t what swayed her, since she had most likely already made her decision, I felt incredibly thankful that both of Maine’s senators understand the importance of environmental quality to our state’s economy and our state’s identity.

I do not regret making the trip to Washington. Pruitt, who was confirmed as EPA administrator Feb. 17, continues to spread the misinformation that alarms me and so many other people.

Just two days ago, he told Joe Kernen of CNBC: “I would not agree that (carbon dioxide) is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” This statement is in direct opposition to the overwhelming consensus among scientists and reputable scientific organizations all over the world. Would Pruitt disregard medical science and ignore a doctor’s advice to receive treatment for a malignant tumor?

Ignoring the global scientific consensus on the cause of climate change puts all of us at risk. Just maybe, by going to Washington I provided Collins and Sen. Angus King with a story that will make the difference in convincing a Senate colleague that a healthy environment is good for business.

]]> 0 Protection Agency Administrator nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, testifies on Capitol Hill at his confirmation hearing on Jan. 18, 2017.Sat, 11 Mar 2017 18:42:42 +0000
Commentary: Time for millennial women to reject campus feminism Sat, 11 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Organizers of January’s Women’s March on Washington made a concerted effort to target college-aged women with their messaging – and with good reason. While a Huffington Post-YouGov poll found that only 23 percent of American women identify as feminists, 47 percent of millennial women do, according to the Public Religion Resource Institute.

Unfortunately, policies supported by modern feminists have proved particularly bad for young women.

Many of today’s young women struggle with significant student loan debt and have a hard time finding a job that will get them out of Mom and Dad’s basement. About 42 percent of women have more than $30,000 in student loan debt, compared to just 27 percent of men.

This could be a result of the increase we’ve seen in the number of women pursuing higher levels of learning. But significant student loan defaults among this group indicate that women may not be getting a good return on investment. Women are vastly overrepresented in majors that are known to have low returns on investment, such as gender studies or social work.

Yet the feminist movement encourages more young women to pursue these degrees. Their solution is to advocate for further government assistance through policies such as free public college, loan forgiveness and income-based repayment policies that drag out the life of a loan while doing nothing to put pressure on colleges to keep prices in check.

One of modern feminism’s stated goals is to eliminate the perceived wage gap. The movement claims that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work, and that this discrepancy stems from rampant sexism in the workplace. However, the 77-cent statistic has been proven to be very misleading.

This oft-cited figure is calculated simply by dividing the average salary of women by the average salary of men. However, when controlling for education, experience, hours worked and other factors that would contribute to earnings, the wage gap virtually disappears. Moreover, women sometimes pursue less-lucrative fields than men, or take time off work for family obligations.

Yet students at Georgetown University claimed to be traumatized by one of modern feminism’s greatest critics, Christina Hoff Sommers, after one of her talks about the “trigger warning” culture. Hoff Sommers frequently discusses how statistics on the gender gap or campus sexual assault can be misleading. But instead of listening to facts, some women on college campuses meet new information with hostility and anger.

It does a disservice to young women on college campuses to hear that no matter how smart or driven they are, the world is stacked against them – particularly when wage data indicate that this simply is not the case. This encourages young women to see themselves as victims of a faceless adversary before they have even entered the workforce.

Advocating for policies that force others to bear the consequences of one’s decisions, such as loan forgiveness, will not advance the position of women, many of whom don’t hold bachelor’s degrees (as is the case with many men), and all of whom see their taxes increase as a result.

Feminism used to be about removing the barriers of opportunity for all women. Unfortunately, the ideology has taken a sharp departure from its roots. Instead, modern feminism has become a lobbying group for liberal policies that do little to empower millennial women to climb the ladder of economic opportunity.

Events such as this week’s Day Without a Woman don’t really help. Women on college campuses should reconsider whether modern feminism is helping advance their position or whether they should pursue their hopes and dreams on their own terms.

If feminists on college campuses encourage young women to tune out the opinions of others and advocate for policies that disenfranchise conservative women and men, this generation of women will be known for its flashy protests but little else.

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Garrison Keillor: Failing Midwestern columnist details descent into madness Sat, 11 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Joe Biden is following me. I go to lunch at Mickey’s Diner and he’s sitting two stools away, wearing a stocking cap and a fake moustache with a fake nose and glasses but he says, “Hey, how’s it going, fella?” It’s Joe Biden. So pathetic. Sad.

He is conducting a destabilization campaign against me, putting chemicals in my food that make me behave erratically. Why?

Because he and his secret cabal are terrified of what I represent.

My guiding principle from the beginning has been Make Earth The Center Again. Not the sun. Earth First.

Ever since Pope Urban VIII failed to shut down Galileo and the fake science of Copernicus, Judeo-Christian civilization has been in steady decline. It’s the plain truth. That’s why the Pilgrims came to the New World, to escape solar-centrist ideology.

Solar power is killing us. This country is on the verge of collapse. We are up against powerful forces. Did you know that James Comey is actually Jimmy Hoffa? People are surprised when I point this out, but it’s true. Same first names, last names of five letters. Coincidence? No way. “Comey” was Hoffa’s code name in his Teamster days, short for “Comrade.” He knew the only way to beat the FBI was to join it and now he’s part of the secret cabal.

