The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Columns Mon, 29 Aug 2016 02:01:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cynthia Dill: A monument to Obama’s leadership Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A person who recognizes a good idea and has the courage to wield – and risk – his power to make it reality is a leader in the best sense of the word. President Obama is such a person, and the world is a better place under his leadership, despite the challenges he has confronted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: dillesquire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maine Observer: The way life should be didn’t come easy Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Barbara LaChance’s description of life in southern Maine in the 1950s (Maine Observer, July 24) is idyllic. I agree that it is the way life should be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Port City Post: Answering the call of rural Maine’s wild since childhood Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Don’t think for a minute that growing up in Maine guarantees one access to the ocean. Don’t assume that all Mainers have climbed Katahdin. Don’t assume we all grew up being stuffed into kayaks. It’s not like that for most of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But hey, don’t take my word for it.

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

I couldn’t have said it better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the summer we claimed Maine as our own.

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

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Maine Voices: When the globalists bring a world of trouble to the working American Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 HOLDEN — Americans never asked for free trade. We never complained about the cost of our cellphones and TVs. We never marched in the streets demanding more cheap stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example: Maine is shrinking. We need more people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Charles Krauthammer: Our high standard for bribery is Hillary Clinton’s only saving grace Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Bernie Sanders never understood the epic quality of the Clinton scandals. In his first debate, he famously dismissed the email issue, it being beneath the dignity of a great revolutionary to deal in things so tawdry and straightforward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Clinton response? There was no quid pro quo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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M.D. Harmon: Man on a mission brings message of Gospel-driven political activism to Maine Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Franklin Graham’s a tall man, as is his father, Billy, who’s 97 now and mostly housebound at his North Carolina homestead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it remains believers’ principal challenge – and obligation.

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

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When it comes to running government, Donald Trump is in over his head Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BRUNSWICK — Preoccupation with the presidential horse race hides part of the big picture. Every four years, we elect not only a president but also a government at large.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dana Milbank: Stein unwittingly adds fuel to Trump’s firebrand campaign Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential nominee, favors alternative energy – and she leads by example. On Tuesday, she burned one of her own supporters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maine Voices: Connected Pathways further tightens the bond between SMCC, USM Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Beginning this fall, many admitted students to Southern Maine Community College will be in for a very pleasant – and meaningful – surprise. They will be informed that upon successful completion of their associate degree at SMCC that they will be admitted to the University of Southern Maine without even having to apply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 33 Thu, 25 Aug 2016 10:31:21 +0000
Leonard Pitts: The right may have broken reality, but it’s up to everybody to repair it Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:00:52 +0000 Ordinarily, I might gloat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will take years more to find our way home.

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

]]> 77, 23 Aug 2016 19:38:26 +0000
Maine Voices: Court deals a blow to prospects of natural-gas pipeline expansion Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — On Aug. 17, the Massachusetts supreme court vacated a ruling by the state’s Department of Public Utilities that would have permitted electric utilities to charge ratepayers for pipeline capacity – and then sell the gas to generators. This could be the swan song for the last major natural gas pipeline expansion project on the table for New England.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Special to the Press Herald

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Greg Kesich: Online detractors won’t spell the end of ‘Mark Trail’ comic strip Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Dig deep in this newspaper and you will find a window into another world.

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

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

Ah, fantasy …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to Press Herald podcasts, including one for this column, at

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

Twitter: @gregkesich

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Maine Voices: State’s warming waters create both reasons to change and opportunities Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We know that the threat of climate disruption to Maine is real, in part because we are experiencing early warning signs. The science is also clear that the problems will escalate if we do not act to further reduce carbon pollution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Kathleen Parker: New campaign manager could give Trump change we can believe in Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When my syndicate editor told me a few clients had been asking, “Don’t you have anyone over there who can write something positive about Donald Trump?” I thought, well, that could be fun.

But hard.

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

And: He suddenly started being nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who better than Trump?

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

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

It just might work.

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

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Commentary: Anti-government state leaders undercut services to constituents, Alfond says Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In my eight years in the Maine Senate, I’ve met and worked with lawmakers of all stripes, including lots of Republicans. Working together to get results is the pragmatic tradition that Mainers value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have to do better.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And look at those hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: dillesquire

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Maine Observer: Scooter gives a glimpse of the wild side Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When I was a teenager I wanted a motorcycle in the worst way. I grew up in Las Vegas, and the coolest guys in my junior high school rode Honda 50s, a kind of starter bike. They had a look, too: long hair, white T-shirts, faded Levi’s and cowboy boots. And the most important part: A cute girl perched behind them, clutching them tightly as they pulled in and out of the student parking lot.

This was the late ’60s, when “Easy Rider” came out, that countercultural landmark film about two hippie bikers searching for an alternative American Dream.

Of course, my mother’s stance on motorcycle ownership was “over my dead body,” which she assumed would be my fate if she indulged me. So I never elevated my school status to “cool guy,” at least not until I went out for football in senior high school. A motorcycle probably would have been a whole lot safer than that bone-crushing sport.

And while I never did get a motorcycle, the urge to fly down the road at 60 miles an hour on two wheels never entirely left me. When I retired and was looking for fun things to do with all my extra time, the desire resurfaced. I occasionally broached the subject with my wife, whose stony silence suggested she was thinking “over my dead body.”

And then one day while running an errand on my pedal bike, I ran into a guy who’d just purchased a motor scooter. He told me how much he loved the darn thing, how fun it was to ride and what great gas mileage it got. On top of that, it wasn’t very expensive.

I was intrigued, but admittedly a little worried about the manliness factor.

My neighbor, a friend and former colleague, rode a scooter around town, and he was, best I could tell, a manly man. So I checked them out at the local dealer. I wanted a black one because I thought it more masculine looking, but found a slightly used white one that was discounted. A little pleading and I convinced the wife.

A fan of the TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” about a badass motorcycle club in California that somehow managed to make its characters sympathetic despite their homicidal tendencies, I had no illusions about the figure I cast puttering around on a retro Italian-style scooter that topped out at 35 miles per hour. Badass, I was not. But I still felt kind of cool, even with the dorky helmet.

Turns out, my scooter is powered by the same 50cc engine of those longed-for motorcycles of my youth. And there is room on the back to accommodate a cute girl (my wife). So I can deal with the manliness thing, even if I’m not riding a Harley hog (or any porcine creature). Where I live is hilly, wooded and near the ocean, perfect for scootering.

Wind in the face! Bugs in the teeth! Just born to be wild, I guess.

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Maine Voices: Licensing midwives in Maine has many pluses Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 YARMOUTH — The state of Maine recently passed a law that will require licensure and training standards for midwives practicing outside of hospitals. For many midwives, including those of us who also practice as naturopathic doctors, we say it’s about time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Maine Voices: Trump demonizes, bullies, fails on all points of Civil Rights Act Sat, 20 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WESTBROOK — What does the Civil Rights Act have to do with the presidential race? Apparently, not as much as it should.

As a property manager, I am required to adhere to the guidelines of the Fair Housing Act, which was derived from the Civil Rights Act. It’s an easy requirement, considering this is my own personal code of ethics anyway.

For those who need a brush-up – a group of people that apparently includes Donald Trump – the Fair Housing Act states that I am prohibited from discriminating against anyone because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and/or familial status (i.e., the presence of children). I don’t think I need to highlight where Trump has failed on all of these points, sometimes more than once.

Trump has single-handedly defied all that was established in the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and later modified in 1974 and 1988. We’re talking civil rights here, friends. Shouldn’t a nominee for president of the United States be the poster person for civil rights?

On a daily basis, I work very closely with the community that both Trump and Gov. LePage demonize and criticize. And for the record, this community is made up not just of Somali immigrants. The roots of this community span widely from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt and Afghanistan to Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These citizens are friendly, polite and more neighborly with one another than what I have experienced and observed in my own culture. They help each other, watch one another’s children and work and contribute to society just like you and I do.

They call me “Friend,” “The Nice Lady,” “Sister.” They hug me when I help them. They are appreciative and aware. And why? Because they are human and because I treat them as I would treat anyone else: with respect.

Of course, there are some who are rude, demanding and entitled. Yet every ethnic group and social class has its individuals who lack in social graces and integrity. And I consider Donald Trump to be one of those individuals.

We shouldn’t have to remind a presidential candidate how to behave. Be decent. Respect others. Rather simple. This isn’t a ride on a merry-go-round in an elementary schoolyard.

My 8-year-old son has a better grip on how to treat others than the 70-year-old man who is being vetted to be our great leader. Based on his behavior alone, he should have been disqualified from the race a long time ago.

How is he leading by example for all of those innocent eyes watching him? He is teaching the impressionable that it is OK to taunt someone with a disability. He is pushing his misogynistic agenda by implying that only beautiful women have validity. He insinuates that all immigrants are terrorists and/or drug dealers.

Is this how you want your president to think? Is this how you want your president to behave? Is this the type of person you want representing your country?

I often ask people who are voting for Trump, “Why?” The response I usually get is one of two things: either “He is not Hillary Clinton” or “He speaks his mind.” Freedom of speech. I get it. We need that. Everyone is so darn sensitive these days, right? But what about our right to equality?

Those running for public office need to step down from their podiums and take a minute to actually get to know the people they are afraid of. I have seen a large amount of fear grown out of ignorance. And it is a huge problem that is plaguing our nation.

Yes, we have to be vigilant. Yes, we need to be aware. But we also need to learn to accept and co-exist.

I encourage people to speak their minds – but educate yourself before you do so. These immigrants, these citizens, have quite a story to tell, one that’s rich in culture, history, suffering and hope. We are all immigrants.

As a woman, I am disappointed. As an empathetic citizen, my heart goes out to my tenants and all of those who have come to our country seeking refuge and equality. As a mother, I am thankful that my son was privy to Trump’s irrationality. After hearing Trump speak, my son leaned into me and said, “Mom, he’s a bully.”

Please, friends, think twice before you vote for a bully. Stand up for your civil rights.


]]> 41, 20 Aug 2016 19:59:38 +0000
Commentary: My destiny: Making sauce, chasing chickens around the yard Sat, 20 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 STORRS, Conn. — Destiny: Those parts of your life you can’t escape no matter how hard you’ve worked to avoid them.

I was making tomato sauce the other afternoon just as my Sicilian grandmother taught me: searing the sausage and the chopped meat in separate frying pans while getting the olive oil, garlic, parsley and the oregano ready in other small pots.

In Brooklyn, where I grew up, we always had sauce – or, as my family referred to it, “gravy” – simmering on a back burner. The original version had been there since 1948. It was stirred constantly by my Aunt Josephina, who had an arm like a longshoreman. Just one. The only time she left that spot was to go to Mass.

The women in my family used no recipes. They used a small handful of salt, fistfuls of fresh basil and olive oil (from somebody who had a connection to the good stuff) that they measured in a cup. A real cup, not a measuring cup. That’s how we learned to cook. The only way I can teach somebody how to replicate a dish is by having them watch me. I can’t explain it.

For Italians, cooking is more choreography than culinary.

My Sicilian family had the traditional kitchen arrangement: The upstairs kitchen was immaculate, perfectly equipped and too good for cooking.

No meal was prepared in that kitchen. The only people who would have been allowed to eat there would have been the people who could have sat in the living room that nobody ever used. That room had three pieces of matching brocade furniture covered in industrial-grade vinyl, and the lampshades had the original cellophane protecting them.

I once asked my grandmother if it was safe to keep cellophane so close to a light bulb. She grabbed me by the ear. “You turned the light on in the good living room?” I realized we were in no danger from anything incendiary: Nobody would dare even switch on a light.

So, now, picture me in my Connecticut kitchen, which is as different from the basement kitchen as it is possible to be. It’s airy, big and looks directly into our nice backyard.

Yet there are echoes of my childhood: the hiss of the meat, the garlic on the chopping board, the scent of basil on my fingers before I drop it in the pot. I’m cooking because we have a big group of friends coming over for dinner.

It’s quiet, and I’m happy.

My husband, not Italian, but originally from New Jersey, so it’s almost the same thing, has gone to buy wine to accompany the meal.

Then, I see the chickens.

