The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Columns Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:54:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maine Voices: USM’s Presidential Installation will focus on students Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Tradition plays an important role in colleges and universities. Each year commencements, lectures, athletic events and even campus pranks appear as important threads within the fabric of a college community.

This week’s Presidential Installation at the University of Southern Maine is no exception. It allows the community at large to acknowledge, even celebrate, the future of the institution as the baton of leadership passes. The ceremony underscores the importance of stability and unites the many stakeholders in affirming the university’s importance to our region and state.

This installation, however, will be a little different than most, focusing deeply on students. Close to 200 students have been selected by our faculty as Inauguration Scholars. These students will march into the Costello Fieldhouse on Friday to be honored as a centerpiece of the ceremony.

Reflecting the best values and principles of our school, our Inauguration Scholars have demonstrated academic excellence or have shown academic promise. Many have overcome great barriers, displayed bravery and courage in service to our country or simply revealed an inspirational commitment to their own education.

This all fits powerfully with our vision of USM as The University of Everyone. Our students exist as a beautiful mosaic of dreams, abilities, cultures and powerful futures. We unite under the banner of a university committed to empowering aspirations. They trust us to help build their dreams.

In fact, we must thank our students for USM’s vision, which has been unfolding over the past year. When we asked students why they came here (or why they left) and how should the university better fulfill their aspirations, they unequivocally highlighted three inspirational components to create our exciting vision:

First, students told us they want to feel welcomed and connected; that is, they want to know that someone on the faculty or staff knows them and cares about them.

We are working hard on this issue of connectedness, and we now start building it even before students arrive. Over this past summer, we launched a program where advisers met one on one for two hours with every single one of our incoming students. Students were asked what their hopes and goals were, what they saw as their challenges, and they were provided with advice and support.

I cannot underscore the importance of these meetings in helping our incoming students to feel immediately connected.

Second, our students told us they want a university that is affordable.

While USM begins with an advantage over most schools of having lower public tuition rates, today we go even further. We have significantly enhanced our financial aid packages and introduced new scholarships for high achievers. We have added scholarships for transfer students, while also making it simple for community college graduates to enroll with all their college credits.

At the same time that we are enhancing financial aid, we are also developing programs that expedite our students’ path to a graduate degree. We now have an arrangement with our Maine School of Law, so that students can enroll at the law school after their third year at USM, thus saving a year’s time and a year’s tuition in earning their law degree.

Similarly, we also have several arrangements between our undergraduate and graduate programs, so that our students can earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years instead of six.

Third, our students asked us to link them with real world skills and authentic experiences to help them network and build a viable future.

We are uniquely positioned to do just that. Between our campus in Lewiston-Auburn and our Portland-area campuses, we cover the largest metropolitan area in northern New England, with thousands of businesses of every size, nonprofits, government agencies, hospitals and health care organizations.

For the benefit of our students and the benefit of our regional and state employers, I could not be more committed to enhancing our already strong ties with the communities that surround us.

So after several years of challenges and struggle, on Friday USM celebrates. We celebrate our successes and we celebrate our vision. We celebrate our faculty and we celebrate our staff. We celebrate our alumni and we celebrate our community. But most of all, and always, we celebrate our students.


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Charles Krauthammer: After a mere 25 years, the triumph of the West is already over Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Twenty-five years ago – December 1991 – communism died, the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disappeared. It was the largest breakup of an empire in modern history and not a shot was fired. It was an event of biblical proportions that my generation thought it would never live to see. As Wordsworth famously rhapsodized (about the French Revolution), “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven!”

That dawn marked the ultimate triumph of the liberal democratic idea. It promised an era of Western dominance led by a pre-eminent America, the world’s last remaining superpower.

And so it was for a decade as the community of democracies expanded, first into Eastern Europe and former Soviet colonies. The U.S. was so dominant that when, on Dec. 31, 1999, it gave up one of the most prized geostrategic assets on the globe – the Panama Canal – no one even noticed.

That era is over. The autocracies are back and rising; democracy is on the defensive; the U.S. is in retreat. Look no further than Aleppo. A Western-backed resistance to a local tyrant – he backed by a resurgent Russia, an expanding Iran and an array of proxy Shiite militias – is on the brink of annihilation. Russia drops bombs; America issues statements.

What better symbol for the end of that heady liberal-democratic historical moment. The West is turning inward and going home, leaving the field to the rising authoritarians – Russia, China and Iran. In France, the conservative party’s newly nominated presidential contender is fashionably conservative and populist and soft on Vladimir Putin. As are several of the newer Eastern Europe democracies – Hungary, Bulgaria, even Poland – themselves showing authoritarian tendencies.

And even as Europe tires of the sanctions imposed on Russia for its rape of Ukraine, President Obama’s much-touted “isolation” of Russia has ignominiously dissolved, as our secretary of state repeatedly goes cap in hand to Russia to beg for mercy in Syria.

The European Union, the largest democratic club on earth, could itself soon break up as Brexit-like movements spread through the continent. At the same time, its members dash with unseemly haste to reopen economic ties with a tyrannical and aggressive Iran.

As for China, the other great challenger to the post-Cold War order, the administration’s “pivot” has turned into an abject failure. The Philippines has openly defected to the Chinese side.

Malaysia then followed. And the rest of our Asian allies are beginning to hedge their bets. When the president of China addressed the Pacific Rim countries in Peru last month, he suggested that China was prepared to pick up the pieces of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now abandoned by both political parties in the United States.

The West’s retreat began with Obama, who reacted to (perceived) post-9/11 overreach by abandoning Iraq, offering appeasement (“reset”) to Russia and accommodating Iran.

In 2009, he refused even rhetorical support to the popular revolt against the rule of the ayatollahs. Donald Trump wants to continue the pullback, though for entirely different reasons. Obama ordered retreat because he’s always felt the U.S. was not good enough for the world, too flawed to have earned the moral right to be the world hegemon.

Trump would follow suit, disdaining allies and avoiding conflict, because the world is not good enough for us – undeserving, ungrateful, parasitic foreigners living safely under our protection and off our sacrifices. Time to look after our own American interests.

Trump’s is not a new argument. As the Cold War was ending in 1990, Jeane Kirkpatrick, the quintessential neoconservative, argued that we should now become “a normal country in a normal time.”

It was time to give up the 20th-century burden of maintaining world order and of making superhuman exertions on behalf of universal values. Two generations of fighting fascism and communism were quite enough. Had we not earned a restful retirement?

At the time, I argued that we had earned it indeed, but a cruel history would not allow us to enjoy it. Repose presupposes a fantasy world in which stability is self-sustaining without the United States. It is not. We would incur not respite but chaos.

A quarter-century later, we face the same temptation, but this time under more challenging circumstances. Worldwide jihadism has been added to the fight, and we enjoy nothing like the dominance we exercised over conventional adversaries during our 1990s holiday from history.

We may choose repose, but we won’t get it.

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

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M.D. Harmon: Outpouring of fake news on the left deserves attention Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 This week’s chuckles come from the left’s newest effort to push a contrived narrative.

This time it’s the “fake news” campaign, which is partly an effort to use Donald Trump’s more outré claims to divert attention from (#NotMyPresident) Hillary Clinton’s multiple flaws, which are the real reason for her loss.

But it’s also partly an effort to discredit conservative opinion sources as purveyors of intentionally false narratives, as opposed to what they mostly do, which is to dare to disagree with progressives.

In addition, the campaign has vainly tried to tie Trump to odious fringe movements with few supporters and zero influence.

But the plethora of “fake news” on the left deserves attention, too:

“Hillary is a shoo-in for president!” If there was one talking head who called the race in September, there were dozens, to the point where the only doubt was how many seats Democrats would win when they took over the Senate on Nov. 8.

True, this story’s purveyors apparently believed it. But it turned out to be fake nonetheless – just like Jill Stein’s money-grubbing “recount campaign” will soon prove to be. (Who knew “Green Party” meant the size of her bank account?)

“Fidel Castro was a patriot who served the Cuban people.”

This fake story has been going on for half a century.

After his death at age 90 last week, we were told Castro was “the George Washington of his country” (Jim Avila, ABC News); he “will be revered” for “education and social services and medical care to all of his people” (Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC); and he was a “legendary revolutionary and orator” who “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation” (Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada).

Education matters little when the regime censors information, and visitors to ordinary hospitals (not the elite ones shown to foreigners) report beds without sheets and no antibiotics – or even Band-Aids.

Castro’s fortune was estimated at $900 million, while the average monthly wage in Cuba is $20. And his executioners slaughtered between 7,000 and 10,000 political opponents while imprisoning scores of thousands more.

While President Obama issued a bland statement of ill-defined regret, President-elect Trump, who promises to push for real change in Cuba, knew exactly what to say: “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

That’s attested to by a genuine Cuban patriot, Armando Valladares, who spent 22 years in Castro’s prisons.

In one, La Cabaña, he said, “Each night, the firing squad executed scores of men in its trenches. We could hear each phase of the executions, and during this time, these young men – patriots – would die shouting ‘Long live Christ the King. Down with Communism!’ And then you would hear the gunshots. Every night there were shootings. Every night. Every night. Every night.”

 “There were no real scandals in the Obama administration.”

The president recently repeated this claim, which requires that you forget about his doubling the national debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion in just eight years; or the veterans who died while on Veterans Administration waiting lists; or the conservative groups excluded from the political process by his Internal Revenue Service; or his promises that Obamacare would save you $2,500 on health insurance and let you keep your doctor (a major fake news story all by itself); or that his secretary of state let four Americans die at Benghazi by denying them military aid and then lying about it, and also transmitted secret data using a private server; or his bypassing the Constitution with “a pen and a phone.”

No scandals, nope, none at all.

 Finally, ponder “climate change.” Sure, it’s happening because it always has and always will.

But the real issues are how much human action influences it; is what’s happening actually persistent and harmful; and can we somehow identify an “ideal” climate state and then fine-tune the entire planet to achieve it?

Claiming we have definite answers to those extremely complex questions is the epitome of “fake news.” Trump appears to know that, because he’s appointed a climate realist to address the actions of the rogue bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency.

I also read that there’s an excellent way for Trump to deal with the Paris climate treaty that Obama has pretended to enact: Simply follow the Constitution (for a change) and submit it to the Senate for an up-or-down vote.

There will be nothing fake about what happens to it then.

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

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Commentary: Treating others with respect, decency is key to progress for MaineSolutions Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — The release this week of new, bipartisan recommendations to help Maine seniors reminds me of the core values I learned growing up as one of six children of a military chaplain and public school teacher.

As I left for school every day, Mom said two things to me: “God loves you, and so do I” and “Remember who you are.” As I get ready to leave office as the longest-serving speaker of the Maine House since term limits became law 23 years ago, I still believe that those words are the measure of our work and life.

We were taught that “Remember who you are” meansto make a difference, look out for each other and serve the greater good. Those values have been at the heart of my decisions to attend seminary, become a family counselor and eventually serve in our citizen Legislature.

As I depart and new members prepare to begin their service as legislators, here is what I have learned: If you want to make progress on important issues like creating jobs and improving housing and care for seniors, then treat people with respect and decency.

I am proud that my party maintained a majority in the House of Representatives during my two terms as speaker and will continue in the majority in the 128th Legislature about to begin, but I am also proud to have worked with so many friends across party lines. Here are a few examples:

 When it comes to serving Maine’s seniors, over 50 representatives across the political spectrum joined my good friend Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, and me in creating the nation’s first Legislative Caucus on Aging. Our KeepME Home and Seniors Tours took us to communities across the state. We listened to Maine seniors and those involved in the issues that affect their lives.

Then we worked together to pass 18 common-sense pieces of legislation, including the KeepME Home initiative, which gives property tax relief to seniors, boosts wages for in-home direct care workers and provides bond funding for senior affordable housing. This week, we released a follow-up report with additional recommendations that will be championed by Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, and Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough.

 Similar bipartisanship was evident on my statewide jobs tour. Over 40 members from all parties visited, listened and learned from 29 businesses across nine counties. As a result, the Legislature passed the Put ME to Work initiative, which invests $1 million over the next few years to establish targeted partnerships between educational institutions and local employers to train workers for good-paying jobs.