So are Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi – note that their first names have five letters – and what is even more shocking: They are the same person. That’s why you never see them arm in arm. They have gained power by vaccinating members of Congress to make them less able to communicate using language and form close relationships with other people.

Here’s why Biden and Jimmy and Schelosi are after me: because 50 million people read my column every week. Fifty million. It’s the most-read column in American journalism since Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” – that’s why I am paid $500 million a year and travel in a private train and am surrounded by heavy security at all times.

Everywhere I go, people tell me they love my column – black people, Mexicans, Jews, women, people of all ages – and everyone I meet asks me, “Why not the front page? Why are you stuck back in Op-Ed? It’s so sad.”

I’m in Op-Ed with all the wackos because the Deep State is out to undermine my credibility. But the fact is: I have been right all along. About everything. It all happened exactly as I said it would.

The Holy Father wrote to me recently, “You are molto perfecto, mio babbino caro. Infallibilissimo!” He knows the Catholic Church made a big mistake not cutting Galileo’s head off when they had the chance. Liberals have always wanted mankind to feel marginal, an accident of evolution, not the center. The whole environmental “movement” is based on instilling a sense of unimportance in people, that we’re just mammals.

Liberals call humanocentricity “narcissism,” I call it “self-esteem.” Because that’s exactly what it is.

I could quit the fight and enjoy a very nice life on one of my many luxury properties, but I fight on. Because I am the only one who knows the danger we are in right now. True!

In order to protect our liberties, we may need to take emergency measures. A vaccinated Congress may need to be shut down. Some Supreme Court justices are showing signs of reduced cognitive ability and they may need to be disappeared. There’s no other way to do it.

If one week you notice that my column is missing from this paper, you will know that I’ve been captured. I will need all 50 million of you to park bumper to bumper on the nearest freeway and honk your horns continuously. That may be the only way to accomplish what needs to be done.

Joe Biden is sitting and looking at me as I write this and he is reading these words in the reflection off my glasses. My coffee tastes funny. I hear a high-pitched humming sound. I feel insects crawling up my leg. This may be my last message for a while. I love you all. You are beautiful. It is a better thing I do now than I have ever done.

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Commentary: Idea for two local bonds to renovate four Portland schools is unworkable Fri, 10 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Later this month, the Portland City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal to send a $64 million bond to voters that would fund needed, and long overdue, renovations to Lyseth, Longfellow, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools. The condition of these schools is currently harming Portland’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining families to the city. Renovating these schools is imperative in order to provide our students with a 21st-century learning environment, create equity in our schools, boost our property values and grow our tax base and economy.

While there is consensus that the scope of these improvements is necessary, certain city councilors are opposed to the bond. Some have suggested an alternative proposal to fund only two schools with a local bond and to place two schools back in the queue for state funding through the very competitive major capital school construction program.

The prospect of reapplying to the state for funding may seem alluring on its surface. However, once one delves into the details and the practical and political realities, it quickly becomes apparent that leaving two schools off the local bond and reapplying for state funding is a reckless proposal that will serve to diminish voter support for any bond, likely delay the timeline for renovating the four schools and severely compromise the ability of the two schools left off the bond to ever obtain funding for renovations.

Portland has been trying to get these four schools funded by the state for the past 16 years. Since 2001, and over the course of three separate funding cycles, the state has continued to reject funding for these schools. History has taught us that we should harbor no expectation that these schools will be funded by the state in the near future, either.

This is because the state funding process is unreliable and erratic. Schools do not move up the state’s priority list in a linear and predictable fashion. Over the course of the last two state funding cycles, Portland has seen two of its elementary schools only moving up one spot and two spots on the priority list, while two other schools actually have slid backward on the priority list.

Complicating matters further, the Maine Department of Education recently issued a notice indicating that the next state funding round is anticipated to be even more competitive than usual because of the high volume of inquiries received. Even under normal circumstances, it would be unreasonable to expect two of our elementary schools to rise high enough on the priority list to receive state funding. With the Department of Education anticipating an ultra-competitive funding round, the chances are slim at best of two Portland schools receiving any funding at all, much less all four schools getting the funds to be renovated in the six-year construction timeframe allowed for in the four-school bond proposal.

Proponents of continuing to hold out hope for state funding have tried to provide assurances that a second local bond could quickly be sent to voters if the two schools left off the first local bond do not obtain favorable placement on the next state priority list. These assurances are hollow, however, because today’s City Council cannot bind a future council to send a second bond to the voters.

Furthermore, by the time the next state funding list is finalized, in the summer of 2018, the composition of the City Council may have changed to include different members who could be less sympathetic to our schools’ needs and could block future attempts to send out a second bond to the voters.

Lastly, voters will almost certainly have less motivation to support a second local bond for two schools right on the heels of having just been asked to support the first local bond.

For these reasons, the two-school bond proposal should be discarded as an option. It would leave the two schools left off the first local bond in the unenviable position of being at the mercy of an unpredictable state funding process and an unpredictable future political environment at City Hall. The best way to ensure that all four schools are renovated in a timely manner is to place all four schools on one local bond and to forgo applying to the state for funding. It is time to finally allow the voters of Portland a chance to have their voices heard on a four-school proposal.

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