Our new neighbors’ chickens decided, like characters out of an old war movie, to make a break for it. A dozen of them scramble over the stone wall and invade our yard. They’re eating birdseed and scratching up the mulch.

Suddenly, the ancient strands of my DNA awaken. I run outside, slamming the screen door behind me, and scream, “Get outta my yard, you lousy birds!”

I chase them around the yard while flapping my apron as if brandishing a weapon. The graying bun at the top of my head is coming loose, with strands of hair covering my face. I look like a cartoon of peasant life.

Everything I’d ever done in my life, I’d done precisely to avoid this moment. I got my Ph.D., wrote a bunch of books and lectured around the world about women’s leadership, and yet here I am, running after livestock and cursing. I am, in other words, doing exactly what my ancestors in Castelbuono did to protect their hovel from the neighbor’s goats.

Without my realizing it, Michael had returned home and was witnessing this scene. When I saw him standing on the deck, I made a futile attempt to collect myself by tucking some strands of hair back into the bun. In a cheerful, slow voice containing a tinge of horror, he asked, “And exactly what are you doing?”

I replied, “I’m finally becoming the woman I’ve been meant to be. It’s destiny.”

Michael did not look reassured. Still, we ate well that night. And no, we did not have chicken.

]]> 0 Fri, 19 Aug 2016 19:29:25 +0000
The humble Farmer: Even enduring hunger, youthful hitchhiker buys postcards to send home Sat, 20 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 At 22, an age when boys have no more brains than a lobster, I left home with $5 in my pocket, a week after being discharged from the Coast Guard in March 1957, hitchhiked from Maine to Texas and then continued on to California.

Much of what we know about the destruction of Pompeii comes from letters written by Pliny the Younger. Much of what we know about the great Lisbon earthquake comes from letters written by the English who were either there or who visited in the months that followed. Centuries from now, perhaps the only thing known about the socioeconomic habits of migrating U.S. citizens in the 1950s will come from the following extracts from my 1957 diary.

By March 20, I had got as far as a friend’s house in Houston and wrote: “I have decided to go to L.A. tomorrow and see my cousin Sonny. … Left around 1830 hrs. Got a ride right off with a truck en route (to) San Antonio. San Antonio is all small buildings, mostly made of plaster or mud, I guess.”

March 21: “0100 hrs: Lackland Air Force base. 0525 hrs: 553 miles from El Paso. 0655 hrs: Uvalde. Ate a jelly sandwich. ’55 Chev. It’s hot & there isn’t much but rocks and small bushes. Helped the driver tie down the mattresses in Pecos Canyon.

“1835 hrs: Saw antelope. Sun set in Marathon. Had a hamburger. Got a ride to Sierra Blanker (sic; now the nation’s largest sewage sludge dump). Got a ride in a ’57 Ford with a drunk named Woody. He stayed drunk all the way to San Diego.”

March 22: “Got into El Paso at 0100 hrs. Woody drives around 80 when he isn’t going 90. Went to Mexico. Woody bought another jug in Mexico, which didn’t help any. Slept while Woody drove for around 30 mi. Filled up at Lordsburg (New Mexico). Drove almost to Benson (Arizona). 0735 hrs: Woody drove 52 miles to Tucson. Saw a cactus. All these deserts are different. I keep seeing different kinds of plants, rocks & trees.

“1130 hrs: Gila Bend. Woody bought dinner and we’re off to Yuma. Woody wants to drive. Doin 80 through dust storm. 1400 hrs: Entered California. 1504 hrs: Arrived in El Centro. Plenty tired. 80 degrees. 1709 hrs: Saw Pacific O. Cash on hand $3.88. Expenditures fm Maine to Calif. $1.48 for post cards. 1800 hrs: Saw Catalina. 2054 hrs: On streetcar, 23 cents. Coke 10. Arrived at Bonnie Brae St. (in Los Angeles) around 2130 hrs.”

March 23. “Got up around 2 slept for 14 or 16 hrs. I was alone & there was nothing to eat in the house – went out and bought two cans of cream of chicken & a quart of milk 57 cents. My few remaining coppers are flowing like water. Called Ma at 1610 hrs. Ma said, ‘What are you doing there? I just got a card from you tonight saying you were in Texas.’ Came home and ate a carrot & glass of water for supper. Feeling mighty weak.”

March 24: “Went down to the store & bought some shredded wheat & milk for breakfast .43 cents. All my money is going for food.”

Sonny, my handsome, stingy cousin, and I were taken to the beach by two girls who called for us in a ’54 Pontiac hardtop. I don’t think they knew he was gay, and they were probably hoping to score by feeding him: “Interesting experience going to the shore in March. Came back via their apartment. It must cost them around $120 a month but there’s 4 of them. All I’ve had to eat here so far I’ve had to buy myself.”

March 25: “Got up around 8:30 with a heck of a sore throat.” (Even at 22, there is a price to be paid for a week of food and sleep deprivation.)

“Cashed in a nickel bottle which gave me enough to buy a pint of milk which I put on my shredded wheat for breakfast. I am currently down to 1 cent. Now I want to go to Connecticut and get a Job in Pratt & Whitney. If I had a job here I would stay for a while but I don’t know how to get one.”

March 26: “My hair is falling out in gobs.”

March 27: “I have to get out of here. Watched ‘Hungry Hill’ on TV. Ma sent $10. Rushed out and got a haircut. (I was starving, and with my first money I got a haircut?) Saw the Academy award. Ingrid Bergman won.”

March 28: “Put on my cousin’s suit, which was several sizes too small, and went to Occidental and applied for a job.”

March 29: “Hitched from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Got up at 0730 hrs & as there wasn’t anything to eat I left without. Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara. Bought apple 12 cents and 6 cents for stamps & 15 cents for cards. Sent them to Ma, Henry & Aunt Grace.

“1432 hrs: Santa Maria. 1932 hrs: In San F. Walked 24 blocks to find (my Swedish cousin Rose Marie) not home. I got so hungry while I was waiting I went out and bought two candy bars & a pepsie .25.”

Nobody ever said that being young is easy.

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

]]> 0, 19 Aug 2016 19:25:16 +0000
Maine Voices: Celebrate Social Security’s 81st birthday by lobbying candidates to keep it strong Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WINDHAM — Social Security was signed into law more than 80 years ago on Aug. 14, and, as we celebrate its 81st birthday, it is important to consider how crucial this program is to all Mainers, particularly to Maine women.

At the time of Social Security’s passage in 1935, almost half of older Americans lived in poverty. First simply a retirement program, today Social Security offers survivors’ benefits, benefits to a retiree’s spouse and disability benefits. Social Security is the foundation of economic security for millions of Americans and their families.

Here in Maine, one-third of Mainers 65 or over who are on Social Security rely on their benefit for 100 percent of their income. Without Social Security, more than 80,000 older Mainers would fall into poverty.

For many older Americans, Social Security provides an important protection against economic insecurity. Women make up the majority of adult beneficiaries, collecting Social Security as retired or disabled workers, wives and widows. Since women are more likely than men to take time out of the workforce to care for children and ailing parents, their economic security can be quite uncertain.

Eight years ago, I stopped working full-time to care for my parents, who moved into my home when my mother, then 85, could no longer care for my Alzheimer’s disease-stricken father. Although I gladly took on my role as a caregiver, I had worked hard to earn my doctorate and was saddened to put my career on hold. I didn’t realize then the long-term financial toll my time out of the workforce would take – and it seems that I am not alone.

According to a report issued by the AARP Public Policy Institute, 65 percent of caregivers in America are women. As a result, it is estimated that women have 12 fewer years in the paid workforce over their lifetimes than men do.

The time out of the workforce not only lowers women’s lifetime earnings and savings, but also lowers their ultimate Social Security and retirement benefits. Nationally, it costs the average woman more than $324,000 in lifetime wages and benefits to care for an aging parent. The subsequent loss to their retirement savings substantially increases women’s risk of long-term economic insecurity.

Maine is home to more than 178,000 unpaid family caregivers. This means that approximately 116,000 women in our state are likely losing wages, benefits and retirement security as they care for their loved ones.

Another challenge for women is that they are typically paid less than their male counterparts. In 2012, in all occupations, women were paid 19 percent less than men. It is hard to believe that in 21st-century America, women still earn almost one-fifth less than men in the same job. Additionally, compared to employed men, employed women are more likely to work part-time and less likely to have access to a pension plan.

These are just some of the reasons why women aged 65 and older depend on Social Security for a larger share of their retirement income and are more likely to live in poverty in old age. In 2014, according to the AARP report, 24 percent of women in this age group relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their family income, compared to 18.5 percent of older men. Add to this the fact that women live longer on average than men, and it becomes easy to see why Social Security is of paramount importance, particularly for women.

As we approach election season, Social Security’s future must be a focal point of the presidential candidates’ policy plans. It is time for both major-party candidates to lead on Social Security, and give us real answers about how they’ll keep it strong for us and for future generations.

While we can find information about the current plans at, we deserve to know much more about how their plan will affect our families, what it will cost and how they will effectively implement it.

For those, like me, who have had to take time out of the workforce because of caregiving, making our voices heard is critical. When one considers the challenging economic climate of the last few years, strengthening Social Security now and for the future has never been more important.

— Special to the Press Herald

]]> 4, 19 Aug 2016 12:44:36 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Leaders need to wake up to the elephant chart in the room Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Occasionally some opinionator peers behind the curtain of daily events and unveils an insight that puts the news in a newly clarifying perspective.

What’s exposed may not be uplifting or reassuring, but that’s no reason to discount it.

Such exposure is the service Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan performed Aug. 13 by discussing the role played by U.S. and global elites.

Under the jarring headline, “How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen,” Noonan wrote that when German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered to accept nearly a million Mideast refugees this year, she “put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her, but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections.”

But Merkel and her top supporters are insulated by money and position from those effects. As Noonan wrote, “Nothing in their lives will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street – that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected.”

Even worse, “The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them ‘xenophobic,’ ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘racist.’ The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called ‘humanist,’ ‘compassionate,’ and ‘hero(es) of human rights.’ ”

Noonan ends with a telling American example, noting that State Department data show that almost all of the refugees settled in Virginia since October “have been placed in towns with lower incomes and higher poverty rates, hours away from the wealthy suburbs outside of Washington, D.C.”

That means, “Of 121 refugees, 112 were placed in communities at least 100 miles from the nation’s capital. The suburban counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington – among the wealthiest in the nation, and home to high concentrations of those who create, and populate, government and the media – have received only nine refugees.”

That’s just one example, she concluded, of the elites’ “sheer and clever self-protection.”

Her comments were widely noted, with some recalling President Obama’s 2008 campaign-related statement that “it’s not surprising” that average people “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Others said the trend was reminiscent of the dystopian society of “The Hunger Games,” where residents of Capitol City live in luxury while everyone else labors to support them.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson said in a National Review Online column Monday that ordinary people are not angry at all the wealthy, “but at the well-connected elites whose lives are graced with cultural and social privileges, characterized by insider influence and generationally embedded connections” that blind them to “the direct results of their own ideological agendas.”

And R.R. Reno, editor of the prestigious religious journal First Things, that same day described one potential cause, an “elephant chart” so named because, in tracking global income growth from 1988 to 2008, the curve resembles the outline of an elephant.

From the poorest of the poor, it quickly rises to a big hump for non-Western nations’ middle classes, dips like the bend in a pachyderm’s trunk for middle classes in the West, and rises again to a peak for global elites at the highest income levels.

“The global system,” he wrote, “is committed to the free flow of labor, goods, and capital (and) works well for the leadership class in Europe and North America, as it does for striving workers in China, India, and elsewhere. It doesn’t work so well for the middle class in the West. Thus, in the West, the led no longer share the economic interests of their leaders.”

So, “Ordinary people feel abandoned and frustration builds, driving today’s populism.” which is strengthened, not eliminated, when their concerns over open borders and minimal growth are discounted and their motives are demonized.

If this is correct, and global in scope, then the outcome of a single U.S. election will not resolve it.

What’s Reno’s vision of the ultimate result? “The decoupling of the leaders and the led is ‘something big.’ The economic forces driving this decoupling are powerful. The ideological supports – a morally superior cosmopolitanism, a flexible multiculturalism, and now dominant utilitarian thinking – are strong.”