One example is the recently announced mechanized logging operations training program developed in partnership with the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. Three area community colleges (Northern Maine, Eastern Maine and Washington County) will offer training on equipment that directly connects Mainers to good jobs.

• A third example is my working relationship with Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport. Mike and I disagree on so many issues across the board, but as leaders charged with making the Maine House and Senate function, we have been able to work together based on mutual respect.

When budget negotiations broke down in 2015 and Maine was 11 hours from a state government shutdown, he and I resolved the issues and passed a budget. The same relationship allowed the Legislature to pass a comprehensive drug crisis bill that funded both treatment and enforcement.

• An overwhelmingly bipartisan majority – unanimous in most cases – voted to support our constructive, collaborative work together by overriding 164 (70 percent) of Gov. Le-Page’s vetoes during the 127th Legislature.

Two examples come to mind: First, the governor proposed eliminating the revenue sharing program, which would have crippled rural communities’ ability to deliver basic services and led to significant property tax increases. Second, the governor proposed cutting $48 million from the Drugs for the Elderly program, which helps 40,000 fixed-income Maine seniors afford the prescription drugs they need for their health. We won on both issues.

I have been humbled and honored to serve the people of my community as their state representative and the people of Maine as House speaker. I have strong faith that Maine’s future is bright and filled with opportunity if “we the people” and our leaders “remember who we are” and treat others with decency and respect. I wish each one of the elected representatives of the Maine people the very best as they begin their work together.

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Now might be the time to dust off FDR’s economic bill of rights Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 NEWCASTLE — The current economic and political turmoil in the United States invites us to look back, not in a nostalgic way, but to remember important moments in our nation’s history and take inspiration from the work of transformational leaders. Thus, the Progressive Era and the New Deal are receiving fresh attention.

We can note as well how voting rights expanded over time to include women as well as men, and blacks as well as whites, and consider how public education spread across the land to include community colleges and state universities as well as elementary and secondary schools.

Reflecting on our national history can stir up hope and courage, for we have often shown ourselves to be a people of great projects. Some past projects may merit criticism, even condemnation, in the light of current insights and priorities. Yet, however flawed, these projects, together with those that are praiseworthy, indicate that in generations past, America was not afraid of big dreams and acted on those dreams.

In contrast, America today often sounds small-minded and small-hearted. We need dreams of a gracious society that rival the best dreams of the past so that we can act boldly upon them. We can even bring back good dreams that were not fulfilled in their time but can be realized in ours.

World War II was still raging when Franklin Delano Roosevelt dispatched his 1944 Message to Congress on the State of the Union. This message included eight points that he identified as a “Second Bill of Rights.”

Roosevelt told Congress that the nation cannot rest content if some fraction of Americans are without the necessities of life. As America began by asserting inalienable political rights, so with the growth of the national economy, “these political rights proved inadequate to assure equality in the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

He claimed that certain economic rights “have become accepted as self-evident” and that an economic bill of rights was necessary, expressing these rights in simple, stirring language:

“The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

“The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

“The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

“The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

“The right of every family to a decent home;

“The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

“The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

“The right to a good education.”

Subsequent government actions have helped Americans to realize portions of these rights, but the record is mixed and remains always subject to change for the worse. Our national record in some respects compares poorly to those of other nations.

While the American bill of political rights is admired by freedom-loving people around the globe, the weakness of our economic rights leaves many of our international friends puzzled and disappointed. The need for improvement in these areas is urgent. So, too, is the need to secure these rights as part of our Constitution.

In his 1944 Message to Congress, Roosevelt noted that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ ” Keeping alive the political principles contained in the first Bill of Rights requires supplementing them with a second Bill of Rights that addresses economic issues.

Legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein’s 2004 study, “The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever,” helped revive interest in what he calls “the speech of the century” and its implications.

Sunstein notes that FDR’s economic rights proposal “was a direct product of America’s experience with the desperation and misery of the Great Depression.” A 21st-century economic bill of rights can also draw on the tragedy of the Great Recession and the inhumane economy that has prevailed in America throughout the last four decades.

Our nation made horrible mistakes. We can learn from them. We can establish a far more gracious society than the one we have endured in recent years.

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Greg Kesich: Set aside what president-elect says and focus on what he does Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I made it through Thanksgiving with the in-laws without screaming at anybody, after reading all the advice on how to keep the peace at the holiday table (“Try other topics: Men like to talk about football, women like to talk about family”).

Nobody lost their tempers this year, and everybody is still talking to each other.

My social media relations, however, have taken a hit. Like millions of Americans, I had to cut off an online relationship as a result of the election.

I’m going to my Twitter account to unfollow Donald Trump.

I know, it’s fun to have a president who tweets. Just last weekend he went off on the election results, claiming that he won not only the Electoral College (“By a landslide!”) but also the popular vote, if you discount the millions of fraudulent votes that he claimed he had to overcome.

Now that’s funny: A politician sowing doubt about the integrity of an election that he won!

It’s hard to resist, but I’m going to try. From now on, I’m going to try to pay as little attention as possible to what he says, and try to keep focused on what he does.

Why? Because he says a lot of things that aren’t true. Whether he’s lying, confused or just changes his mind a lot, it doesn’t matter.

He’s for building a wall one day and a fence the next. Hillary Clinton should be locked up, or she’s suffered enough, depending on what kind of mood you catch him in. If we get outraged every time he says something outrageous, we won’t be doing much else.

But while it doesn’t really matter what he says, what he does is huge.

For instance, the day he was firing off tweet after tweet about “crooked votes for crooked Hillary,” The New York Times had a typically boring story in which it talked to multiple sources about the president-elect’s business dealings in a half-dozen countries around the world. It described how his adult children are courting state-owned businesses as local partners and applying for permits and tax breaks – that is, when they are not sitting in on transition team meetings at Trump Tower or schmoozing with foreign heads of state.

People are doing things right now that could matter a great deal, and we might miss it if we are too wound up about who should apologize to whom after that performance of “Hamilton.”

I have another early New Year’s resolution for the Trump era: I’m trying to stay away from calling people “hypocrites.”

This is not going to be easy. We are about to see another Republican president and Congress run up the deficit with new spending and tax cuts. It’s really easy to feel superior when you’ve seen them pontificate about how irresponsible it is to make our grandchildren pay this grievous debt for the past eight years.

But there’s plenty of hypocrisy out there. For instance, I’ve suddenly become aware that Edward Snowden revealed three years ago that everyone’s every phone call, movement, text message, email, Google search and Instagram post is collected and saved in an archive, from which a record can be assembled later by investigators.

Constant surveillance didn’t seem so bad when Barack Obama was in charge, but now, I don’t know.

Hypocrite? I guess, but I’m beginning to think hypocrisy might be what saves us.

The way people will change sides on issues so easily tells me that we are not as ideological as we think we are. Our positions are probably determined as much by our friends, our moods and who we trust as on careful analysis of the evidence. A little “hypocritical” flexibility should be welcomed.

There are a lot of people who argue that we should be having a big “conversation” so that we can understand each other better. But maybe we should listen to each other a little less, especially when we are yelling, and focus on what people are actually doing.

I’m going to try, anyway. It worked at Thanksgiving.

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Bill Nemitz: LGBTQ community has a place in Portland to call its own Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Ed Gardner admits he was a little worried. As the owner of Ocean Gate, a sprawling office building and plaza in the heart of downtown Portland, you don’t roll out the red carpet for Maine’s LGBTQ community without wondering how the rest of your tenants might react to the new neighbors.

“The comments and compliments that we’ve had, because either someone’s sister or cousin or somebody is gay or lesbian, has brought a lot of new conversation to tenants in the building,” Gardner said Wednesday. “It’s been very, very positive for us.”

It’s called the Equality Community Center. The 3,000-square-foot suite on the first floor of Gardner’s building at 511 Congress St. recently became home to six LGBTQ organizations: EqualityMaine, Pride Portland!, SAGE Maine, Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Southern Maine and MaineTransNet.

The center opened with little fanfare back in August. Now, with an open house planned for this week’s First Friday Art Walk, they’re ready to pull the party poppers.

A video produced for the center by LumenARRT! will be projected onto the front of the building.

The Maine Gay Men’s Chorus will perform in the lobby.

Food and drink will be served inside the center, where representatives from each program will greet visitors and explain why, at long last, they’re thrilled to all be under one roof.

“It gets us all out of our silos,” said Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine and a state representative from Portland. “We’re all doing good work, whether it’s with elders or with the trans community, but now we’re all together and talking to each other and figuring out what we can do to help everybody.”

The center has long been a dream for Maine’s LGBTQ community. Two years ago, an exploratory committee made up of Gardner; Betsy Smith, the former executive director for EqualityMaine; Richard Waitzkin, a social worker; and Matthew Dubois, an attorney specializing in elder issues, began working in earnest to make it happen.

They divided their long-range plan into two phases.

The first was to create not just a cluster of office and meeting spaces for the various LGBT organizations, but also a place where a sense of community might take root.

That starts in a big way Friday.

Visit the center and you’ll hear how SAGE Maine advocates for older gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Mainers; how the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Southern Maine strives for the acceptance and safety of every kid in every school in Maine; how MaineTransNet holds drop-in hours every Friday afternoon for transgender men and women seeking support; how EqualityMaine advocates tirelessly for equal rights in the halls of state and federal government; how Pride Portland!, with its annual parade and other year-round events, indeed makes Portland proud.

At the same time, you’ll hear that this is only the beginning.

The second phase of the plan calls for a free-standing facility within the next five years. The Equality Community Center would occupy the first floor or two, with several floors of affordable housing, particularly for senior LGBTQ residents, above that.

Given the landmark victories already won in Maine when it comes to, say, equal rights and same-sex marriage, some might question why the LGBTQ community needs a center now.

Truth be told, committee member Smith has had the question put to her more than once in recent months.

She offers two responses.

“Yes, it’s good to have laws to protect us,” Smith said. “But we still like to have community. We still like to be around people like us.”

Then there’s Nov. 8, the day the entire country took a sudden and unexpected lurch to the right.

“When the election happened,” Smith said, “we sort of looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, now more than ever.’ ”

It’s too soon to say where and how President-elect Trump will come down on the many and varied LGBTQ issues still simmering in some parts of the country and boiling over in others.

But a quick scan of Trump’s Cabinet nominations – Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama for attorney general, billionaire Betsy DeVos of Michigan for secretary of education, Congressman Tom Price for secretary of health, to name but a few – does not bode well for many of the advances by the LGBTQ community in recent years.

“We are deeply and seriously concerned about the federal level,” said EqualityMaine’s Moonen. On an anxiety scale of zero to 10, he said, “I’m at about an 8, 9 or 10.”

Ditto for John Hennessy, who chairs the board for Sage Maine and was doing volunteer desk duty Wednesday at the center.

Each month, Hennessy said, Sage Maine holds a dinner at the St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland for older LGBT folks and their supporters. Normally, about 40 or 50 people attend.

“The week before Thanksgiving, 90 people showed up,” Hennessy said. “People came up to me and said they’ve never felt more afraid in their lives. And these are the people, many of them, on whose shoulders this movement was built. These are the people who pretty much have seen it all. But they’re scared out of their minds.”

Thus it’s no surprise, noted Hennessy, that “people have this need for community.”

Of course, a few thousand feet of prime office space – even it comes at less than half the market rate courtesy of landlord Gardner – does not a community make.

That takes people – gay, straight and everything in between – who appreciate the value of coming together regardless of how fiercely the political winds may blow.

So go ahead. If you’re downtown on Friday evening, stop in and join the celebration at the Equality Community Center.

You’ll see Maine at its best.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 10:19 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2016 to correct the name of LumenARRT!


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Leonard Pitts: Loathing Trump doesn’t justify undermining election with recount Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:00:52 +0000 I oppose the recount.

There are, to my mind, only two reasons to re-examine ballots in a presidential campaign, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein has raised money to do. The first is in the event of error or fraud, but there is no evidence thereof in the 2016 election, as Stein herself has admitted.

The second is in the event the margin of victory is especially slim. And yes, in the three states where Stein is pushing for a recount – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – the margins are indeed thin, particularly in Michigan, which Hillary Clinton lost by just 11,612 votes.

But in a case like that, the recount must begin immediately – and preferably automatically – to be seen as credible. A recount three weeks after the fact cannot avoid the appearance of dirty tricks. Indeed, if the results in any of the states in question were overturned at this late date, Donald Trump’s supporters would suspect malfeasance – and be justified in doing so.

Don’t misunderstand: I remain unalterably convinced that the new president is an awful person and that America made a generations-defining mistake in choosing him. But that does not give us license to casually undermine the integrity of the election.

Besides, Trump is doing a fine job of that without Stein’s help.

You’d think, what with recruiting the political equivalents of Darth Vader and Victor Von Doom for his cabinet and presumably ordering a new Oval Office rug with a giant golden “T” in the center, he’d be too busy for such things, but you’d be wrong. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

It was hardly the first time he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Not only is there zero evidence this supposedly massive fraud happened, but simple logic says that it could not. To be here illegally is to live off the grid, to be paid in cash, avoid interactions with police, steer clear of City Hall. Why would one such person – let alone millions – jeopardize the security of anonymity to cast a fraudulent vote?

It’s an idiotic idea. News organizations dutifully dubbed it “baseless,” too polite to say that his claim contained enough steer manure to fertilize Central Park.

And at this point, anyone who ever believed in an ideal called America should be unnerved.

A democracy is, in many ways, a fragile thing. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, it depends for its very existence upon the “consent of the governed” – meaning not our support of every action a government takes, but rather, our willingness to believe in its integrity. It is from this that democratic government derives its power. Democracy, then, is an act of mutual agreement.

In a nation of 320 million people who share no one ancestry, culture or faith, it is also connective tissue. The idea that my vote matters no more – or less – than yours is the tie that binds an Inuit in Bethel, Alaska, to a Haitian refugee in Miami to an Irish Catholic in Boston to a Mexican-American in San Diego to a Muslim in Kansas City. It is the thing that makes us Americans.

And it’s the thing Trump burned down in his scorched earth appeal to bigotry and resentment. Now, here comes Stein in a desperate bid to deny the electorate its appalling choice. Avatars of a demoralized left and a hateful right, they are alike in at least one respect: their apparent willingness to damage what they purport to love.

So we find ourselves at a no-win crossroads. Trump’s victory is a terrible thing.

Stealing it would be even worse.

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

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Maine Voices: Mandating online verification of work status will maintain jobs for American workers Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 HOLDEN — North Dakota is like Maine: sparsely populated, rural and poor. And when Menards, a home improvement chain, couldn’t find enough workers in the city of Minot to meet the oil boom-fueled demand for building supplies, they decided to hire workers in the chain’s home state, Wisconsin.

They had a job fair. Competition was stiff. Menards flew their workers from Wisconsin back to North Dakota every week, putting them up in hotels with meal vouchers. Starting wage was $13 an hour. That’s what happens when businesses doesn’t have access to unlimited labor: They’re forced to recruit, train and hire from within the country.

Similar stories have played out whenever immigration laws were enforced and the foreign worker pool dried up. In 2006, when the Bush administration briefly engaged in job site raids, Crider Poultry in Georgia scrambled to hire unemployed Americans.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, the labor force went from 14 percent African American to 65 percent, and wages rose by $2 an hour. Similar scenarios unfolded at Swift Meats in the West and Midwest, Howard Industries in Mississippi and Smithfield Foods in North Carolina.

Record numbers of working-age Americans are not in the labor force today, and not counted in the unemployment rate. Citing Labor Department data, CNBC recently reported that 97.4 million Americans are not in the labor force, and one third of them are under 30.

In “Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis,” Nicholas Eberstadt documents the astonishing job collapse for prime-age men (those 25 to 54), identifying the most vulnerable groups – minorities and the low-skilled – and the devastating social disintegration this crisis inflicts on families.

President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers also studied joblessness among prime-age men. They concluded that declining wages and “declining labor market opportunity” were the most important contributors to joblessness: in short, too little pay and too many workers.

Congress has been clueless, infatuated with globalization and swallowing every bogus claim of dire labor shortages that demanded more foreign workers. For decades, while trade agreements eviscerated millions of manufacturing jobs, and automation was rapidly destroying more, Congress inexplicably quadrupled legal immigration and massively expanded foreign worker visas.

Congress currently gives away another 700,000 good-paying jobs every year with renewable foreign worker visas, lasting up to six years. And these aren’t berry-picking jobs. If that weren’t bad enough, they also turned a blind eye to mass illegal immigration.

The message of this election is clear: Voters demand that government start protecting American jobs and enforcing immigration laws. No excuses.

Congress created two bipartisan commissions to study immigration, and both were headed by civil rights icons: the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh in the 1980s and Barbara Jordan during the Clinton administration. Both commissions decisively opposed illegal immigration, and called on Congress to beef up enforcement. Both made it clear that enforcing immigration limits had nothing to do with hate or fear of foreign people.

In a 1994 report to Congress, Jordan declared: “The commission decries hostility and discrimination against immigrants as antithetical to the traditions and interests of the country. At the same time, we disagree with those who would label efforts to control immigration as being inherently anti-immigrant. Rather, it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest.”

The national interest! Not well-funded, self-promoting lobbies: employers seeking cheap labor, ethnic politicians seeking to expand their base, open border/multicultural enthusiasts intent on changing our demographic or foreign governments wanting more remittances.

The commission was succinct: The linchpin to stopping illegal immigration is going after the employers. That means requiring all employers to use E-Verify, the internet system created by the federal government to verify work status.

Stolen identities and fraudulent Social Security cards will no longer enable employers to recruit and hire illegal foreign labor and claim they didn’t know what they were doing. It’s the same technology credit card companies use to verify millions of business transactions every day. It’s not radical.

When President Obama took office, one of his first actions was to require all federal contractors to use E-Verify. It’s time to mandate E-Verify for all employers, end the jobs magnet and create a level playing field for all businesses.

Unscrupulous employers and immigrant activists will whine. Smart employers, like Menards, will start recruiting, training and hiring native-born Americans, legal immigrants and refugees. And that’s the right thing to do.

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Commentary: Castro’s death may shrink Cuba’s oversized notoriety in Latin America Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 For a man who had been reported dead so many times before, and whose vision of the world had shrunk long ago to the size of a T-shirt, Fidel Castro triggered a remarkable commotion when he died last weekend at age 90. Nowhere were the paeans more heartfelt than in Latin America

“A great one has died,” wrote Ecuador’s president and fast Cuban ally Rafael Correa. Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro declared three days of public mourning. “All who dreamed of a less unequal world, we all woke up saddened on Saturday,” wrote former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Perhaps this was only to be expected. Revolutionary Cuba’s success – in thwarting Washington, inspiring generations of political rebels, raising literacy and public health – won the island nation a lasting aura of strength and respect in latitudes accustomed to neither.

In college, my coolest classmates spent their spring break in Cuba, cutting sugar cane for the Venceremos Brigade. Confined to chilly New England, and later as a reporter based in Brazil, I contented myself with tales about Fidel and Ernesto “Che” Guevara and their Davidic efforts to face down the hemisphere’s major power.

No matter that the Cuban economy was already perilously dependent on another world superpower or that Fidel’s supremacy was built on stifling dissent, free assembly and speech and other “bourgeois” luxuries. Back then you chose your side – “everyone in the world has to be communist or anti-communist.” Thus did Castro’s champions lecture African-American poet LeRoi Jones, as Jones wrote in his essay on the revolution’s fevered aftermath, “Cuba Libre.”

What’s harder to explain is how the reverence has endured. Never has Latin America been so democratic. The vast majority of people in the 34 nations of Central and South America and the Caribbean choose their leaders in open elections, say what’s on their minds, and buy and sell things in market economies.

It’s not that Latin leaders were blind to the excesses of Castro’s Cuba. In his memoir, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso recalls the pasting Fidel received in a closed-door meeting of Iberian and Latin American leaders in 1999. “Damn it, Fidel! What are you going to do about this lousy, piece-of-(expletive) island of yours?” one summit leader demanded.

And yet such reproach hardly ever was made public. “Even today it’s difficult – at least in Latin America – for someone who identifies with the left to publicly condemn Cuba’s political regime,” writes Argentine political scientist Claudia Hilb.

Hilb attributed that diffidence to a political blind spot: the conceit that Castro’s excesses were just unfortunate byproducts of an otherwise beneficent model of government when in fact tyranny was the foundation of the Cuban revolution.

If Castro got a pass from the left, he had help. From attempted assassination by exploding cigar to the half-century economic embargo, Washington’s permanent offensive against the Cuban dictator only played to Fidel’s hand, camouflaging the disasters of the command economy and ennobling his every move against dissidents.

It’s telling that the most expansive tributes to Castro came from the region’s struggling left, whose leaders – Rousseff in Brazil, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – either have been replaced by market-friendly conservatives or cling to office (Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia) against rising dissent, failing economies or political improbity.

One of Fidel’s neatest tricks was to have helped Cuba veer before it crashed. He stepped aside when he was ailing, and let his brother Raul change course. Even as allies in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia railed against Yanqui meddlers, the younger Castro warmly welcomed a visit by President Obama and helped nudge the guerrillas it once urged into battle to make peace with the Colombian government.

Cuba’s rebranding may have begun, but Latin America’s Cuba distraction lingers. I can still hear those who counseled me not to move to Brazil. After all, the story in Latin America back then was not a chronically underachieving capitalist democracy, but the Central American Cold War, which thanks to Fidel Castro’s outsize presence was enjoying a robust afterlife.

It didn’t matter that Cuba had the same population as Sao Paulo and less than half the Brazilian metropolis’ gross domestic product. “Cuba is the black hole in the Americas,” Eric Farnsworth, of the Council of the Americas once told me. “It sucks up all the attention in the hemisphere.” One of the opportunities in Fidel Castro’s passing could be to help restore a much-needed sense of proportion to hemispheric affairs. That’s a resizing I welcome.

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Kathleen Parker: Will the real Donald Trump please stand up? Tue, 29 Nov 2016 03:45:00 +0000 In this season of Thanksgiving, a quirky source of gratitude has emerged – Donald Trump’s many campaign lies.

What else can one call the promises that he now treats as alien concepts? Almost daily, he reverses himself on a campaign promise, confirming what this column predicted: He would never keep his vows.

As a matter of practicality, Trump couldn’t do much of what he bragged about, such as build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. Now he’s talking fences.

Likewise, it isn’t the prerogative of the executive office to investigate, prosecute or jail Hillary Clinton, whom he now says he doesn’t plan to investigate because he doesn’t want to hurt the Clintons.

Similarly, Trump apparently no longer thinks that climate change is a Chinese hoax and is “open-minded” toward future discussions. When Marine Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s apparent choice for defense secretary, told the president-elect that he could get more information from a prisoner with a couple of beers and a cigarette than by waterboarding, Trump said, fine, he will rethink waterboarding.

If Trump has never been burdened by the truth, he at least has been true to his core value, which is say or do whatever it takes to win. And for him, what worked were lies. Or at least untruths.

What does seem true is that he never had any interest in governing, as evidenced by his reportedly being surprised to learn he had to replace so many White House staffers. Who knew?

Early on, Trump told us as much when he couldn’t really put a finger on why he wanted to be president. In a wide-ranging interview last April with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, he wandered around the barn for several minutes looking for an answer, checking the sky for the Trump chopper to swoop down in a reverse deus ex machina to rescue him from this daunting question: “Can you isolate a moment when it kicked to yes?”

Not right off, no, he couldn’t.

First, it was the escalator ride, looking down on all those cameras, comparing the moment to the Academy Awards. Had the cameras not arrived, would Trump have returned to his office and forgotten all about it? Next, he talked about his TV show, his money, his children, hitting any topic that came to mind, circling, circling, searching for that dadgum moment. Woodward pressed on.

The polls, yes, it was the polls! Oh, also, watching Mitt Romney, “a very, very, failed and flawed candidate,” lose to Obama. After a mind-boggling discussion about breaking eggs to get elected, Trump landed on anger. Yes, he was angry. Plus, he always wins.