Thus, the “odds are good that the democratic era will come to an end. The elephant chart suggests the future will be one of empire.”

His grim point is that “Capitol City” is what history shows you will get when resources are concentrated in the hands of deracinated, disconnected and disdainful elites.

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

]]> 14, 19 Aug 2016 18:49:23 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: United States pays the price of powerlessness in the Middle East Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The State Department pretended not to be surprised. It should be. It should be alarmed. Iran’s intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now.

The reordering of the Middle East is proceeding apace. Where for 40 years the U.S.-Egypt alliance anchored the region, a Russia-Iran combination is now dictating events. That’s what you get after eight years of U.S. retrenchment and withdrawal. Consider:

n Iran: The nuclear deal was supposed to begin a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Instead, it has solidified a strategic-military alliance between Moscow and Tehran. With the lifting of sanctions and the normalizing of Iran’s international relations, Russia rushed in with major deals, including the shipment of S-300 ground-to-air missiles. Russian use of Iranian bases now marks a new level of cooperation and joint power projection.

n Iraq: These bombing runs cross Iraqi airspace. Before President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, that could not have happened. The resulting vacuum has not only created a corridor for Russian bombing, it has gradually allowed a hard-won post-Saddam Iraq to slip into Iran’s orbit. According to a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, there are 100,000 Shiite militia fighters operating inside Iraq, 80 percent of them Iranian-backed.

n Syria: When Russia dramatically intervened last year, establishing air bases and launching a savage bombing campaign, Obama did nothing. Indeed, he smugly predicted that Vladimir Putin had entered a quagmire. Some quagmire. Bashar Assad’s regime is not only saved. It encircled Aleppo and has seized the upper hand in the civil war. Meanwhile, our hapless secretary of state is trying to sue for peace, offering to share intelligence and legitimize Russian intervention if only Putin will promise to conquer gently.

Consider what Putin has achieved. Dealt a weak hand – a rump Russian state, shorn of empire and saddled with a backward economy and a rusting military – he has restored Russia to great power status.

In Europe, Putin has unilaterally redrawn the map. His annexation of Crimea will not be reversed. The Europeans are eager to throw off the few sanctions they grudgingly imposed on Russia. And the rape of eastern Ukraine continues.

Ten thousand have already died and now Putin is threatening even more open warfare. Under the absurd pretext of Ukrainian terrorism in Crimea, Putin has threatened retaliation, massed troops in eight locations on the Ukrainian border, ordered Black Sea naval exercises and moved advanced anti-aircraft batteries into Crimea, giving Moscow control over much of Ukrainian airspace.

And why shouldn’t he? He’s pushing on an open door. Obama still refuses to send Ukraine even defensive weapons. The administration’s response to these provocations? Urging “both sides” to exercise restraint. Both sides, mind you.

And in a gratuitous flaunting of its newly expanded reach, Russia will be conducting joint naval exercises with China in the South China Sea, in obvious support of Beijing’s territorial claims and illegal military bases.

Yet the president shows little concern. He simply doesn’t care. In part because his priorities are domestic. In part because he thinks we lack clean hands and thus the moral standing to continue to play international arbiter.

And in part because he’s convinced that in the long run it doesn’t matter. Fluctuations in great power relations are inherently ephemeral. For a man who sees a moral arc in the universe bending inexorably toward justice, calculations of raw realpolitik are primitive, obsolete, the obsession of small minds.

Obama made all this perfectly clear in speeches at the U.N., in Cairo and here at home in his first year in office. Two terms later, we see the result. Ukraine dismembered. Eastern Europe on edge. Syria a charnel house. Iran subsuming Iraq. Russia and Iran on the march across the entire northern Middle East.

The major revisionist powers – China, Russia and Iran – know what they want: power, territory, tribute. And they’re going after it. Barack Obama takes Ecclesiastes’ view that these are vanities, nothing but vanities.

In the kingdom of heaven, no doubt. Here on earth, however – Aleppo to Donetsk, Estonia to the Spratly Islands – it matters greatly.

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

]]> 5, 18 Aug 2016 21:06:26 +0000
Maine Voices: Good Samaritan law, safe injection sites would help cut opiate overdose deaths Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My name is Alex Klein, and I moved from the Baltimore suburbs to Portland to improve the quality of my life through personal growth and the maintenance of my recovery, as well as to help others.

The fact that drug overdoses are killing people in the Portland area and throughout Maine has continued to motivate me to take action and to spread awareness, in the hope of bringing about a reduction in the number of preventable opiate overdose deaths. Members of our community are dying in silence because of the shame and fear surrounding opiate overdoses and the criminalization of a public health issue.

From 2000 to 2014, nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses in the United States. In 2015, 272 people died from drug overdoses in Maine.

Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. But without Good Samaritan legislation, which offers legal protection to people who assist those who have overdosed, the fear of arrests makes it less likely that a bystander will provide Narcan at the site of an overdose or call for help from someone who has the medication.

I recognize that I am not alone in this struggle to save the lives of our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. It is no longer a moral dilemma whether the public should “enable” or “condone” opiate use. We are discussing a diagnosable and treatable mental illness and whether we want to help the people who have it to live and continue to be part of our community.

The lack of progress and action at the state level in response to this epidemic makes clear to me that human lives are not being treated or valued equally.

Without Good Samaritan legislation in place – which allows for more protection than the “affirmative defense” measures used at trial – the call to 911 will not be made and/or the arrival of Narcan will be too late. Another life will be lost that could have been saved.

The best-case scenario for Good Samaritan legislation would allow for immunity from drug and paraphernalia possession arrests and would allow people in a life-threatening emergency to receive the help they need. Of the 37 states that have Good Samaritan legislation, 18 provide for immunity from arrest for possession of a controlled substance, while another 13 provide for immunity from arrest for paraphernalia.

If Good Samaritan legislation continues to fail at the state level in Maine, then we must start to resolve this conflict locally. The Westbrook Police Department has equipped its officers with Narcan, and last year, the department instituted its own Good Samaritan policy: People who report overdoses or are in possession of drugs at the scene of an overdose are issued summonses instead of being arrested. Although this is not as effective as a statewide Good Samaritan law, it still represents progress toward decreasing overdose fatalities in Maine.

On a positive note, legislators in April did override Gov. LePage’s veto of a bill that allows pharmacists to dispense Narcan without a prescription. This will provide more opportunities for this antidote to be available during times of crisis and to those who know individuals actively struggling with addiction. The Maine Board of Pharmacy has until July 31, 2017, to write the rules that will allow this law to take effect.

The next step to reduce overdose fatalities is to introduce a safe injection site in Portland. In a state that lacks access to substance use disorder treatment, we must start from the ground up, allowing people to live and have a chance at increasing the quality of their life instead of falsely believing that addiction affects only “those people” and that they will die off – even though this is an illness that afflicts 20.2 million Americans.

Safe injection sites have been shown to reduce overdose fatalities in areas of high density of overdose. The facilities also have been effective at reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, as well as promoting entry into addiction treatment. Safe injection sites provide a space for individuals to receive clean syringes and have immediate access to Narcan if needed.

While this may seem like a way to enable drug users, individuals do not have a chance to recover if they are dead. Individuals are overdosing and dying. Creating a space would humanize these now-marginalized Mainers.

Enacting Good Samaritan legislation and allowing safe injection sites are two steps that should be considered based on the current levels of opioid addiction in our state and nation. By literally meeting people where they are, we can drastically cut back the number of deaths from this treatable illness and reduce the suffering of those affected by the losses.


]]> 10, 18 Aug 2016 14:29:18 +0000
Commentary: ‘Sesame Street’ must evolve, but not at the cost of embracing vanilla Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 NEW YORK — “Sesame Street” recently announced it was dismissing three original cast members: Bob McGrath (Bob), Emilio Delgado (Luis) and Roscoe Orman (Gordon). After an outcry from longtime fans, the show reversed course and will meet with the actors in September to continue their relationship.

Welcoming these characters back onto the “Street” is an excellent decision. The program has been undergoing many changes, adapting to the needs of today’s children. New episodes are shorter, include more animation and are targeted to younger audiences than before. But Bob, Luis and Gordon provide one lesson that is as important today as when the program began in 1969: racial integration.

Bob (white), Luis (Latino) and Gordon (African-American) model for children how neighbors interact in a racially integrated neighborhood. They are friends with each other, and kindly father figures for everyone – be they orange or blue, child or monster, giant bird or grouch.

The “Sesame Street” model of showcasing diverse characters has been exported around the world. Over 30 versions of the program exist, and they are broadcast in over 150 countries.

I spent nine months in Nigeria studying its version of “Sesame Street,” called “Sesame Square,” and how it represents diversity. “Sesame Square” shows Muslim and Christian children at school together – a radical statement in a nation where the extremist group Boko Haram has bombed schools, killed teachers and kidnapped thousands of students.

Having an integrated cast was also radical when “Sesame Street” first aired in 1969. So radical, in fact, that the Mississippi State Commission for Educational Television banned the program because it did not believe viewers were ready for episodes showing black, Latino and white children playing together.

Our nation still struggles with race relations – albeit in new forms. Many neighborhoods are still alarmingly segregated, and the widening income gap post-recession means that poverty (often connected to race) becomes concentrated in neighborhoods, reinstating racial segregation. Media images of blacks and Latinos – especially men – continue to reproduce negative, violent stereotypes.

Meanwhile, children’s TV has become somewhat more diverse, but still does not reflect the nation’s racial composition. “Sesame Street” has been a trendsetter in celebrating racial integration, and its multicolored Muppets have always represented the rainbow of diversity here.

But research by Sesame Workshop shows that while the purple, orange and green characters may provide helpful metaphors for human diversity, young children need more explicit messages. For a young child’s literal brain, the lesson that an orange and a green monster can be friends means that an orange and a green monster can be friends – and nothing more. Children are unlikely to apply this message to other situations of diversity.

Sesame Workshop then tested segments wherein a white child visited her African-American friend’s house, and vice versa. The positive effects were higher: In post-tests, most children who had seen the segments expressed wanting to have a friend who was “different” from them. For this reason, it is essential to continue showing diverse human characters on “Sesame Street.”

I am not suggesting that “Sesame Street” decided to release Bob, Gordon and Luis for reasons related to cast diversity. Their reasons have been unclear, apart from a statement saying that “we are constantly evolving our content and our curriculum, and hence, our characters.”

And “Sesame Street” must evolve to survive. Children are different – and watch TV differently – than they did 50 years ago. Fans cried that the program “sold out” when it moved to HBO, but the new arrangement means “Sesame Street” can produce hundreds of more episodes, which will be available nine months later on PBS.

The characters have evolved, too. Research suggests that “green vegetable shows” – TV that is good for you, and teaches about healthy food, academic skills and diversity – doesn’t sell. What sells? Princesses! So the pink and frilly Muppet Abby Cadabby arrived on “Sesame Street,” and brings viewers along with her to Flying Fairy School.

But as the program evolves, it must hang on to its core value of highlighting interaction between diverse human characters. Bob, Luis and Gordon can continue to model intergroup interaction, along with the Catholic and Protestant characters on the Northern Ireland version (“Sesame Tree”), the Israeli and Palestinian characters in Israel and Palestine (“Rechov Sumsum”/“Shara’a Simsim”), and the Moroccan and Spanish characters in Spain (“Barrio Sesamo”). Kids need these diverse role models as much as ever.

]]> 1 Wed, 17 Aug 2016 19:08:49 +0000
Commentary: Aetna’s exit from health exchanges signals bigger issues Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Aetna is pulling out of 11 of the 15 states it serves on the Obamacare exchanges and canceling plans to join the exchange in Maine. The reason is no surprise: It’s losing substantial amounts of money on its exchange policies.

That’s not necessarily the only reason, of course. Companies in heavily regulated industries like health care spend a lot of time engaging in n-dimensional chess games with the various state and federal entities that have jurisdiction over their operations. Public statements and market moves may be exactly what they look like. Or they may involve a factor that does not, at first glance, appear to be much related.