In Trump’s exhausting, attention-deficit world, winning is the end point, making this particular victory problematical. After the “Grand Opening” on Inauguration Day, the bands, confetti and the Inaugural Parade, what follows is much less fun – governing a fiercely divided nation that Trump helped create and making good on all those campaign slogans.

“How do you unbreak those eggs?” Woodward asked.

“That’s the question,” Trump replied.

Here’s another: How do you un-nut the nutcase? How does Trump explain to his base that he wasn’t really a crazed xenophobic bigot who will ban Muslims and thinks most Mexicans are criminals? How does he explain that he never intended to follow through on many of his crowd pleasers?

Hate to break another egg, but the answer is he won’t. Just as Trump never provided any substantive evidence for people’s faith in him, there’s no reason to believe that Trump cares what they think of him now. He won. An admitted establishment guy until he started running, he seems to have returned to his more familiar self.

Going forward, everything is anyone’s guess. As his base begins to show cracks, wondering what to do with their “Lock her up” T-shirts, his foes are wrestling a fresh angst – caught between detesting the man who spoke so foully of others and stupidly of issues, and the one who didn’t really mean it. A rational, decent Trump is not the man America elected and both sides, for better or worse, feel jinxed.

How does one revile the man who now says what you believe? How does one trust the man who obviously lied?

Finally: Who is the real Donald Trump and what does he stand for?

That remains the question.

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

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Charles Lawton: Maine’s social and political fault lines mirror our divided nation Tue, 29 Nov 2016 03:44:00 +0000 Maine sits precisely across one of the socio-political fault lines revealed so starkly in our most recent presidential election. Maine split its electoral votes, and that split embodies the character of the national split that elected Donald Trump through the Electoral College – even though he lost the popular vote by more than 2 million ballots. According to an analysis of voting results conducted by researchers at the Brookings Institution, Trump’s electoral victory can be attributed to higher turnouts and higher Republican support in rural areas and small metropolitan areas.

And what is the economically distinguishing characteristic of such areas? High job loss? Emphatically, no!

Large metro areas lost far more jobs in the Great Recession than did rural and small metro areas. The key difference has been slow or no recovery since the recession. Donald Trump actually got fewer votes in major metro areas than did Mitt Romney in 2012. The key to his victory was the vastly higher turnout and movement to the Republican candidate in areas that had still not regained the jobs they had lost in a recession that was “officially” over by 2010. This trend was particularly true among voters who in 2008 and 2012 had supported the “change” candidacy of Barack Obama. This picture of failed recovery is the perfect characterization of Maine’s non-metro counties.

According to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, Maine’s metro areas (York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin and Penobscot counties) have regained all the jobs lost since the recession, and added about 3,000 more jobs. Maine’s non-metro areas, in contrast, saw total employment fall by more than 18,000 over a drop that continued from the 2007 peak all the way to 2012. And in the recovery since 2012, these areas have regained only 6,700 jobs, leaving them still nearly 12,000 below their 2007 peak.

And this stagnant job recovery has carried over into many other aspects of life in our non-metro areas. Population has fallen by nearly 12,000 since its 2007 peak. And, in spite of this drop, the ratio of resident jobs to total population has fallen to 55 percent. This is far below the 65 percent ratio in Maine’ metro areas, meaning that the dependent population – those too young, too old or too discouraged to work – is far higher in the non-metro areas. Finally:

 earnings per worker were substantially lower in Maine’s non-metro areas ($38,400 versus $43,100 in metro areas);

growth in earnings per worker was substantially lower in Maine’s non-metro areas (5.7 percent versus 8.4 percent in metro areas); and

the share of pay earned by commuting to jobs outside of the region was substantially greater in non-metro areas (6.3 percent and steadily growing versus 0.8 percent in metro areas).

All of these statistics simply underline the Brookings finding that Maine’s non-metro areas have not shared equally in whatever economic recovery the nation has experienced since 2010. The central point, therefore, is that Maine has a unique opportunity to lead. Whatever policies we may undertake as a state to address these regional inequities could point the way to national revival and thus an opportunity to heal the rifts made so obvious by our recent election.

To my mind, such policies must focus on three essential characteristics:

First, they must identify economic activities uniquely suited to rural areas. In Maine’s case, this seems most obviously to be the local production of food and beverage products. This is an area where Maine’s abundance of arable land, water for irrigation, and access to the ocean provide a stable geographic base. It is also an area not dependent on pipe dreams of regaining lost manufacturing jobs. Expansion of locally traceable food has the advantage of requiring thousands of jobs in transportation, packaging, distribution, marketing, finance, research, food safety and other supply chain niches required to get Maine products to market. This would not be a naïve “replace lost manufacturing” strategy.

Second, they must include specific, short-term, inexpensive labor training initiatives that require participation of both employers and public educational institutions. Maine’s most underutilized resource today is the thousands of men in the 25 to 55 age cohort who have dropped out of the labor force. Ways of re-engaging these “discouraged workers” are not “rocket science.” They are simply ways to bring current skills to people whose forebears filled such occupations a century ago.

Third, they must directly address the reality that the vast majority of economic activity is increasingly concentrated in our major metro areas and include relocation subsidies including temporary wage replacement for those seeking to move to new job opportunities.

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

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Maine Voices: The problem isn’t Obamacare; it’s the insurance companies Mon, 28 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 MILBRIDGE — With the recent news about increases in premiums for health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, everyone wants to vilify the ACA. The ACA is but a symptom of the issue. Where are our policy dollars going?

As a primary care physician, I am on the front lines. Milbridge is remote. In good weather, we are 30 to 40 minutes from the nearest emergency room, so my office operates as an urgent care facility as well as a family medical practice.

It can take 20 minutes for an ambulance to get here (as it did one time when I had a patient in ventricular tachycardia — a fatal rhythm). I have to be stocked to stabilize and treat.

We are also about two hours from specialist care. Fortunately, I am trained to handle about 90 percent of medical problems, as my patients often do not want or do not have the resources to travel. I have to be prepared for much more than I did in Boston or New York City, where I had colleagues and other materials down the hall or nearby. No longer do I have a hospital blocks away.

One evening I was almost home after a full day’s work. Around 7:30, I got a call on the emergency line regarding an 82-year-old man who had fallen and split his head open. His wife wanted to know if I could see him, even though he was not a patient of mine.

Instead of sending them to the ER, I went back to the office. I spent 90 minutes evaluating him, suturing his wound and making sure that nothing more sinister had occurred than a loss of footing by a man who has mild dementia. When I was sure that the man would be safe, I let them go.

I billed a total of $789 for the visit, repair, after-hours and emergency care costs. Stating that the after-hours and emergency services had been billed incorrectly, Martin’s Point Health Care threw out the claims and reimbursed me $105, which does not even cover the suture and other materials I used.

I called them about their decision, said that it was not right and let them know they’d lose me if they reimbursed this as a routine patient visit. They replied, “Go ahead and send your termination letter” – which I did.

The same day, Anthem Blue Cross kept me on the phone for 45 minutes regarding a breast MRI recommended by radiologists on a woman whose mother and sister had died of breast cancer. She’d had five months of breast discharge that wasn’t traceable to anything benign (and it turns out the MRI is highly suspicious for cancer).

Anthem did not want to approve the MRI unless it was to localize a lesion for biopsy, even though the mammogram had been inconclusive! This should have been a slam-dunk fast track to approval; instead, dealing with Anthem wasted a good part of my day.

Then Aetna told me there is no way to negotiate fees in Maine. I was somewhat flabbergasted. I do more here than I did in either Brookline, Massachusetts, or New York. The rates should be higher given the level of care I am providing. I have chosen not to participate with them. This only hurts patients; however, I cannot keep losing money on visits.

I do lose money on MaineCare – their reimbursement is below what it costs me to see a patient. For now, that is a decision that I am living with.

I had thought those losses would be offset by private insurance companies, but their cost shifting to patients is obscene. I pay half of my employees’ health insurance, though I’m not required to by law – I just think it is the right thing to do.

My personal policy costs close to $900 a month for me and my sons (all healthy), and each of us has a $6,000 deductible. This means I am paying rack rate for a policy that provides only bare-bones coverage.

Something is wrong with the system. In one day, I encountered everything wrong with insurance. I am not trying to scam the system. I am literally trying to survive. I am trying to give care in an underserved area.

This is not the fault of Obamacare, which stopped the most egregious problems with insurance companies. Remember lifetime caps? Remember denials for pre-existing conditions? Remember the retroactive cancellation of insurance policies? Returning to that is not an option.

One answer is direct primary care: contracting straight with patients to provide their care, instead of going through insurance companies to get paid. I offer it (though I still accept Medicare, MaineCare and some private insurers). Many of my colleagues have also opted for direct primary care – they’ve experienced the same frustrations I have.

Something has to change if we are to attract up-and-coming medical students to primary care and retain practicing physicians. When both patients and physicians are frustrated, we know that only greed is winning, and the blame for that lies with corporations.

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Alan Caron: Rise of extremism presents a real challenge Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 There were two deeply troubling events in Washington last week, and they are closely connected. One was the selection of Stephen Bannon as the chief strategist for Donald Trump. The second was a gathering of white supremacists, just blocks from the White House, that featured Nazi salutes.

Bannon is the driving force behind Breitbart News, a pretend-news site known for its racial, ethnic and religious hatred that serves as the propaganda arm of the so-called “alt-right.” Breitbart has replaced Fox News as the unifying instrument for a boiling stew of angry hate groups ranging from armed militias to the KKK to neo-Nazis.

In a building named for Ronald Reagan, hundreds of these extremists came out of the underground to hear speakers and explain themselves to the mainstream media. Most looked remarkably like pampered frat boys, sporting the aptly-named “fashy,” the haircut that Adolf Hitler made famous: buzz cut on the sides, longer hair on the top swept to the side.

Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, spoke at the end of the day on the need to recreate America as a white nation. America, he said, belongs to white people, who are “the children of the sun.” Also: “Every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence in the south should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag.” And “to be white is to be a creator, an explorer and a conquerer.”

Spencer called Trump’s victory a “victory of will,” echoing the title of a famous Nazi propaganda film, and attacked the mainstream press with the Nazi’s favorite “Lugenpresse,” or “lying press.”

As he wrapped up his speech, Spencer called out to the crowd to “Hail Trump” and “Hail Victory,” the English translation of “Sieg Heil!” Members of the audience responded with Nazi salutes.

Trump’s triumph has given these and other American extremists new hope. The far right is on the march in America, and every one of us, whether a conservative or a liberal, is its target.

There are still some people among us who were part of the “Greatest Generation,” which worked to defeat the Nazis in World War II. They fought a war unleashed by a violent Nazi ideology that divided the world into just two camps: true believers and lesser humans meant for subjugation or elimination. It is a war that killed millions, including more than 400,000 Americans.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and hundreds of our ships were being sunk in the Atlantic by German submarines, the walls that had divided Americans by party, ethnicity and region melted away to reveal a country with one purpose. America became one, and together Americans sacrificed and shared, worked and fought, to build the arsenal of democracy that would defeat totalitarianism and establish a new world someday, in the hope that all of the world’s dictatorships might be eliminated.

I’m old enough to have grown up surrounded by a generation of these World War II veterans, who were the heart of every family and every town. Their war ended in 1945, but the struggle for democracy and freedom did not. Hitler died, but totalitarianism and fascism did not. They simply go out of sight, deep into the darkest parts of human societies, a latent disease awaiting the next time a society is weakened by hardship, fear, anger and division.

As soon as the horrors of the war had begun to fade, American fascism began to reorganize itself, slowly and quietly, waiting for the right time. And enlisting the most troubled and angry men in our country, as it always has done.

The rise of extremism among us won’t look like German fascism. It will look uniquely American. We have a far deeper tradition of democratic freedom than the Germans did in the 1930s. We have nowhere near the hardship that Germans experienced after the armistice of World War I, when wheelbarrows of money, sometimes reflecting a life’s savings, were needed to buy a loaf of bread. We know nothing of the sense of shame and loss that they felt.

American fascism won’t announce itself with a brown-shirted army of the disaffected and a stirring, charismatic leader. And that will make the work of exposing it, and defeating it, all the more difficult.

The rise of extremism in America represents a new challenge to all of us: to put aside party, ideology, region and background, and to put at the center of our concerns the future of the country. All of us, despite our differences, love this country. Perhaps this is a good time to relearn the lessons of the Greatest Generation.

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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Our View: Maine colleges rightly defend fearful undocumented students Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants have voluntarily come out of the shadows under an Obama administration program that offered them a temporary reprieve from deportation. Now, with Donald Trump about to take over the White House, those immigrants live in fear that the basic protections will be taken away, or worse, that the information they provided will be used against them.

That’s why we stand with the many members of the Colby College community who are speaking out in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which recognizes how tightly those immigrants are woven into the American fabric, and simply assures them that they can continue to work and study in this country just as many of them have for most of their lives.

The DACA program allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country when they were under the age of 16 and who had not yet turned 31 in 2012 to apply for a two-year protected status. Those approved receive a two-year work permit and the ability to apply for a Social Security number and driver’s license. They can also travel to and from the country.

Nearly 750,000 undocumented immigrants are now taking advantage of the program, announcing that they are in the country illegally in exchange for the right to work, drive, study and bank here.

However, as a candidate, Trump said he would “immediately terminate” the program, and his pick for U.S. attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has tried to block or minimize the program on several occasions.

Since then, Trump has said he would focus immigration enforcement on those with criminal records. But that is of little solace to the immigrants who have grown up here in ways almost no different from most Americans.

They have been in classrooms and on playgrounds next to American citizens. They have been their friends and co-workers and dorm mates. In many cases, they know no other life than that in the United States, and now they feel – understandably so – that they are in danger of losing it.

For a group that broke the law and were thrust into a precarious life through no fault of their own, and which came forward on their own volition when an opportunity arose to live in the open, that’s wrong.

That’s why we are glad that 113 faculty and staff members at Colby urged the college in a Nov. 16 letter to protect the safety and place on campus for any student enrolled in the DACA program,” and that President David A. Greene joined at least 250 college and university presidents, including those at Bates and Bowdoin, in signing a statement supporting the DACA program.

Undocumented youth who have grown up here and now attend college here deserve our protection. Trump not only could repeal the program, but there is some worry that his administration could use the information provided to the federal government to target these students, if not to remove them from the country then at least to take any federal student aid they receive.

It’s heartening that so many colleges and universities recognize that these students are a part of their communities and a benefit to higher education. As we await Trump’s decisions on immigration policy, we hope that others hear that message, and prepare to come to the aid of people who have a great deal to add to our country.

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Maine Observer: Overwhelmed by choices at the supermarket Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It’s sometimes important to stay out of the way. I’ve learned this over the past 66 years of my life. This concept is especially true when you find yourself at the supermarket. Following my wife, I was impressed how easy it was for her to fly through the labyrinth of shopping carts and displays that were placed in the middle of the aisles to not only sell the products but to drive everyone in the store to stress levels they never wanted to reach.

We worked our way through the store to finally reach one of my wife’s favorite sections. It had every type of vegetable I knew and a few I hadn’t imagined existed. Understanding only the vegetables I recalled seeing in my refrigerator and could pronounce I was surprised by a burst of cold water flowing from the top of the refrigerator case. At first, I thought some sort of water line had broken. The woman who came to my aid explained that a spray system is used to keep the vegetables looking fresh.

Toward the back of the store was the delicatessen area. I took a number and waited my turn. When called on, I confidently ordered one pound of turkey. The person behind the counter hesitated a few seconds and asked me what type of turkey I wanted. There are different types? After I stared blankly for a few seconds she broke my stupor by explaining turkey could be in the form of pastrami, ham, bologna, or hot dogs. Hot dogs? She asked if I wanted “just turkey.”

“Yes!” I answered, hoping the questions would come to an end. When she came back she asked if I wanted something else. Quickly I ordered the one thing I knew she would understand. “One pound of American cheese!” I bellowed, hoping all who surrounded me might understand I knew what I was doing. Finding my wife at the milk and egg departments, I proudly gave her the neatly wrapped plastic bags containing the meats I was assigned to order. She was about to say something but decided not to because of a rather pathetic look on my face. I never realized milk came in not only different sizes but also different levels of fat. The bread aisle was the longest and with the most varieties. Arriving at the checkout counter I saw an assembly line that would have made Henry Ford jealous. Within minutes we were buzzed and beeped through a type of laser computer that registered my purchases. Before we left, I was given a giant receipt that told me not only the prices of my groceries but also exactly what I had bought. The number on the bottom of the receipt shocked me the most; $295.96. Driving home, I came to a rude awakening.

I had just spent more for groceries than I paid for the mortgage on my first home.

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Maine Voices: Autistic skiers shine at Sugarloaf thanks to partnership with Spurwink Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I am a skier. I am a “Sugarloafer.” And I’ve worked with individuals with autism at Spurwink Services for nearly 30 years.

Today in Maine, we have about 6,100 families who are dealing with autism and its effects on both the child and family. Unfortunately, despite the growth of Maine’s autism population over the last decade, our state has very few outdoor recreational opportunities that support inclusion for children with autism.

A notable exception is Spurwink on the Slopes, Maine’s only ski program designed specifically for children with autism spectrum disorder. Created in partnership with Sugarloaf’s ski school, the program will begin its sixth year on Jan. 7!

Learning downhill skiing is not an easy endeavor for anyone. When you factor in the challenges facing individuals with autism, such as motor planning difficulties, social engagement struggles and sensory challenges, you might think that ski lessons are a setup for failure, but, in fact, we have seen quite the contrary.


The rewards and challenges involved in learning to ski come rapid-fire for most new skiing students, not just children with autism spectrum disorder. When on skis, standing can be demanding and falling may happen frequently. The emotional responses can be all over the map, from initial laughter to tears, from fear to exhilaration and from insecurity to confidence.

Physically, skiing builds muscle strength and balance. It can also foster independence. It can be fun, too, especially for the kids who get to enjoy the Moose-calator ride up the mountain.

Many factors contribute to success when teaching or helping someone else learn something new. What’s required is not just expertise with the technical skills associated with the task, but also the ability to provide the right level of support: understanding how the child thinks, how the child feels and how the child learns.

And this depth of support really has been key for these children learning to ski. Spurwink on the Slopes provides one-to-one volunteers who know and understand children with autism. The volunteers come from backgrounds that include personal and/or professional experience in the field, such as occupational therapy, special education, social work, speech and language and direct support. They get it!

Secondly, a supportive environment is critical, and my hat goes off to those from Sugarloaf who have embraced the idea of this program from the beginning. Six years ago, four children participated; last year, 33 different children, ages 4 to 14, took part, filling 69 lesson slots.

Spurwink has provided both formal and informal education about autism to Sugarloaf staff, which has helped, but the enthusiasm of coaches and their delight at working with children, all children, are largely what has sparked the growth of the program. From administration to program staff to the individual ski coaches, everyone has contributed to Sugarloaf becoming an inclusive place.


Preparation is also critical to the success of the experience. Spurwink obtains information about a child before their lesson from a person who knows the child best, usually a parent. We ask about their child’s motor planning skills, how they interact with others, how they learn best, what their sensory challenges are, what they think is the most important thing that volunteers and ski coaches know about their child, and what they hope their child will get out of the experience.

In addition, Spurwink sends all children a social story in the mail before their lesson. A social story is a guide, with pictures and writing, that predicts what will happen in various situations. In this case, the story shows children what to expect from the moment they arrive in the parking lot, to the bus ride up the hill, entering ski school, being fitted for gear and what happens on the hill.

When kids learn to ski, some stay on the hill for the entire lesson, while others go in after only one run. Some have difficulty separating from parents, while others barely turn to wave goodbye. Some have really good balance, while others fall a lot. Some pick up the skills quickly, while others try over and over again.

One thing is true: Whether a child has a disability or not, they are all different.

And when on the hill, they are all just children learning to ski. And that is the goal of Spurwink on the Slopes: to be truly inclusive.

]]> 0, 26 Nov 2016 21:09:29 +0000
Maine Voices: Maine lawmakers should heed voters’ wishes in several policy areas Sat, 26 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — Mainers want change that benefits working people. That’s the lesson from this year’s election results.

While neither party can claim a sweeping electoral victory in Maine, when newly elected and returning legislators convene in Augusta in December, they will have clear instructions from the people of Maine in several policy areas.

A majority of Mainers voted for fair wages, supporting Maine schools and improving our roads. On the presidential campaign trail, both candidates agreed on the importance of supporting good-paying jobs, helping families with the cost of child care and the need to modernize our infrastructure. Mainers chose policies that invest in our communities and our workers.

Mainers agreed overwhelmingly to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, and close the loophole that allows restaurants to underpay their wait staff. Likewise, they voiced their support for the wealthiest Maine households paying their fair share to support our schools.

Mainers across the state supported both questions 4 and 2. A majority of voters in both Maine’s congressional districts approved raising the minimum wage, while Mainers from Paris to Calais and Fort Kent to Kennebunk voted in favor of the tax surcharge on annual income above $200,000 to fund education. The first order of business for the 128th Legislature must be to enact both measures, which will ensure fair pay for hard-working Mainers, and provide Maine students with the best chance of future economic success.

Exit polling from this year’s election revealed that even as they acknowledge an improved national economy, Mainers expressed overwhelming concern about the state’s economy. This year, 66 percent of voters told exit pollsters that their family’s financial well-being is about the same as, or worse, than it was four years ago. Three-quarters of the electorate said the same thing in 2012 – which suggests that a large share of Mainers continue to find their personal economic security no better than it was in 2008, in the depth of the Great Recession.

Working Mainers continue to struggle in a stagnant state economy, while under Gov. Le- Page’s economic policies, Maine continues to limp behind the rest of the nation‘s economic recovery.

Compared to 2007, fewer Mainers have jobs, their paychecks have grown more slowly than inflation and the rollback of safety-net programs has left more people in poverty and prevented Mainers from realizing the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Mainers want state policies that blaze a path out of poverty, offer their children the opportunity to prosper and enable their communities to thrive again.

The governor’s administration, which will present a biennial budget in January for the Legislature’s consideration, has already made its position clear. And their priorities could not be further from the values that Maine voters supported – better jobs, better schools, better communities and better tax policies that oblige the wealthy to pay their fair share.

The Legislature should not hesitate to repudiate the administration’s failed trickle-down economics of tax cuts for the rich at the expense of our schools, the false savings promised by state workforce reductions and further attempts to undermine the voters’ will.

Instead, legislators should focus on the issues that matter to Mainers – ensuring that one in three workers in the state gets a raise, that the wealthiest Mainers pay their fair share to support our schools and that our roads and bridges are kept in good repair. Mainers want solutions that work.

Despite a divisive election, consensus is not hard to find. Whether they cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton or for Donald Trump, 93 percent of Maine voters supported a presidential candidate who promised to increase spending on our roads and bridges, to give workers access to paid family leave, promote college affordability and to support good-paying jobs. Maine legislators need to address all of these issues.

We have an opportunity to restore our state’s reputation for bipartisan solutions that work for everyone, and to live up to the state motto by leading the way for the rest of the nation. At polling stations across the state, hundreds of thousands of Mainers showed they are hungry for change, and voted for ballot initiatives that position Maine as a national leader in implementing policies that benefit working families. Legislators need to listen to the voice of Maine’s voters and act accordingly.

]]> 3 Sat, 26 Nov 2016 22:47:51 +0000
Commentary: Class identity matters but may not be simple as we seek to define ourselves Sat, 26 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Class, like gender identity, is on a continuum. Just as Benedict Cumberbatch is more feminine than Cameron Diaz, so are members of “Duck Dynasty’s” Robertson family – estimated net worth of around $53 million – regarded by many fans as “real working guys” while Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – worth just over $4 million – is regarded as a privileged Ivy League elitist.

Is class a matter of identity, like gender and race? Is it a matter of loyalty? How do Americans define themselves when it comes to class?

It’s an uncomfortable question, so I’ll begin. If I were using trendy identity politics alone to provide my answer, I’d say I identify as a working-class woman – because that’s the class into which I was born and in which I was raised – who as an adult has made money.

But that self-portrait is misleading. I’m a college professor and columnist who lectures around the country. To call myself working class would be as disingenuous as the character played by Bryan Cranston on “Seinfeld” who converted to Judaism in order to tell Jewish jokes. To refer to myself as working class now would be to disrespect those who are the real thing.