In this case, it has been suggested that Aetna may have in mind its proposed merger with Humana (and that related announcements by Anthem are designed to aid Anthem’s Cigna merger). The U.S. government is suing to block both mergers; the companies would, obviously, like them to go through.

The deals would consolidate an industry that now has five major insurers down to three, giving them considerably more pricing power. Because the individual market is a relatively small piece of their business, those mergers are probably worth a lot more to them than whatever good will the companies earn by losing money on the exchanges.

The losses are not to be ignored. Insurance regulators and the Securities and Exchange Commission do not give the firms much room to claim that they’re losing money if they’re actually making it hand over fist.

Even if that weren’t the case, the failure of so many co-ops, which don’t have other lines of business, suggests that these markets are not, on the whole, a good place for insurers to make money. But it’s at least plausible that if the government weren’t blocking their mergers, these companies might be willing to go along with those losses for a few years in order to generate some regulatory good will for their broader business.

If that’s the case, the question is: What matters to regulators more? Blocking the mergers, or keeping the exchanges healthy? That’s not an easy question. It looks as if Aetna’s withdrawal will leave at least one county – Pinal, in Arizona – with no insurers at all selling exchange policies. And unless something pretty drastic changes in these markets, it seems unlikely that Pinal County will be the last to lose all its insurers.

The state regulator has made hopeful noises about persuading someone to pick up the business. (Remember the regulatory good will we mentioned above?) But regulators in relatively small states don’t necessarily have that much clout with big insurers, which can afford to keep taking these losses for years.

California can plausibly say “Play ball with us or get ready to lose our nearly 40 million citizens as potential customers,” but a big corporation probably does not fear the market-shaking powers of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation. And more locally concentrated firms cannot keep eating large losses for an indefinite period. It is obviously a problem – for politicians, as well as customers – if a growing number of people have a theoretical right to buy health insurance but cannot actually buy any.

But allowing the mergers to go through could well mean price increases in other markets. Bigger insurers gain more pricing power against rapidly consolidating provider networks. They also gain more pricing power with customers. Industries dominated by a few major players are not, in general, known for their high quality and low costs. Allowing the mergers to go through could stave off the immediate problem with the Obamacare exchanges at the cost of raising insurance costs for everyone else – and giving Democrats big headaches in 2018 and 2020.

We can expect to see a lot of such quandaries going forward. The exchanges do not seem to be stabilizing; instead, they seem to be growing more unstable over time, particularly outside large urban areas where there are enough providers and slack capacity in the health care system to provide some check on the problems that have plagued insurers elsewhere.

Insurers cannot simply go on eating those losses forever. They certainly won’t do so for free. Unless the exchanges get a rapid infusion of healthier customers who pay substantial premiums without using much care, insurers are going to keep pulling out of the areas where they are losing money. Or at the very least, they will demand benefits from the government to make it worth their while to stay.

]]> 15 Wed, 17 Aug 2016 19:12:50 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Explosion of Milwaukee violence shows frustration of African Americans Wed, 17 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 As racial martyrs go, you could hardly do worse than 23-year-old Sylville Smith.

He was no Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice, no unarmed innocent gunned down. No, Milwaukee police say Smith was an armed man with a lengthy arrest record – drugs, weapons, robbery – who bolted from a traffic stop Saturday afternoon. They say he ran a short distance, then wheeled around, gun in hand, refusing orders to drop it. Whereupon the police officer shot and killed him.

“I’m not going to say he was an angel,” Smith’s godmother, Katherine Mahmoud, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The officer who killed him was a year older than Smith and black, like him. Though perceptions are obviously subject to change once body-cam footage is released, there is at this writing no reason to believe the officer acted improperly and, indeed, no serious allegation that he did. As such, this incident seems an unlikely focal point for public outrage.

That it became one anyway, that Smith’s death sparked two nights of arson, shooting and general unrest, is an ominous sign. It suggests the rise of a species of anger inimical to any hope of racial reconciliation in Milwaukee – and cities far beyond.

A certain amount of anger in the face of injustice is not necessarily a bad thing. Such anger – defined as a passionate impatience with unfair status quo – is often a necessary catalyst for progress. But when there is no progress even after long years, anger can intermix with frustration and despair and become something much less constructive.

It can become something that doesn’t listen, doesn’t reason, doesn’t even hope. Something that simply explodes. African Americans in Wisconsin’s largest city say Smith’s death was the last straw after years of racially stratified policing.

It is hardly immaterial that an officer was not charged just two years ago in the controversial shooting death of a mentally ill black man. Or that the department is under Justice Department review which, to its credit, it requested.

Who will be shocked if that probe finds what other probes have found in cop shops around the country: patterns of institutionalized racism that corrode public trust and impinge the ability of police to do their jobs?

Unfortunately, there is a tendency, when such probes are done, to treat the affected department as unique, an outlier. Think of the person who sees a drop of water here, a drop of water there, another drop over there, yet somehow never perceives the storm.

It’s worth noting, too, that Mike Crivello, president of the Milwaukee police union, issued a statement after the shooting to “denounce” the idea of racism in the department’s ranks. Of course, no institution of any size can credibly make a blanket claim of freedom from bias, but that didn’t stop him. That should tell you something.

Here’s the thing: You get tired of being treated as an unreliable witness to your own experience. You get sick of not being heard. Black Milwaukee has complained for years about biased policing. Yet the police chief pronounced himself “surprised” by this uprising. Apparently, he hasn’t been listening.

The rest of us would do well to avoid that mistake.

If this unrest is an omen, it is also an opportunity – for civic self-examination and accountability, for giving the people a voice, for listening to what they have to say. For making change.

This violence, following what might well have been a justified shooting, was tragic and troubling. But it also made one thing starkly clear. African Americans have been demanding justice a very long time.

And they’re getting tired of asking nicely.

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

]]> 165, 17 Aug 2016 09:20:49 +0000
Maine Voices: Yes, Somalis and other refugees are fleeing danger. No, that doesn’t make them a threat Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 On Aug. 4, Donald Trump visited Portland. Speaking at Merrill Auditorium, where my Portland High School graduation had been held more than a decade ago, Trump told a crowd of supporters and protesters that Somalis and other refugees come from some of the most dangerous places in the world, implying that Mainers should fear them and be worried about their neighbors who had fled danger zones.

He was at least partly right. Yes, all refugees, by definition, flee from dangerous regions of the world. That’s actually the very criterion that the U.N. Refugee Agency uses to determine who is qualified to be resettled as a refugee.

But describing someone as “dangerous” simply because they came from an unsafe part of the world is not only bigoted, but also factually incorrect. It is the same as suggesting that people who are displaced by forest fires are likely to be arsonists, or that victims of sex trafficking are likely to be rapists. It is a contradiction in terms. Few people know the dangers and the effects of wars and mayhem more than refugees.

Most Mainers already know more about their refugee neighbors than Trump can ever teach them, but let me quickly reintroduce who we are, where we came from and what we have done and continue to do in Maine to contribute to the economy, culture and the safety and well-being of the people of the United States in general, and Mainers in particular.

Most of us endured years of uncertainties and took treacherous journeys. We then had to go through a cumbersome resettlement process, scrutinized thoroughly by U.S. immigration authorities before we could set foot in this country. My family were among the thousands of Somali refugees who arrived in Maine during the past two decades or so.

But it was not only Somalis who arrived in Maine. Refugees came from Vietnam, Honduras, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Congo, Burma and Ethiopia, just to name a few. My classmates at Portland High resembled a microcosm of the world. We had people from Taiwan to El Salvador, from Afghanistan to the Congo, Cambodia to Haiti and everywhere in between.

For the most part we got along not only with each other, but with the citizens of Maine as well. Despite cultural barriers and economic hardships, refugees have thrived. Almost everyone I knew had an after-school part-time job to contribute to their families and be productive members of society.

I worked at Old Country Buffet as a dishwasher, volunteered at Ronald McDonald House and still found time to do my homework and graduate with high grades from Portland High School, which earned me admission to all the Maine public universities where I applied, despite my coming to Portland as a high school freshman with no English language proficiency.

I was hardly an exceptional student, though. It is normal that people who had previously endured hardships work hard and take advantage of any opportunity they can get in order to lift their families out of poverty. Many of my friends from similar backgrounds pursued higher education. Some started businesses or joined the military, while others became professionals in various fields.

While pursuing my studies at the University of Maine, where I earned both of my degrees, I managed to remain connected to the Portland community in summers and other school breaks, serving as a certified security officer for Securitas USA, a private security company. I worked in highly sensitive and secure facilities including Portland Ocean Terminal, Portland International Jetport, Maine Medical Center, Bowdoin College, Oxford Plains Speedway and at dams in the Westbrook area.

Lastly, I want to highlight the good reception and hospitality refugees have received from their fellow Mainers. For nearly six years, I had the privilege to travel throughout Maine and bring stories of refugees to all corners of Maine as a member of the Somali Narrative Project, an interdisciplinary collaborative project established by the University of Maine in 2004, which successfully documented the experiences of Somali immigrants in Maine. From Camden to Farmington, Lewiston to Bangor, we were welcomed by enthusiastic audiences who were eager to hear our stories with passion and compassion.

I had to relocate to Oregon for my work, but Maine still remains home for me. It is where my mother is buried. It is where I became a U.S. citizen and where I received all my education.

My wife, a Mainer of Franco heritage, and I bring our two Oregon-born children to Maine regularly to visit with family and friends. And despite the fears and myths spread by Donald Trump and others like him, I am convinced that Maine will continue to lead the nation in welcoming immigrants.


]]> 59, 17 Aug 2016 18:46:59 +0000
Greg Kesich: Time for both parties to call it a day on the politics of nostalgia Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 If you got to see Bob Dylan last month at Thompson’s Point, you probably noticed that “Forever Young” is just a song.

Dylan is 75, and he sounds it. His connection to history is reinforced by his current set list, which features spooky renditions of World War II-era romantic ballads like “I’m a Fool to Want You” and “The Night We Called it a Day.”

But with the sun setting across the Fore River, the songs of wistful longing and the raspy voice all seemed to work, judging by the aging army of Dylan fans, who felt inspired to shake their booties one more time, as the evening came on.

At one point my wife asked me, “If this wasn’t Bob Dylan, would we like it?” But that’s not the point. It is Bob Dylan.

Hearing him bark out “Tangled Up in Blue,” a song I first encountered coming through the wall of my sister’s bedroom more than 40 years ago, connects me to the person I used to be. It’s called nostalgia.

It’s a powerful force, which is why it should be no surprise that it dominates our politics, from both the right and the left.

It’s most obvious in Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” refering to a time before manufacturing jobs moved overseas, when America was the world’s dominant military and economic power and people were unified by a strong national spirit – or the decades after World War II, when the 70-year-old Trump was growing up.

But this longing for the past is just as strong in Democrat Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric, and she even seems to be dreaming about the same same historical period, but for different reasons.

Clinton and other liberals (like me) miss the shared prosperity of the post-war era, the strong middle class and the chance for people to rise out of poverty and go as far as their talents would take them. They (we) also miss the bipartisan politics of the time, when, regardless who controlled the White House or the Congress, there was a general agreement on what the problems were and how to solve them. You could pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and Medicare in 1965, but you could never get them through Congress today, even though most Americans think they are great.

A critique of our nostalgia politics is the major theme of a new book by conservative editor Yuval Levin, “The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism,” which makes a strong case that both parties’ desire for a return to the past prevents them from dealing with the problems that exist right now.

Levin argues that the mid 20th century was a historical anomaly, caused by circumstances that would be impossbile to recreate – like getting all of our economic competitors to bomb each other’s factories as they did in World War II.

And it was a golden age only in memory. The “we’re all in this together spirit” that conservatives miss was a legacy of fighting a war and the Great Depression, and came with 90 percent tax brackets and heavy industrial regulation.

The strong government control of the economy and bipartisan consensus that liberals miss came with stifling conformity. The ’50s weren’t so nifty if you were a woman, or black or gay. The consensus unraveled about the same time as people demanded equal treatment despite their differences, and who would want to retreat on that?