I no longer have to rise before dawn, as my parents did, to take public transportation to jobs they didn’t like for a wage that underpaid them so that they could pay bills that left them with no savings, no retirement and, most significantly, no way out. I didn’t leave school after the eighth grade, as they did, to support their families. Their hard work and disciplined life permitted me choices they didn’t have.

Sure, I grew up wearing used clothes and used shoes and never owning a pair of pajamas or slippers, which were considered frivolities only the wealthy could afford. We waited for condescending relatives to ship us their old stuff as hand-me-downs, and I don’t think my mother ever wore stockings that didn’t have a run in them. But that was my family of origin; it’s not who I am today.

Now if I work my tail off, I do it on my terms – and if there is any definition of privilege, it’s precisely that.

So what am I? Upper-middle with my lower roots showing, like somebody who doesn’t color her hair often enough and whose true colors can be seen only when somebody is looking down on her? Am I like my friend Lynne Ferrigno, who says her family has “white-collar jobs but many blue-collar values”?

My former student and friend, Ebony Murphy-Root, argues that “Trump voters don’t own the label ‘working class.’ I don’t need to read the Harvard Business Review to understand the U.S. working class. How about I just ask my dad, who’s driven a tractor-trailer for the past 30 years? He doesn’t seem that resentful. He taught me no one owes you anything and certainly you are not owed a life ‘better than your parents had it’ just for being born.”

It seems to me that many Americans voted against their own self-interest in this year’s election, if practical personal gain is the only measure. I did; my household will profit from the lower taxes and cuts in spending promised by the party I voted against.

My friends who voted for Trump are, for the most part, hard-working, working-class people who I believe will be punished by the Republican administration. They have family members on disability; they have relatives relying on workers’ comp, Social Security or veterans’ benefits, and I think these programs will be in danger.

Maybe humor can save us, or at least help us connect. When I first went to college, I had no idea how to cope with the unfamiliar environment.

On one of my first days in the dining hall, I saw a girl who sat across from me in my French course. I decided it would be too weird not to acknowledge her.

“I know we’re in a class together,” I said. “Which is it?” “Upwardly mobile,” she said, grinning, and bit into a hard roll. From that day forward, I figured I would be OK. Here’s hoping all of us will start feeling that way soon.

]]> 8 Fri, 25 Nov 2016 19:56:47 +0000
The humble Farmer: Even to one with a foggy memory, ‘Da Vinci Code’ error is clear Sat, 26 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 How good is your memory? If you’re like your best friend, you have no trouble remembering things that you feel are important.

Do you remember reading “The Da Vinci Code”? If Tom Hanks comes immediately to mind, you probably copped out and simply watched the movie.

“The Da Vinci Code” was written before grandchildren first brightened our septic home with their coughs and runny noses. Widely popular in its day, the book is now easily obtainable in dusty back-street bookstores or on Amazon for a penny – plus an exorbitant charge for shipping.

Years behind mainstream America, after watching the movie I finally read the first and last two chapters of “The Da Vinci Code.”

You might remember my saying that whenever I read a book I always first read Chapter 1 and the last two chapters. Reading the first chapter tells me whom the book is about, and reading the last two chapters tells me if he and she will be standing or lying down at the end. I like only books and movies that make me laugh.

Catharsis is not my thing, and if the story doesn’t have a happy ending, why should I muck up a sunny day by reading or watching it? If I want to be depressed, I can break out “Antigone” – or my diary from 1955.

Another dozen pages into “The Da Vinci Code” and I am not comforted. To my way of thinking, the author is talking down to us when he patiently explains that the Jardins des Tuileries has nothing to do with tulips.

Put yourself in my place. Were I to mention the Louvre, how would you feel if I looked at you over the top of my glasses, raised my eyebrows and added, “It’s in Paris” – just to make sure you were on board?

Although we read how much research had been put into this book to ensure accuracy, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read in “The Da Vinci Code” that Art Buchwald boasted that he had seen the “Mona Lisa,” “Venus de Milo” and “Winged Victory” within a time span of 5 minutes and 56 seconds.

I shouted and almost cried because, as you well remember, this is not true. As every adult should know, Art Buchwald wrote that it was an American, Peter Stone, who sprinted through the Louvre and set a tourist record by seeing all three in 5 minutes and 56 seconds. You might recall that Peter Stone was the American who once studied “Winged Victory” for an hour, stepped back and said, “It will never fly.”

Some people are able to remember everything. One of my favorite stories is about Paul Dirac, who read “Crime and Punishment,” handed it back to the friend who’d loaned it to him and said, “In one of the chapters, the author made a mistake. He describes the sun rising twice on the same day.”

Now you know that I cannot remember the names or faces of my friends. And you know that I can put a plate of food in the microwave at noon and forget to eat it until my wife, Marsha, finds it five hours later.

So you might well ask how a man who can’t even remember to eat can critique a book that sold 40 million copies. How, you ask, could humble know that Art Buchwald never boasted of a Six-Minute Louvre?

May I explain in the Maine coast manner?

One evening, during a quiz game at a Grange meeting, my brother knew how many million sheep were in Australia.

Yes, we’ve talked of this before. So you already know that ever since he was eight or 10 years old, I have been in awe of my younger brother’s prodigious memory. When he was only in the fourth or fifth grade he would know the answers to many questions I’d dig out of a reference book – a feat that seemed impossible to me at the time. But his knowing how many sheep were in Australia – well, wouldn’t you agree that he was pushing the envelope?

After the meeting, when I asked him how he knew how many sheep were in Australia, he said that Mr. Moberg mentioned it in a geography class down at Gorham Normal School. I allowed as how that was nice, but how could he remember it for 55 years?

My brother straightened up a bit, gave me an incredulous look and very slowly replied, “How could you forget anything that Moberg said?”

May I, with slouched shoulders, study my shoes as I offer you the same rationale? “How can you forget anything that Art Buchwald wrote?”

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

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Maine Voices: See the forest for the trees and recognize benefits of biomass Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — Late last spring, in a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation, the U.S. Senate passed a far-ranging energy bill. Led by Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and several of their colleagues, the bill included a unanimously adopted amendment recognizing the renewability and carbon benefits of biomass energy derived from wood and plant material. The amendment requires the Environmental Protection Agency to recognize biomass as a renewable energy resource, much the same as wind and solar.

Now the Congress has reconvened, and the House-Senate Conference Committee should do its job and keep the biomass amendment in the energy bill.

Critics claim that lawmakers have gotten out in front of science and that there is not enough evidence to definitely prove the environmental benefits of biomass. They are wrong. Science recognizes that biomass is a well-established way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, say Steve Shaler, director of the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources, and Roger Sedjo, senior fellow at Resources for the Future, among others.

They cite a recent peer-reviewed study from the University of Illinois that concluded that electricity derived from popular biomass products is 74 to 85 percent less carbon-intensive than coal-based electricity, just one recent entry in the large and growing body of literature that demonstrates that biomass helps reduce greenhouse emissions. They also cite a recent letter from more than 100 of the country’s pre-eminent forestry experts to federal regulators that calls the carbon benefits of biomass “well established.”

Biomass is often derived from bark, sawdust, tops of trees and low-quality wood not suitable for building homes or furniture. It can be used in place of fossil fuels to produce heat and electricity, resulting in significantly fewer emissions than conventional energy sources. In fact, biomass produces 27 percent of Maine’s electricity, and 1,300 people are employed in its production. Another example of biomass use is in the manufacturing of wood pellets, made in four Maine plants and others throughout the country.

Using biomass for energy also contributes to the health of our forests. When biomass is removed from growing forests, the remaining trees are helped to grow larger and remain healthy.

It’s amazing to realize that American forests have increased in volume by 50 percent since the 1950s, which is a major reason why biomass provides such significant carbon savings. New trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere, thereby reducing the total greenhouse gas emissions coming from biomass. In fact, say Shaler and Sedjo, “the net growth in U.S. forests offsets 13 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions annually.”

This is where biomass and Sens. Collins’ and King’s amendment come in. The amendment recognizes the carbon neutrality and renewability of forest biomass.

As others have pointed out, the lack of a clear federal standard on biomass has resulted in uncertainty about investment in our mills. Furthermore, the loss of biomass markets negatively affects those who harvest wood, those who truck it to the mill and those who manage the forests, the foresters and landowners. This makes biomass significantly different from other renewable energy resources, which result in few jobs once they are built.

Today and going forward, we need to encourage all the potential market opportunities for Maine wood if we are going to maintain our forestland and have a healthy forest products industry. As large and small landowners understand, active, sustainable forest management means harvesting trees. This contributes to the health of forests and their carbon-capturing abilities, today and into the future, and means that the income from these harvests gives landowners the ability to continue to own the land.

Biomass energy means less use of fossil fuels, healthier forests and a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, exactly the sort of clean energy option that those looking for real solutions to climate change should be championing.

]]> 20, 24 Nov 2016 20:56:33 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: How segmented politics left Clinton’s campaign resting in pieces Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 One of the more salutary outcomes of the recent election is that Democrats are finally beginning to question the wisdom of basing their fortunes on identity politics. Having counted on the allegiance of African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, unmarried women and the young – and winning the popular vote all but once since 1992 – they were seduced into believing that they could ride this “coalition of the ascendant” into permanent command of the presidency.

They’re reconsidering now not because identity politics balkanizes society, creates state-chosen favored groups and fosters communal strife. They’re reconsidering because it’s not working.

Democrats read the 2008 and 2012 election results as a harbinger of the future. Then came 2016. They now realize that the huge turnout of their constituencies was attributable to Barack Obama, a uniquely gifted campaigner whose aura is not transferable.

And why assume that identity politics creates permanent allegiances? Take the Hispanic vote. Both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump won less than 30 percent, but in 2004 George W. Bush won 44 percent. Why assume that the Republican Party cannot be competitive again?

As these groups evolve socioeconomically, their political allegiances can easily change. This is particularly true for the phenomenally successful Asian-American community. There is no reason the more entrepreneurial party, the GOP, should continue to lose this vote by more than 2-to-1.

Moreover, the legitimation of identity politics by the Democrats has finally come back to bite them. Trump managed to read, then mobilize, the white working class, and to endow it with political self-consciousness. What he voiced on their behalf was the unspoken complaint of decades: Why not us?

For all the embrace of identity politics at home, abroad Obama has preached the opposite. Here is a man telling a black audience in September that he would “consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy” if they don’t turn out for the Democratic candidate in November. Yet on his valedictory tour abroad just nine weeks later, he lectures anyone who will listen on the sins of parochialism. His urgent message for the nations of the world, including his own, is to eschew “tribalism” in the name of a common universalism.

This doctrine of global consciousness found its photographic expression just two weeks ago. There was parka-bundled John Kerry on a visit to the Antarctic, to which he had dropped in to make a point about global warming. Three days later, Vladimir Putin, thinking tribally, renewed the savage bombing of Aleppo and then moved nuclear-capable missiles into Kaliningrad to remind Europeans of the perils of defying the regional strongman.

Putin is quite prepared to leave the Antarctic ice sheets to Kerry while he sets his sights on Eastern Europe and the Levant. Our allies, meanwhile, remain amazed that Obama still believes the kinds of things he said in his maiden U.N. address about the obsolescence of power politics and national domination – and acts accordingly as if his brave new world of shared universal values had already arrived.

Seven months ago, Obama went to Britain to urge them – with characteristic unsuccess – to remain in Europe. Now he returns to Europe to urge everyone to resist the siren song of “a crude sort of nationalism, or ethnic identity, or tribalism.”

This is rather ironic, given that what was meant as a swipe at both European and Trumpian ethno-nationalism is a fairly good description of the Democratic Party’s domestic strategy of identity politics.

To be sure, ethnic appeal has been part of American politics forever. But the Hillary Clinton campaign was its reductio ad absurdum: all segmented group appeal, no message. Even Bernie Sanders is urging that “we go beyond identity politics” if Democrats are ever to appeal again to the working class.