Liberals like to make fun of Trump and his followers for wanting to turn back the clock, but what would a forward-thinking liberal policy look like? We haven’t seen one in a while.

So far, Clinton’s proposals are greatest hits, like taxing the rich to invest in public infrastructure, and providing protections for workers at the bottom of the economy, with higher minimum wages and paid leave.

That’s good, but what should we do about an economy where busineses prosper without creating jobs? “What’s good for General Motors is good for America” might have been true when Eisenhower was president, but it’s not true for Apple or Google, who rake in huge profits with domestic workforce one-tenth the size of GM’s at its peak.

Nostalgia is a nice way to pass a summer evening, but it won’t tell us how to solve problems created by 21st-century pressures. Recognizing that would be a good place to start a conversation about what might work now.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts, including one for this column, at

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Kathleen Parker: Sorry, puppies, but newspapers show journalism is worth paying for Tue, 16 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Every couple of years or so, I feel the need to whine about the plight of newspapers. It’s August. I’m Trumped out. So today’s the day.

Except that HBO’s John Oliver beat me to it with the best defense of newspapers – ever. His recent “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” monologue about the suffering newspaper industry has gone viral in journalism circles but he deserves a broader audience.

Besides, it’s funny.

Leavening his important message with enough levity to keep the dopamine flowing, Oliver points out that most news outlets – faux, Fox and otherwise – essentially rely on newspapers for their material. This includes, he says, pulsing with self-awareness, Oliver himself. He’s sort of part of the problem, in other words, but at least he knows it, which makes it OK, sort of.

The problem: People want news, but they don’t want to pay for it.

Consequently, newspapers are failing while consumers get their information from comedy shows, talk shows and websites that essentially lift material for their own purposes.

But somewhere, somebody is actually sitting through a boring meeting, poring over data or interviewing someone who isn’t nearly as important as he thinks he is in order to produce a story that will become news. As Oliver points out, news is a food chain, yet with rare exceptions, the most important members of the chain are at the bottom, turning off the lights in newsrooms where gladiators, scholars and characters once roamed.

Some still do, though most are becoming rather long-ish in the tooth. (You can actually get that fixed, you know.)

That any newspapers are surviving, if not for much longer in any recognizable form, can be attributed at least in some part to the dedication of people who really believe in the mission of a free press and are willing to work harder for less – tweeting, blogging, filming and whatnot in addition to trying to write worthy copy. Most of the poor slobs who fell in love with the printed word go unnoticed by any but their peers.

An exception is Marty Baron, the unassuming executive editor of The Washington Post, recently featured in the film “Spotlight” about the Boston Globe’s stories under Baron’s leadership about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

It’s a good movie, not just because of great casting and acting but also because it’s a great tale about a massive investigative effort that led to church reform and the beginning of healing for victims. (Not to worry: My pay comes as a percentage of the money I make for the company. This won’t make a dime of difference.)

My point – shared by Oliver – is that only newspapers are the brick-and-mortar of the Fourth Estate’s edifice. Only they have the wherewithal to do the kind of reporting that leads to stories such as “Spotlight.” What happens to the “news” when there are no newspapers left?

We seem doomed to find out as people increasingly give up their newspaper subscriptions and seek information from free-content sources. And though newspapers have an online presence, it’s hard to get readers to pay for content.

As Oliver says, now is a very good time to be a corrupt politician. Between buyouts, layoffs and news-hole reductions, there’s hardly anyone paying attention.

Except, perhaps, to kitties.

In a hilarious spinoff of “Spotlight” called “Stoplight,” Oliver shows a short film of a news meeting where the old-school reporter is pitching a story about city hall corruption. The rest of the staff – cheerful human topiaries to the reporter’s kudzu-draped mangrove – are more interested in a cat that looks like a raccoon.

And then there’s Sam Zell, erstwhile owner of the Tribune Co., who summed up the sad trajectory of the nation’s interests and, perhaps, our future while speaking to Orlando Sentinel staffers in 2008. When he said he wanted to increase revenues by giving readers what they want, a female voice objected, “What readers want are puppy dogs.”

Zell exploded, calling her comment the sort of “journalistic arrogance of deciding that puppies don’t count. … Hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq, OK? (Expletive) you.”

Yes, he said that.

Moral of the story: If you don’t subscribe to a newspaper, you don’t get to complain about the sorry state of journalism – and puppies you shall have.

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

]]> 14, 15 Aug 2016 18:40:35 +0000
Maine Voices: Partnership contributes to SMCC student success, Casco Bay health Tue, 16 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — As a marine science major, Josh Clukey has learned a lot about his chosen field in the classroom and on the water through his courses at Southern Maine Community College. This summer, he is applying that knowledge on a daily basis with the environmental organization Friends of Casco Bay.

As a student intern, Josh helped spearhead Friends of Casco Bay’s Nabbing Nitrogen project, overseeing 140 volunteers who took water samples from Portland Harbor to gauge nitrogen levels along the waterfront. He’s also helped monitor acidity levels on clam flats in Freeport, and he has been comparing two pH monitoring meters to determine which one is better for sediment testing.

Thanks to the collaborative partnership between SMCC and Friends of Casco Bay, Josh is getting the kind of hands-on experience that students dream of. He has worked with environmental scientists, learned to use high-tech equipment in the field and the lab and performed the type of practical science that one cannot carry out in the classroom.

“Familiarizing myself with this kind of work and networking with people in this field will eventually help lead to a job down the road,” Josh said.

SMCC and Friends of Casco Bay have a collaborative relationship that goes back more than two decades and provides opportunities way beyond internships for our students.

Of course, both SMCC and Friends have many partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, individuals and others throughout the Portland area, Maine and beyond. But our connections with each other are numerous and long-standing, contributing to both student success and to the environmental health of Casco Bay.

Friends of Casco Bay’s offices are located on SMCC’s oceanside campus in South Portland. Friends’ first Casco Baykeeper – who acts as a high-profile advocate and serves as a watchdog for the environmental health of the bay – was Joe Payne, an SMCC graduate, as is Mike Doan, Friends’ research associate.

SMCC staff and faculty have served on Friends of Casco Bay’s board and committees through the years; conversely, Friends’ staff have served on SMCC committees and given guest lectures in numerous classes.

Most importantly, our relationship benefits both SMCC students and the waters of Casco Bay. The partnership between our two institutions contributes directly to student success, the No. 1 priority at SMCC.

SMCC students have taken part in Friends of Casco Bay’s storm drain stenciling projects, in which they stencil small reminders near storm drains about where those drains lead – to Casco Bay. Friends often takes students on its research vessel. In fact, Friends sold its former Baykeeper vessel, Donavan’s Delight, to SMCC for $1; it is now used for on-the-water classroom time for SMCC students.

Students who have served as water quality monitors for Friends of Casco Bay get hands-on experience while providing valuable information about the environmental health of Casco Bay. Years back, SMCC students even helped Friends of Casco Bay relocate lobsters during a major dredging project in Portland Harbor.

Science students are not the only students who benefit. Horticulture students get their hands dirty while landscaping around the Friends’ office building on the SMCC campus; they learn about landscaping practices that reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, thus further protecting the health of the bay. And they’ve also participated in Friends’ Portland Flower Show exhibits and annual fundraising events.

SMCC’s mission is to transform lives and communities through education and training. Friends’ mission is to work with our community to protect the health of the bay. Through our partnership, students are gaining experience on the front lines, contributing to both missions.

Josh Clukey is the latest in a long line of SMCC students who have served as interns for Friends of Casco Bay. At least 25 students have done so since 1995.

For students such as Josh, the partnership between SMCC and Friends of Casco Bay exemplifies the nexus between education and applied science.

“One of the reasons I came to SMCC was to do this kind of applied science, in the field, hands-on,” he says. “This will help lead to my career development down the road.”

Building the next generation of scientists, stewards and involved citizens begins with working partnerships such as ours. We hope you will encourage such partnerships in your endeavors and support organizations and institutions that are actively engaged in providing real-world experience, such as the summer Josh has experienced with us.

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Commentary: Old ways of reaching out to voters won’t work with modern youth Tue, 16 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Whether on a subway, a sidewalk or a living room couch, life for millennials is lived in two worlds. There is not only the physical world around them, but also the online world that exists just out of sight, but must remain squarely in view for political professionals looking to capture and keep their attention.

For anyone aiming to truly move the needle this election cycle, the trick is to greet the largest and most diverse generation of voters in our nation’s history in a language they understand, using technology that already feels like home. This means advocating for and facilitating digital opportunities for voter registration and reminders, and using digital engagement to urge action in the physical world of ballot boxes and election events.

The digital world is where the battle for the hearts and minds of a newly powerful generation of voters will begin. Paid ads and earned promotion through social media organizing are different but highly intertwined, and both are much more effective when done in coordination. They are also much more effective when tied to a simple call to action that young people can make – such as registering to vote – immediately and in the moment.

Technology is changing rapidly, so there is constant learning to be done on how to best use new platforms – from Twitter to Snapchat to Medium – and the respective audiences these platforms reach. This includes streamlining messaging to fit it into 140 characters, or an eye-catching image, or a sharable video.

Constant technological innovation has made it easier to target specific audiences, but also significantly harder to contemplate regulation. As a result, the rules about how each platform is used for advertising fall to individual tech giants and the growing field of platforms and social tools.

As these companies decide their policies for regulating data-tracking or content standards and restrictions, what is clear is that these decisions will affect our nation’s civic discourse in major ways. Will these companies provide public services to distribute basic information on registering and voting, for instance? Are they fact-checking claims made in candidate attack ads? And can they find ways to promote positive conversation and information on candidates through their policy decisions and engagement priorities? Our research has shown that while negative ads are often more informative, they are also more often muted online.

Through rigorous testing of our programs, Rock the Vote has learned that peer-to-peer contact and social pressure are far more effective at convincing a young voter to register and to vote than a broadcast TV ad, mail piece or automated call. We prefer to think of digital advertising and organizing of our audience through digital platforms as a way to bring peer-to-peer programs online, as opposed to a way to show a television ad over the internet.

This means that it is crucial to build a robust list of followers and keep them equipped with intuitive tools and engaging, shareable content. It also means that it will be vital to build strong partnerships with the tech platforms that young people use and trust the most, ensuring that our followers, our celebrity partners and others can easily amplify our messages.

Leveraging the echo chamber online to spur momentum toward voting will be key throughout the fall. This is why, for example, we ramped up online partnerships to urge registration and voting with celebrities like Ty Dolla $ign and Rosario Dawson on platforms ranging from Snapchat to Facebook to Instagram during the party nominating conventions.

The truth is, technology and the ways young adults interact with it are changing much faster than our political consultants and funders can comfortably adjust to – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push the envelope on how political advertising is done. This means rapid response content, highly engaged online communities and followers, and creative ads that take full advantage of opportunities to organize and reach potential voters through each platform– more than just editing television ads and putting them online.

Millennials are the largest voting bloc in history, and they will be followed by even younger, more tech-savvy generations. They’re waiting in the wings to either discard a Luddite political system – or to fully engage and take our democracy to the next level.

]]> 0 Mon, 15 Aug 2016 18:24:04 +0000
Maine Voices: PUC, LePage spurn consumers while granting gas industry’s pipe dream Mon, 15 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 What has happened to the Maine Public Utilities Commission? It used to be a respite from politics, relying on a strong staff, expert opinion and transparent analysis to guide Maine’s energy policy. But recent decisions show that our current PUC has little regard for its staff or the opinions of the expert consultants it has hired. Instead, it’s become a mouthpiece for Gov. LePage.

There is no clearer example of this than the PUC’s recent decision to approve a proposal that will allow multinational gas companies to foist the cost of new natural gas infrastructure onto the electric bills of all Mainers, contrary to the recommendation of its own staff – and the experts on which it spent thousands of dollars.

As PUC staff made clear, the costs of this decision far outweigh any of the natural gas industry’s promised benefits.

Pipeline constraints in New England happen only during peak hours – when gas demand for heating and electricity coincide – spread across a small portion of the winter. The natural gas industry has convinced our governor and the PUC that if we flood the region with natural gas, we’ll have lower electricity prices. This conviction is based not only on speculation but also on a refusal to ignore the facts and shift the burden of a $75 million-per-year bet onto the backs of you, me and every other electricity customer in the state of Maine for the next 20 years.