As for foreign policy, there has always been and always should be an element of transcendent mission to American actions. But its reductio ad absurdum was the Obama doctrine of self-sacrificial subordination of U.S. interests to universal values. That doctrine is finished. The results, from Ukraine to Aleppo to the South China Sea, are simply too stark.

For the Democrats, the road back – from tribalism at home and universalism abroad – beckons.

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

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M.D. Harmon: Love comes on the wings of a dove and from grandchildren Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m ready to give politics a rest today.

Political junkies often believe their monomania is 1) the most important thing in the world and 2) as utterly fascinating to everyone else as it is to them.

That’s not just terribly wrong, it’s doubling down on wrongness.

But today is the day after the one national holiday dedicated to gratitude itself (as opposed to being thankful for maternal parental units, hard-working exemplars of organized labor, or Italian explorers who financed their wacky schemes with money wheedled out of naive Spanish monarchs).

Instead, in an idiosyncratic spirit, I’d like to explore a couple of things worth appreciating that have nothing to do with contested elections, prevaricating politicians, wildly off-the-the-mark polls or bureaucrats’ regulatory nightmares.

That is, I want to write about things involved with real life, as it is rather charmingly called.

1) So, let’s start with birds.

No, not the turkey you are still digesting, but ones with feathers still attached.

I worked for years for a man whom I still consider the nation’s No. 1 birdwatcher, former chief editorial writer George Neavoll, and for a long time I regarded his hobby as a cross between playing tiddlywinks (look it up, kids) and collecting pull-off tabs.

Oh, I could probably tell a robin from a bluejay from a crow, but I didn’t see any reason why it made a difference, and most varieties were just bunches of feathers with feet to me.

But then something odd happened. One summer Saturday, in a tree at the end of my driveway, I saw one of the biggest, oddest-looking birds I’d ever seen. It had a long, sinuous neck, and was mostly black but with white stripes along the head and a big red topknot.

So, of course, I called George and described it to him. “That’s a pileated woodpecker,” he informed me. “They usually stay in the deep woods, so you should feel happy you saw one.”

And the strangest thing was, I did feel happy, like I’d seen an eclipse or a scenic vista. Something different had visited my yard, and suddenly I began to notice birds, and look them up in books, and discuss varieties and migration habits.

Now, we have three feeders in the backyard (we finally found some genuinely squirrel-proof ones, so my former tree-rat resettlement program is on hiatus, and the arboreal filchers feed on the seeds the birds drop).

Two feeders hold black-oil sunflower seeds, and the third is thistle for goldfinches (aka “pigs with wings”). Two suet holders for hairy and downy woodpeckers and upside-down-feeding nuthatches round out the set, which is supplemented in the spring with an orange-streamer-decorated jelly dish for Baltimore orioles.

Watching them flit and feed and filibuster (they get raucous when the feeders aren’t promptly filled) is remarkably entertaining.

And no one is more surprised at that than I am.

2) Then there are the grandchildren.

I know, I know, the two most terrifying things you can hear are “We’re surrounded by a pack of ravenous zombies!” and “Want to see pictures of my grandkids?”

But I’m not going to expound on their various wonderfulnesses, as I know everybody exults to see a grandchild take a first step, or utter a few halting words, or grow up to make a million dollars, buy Nonnie and Pawpaw a new house and take them on a round-the-world cruise.

(OK, that last hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still time. Right, kids?)

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with specifics, but instead to verify that the Bible speaks an absolute truth when it says, “Blessed is he who lives to see his children’s children.”

When you see your own kids, whom you shepherded through all the pitfalls and pratfalls of growing to adulthood, actually restart the process all over again, the whole “life-is-a-flowing-river” metaphor becomes real right in front of your eyes.

So when you watch them making the same mistakes you did, and help out where you can (but not too much, because they have to stand on their own or they will never stand at all), and bite your lip when you want to give advice, and watch triumphs and disasters occur among those you love, and discover that love really is endlessly expandable – you discover that living, even in the most quotidian circumstances, is an adventure unlike any other.

So you are grateful for the common things of life, for they often are the best parts of it. (Blessed, too, is the person who knows where to address his daily missives of thanks.)

What’s that? You say I wrote a whole column on the day after Thanksgiving and didn’t mention until now that it was Black Friday?

Gee, you noticed.

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

]]> 4, 24 Nov 2016 21:44:59 +0000
Our View: No time to turn our backs on Syrian refugees Thu, 24 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Gov. LePage’s refusal to administer the state’s federally funded refugee resettlement program will do nothing to prevent Maine and the rest of the United States from providing a safe haven for people fleeing war-torn countries. A nonprofit agency will simply step in and fill the void.

Instead, the real danger comes from President-elect Donald Trump, whose anti-refugee rhetoric has given Americans a distorted view of the resettlement program, and whose administration promises to reduce or end it.

As we give thanks for all we have as Americans, and prepare for a season of giving, there is an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a moral country and the world’s superpower, with the ability to provide sanctuary for people coming from unimaginable circumstances.


LePage notified the federal government in a Nov. 4 letter that he would not administer the refugee resettlement program “until adequate vetting procedures can be established,” joining 13 other states. He went on to misquote the FBI director on the competency of that vetting process, and said Maine has been burdened by an “unchecked influx of refugees.”

Trump used much of the same language, noting during a campaign stop in Portland that “hundreds of thousands of refugees” were streaming into the United States.

But there is no deluge. Maine received 607 immigrants last year. If the state’s population is represented by a capacity crowd at Fenway Park, that’s like adding 17 more people to the bleacher seats.

The U.S. accepted around 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, including a record 38,901 Muslim refugees – in a country of 320 million. Among them were 12,587 Syrians who fled airstrikes, terrorist attacks and starvation at home, then spent months if not years in official or makeshift camps that are dangerous in their own right before being approved for refugee status.

If Trump follows through on his campaign promises, that lifeline would be cut off, based on the fear that the resettlement program raises the possibility of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.


But a sober look at the program shows that is not the case, certainly not to the degree Trump and LePage claim.

Anyone with an internet connection can look up the particulars of the program, which takes 18 to 24 months and includes multi-agency background checks, in-person interviews and other safeguards. Refugees make up about 10 percent of the immigrants who come into this country, and they are the most thoroughly screened category.

There are some weaknesses, including the reliability of information coming out of some source countries, but opponents calling for “adequate vetting procedures” seem to miss that they are already in place, and that there are far easier ways for someone dangerous to get into the country.

There are 5 million Syrian refugees – half of them children – and the U.S. has taken fewer than 15,000. Congress should address those shortfalls where they exist, but there is no need to bring a halt to the program, not when so much help is needed to quell this enormous humanitarian disaster, and not when the refugee program has had so few failures.


Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, over 800,000 refugees have come to the United States, many from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, not inconsequentially places where the American military has intervened. In all that time, and out of all those people, only five have been arrested on terrorism-related grounds, and none has been involved in an attack.

It is impossible to say that no refugee with terrorism in mind will get through. But we cannot let outsized fear paralyze us while a world in crisis needs our help.

Our country was strengthened by Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants, as well as by Vietnamese and Cuban refugees who came here fleeing war and dictatorships.

On the flip side, to our lasting shame, hundreds of Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany were turned away as a threat to national security.

In another trying time, we cannot let that happen. We are better than our prejudices, and stronger than our fears.

]]> 153, 23 Nov 2016 22:26:23 +0000
Commentary: Jeff Sessions’ open hostility to Voting Rights Act worthy of shudders Thu, 24 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I was a young lawyer in the civil rights division at the Justice Department in 1981 when I first encountered Jeff Sessions, then the new U.S. attorney for Alabama. I met him while I was handling a major voting rights case in Mobile, and I relayed a rumor I’d heard: A federal judge there had allegedly referred to a civil rights lawyer as “a traitor to his race” for taking on black clients. Sessions responded, “Well, maybe he is.”

Five years later, that startling incident came up again, after Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship. The American Bar Association asked me and my supervisor for background on Sessions, as was standard in those days for judicial confirmations. I told the ABA about conversations I’d had with the U.S. attorney in which he referred to the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American.” As he saw it, by fighting for racial equality, these groups were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”

I assumed that my deposition for the ABA would remain confidential, until I got a surprise call. A car would be picking me up in 30 minutes to take me to the Hill, where I would testify about Sessions before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

When I arrived, Sen. Jeremiah Denton, R-Ala., and a congressional staffer took me into a back room. The testimony on Sessions was going south, and they told me to get in there and straighten it out – or my job would be in jeopardy.

I told them I knew they had no role to play in whether I kept my job and that I did not appreciate what they were saying. And then I offered my testimony.

Sessions rebutted some of the testimony against him (including that he had called an African-American prosecutor who worked for him “boy” and told him to “be careful what you say to white folks”), but he didn’t deny what I said about him. He never apologized for those comments, either, saying only that “I am loose with my tongue on occasion.”

The Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee didn’t approve his nomination, making him only the second nominee in 50 years to be rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship. I had no further contact with him.

Thirty years later, Sessions has been tapped to be the federal government’s top attorney, charged with enforcing the law fairly and protecting all Americans’ civil rights. I have little faith that he will. So again, I am adding my personal encounters with him to the public record.

The comments I heard Sessions make are three decades old, but his consistent policy positions over the years speak volumes. He falsely charged three African-American civil rights activists in Alabama, including a longtime adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., with 29 counts of mail fraud, altering absentee ballots and attempting to vote multiple times. The evidence showed that these activists were simply helping elderly African-American voters complete mail-in ballots. All were acquitted of every charge.

He has promoted the myth of voter-impersonation fraud despite overwhelming evidence that it is exceedingly rare. He has ignored the racial impact of voting restrictions, which have a well-documented negative effect on minority communities, the impoverished and the elderly. He has disagreed that people are sometimes denied the right to vote, and proclaimed victory in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Sessions asserted that “Shelby County has never had a history of denying voters” – willfully discounting the Alabama county’s recent history of discriminatory voting changes.

This is the man President-elect Donald Trump has selected to be in charge of enforcing the Voting Rights Act and all of our federal civil rights laws. It should make every American shudder.

I served in the Justice Department for over two decades, under 10 attorneys general. Administrations come and go, but for the most part, the career lawyers continue fighting for justice. I hope those lawyers in the civil rights division do what I and other division attorneys did when the Reagan administration came in: We continued pressing the cause of civil rights. We knew that our nation is stronger when equality under the law is not just a slogan but an enforcement policy of the Justice Department.


]]> 7 Wed, 23 Nov 2016 19:50:50 +0000
The hungry need your help year-round, not just on holidays Thu, 24 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 AUBURN — On Thursday, families around Maine will gather to give thanks for all they have. While some will be giving thanks for the abundance that life has given them, many of our neighbors will be giving thanks for their local food pantry and for the food they receive there. One in seven Maine households relies on a local hunger relief charity for food each month.

Good Shepherd Food Bank partners with more than 400 local organizations across Maine to distribute nutritious food to Maine families, children and seniors in need. The simple truth is that there are many people throughout our state who would go without food this holiday season were it not for the work of the food bank and our statewide network of food pantries and meal sites. We are thankful that we can offer this service, and we are grateful to the many generous donors who make our work possible.

Speaking of generosity, at this time of year, hunger relief organizations like Good Shepherd Food Bank receive many offers of help. People are eager to volunteer their time, contribute food and donate money. And we are often asked the same questions:

 “Is this your busiest time of the year?” No.

 “Do you run special programs during the holidays?” No.

 “I called my local food pantry and the volunteer shifts were filled. Do they really need my help?” A resounding yes.

The problem is that the food pantry needs your help just as much in February and in July as it does on Thanksgiving. Good Shepherd Food Bank doesn’t distribute special holiday food, but our network of local food pantries and meal sites will provide more than 385,000 meals the week of Thanksgiving – just like we will the week before and the week after.

The generosity displayed during the holiday season is a wonderful gift; it’s something to be appreciated and encouraged, especially when we see young people giving back to their communities. But it is important that we remember that hunger is a problem 365 days a year.

Hunger isn’t a holiday. It is a stark reality for more than 15 percent of Mainers, including one in four of our children. So we need your help, but not just because it’s Thanksgiving.