Or to make it more specific, each of us will be giving $7.69 a month, or about $90 a year, to the natural gas companies and their army of lobbyists and lawyers to build a pipeline that will provide profits only to them. And on top of that, as predicted by the PUC staff and the commission’s own experts, the deal itself will have costs that outweigh the benefits by at least $5 million a year, to be borne by – you guessed it – you, me and our neighbors.

Apparently, our governor, so opposed to subsidies as a matter of principle, has no problem with this subsidy for natural gas. His issue is only with subsidies for those forms of energy and conservation that are proven to save Mainers money and keep rates down – namely, energy efficiency and renewable energy. Again, rejecting the recommendation of its staff and the experts it hired, the PUC has rubberstamped the governor’s position on these issues as well.

What the PUC and fossil fuel partners are all willfully ignoring is that electricity prices are dropping already without taking risks on new consumer-funded gas supplies. The price spikes in the winters of 2012-13 and 2013-14 that gas companies have used for fear mongering have proven to be an anomaly. Over the last two winters, the price of electricity in New England has plummeted a total of 82 percent, all without us handing over tens of millions of dollars to build a pipeline.

And market forces and careful energy market rule changes are helping to drive down the price of electricity independent of a publicly funded pipeline. Yet the PUC ignores all this and listens only to the siren call of the natural gas lobby and the snarl of its governor to gamble $1.5 billion of our money on a problem that is already solving itself.

I guess we should no longer be surprised. This is the same PUC that thwarted the plans of Statoil to develop offshore wind in Maine; whose chairman testified before the Legislature that this past year’s solar legislation would cost consumers millions of dollars, despite the PUC’s own study confirming the extensive benefits in solar investment; and that has repeatedly slashed funding for energy efficiency – proven time and again to yield benefits that far exceed costs.

Perhaps it’s the same lack of surprise that comes with each more outrageous statement by our governor or the candidate he has endorsed for president. But we are better than that. The Conservation Law Foundation is working hard to hold the PUC accountable for its failure to protect the interests of Maine residents and businesses. But we can’t do it alone.


]]> 47, 15 Aug 2016 14:41:23 +0000
Commentary: Jingoism – the ugly side of the Olympics Sun, 14 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 If the disqualification of a large part of the Russian Olympic team had less to do with politics than with the country’s state-sponsored doping system, plenty of people both inside and outside Russia would like to turn the resulting tension into a jingoistic grudge match between Russia and the West.

Russian state television started on it during the opening ceremony. “In 2001, El Salvador fell into total dependence from the U.S., abolishing the national currency, the colon,” commentator Anna Dmitrieva intoned as she watched the Salvadorean team march by, waving flags. “Nor does El Salvador have any precious Olympic medals.”

There was probably nothing political about U.S. swimmer Lilly King’s open dislike of her Russian competitor Yulia Efimova: King wants all athletes who have ever been caught using forbidden substances to be banned from the Olympics, and that includes her teammate, runner Justin Gatlin, who, like Efimova, has served a drug-related disqualification. Yet after King’s defiant win, Russians and Americans alike rushed to politicize the conflict.

“I don’t really understand the foreign competitors,” Efimova said. “All athletes should be above politics, but they just watch TV and believe everything they read. I always thought the Cold War was long in the past. Why start it again, by using sport?”

U.S. fans, for their part, crowed with pleasure on social media, making comments such as “The Olympics are more fun when we have beef with the Russians” and comparing King’s triumph with Rocky Balboa’s victory over Ivan Drago.

“It’s a victory for American good over Russian evil,” The Washington Post characterized, in an op-ed piece that went on to condemn the misplaced, aggressive patriotism. “King and Efimova are flat characters in an Olympic tale that borders on jingoism.”

Russians are great at holding generalized grudges, but the geopolitical approach to commenting on the Olympics isn’t limited to them. On Germany’s public ARD channel, commentator Tom Bartels, known to some as “Black, Red and Gold Tommy,” is notorious for seeking a German angle in anything he sees.

Commentators on NBC in the United States have been accused of sexism on rather flimsy grounds, but rarely of overzealous patriotism – and the network is as guilty of it as it was in 2012. This year, NBC dwelled on the victorious U.S. women’s gymnastics team but dropped the men’s team from prime time because they weren’t expected to win a medal for the country.

Nationalism and patriotism have always been part of the Olympics. Pierre de Coubertin, who started the modern tradition of the Games, was motivated in part by a desire to raise the spirits and improve the combat readiness of young French men, demoralized by their country’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

“Clothed in the rhetoric of international cosmopolitanism like the world’s fairs on which the Baron modelled much of the initial Olympic structure, the games, like world’s fairs, have historically provided opportunities for rabid displays of national chauvinism,” Mark Dyreson wrote in “Crafting Patriotism for Global Dominance,” his book about the U.S. at the Olympics. “The measurement of nations, as de Coubertin himself understood, resides at the center of the Olympic movement.”

The United States, he continued, “has used the Olympic Games to concoct national mythologies, shape national memories, fashion ethnic identities, encode racial typologies and Americanize global processes. Since 1896 Americans have understood the Olympics as a place to debate and celebrate the meanings of nationhood.”

It’s not the U.S. alone, though. During the 2012 Olympics, which gave a huge boost to the U.K.’s soft power, the rock singer Morrissey wrote a letter to his fans, saying, “I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event. Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism?”

The TV networks that win the rights to show the Olympics, whether public or private, pander to audience nationalism and perpetuate it by concentrating on events that feature home-grown athletes. It’s difficult to follow the British team if you’re in Germany or the Russian one in the United States – and, unless the home nation’s athletes are involved, it’s even more difficult to see, in real time, the events where a sporting miracle is happening or expected to happen.

The rest of the media add fuel to the fire by incessantly toting up the medals by country. Is it any wonder then that a dispute over doping turns into a “Rocky”-style battle between Russia and the United States?

It’s probably naïve to demand change to a tradition as old as the Olympics themselves, but then Olympic sports have evolved a lot in recent decades. Today’s intolerance for doping and for objectification are both relatively new. Why not apply them to the jingoistic threads, too? A swimmer or long jumper represents herself and her coaching team as much as her country. Celebrating human achievement, regardless of nationality, makes more sense in a globalized world than turning an archery competition or a 100-meter race into a proxy war between countries.

While many athletes feel the highest honor is to represent their country in their sport, that doesn’t change the fact that the goal of high achievement sports is ultimately to set records and celebrate individual mastery. There ought to be rules for TV networks requiring equal coverage for individual events (they can do whatever they want with team ones). There is even a good argument for removing the national flags from individual competition – allowing the athletes to wear sponsored kit instead of the team kit – so that only team events count in the final medals tally.

Nationalism won’t disappear if broadcasters embrace the spirit of the games a bit more or the competition rules are changed to downplay the national element to some events, but the focus of the Olympics will at least be returned to its rightful place, on the feats of human athletic attainment, regardless of the flag. And it will be harder to misconstrue a contest like that of King and Efimova in terms of geopolitics.


]]> 0, 13 Aug 2016 21:17:30 +0000
Alan Caron: Kudos to Collins and a LePage Sun, 14 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000

I often wish we could take the spirit that everyone says they feel at Christmastime and inject it into the campaign season. The kindness and thoughtfulness. The generosity and cheerfulness. And the willingness to see the best in people first.

Two things seem to have darkened our politics over the last few decades. One is that we’ve become so cynical that we can hardly see the light anymore. The other is that we’ve gotten too casual about dehumanizing people who disagree with us. It’s as though, in campaign season, our better selves go off to visit distant relatives somewhere and are scheduled to return Nov. 9.

This week, I want to celebrate two people who deserve both our thanks and a pat on the back.The first is Sen. Susan Collins. A few months back I called on Collins to have her own Margaret Chase Smith moment and separate herself from Donald Trump. My voice was eventually just one in a swelling chorus calling upon her to do the right thing and put her country ahead of her party.

I did that knowing full well that for a senator of any political party, renouncing her own presidential candidate is an enormously difficult and risky thing to do. Ideologues in both parties have long memories, and they relish retribution against anyone who they deem to be heretics against the sacred partisan dogma.

Collins wanted time to see if Trump could become more disciplined and, well, sane. Time has proven that neither will happen.

So Collins stepped into the national spotlight to say she could not support Trump. The reaction has been both swift and animated, particularly from tea party Trump supporters. There’s been plenty of applause, as well, but too much of it has been qualified or muted.

Democratic party folks, having long called on Collins to speak out, now complain that she didn’t do it soon enough. Or they have moved the goal posts to say that if she’s really sincere, she should now support Clinton.

All of it misses what just happened, which is that a sitting United States senator has repudiated her party’s candidate for president. The last time that happened, in any real sense, was with the nomination of Abraham Lincoln.

I am grateful to Collins for doing the right thing for the country, regardless of the consequences to her. I don’t care what party she’s from or what the political implications are for the future. As a citizen, I applaud her without qualification.

Which brings me to my next congratulatory note. I’ve long been a critic of Gov. Paul LePage, even though we both come from the same working-class poverty and Franco-American backgrounds. He is a familiar character to me, and I wish I could have supported him more. But he has made that impossible by holding Maine back because of his partisanship and anger.

But I want to congratulate Ann LePage, the governor’s wife, for her new job waitressing at McSeagull’s in Boothbay Harbor. Ann LePage says she took the job to help pay for her new car and to be around people. Skeptics have called it a calculated political stunt, somehow tied to Paul LePage’s threatened run for Senate in the next cycle. Or they’ve attacked her because they don’t like her husband.

I like to think that family members of politicians shouldn’t be blamed for policies that they have no control over, and that they’re not fair game. Even when, as some feel, candidates and politicians are self-serving, lying idiots, they’re also people with heartbeats, families, friends and a community that they’re part of.

So let’s move beyond the politics to the personal and give Ann LePage the benefit of the doubt. We have the lowest paid governor in the country. The LePages are entering the waning years of their time in Augusta. They recently bought a house, at auction, in the Boothbay region, where they plan to retire. Good for them.

Ann LePage says she loves waitressing, and even though many people will never understand that statement, it rings true to me. My mother was a waitress for many years, when she wasn’t cleaning houses or stitching cuffs at the Hathaway plant down the street. Even when she didn’t need to work, later in life, she wanted to. She loved the hubbub and the people and the feeling that she was of service. And she didn’t mind having a few extra dollars that were hers alone.

So congratulations, Ann LePage. I hope you make lots of new friends at the restaurant and have a great summer.

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

]]> 3, 17 Aug 2016 12:29:20 +0000
Commentary: ‘Politically incorrect’ ideas are rude, not brave Sun, 14 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When Donald Trump took the podium in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention last month, he promised voters that “I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.”

Trump has hyperbole, consistency and honesty problems so profound that they seem practically biological, rendering the first part of that promise highly dubious.

But even some people who are horrified by the Trump presidency might agree with the second sentence; Trump claimed the Republican nomination by exploiting a pre-existing sense that important truths were going unspoken in American public life and positioning himself as the only person daring enough to say them.

But what if the things people have held themselves back from saying for fear of social censure aren’t inherently meaningful? The sad thing about so much supposed truth-telling is that their supposed transgressions aren’t remotely risky. They’re just rude.

Take the reaction to NBC commentator Al Trautwig’s odd refusal to call Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles’ parents her parents. Biles’ grandparents adopted her and her sister after they were placed in foster care when their biological mother’s addiction rendered her unable to take care of them and an attempt at reconciliation failed.

Even when observers pointed out that Biles’ parents are legally her parents, and that she considers them to be her parents, Trautwig stuck to his phrasing, at least for a while.

I have no idea why, other than sheer stubbornness.

Yes, it is factually true that Biles’ parents are not her biological parents. We know this, because it’s mentioned in pretty much every story about Biles. It does not take Al Trautwig’s doggedness or bravery to bring this information to light.

And even if it did, what would it matter? Are biological parents in such danger of losing their status to adoptive parents, or to extended families who care for children, that they need a champion? Who was he defending? What distinction was he trying to preserve?

There are no good answers. Sometimes stubborn rudeness is just stubborn rudeness.

In a similar way, some of Trump’s most controversial moments on the campaign trail reveal the fallacy of a supposedly bold battle against political correctness.

Trump’s mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that causes curvature of the joints, was both mean-spirited and meaningless. We do not live in a world where people with disabilities are catered to or coddled in any significant way.

As of 2015, people with disabilities were unemployed at twice the rate of people without disabilities; that’s a figure that only accounts for people who are actively seeking jobs, not people who are unable to work. Around the world, disabled people often get the message that it would be better for them or their caretakers if they were dead. Last month, 19 people with disabilities were slain at a care facility in Japan.

Trump’s imitation might have been blunter and more visible than public policies that throw up barriers for people with disabilities who want to work, travel, live independently and raise families, but it was not fundamentally out of step with the marginalization of disabled Americans.

The same faux-edginess is one of the reasons “Suicide Squad,” the latest installment in the DC cinematic universe, felt like such a disappointment. As I wrote when the film was released, it’s a nasty piece of work, relying heavily on sexist unpleasantness and racial stereotypes as signaling and shorthand.

But as much as it’s wearying to get smacked with sexism on a constant basis, it somehow feels worse in a movie that’s supposed to be somehow daring. Calling a female character a word that has been a staple insult against Hillary Clinton on the 2016 campaign trail is the inverse of bravery. It suggests you have all the edge of a kindergartner who just learned a new naughty word, or a middle-schooler who just discovered that Playboy exists.

Presenting commonplace unpleasantness as an act of moral courage is a nifty bit of reframing. This formulation allows its practitioners to treat their own laziness, meanness and self-indulgence as ethically and politically meaningful, when in fact they’re anything but. We may not be able to afford the suppression of important ideas in the public sphere. But people who rail against political correctness need better examples if they’re going to insist that kindness and decency are threats to the republic.

]]> 14 Sat, 13 Aug 2016 21:15:24 +0000
Maine Observer: Blueberry picking comes full circle Sun, 14 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I haven’t always loved picking blueberries.

When I was a child, working in the garden or preparing food felt like a chore, even for foods I liked, such as blueberries. It probably doesn’t help that my earliest memory of berry picking included an unexpected harvest of ticks. My mom, my brother and I had joined some friends to try a new trail, and we did have some success, but when we returned, we found ticks crawling all over us.

Luckily, this was in the early 1980s, before Lyme disease became prevalent in Maine, but it still didn’t make for a pleasant experience. We dubbed the path the “Tick Trail” and avoided it in the future.

Most of my other childhood memories of blueberry picking involve becoming hot and irritable after a few minutes, complaining about mosquitoes and wanting to go home to read. Eventually my mom stopped making me go, and I didn’t try again until my mid-20s, which is when I fell in love with blueberry picking.

By then, much had changed, including having a job and a mortgage. I had also lost my mom to cancer. But when I got out in the field, my memory of her, and her delight in harvesting and eating berries, became so strong it was almost a presence. I enjoyed the connection of sharing something that had meant so much to her. I understood for the first time how it probably provided a sense of connection for her as well, a link to her own childhood memories of blueberries.

I discovered that when I’m picking, everything else falls away. It doesn’t matter how stressful my job has been, the length of my to-do list or what’s going on in the outside world.

In the moment, my hands know how to find the hidden clusters of velvety berries beneath shiny leaves and the most efficient way to pluck the ripe ones while leaving the green to grow. My mind is free of its daily tasks, focused instead on the pleasure of what I’m doing. Far from a chore, the act of picking becomes meditative, an exercise in mindfulness.

Even if I’m tired when I arrive, the activity replenishes and nourishes me in ways the berries themselves cannot. In that state, I feel like I can go all day, and I have to limit myself by bringing only a certain number of containers because eventually I do have to return to the rest of life.

Which is why, unlike in my youth, these days I eagerly await the start of blueberry season and am disappointed when it ends. But I always know I’ll be back the next year, keeping that enjoyment and those connections to the past alive as long as I can.

]]> 0 Sun, 14 Aug 2016 18:29:38 +0000
Maine Voices: Scams taking the elderly for millions Sun, 14 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I read with interest the story of Bryon Martin, who was arrested in Spain and spent time in prison for smuggling drugs (“The scam of a lifetime,” Maine Sunday Telegram, Page A1, Aug. 7).

According to the article, Martin was scammed by someone posing as a pretty young artist – whom he met online while temporarily living with his adult daughter in Somerset County – into unwittingly attempting to deliver 2 kilograms of cocaine to an unknown source.

He was consequently arrested and served 11 months behind bars before being released through the efforts of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, head of the Special Committee on Aging, and Secretary of State John Kerry.

The scheme that targeted the 77-year-old Martin resulted in his incarceration. However, less serious scams in the United States are costing the elderly millions of dollars.


As an 88-year-old senior citizen, I am constantly bombarded with junk mail from companies that promise everything from relief from prostate problems to pills that will end your worst pains forever. In the past year, I have received over 500 magazines and pamphlets that are pushing their products.

Their outrageous claims are endless: cures for back pain, blood pressure, joint pain, sleep problems, fibromyalgia, bladder trouble, heart attack, stroke and – neither last nor least – flagging sex drive. These are but some of the ailments that can be ameliorated, according to the claims of a variety of companies.

The propaganda expressed in the pamphlets and magazines is hard for the gullible to ignore. For example, “The Amazing Prostate Secret” will expound on the ground-breaking improvements of their product.

“Want to have a great love life at 60, 70, and even 80? Fixing your prostate problems can give your libido a huge boost regardless of age. Remember our no-nonsense guarantee; it works for you or it’s free! No more night-time urination; no more dribbling, leaking or dripping; sleep once more like a baby.” And on and on and on.

Another magazine extols the benefits of taking its pain pills: Patients with the worst pain imaginable found relief in under an hour.

A purported medical doctor tells the story of Mrs. R.N. of Florida, who was in pain all the time. Mrs. R.N. was brought to the doctor’s office in a wheelchair because walking was too difficult. She needed handfuls of pills every day to dull the pain, and took sleeping pills at night.

But after three weeks of taking “the magic pill,” she was out of her wheelchair and sleeping the entire night without sleeping pills. She was jubilant.

Testimonials such as these are found in every magazine I have seen.

Recently, I decided to scam the scammers. I was determined to see if any of these claims were true. After all, I had nothing to lose; all the companies promised a 100 percent money-back guarantee: “If you are not thrilled for any reason, you can return the product for a full refund – even empty bottles – within 90 days. No questions asked!”


In all honesty, I should confess to being of sound mind and in fairly good health, aside from a few aches and pains and the inability to get a good night’s sleep. After receiving a number of “panacea” pills from companies that promoted their products, I put them to the test.

Unfortunately – with the exception of the colon helper – there was no empirical evidence of changes in my condition. Subsequently, I wrote the companies for a full refund, and with two exceptions, I was fully refunded, minus shipping and handling fees.

Although I credit most of the companies for honoring their guarantees, I should ask: How many elderly citizens will take the time and effort to get a refund if the product does not help their condition?

In my situation, I was obliged to write my refund requests as soon as I received the product and then post the return request on my bulletin board in order to recall when the guarantee would expire.

In spite of the many company claims for their products, all of them include the following disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

I hope that Sen. Collins, in her capacity as head of the Special Committee on Aging, will take steps to protect the citizens of our state from companies that prey on the elderly. And, oh, while you’re at it, Senator, I’m sure senior constituents would appreciate your looking into the outrageous costs of some prescriptions perpetrated by the pharmaceutical companies.


]]> 0, 13 Aug 2016 19:03:23 +0000
Maine Voices: Give local businesses a little boost by remembering to pay with cash Sat, 13 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Buying products from your local merchants, whether it is food, jewelry or gifts, is a great way to support your local economy and make Maine businesses stronger and more profitable. The buy-local movement in Maine is getting stronger. We support our local businesses. That is a great way to support your community and our state!

However, there is another step that we could all take to make our local businesses even more profitable and stronger, while creating more local jobs. And it won’t cost you one penny extra. So what is this that will make your local businesses stronger, make your community’s economy stronger and cost you absolutely nothing?

Let’s expand on buy local: Buy local and pay local!


Some of you may be wondering what I mean. It is really a simple change, but we have all gotten out of the habit of carrying cash.

Simply pay your local businesses with cash. Why? Because every time you use your credit card – or your debit card – when you make a purchase at your local business, you are reducing their profits, sometime very significantly.

We have all become more addicted to using plastic than ever. The level of use of credit and debit cards varies depending upon your age group, but it is becoming a time where few people carry cash, and even fewer use it.

Sure, you get all those “rewards” for using your card, but at what cost? When you use your credit or debit card, your local business ends up paying. While card processing fees vary, a typical rate is around 3 percent of the amount of the sale. Small local businesses can’t negotiate rates like a large national player. You can bet that Wal-Mart pays a lower fee than your corner store.

So, what does that small 3 percent mean to a local business? I did some quick research on the restaurant industry for the sake of comparison. Using industry figures, there are over 250,000 privately owned full-service restaurants in the United States.

The type of restaurant – for example, a high-end steak restaurant versus a more modest family-style restaurant – does make a difference in their net profit margin. Typically, full-service restaurants make between 4 percent and 6 percent net profit on their sales, according to national figures.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? It isn’t. But that figure is after the business owner has paid all of their expenses, including wages, payroll taxes, the costs of goods, insurance, license fees, etc.


Let’s look at the differences to the restaurant’s bottom line if all customers use credit cards, versus what happens if all transactions were made with cash. If the restaurant revenues are $400,000 per year, what would happen?

In the restaurant where everything is paid by credit card, the net profit is 4 percent ($16,000), and credit card processing costs the restaurant about $12,000 each year.

However, if all of the sales were in cash, that $12,000 would now become part of the owner’s profits. At the restaurant where all sales are paid by card, the restaurant will have an annual profit of $16,000. The all-cash sales results are very different. Profits are now $28,000 on the very same sales level! That’s almost double.

Of course, each industry is different, and these are industry figures, not a specific business. But the principle is the same: Paying cash makes your local business more profitable and your community stronger. If a business owner whose customers pay in cash now goes out and does the same himself, we could build our economy.

How much could we keep here in Maine? That would require that we look at more detailed sales information. However, in 2015 the state of Maine collected $89 million in sales taxes, which, at 5 percent, means there were $1.78 billion in taxable sales alone. If half of those sales were paid with a debit or credit card, it means $26,000,000 in card processing fees that we could have kept here in Maine.

Shop local – and pay local, too!

]]> 33, 12 Aug 2016 22:58:58 +0000
Port City Post: There’s room in feminism for dudes, but not for jargon Sat, 13 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I take vacation in July. It’s my birthday month and one of the best times to be in Maine. Two long weeks are slowed way down with activities like reading, swimming, eating and not going anywhere.

The ever-so-popular staycation is my vacation choice. That I believed I was turning 59 years old, then realized that I’m actually 58, was a bonus.

This year, however, I started my vacation with a head full of anxious thoughts. I can’t remember which one of the countless national or international tragedies had just happened, but I do recall making the decision to stay off social media and give myself a break from the news for the duration of my free time.

I felt guilty about not reading the news, but it was a matter of survival – mine as well as Frederick’s. I was not sleeping, and I was crabby (more than usual).

Instead of obsessively checking my Facebook page and my various social media feeds, I avoided them. It took about a full week for me to stop missing the virtual stimuli and to accept that no one was waiting in cyberspace for me to post pithy thoughts.

In fact, after several weeks of ignoring social media, I came to the conclusion that I could probably delete all my accounts and still have a full and rewarding life.

I seriously believe, though, that I’d miss my Facebook friends. Especially one: My friend Dan.

According to Facebook, Dan and I have been friends since 2013, but Facebook is wrong. Dan and I have been friends since 1999, when he walked into the nonprofit I was working for and asked if we needed volunteers. At the time, I was working for Portland Performing Arts, a long-gone nonprofit that eventually morphed into One Longfellow Square.

To him, I said, “Yes.” And although I have not seen Dan in the flesh for eight months, we talk to each other almost every day on Facebook.

My friend Dan is the biggest mouth on Facebook. He is a fully functioning professional with more time logged on Facebook than anyone I know. How he does it and still manages to run his own business, help raise two kids, be a political activist and, theoretically, contribute to a marriage with a reasonable woman who is not on Facebook 24/7, I do not know.

I may just have answered my own question.

I stayed off Facebook for most of the two weeks, but I did peek just once. On that day, my friend Dan posted this: “One of the interesting things about current events is the opportunity to re-examine what feminism is. It’s always a contested term, but has some new urgency. No one would have called (Margaret) Thatcher a feminist.”

He went on to ask, “Is feminism the collected lived experience of women, or is it an analytical framework looking at power structures, independent of the identity of the analyst?”

“Whaaat are you talking about?” I thought but did not post. Being a dude, was he even allowed to define feminism?

I wondered if I could define feminism in my own words without all the “analytical framework” academic jargon.

The feminist revolution of the 1970s influenced my worldview. For the first time, I connected the dots between the political and the personal. If what was happening in society negatively affected me, it probably negatively affected others. Better wages, healthier food, shelter and equality for all were core values of the early feminist movement.

Feminism is a point of view. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with gender – especially now in this gender-fluid age. If you were designated male when you were born but have come to realize that you are female, you may or may not be a feminist female. It’s a choice.

Feminism is the filter I use to view the world. I was not born a feminist – I became a feminist. The same way that socialism can be how one defines their ideal society, feminism is how I define my ideal society.

In my world full of feminists, we are all equals. We are all paid the same for the same jobs. We all have the power to make decisions about our own bodies. We all respect each other regardless of gender or race.

Are dudes allowed to be feminists? I say, “Yes.” Expand the circle.

To Dan, I say, “Girl, you need to get off Facebook.”

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

]]> 3, 13 Aug 2016 21:10:16 +0000
Commentary: Madame President and Il Duce: Organization woman vs. leader of the pack Sat, 13 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 August already, and I’ve so far avoided Lyme disease by staying indoors with the windows shut and if I need to go someplace, I take the car. And I never offer rides to deer. Headaches, fatigue, painful joints, diarrhea, nausea, facial paralysis: It’s not worth it. If you need wilderness, Ansel Adams took pictures of it. And you won’t wake up the next day feeling like you’re 87 years old. Unless, of course, you happen to be 87.

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we should be sitting beside a pond writing profound thoughts in a journal, like Thoreau. One of his profound thoughts was “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

And right there you have the campaign motto of the Republican nominee. He dreamed of being saluted by uniformed personnel other than doormen and chauffeurs and now he’s advancing confidently in that direction.

Thousands of commencement speakers have admonished the young to dare to march to their own drummer, quoting Thoreau, and now we have a generation that wears headphones wherever they go, bobbing their heads to their personal beat, ignoring the people around them and texting somebody somewhere. As Thoreau said, “U gottta be U. Nuts to the norm. School is out, bro. Go 4 it.” Well, I’ve seen a lot of individualism and it’s OK in the movies, but in real life I prefer people who work well with others.

My parents were not Thoreauvian. Self-realization was not their thing. They taught humility, kindness, caution, self-control and hard work. This was back in the Eisenhower years, which pop culture remembers as the Beat years and Elvis years, but actually were more about Ike. He was the CEO of the Normandy invasion and the Allied campaign in Europe that defeated the Third Reich. He was an organization man. He didn’t write poems about setting out on a journey to find himself – he got the Interstate Highway System going, which enabled romantics to take a journey and find themselves in a Holiday Inn in Omaha.

The race between Madame President and Il Duce is a classic duel between the organization woman and the visionary who imagines himself on a white horse waving a flaming sword. Madame is an ambitious nerd like the small-town church women I knew in my youth who did good works on behalf of civility and learning, and now she’s up against the leader of the pack, revving his engine, the dude with the flashiest chick, hottest car, coolest clothes. Her speeches tend to disappoint people because they’re not all about her. She doesn’t seem to have had a profound spiritual crisis that gave her a vision. Instead of a vision, she had a strong mother.

A great many menopausal white men like myself have a problem dealing with smart, ambitious women, but I go to a woman doctor, and this may be one reason the thought of Hillary Clinton in the White House does not fill me with blind rage. My doctor is smart and crisp in manner, and she has performed intricate non-invasive procedures on me that have made my life better.

Meanwhile, I know men who stuck with their old golf partner Earl who is also a urologist, and those men get up 13 times during the night to pee and must wear dark trousers.

So I look forward to January. The last time we saw Mrs. Clinton on Inauguration Day at the White House, she was standing beside Bill, welcoming George and Laura. As I play that scene back in my mind, knowing what we know now, I wish it had been Laura taking the oath and George taking charge of table decorations. Laura Bush is secretly a Texas Democrat, just as Hillary Clinton is secretly a moderate Republican. I think Laura Bush would have seen through Dick Cheney and all those old draft-dodgers eager to prove their manhood by sending other people’s children off to war.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.” We shall soon see if that time has come. Meanwhile, no matter what happens, I do not have Lyme disease. I intend to never have Lyme disease. It is preventable if we will just follow a few simple rules. See paragraph 1.


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Maine Voices: Don’t wait until after it’s gone to protect our public land Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 TOPSHAM — The Press Herald’s recent editorial “Our View: Court ruling on Harpswell beach access shows need for public land” offers an opportunity to reflect on a critical issue along the Maine coast and throughout our state.

With each passing year, more and more private land in Maine becomes closed to public access. Our farms, forests, sledding hills, clam flats, fishing holes, beaches, hunting spots, mountain trails, ponds, islands, community garden plots, waterfalls and other treasures remain vulnerable to “no trespassing” signs.

This limits opportunities for recreation, hunting, harvesting and other outdoor traditions enjoyed by generations of Mainers and visitors to Maine, and it can hurt our economy. All of these losses hurt our communities.

The recent Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision that overturned a lower court ruling giving the public access to Cedar Beach on Bailey Island is the latest in a long series of complex cases pitting landowners’ rights against traditional access to the land.

While Maine has a tradition of “presumptive permission” to use private land as long as the property isn’t posted, the high court’s decision affirms that, except in rare circumstances, ultimately the rights to control or grant access to the land rest with the landowner. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, one thing is crystal clear: There is a real and ongoing need to protect permanent public access to Maine’s waters and lands.

Permanent land conservation (through acquisition or conservation easement) offers an opportunity to address public access issues, and Maine’s land trust movement has a proud history of securing permanent public access at popular destinations throughout the state.

For example, the Downeast Lakes Land Trust has been successful in securing permanent public access to vital resources in and around the community of Grand Lake Stream. In addition to recreational benefits, this keeps the hunting, fishing, and forest economy of the region strong. On a smaller scale, in Lewiston/Auburn, the Androscoggin Land Trust has worked with state agencies and other partners to create several “pocket parks” that allow for river access, as well as educational and cultural events.

On Deer Isle, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust worked with local citizens to conserve a small beach that serves as a public park, and gives fishermen a place to launch and work on boats (the only public place in town to do so).

In all of these examples, the land was at risk of being lost to the public forever. These places, and hundreds more like them, make up an important part of the fabric of our state and are critical to the livelihood and enjoyment of thousands of Mainers.

Underlying Maine’s public access success stories are a few key ingredients, including conservation-minded landowners, demonstrated community need and generous local support based on trust and respect.

In many cases, public funding, such as the state’s very successful Land for Maine’s Future program, is also critical to helping to stimulate permanent land conservation. Land trusts play a unique and essential role in identifying and facilitating all of these elements over time. It isn’t easy, but with hard work, persistence and patience, public access can be permanently secured.

While disappointing to some, the recent state supreme court decision need not be the end of the story for securing public access at beaches or other favorite community destinations. In fact, it could be used as a much-needed wake-up call – a call to reach out to neighbors, a call to build trust, a call to think creatively, a call to build community. Maine’s land trusts are here to answer that call.

In this era of hunkering down inside to pass the time with YouTube, Netflix and Snapchat, it seems more important than ever to get out and experience as much of Maine as we can. We choose to live here because of the incredible natural assets our state affords. Let’s work together to secure as much access to these places as we can, while we still have the chance. In the words of Joni Mitchell: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

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Charles Krauthammer: Just can’t wait to get the Olympics off my chess Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You may be thrilled by the feats of Katie Ledecky, mesmerized by the grace of the women gymnasts, startled by Rio spectators mocking U.S. soccer star Hope Solo with chants of “Zika! Zika!” (the first recorded instance, noted one wit, of a stadium rocking to the invocation of a virus). Allow me, however, to interrupt the prepackaged, heart-tugging, tape-delayed Olympic coverage to bring you the real sporting news of the year.

It has just been announced that on Nov. 11 in New York City, the World Chess Championship will begin.

You scoff, of course. For years, I’ve had to put up with amused puzzlement at my taste in entertainment. (Old joke: How do you do the wave at a chess match? With your eyebrows.) But I remain undaunted.

True, chess is not an Olympic sport. But it should be. In 1984, when challenger Garry Kasparov forced that championship match into 17 draws in a row – each about five hours of unbearable, unrelenting concentration – world champion Anatoly Karpov was so physically and mentally drained (he lost 22 pounds) that the Kremlin pressured the World Chess Federation to stop the match, thereby saving Soviet-favorite Karpov from forfeiting the title to the brash, free-thinking, half-Jewish Kasparov.

My first tournament – the 2002 Atlantic Open, a weekend of all-day pressure so intense that I left in a near-catatonic Karpovian state – was also my last. I have stuck to casual five-minute “blitz” chess ever since. My winnings – a $150 check that remains framed and forever uncashed – hang as a reminder never to do that again.

And while chess’ governing body cannot match the International Olympic Committee for corruption, the World Chess Federation more than makes up for that in weirdness. Its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former president of Russia’s republic of Kalmykia, is not only a reliable Moscow toady (sanctioned by the Treasury Department in November 2015), but also a nutcase who insists he’s been abducted by aliens. They wore yellow suits.

So why am I so excited about the upcoming match in New York? Who goes to a chess game anyway?

I do. Twice, in fact, in the early 1990s when the championship was also played in New York (the 1995 match on the observation deck of the World Trade Center). I drove from Washington both times with a couple of friends, to the consternation of the rest of our acquaintances, who thought we were certifiable.

They didn’t understand that we don’t actually sit and watch the game. Instead, we go to the grandmaster room where the greatest chess minds in the world crowd around a few drop-down demonstration boards, trading furious in-game commentary on the boneheadedness of the latest move and the cosmic brilliance of their own proposed nine-move counterattack.

My friends and I were barely hanging on trying to follow the dazzling riffs flung about by the immortals around us. Not to denigrate the elegance of the balance beam or the beauty of the pole vault, but that experience was (as we used to say when the world was young) mind-blowing.

Twenty-one years is a long time to wait to have your mind blown again. But there’s a more mundane reason for making the trip this time: a compelling storyline with a touch of the Cold War tension that made the 1972 Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky match such an international sensation.

The reigning world champion is Magnus Carlsen, a 25-year-old Norwegian who, unlike Fischer, is quite normal. He sports a winning personality and such good looks that he does commercials for a European clothing line.

His challenger is the classic Russian heavy, Sergey Karjakin, who (reports The New York Times) is a fan of both Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Crimea and who knocked off two brilliant Americans to get to the title fight.

Not exactly U.S.-USSR 1972. But Norway-Russia 2016 does have its charms, given Putin’s threats and intrusions into the Baltics and Scandinavia. Go Oslo!

I do concede that since Fischer-Spassky, chess has lost much of its mystique. The fall can be dated to May 11, 1997, when IBM’s Deep Blue beat Kasparov, widely considered the greatest human ever to play the game.

Today we don’t even bother with the man-machine contest. No human can beat the best software. The ultimate world series is between computer programs. And machines don’t sweat.

Or strive, suffer or exult. Humans do.

So I’ll join the fun and cheer the Olympians. It’ll help pass the time until the main event Nov. 11.

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

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