We need your help because Maine has one of the highest rates of hunger in the country. We need your help because too many of our children are not reaching their full potential because they are going to school on empty stomachs. Being hungry is more than a physical state of discomfort. It means seniors are forced to choose between eating dinner or taking their medication. It means families are living with the daily, toxic stress of not knowing how they are going to put a meal on the table tomorrow.

Good Shepherd Food Bank and our partners across Maine are making progress in ending hunger in our state. We’re distributing more food each year, improving the nutritional quality of that food, and reaching families in new locations, including schools and health centers. We’re purchasing and distributing more local foods from Maine farms each year.

We don’t have a shortage of food in our state; we do have shortages when it comes to capacity and financial resources. If we are going to reach our goal of ending hunger in Maine, we need your help. We need your time and we need you to donate. But we need you to know that financial donations have significantly more impact than leftover food.

If you have food that you don’t need or food that would otherwise go to waste, then by all means bring it to your local food pantry. But if you have the ability to give financially, we encourage you to give money to your local food pantry or the Good Shepherd Food Bank, where we can leverage your donation and get nearly eight times as much food for the same dollar as what you can buy at the store.

Mainers are incredibly generous people, and I cannot thank you enough for all that you do to help our neighbors in need. Please continue to ask the question “How can I help?” because you really can make a difference. One in four of Maine’s children is counting on you.

]]> 4, 23 Nov 2016 22:37:28 +0000
Dana Milbank: Media folks who submit to Trump’s antics deserve bad press Thu, 24 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It was a pathetic spectacle: TV news executives and anchors filing in to Trump Tower on Monday to be the president-elect’s whipping boys.

Donald Trump had summoned them for a talk, but it turned out to be part tongue-lashing, part perp walk. The TV news people had foolishly agreed that the session was “off the record,” leaving Trump and his aides free to characterize the media representatives as groveling while Trump berated them as liars.

“Trump Eats Press,” announced pro-Trump Breitbart News.

The New York Post: “Donald Trump’s media summit was an (expletive) ‘firing squad.’ ”

Drudge: “Trump Slams Media Elite, Face to Face.”

Trump singled out for abuse CNN – the outlet that, with its endless live broadcasts of Trump speeches, did more than any other to win Trump the Republican nomination.

Many outlets (though not The Washington Post, happily) seem to expect and crave a return to business as usual after the election. They envision off-the-record chinwags with the new president. They expressed indignation when he ditched the press pool to go to dinner.

They’re begging him to hold a news conference and devouring the crumbs he tosses their way. And ominously, they’re taking to heart the criticism that the media were too tough on him, and talking about recalibrating their approach to him to regain public approval.

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, in a segment with me on MSNBC on Tuesday, said that “the media is really overplaying its hand” in its coverage of Trump’s business conflicts of interest. “I think the media is on thin ice with the American people, very thin ice, and that they ought to just … dial it back.”

My former editor Liz Spayd, now public editor at The New York Times, fretted that letters to the editor are at their highest level since 2001 and that “many are venting about the Times’s coverage,” including “the liberal tint.”

Trump, naturally, used this to further his campaign against the media, tweeting Tuesday that “the failing” Times “just announced that complaints about them are at a 15 year high. I can fully understand that.”

Journalists need to recognize that we’re not going to win a popularity contest with Trump, and we shouldn’t try. Trump campaigned against the media, and he will continue to use the media as a foil. His party controls Congress, and conservatives will soon control the Supreme Court. If he can discredit the media, he’ll remove another check to his power.

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, remarked that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Our 45th president would clearly prefer the former. He has shut out news organizations, including The Post, whose coverage he dislikes. He has threatened to restrict First Amendment press freedoms.

Rather than cozying up to this new establishment, the media need to savor our traditional role as outsiders. Columbia Journalism Review’s top editor, Kyle Pope, has it right when he urges “a return to journalism’s oppositional roots; it has done reporters no good to think of themselves as part of the establishment or a megaphone for the conventional wisdom. We need to embrace, even relish, our legacy as malcontents and troublemakers.”

Pursuing public affection is a fool’s errand. The profession was never held in high public esteem. And the recent decline in approval is due entirely to Trump’s daily bashing.

A September Gallup poll found a historic low for trust in the mass media: just 32 percent, down 8 points from 2015. But Gallup speculated that this was a “result of Trump’s sharp criticisms of the press,” noting that trust of the press among Republicans fell 18 points in a year.

Was the press really hard on Trump? Thirty-nine percent of voters think so, according to a Pew Research Center poll. But looking at it another way, 59 percent thought the press was either too easy on Trump (27 percent) or fair (32 percent).

There is much the press should do differently: Ditch the horse-race coverage, the discredited data journalism and the tendency among news reporters to express their opinions in social media.

But for those who think the media could gain public support if we stop hassling Trump about his conflicts of interest, the rise of white supremacists alongside him, the Trump Foundation’s self-dealing and the $25 million Trump University legal settlement – too bad. We’re not here to be popular.

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

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Leonard Pitts: For those who find thankfulness elusive this Thanksgiving, food for thought Wed, 23 Nov 2016 11:00:52 +0000 I was sitting in the service department of my Toyota dealer, staring at a book without seeing it as I waited for my car. God was next to me, watching “The Price is Right.”

“Eight-hundred forty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents,” he said.

“Huh?” I said.

“The retail price of a stainless-steel Kenmore 4.2-cubic-foot freestanding gas range,” said God, pointing to the television.

On the screen, an excited young woman blurted, “Twelve hundred dollars!”

Drew Carey looked sad for her as he revealed the price. God shook his head. “I tried to tell her,” he said. “If people would only listen to me … ”

“Oh,” I said, and returned to the book I wasn’t reading.

God regarded me a moment. Then he said, “Transmission?”

I looked up. “What?”

God said, “I asked if you brought the car in because your transmission went blooey. Obviously, something’s got you down.”

I sighed and closed the book. “Trump,” I said.


“The guy that’s going to be our new president,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” said God. “With the hair, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “That guy.”

“Well, what about him?”

On the screen above us, some man had Drew Carey in a bear hug. I sighed. “He’s the worst excuse for a leader I’ve ever seen,” I said.

“What kind of ‘president’ spends his time whining about how he’s treated on ‘Saturday Night Live’? Or has to pay out $25 million to resolve a fraud case en route to inauguration? Not to mention that he’s assembling a Cabinet only a Klansman could love.”

“Frightening,” said God.

“Yes,” I said. “Now here it is Thanksgiving and I find that, well, I’m just not feeling very thankful.”

God was incredulous. “But look at all I’ve given you. You’ve got that great wife, you have a house, you have health and you’ve got that new granddaughter toddling around.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Of course, I’m thankful for all that. But the country …”

“You should thank me for the country, too,” he said.

“How?” I said. “Like I just told you, there’s nothing to be thankful for.”

“I disagree,” said God. “I did some of my better work here.”

“Oh?” I said. “Which part? The bigotry, the stupidity or the misogyny?”

God gave me a level look. “You’re angry,” he said.

“Yeah,” I admitted. “I probably will be for the next few years.”

“Why?” asked God.

“Why?! Didn’t you hear what I said about the dope we elected? About the Masters of Evil he’s surrounding himself with? I expect better from this country.”

“You expect better,” said God. On the screen above, some lady shrieked and bit her fingernails as the Big Wheel spun.

“Yeah,” I said. “I do.”

“And what gives you this expectation?”

“This is America,” I said.

God laughed. “You people always say that word like a magic spell,” he said. “But there is no magic in it. Certainly no guarantee. You may expect better in America only because here, you have the freedom to demand better – and to work toward better. That’s all ‘America’ means. You had that freedom before this Trump person was elected, and you have it still. Not everyone does.”

“So you’re saying the fight to form a more perfect union is always ongoing? And that even in our current predicament we can draw strength from knowing that? You’re saying that God abides even now, and that these are things to be grateful for on Thanksgiving Day?”

God smiled. “I’m saying thanksgiving is not a day.”

“Wow,” I said. “I never thought about it like that.”

“You’re welcome,” said God.

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

]]> 9, 22 Nov 2016 19:46:34 +0000
Maine Voices: On Shop Small Saturday – and all year – buying local benefits us all Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Residents of Portland are used to seeing the little blue “Buy Local” stickers in store windows and on automobile bumpers. The stickers are from Portland Buy Local, a group whose mission is “to support locally owned, independent businesses in Portland, to maintain (Portland’s) unique community character, provide continuing opportunities for entrepreneurs, build community economic strength and prevent the displacement of community-based businesses by national and global chains.”

Nov. 26 is Shop Small Saturday all across our great country. It’s a day set aside for holiday shopping at independently owned businesses and an opportunity to get out with friends and family to shop, dine and meet the small-business owners who make our city the unique place it is.

Why should purchasing from local vendors matter to the citizens of the Portland area? Shopping at small, independently owned businesses brings our community together and keeps more money in our local Maine economy.

A 2011 study conducted by the Maine Center for Economic Policy and funded by Portland Buy Local concluded that each $100 spent at a locally owned business generates $58 in “additional economic impact,” compared to $33 in additional economic impact on the local economy when purchasing from a national chain – a difference of 76 percent.

My partner and I operate a local payroll and accounting firm in downtown Portland named Local Economy. It’s not a retail operation, like those where you’ll be shopping on Small Business Saturday, but after reading the Maine Center for Economic Policy study, I was interested in seeing how much of each dollar spent at our business stays in the Maine economy.

My goal is to share with you where your money goes after you spend it at our company, and then attempt to explain how that might compare when the same transactions are made with companies that have a local office in Maine, but have corporate headquarters out of state, or when money is spent online with companies that don’t have any physical presence in Maine.

My study concluded that 69 cents of every dollar spent at our business stays in Maine:

 27 cents of every dollar was paid as net salaries to employees. That is actual take-home pay that goes into employees’ bank accounts after withholding federal and state taxes.

 14 cents of each dollar was net profit that went to the local Maine owners of our company.

 8 cents was paid to Community Health Options, a health insurance company headquartered in Lewiston.

• 6 cents went to our local Portland landlord for rent.

 6 cents was paid to the state of Maine in the form of state income tax withholdings, state unemployment insurance, state payroll processing bond insurance and state business licenses.

The remaining 8 cents that was put back into the local Maine economy went to independent vendors for office supplies, a locally owned moving company (we moved our office last year), our local computer repair guru, our local electrician (who’s helped with wiring our new office), a local security monitoring company, a local paper shredding company, a local attorney, local restaurants and our local bank in the form of interest and bank fees, plus a few others.

Compare this with buying from a retailer that has a local office in Maine but maintains its corporate headquarters outside the state. Yes, the local office provides jobs for Mainers and possibly rental income to local landlords, but some portion of the dollars you spend with those companies pays for the salaries of out-of-state executives and corporate staff.

Those out-of-state workers aren’t paying Maine state income tax, and goods purchased by the corporate office aren’t charged Maine sales tax. It’s a good bet that their budget for office supplies, legal advice, security systems and entertainment isn’t spent in Maine, either.

Now consider how much of your money will stay in Maine when you purchase from an online retailer that doesn’t have an office in Maine. The answer is: pretty much zero!

The point is to keep local businesses in mind, especially at this time of year. I encourage you to shop locally this holiday season. Independently owned businesses are a vital component of what makes Maine and the Portland area such an amazing place to live.

We understand that what benefits us benefits you – and, just as importantly, what benefits you benefits us. All of us, the independent business owners and our customers, are what make our community unique and give Maine such an incredible sense of place.


]]> 2, 23 Nov 2016 10:42:59 +0000
Commentary: Where have all the judges gone? Unfilled seats on the federal benches obstruct justice Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 RICHMOND, Va. — Holding open Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacancy on the Supreme Court was a stated goal of Senate Republicans throughout the protracted, divisive federal elections. But it wasn’t only the high court that senators neglected. There are now 94 unfilled openings on federal circuit and district courts – a vacancy rate that is impeding the delivery of justice.

Senators’ lengthy absence during the election season – which followed a prolonged summer recess and a truncated September session – means that no judge has been confirmed since July 6.

The election results likely will prompt yet more judges to retire or assume senior status (in which they manage reduced caseloads), which means this number could easily swell to 110 openings. Fully 13 percent of seats on the federal bench could be vacant by Inauguration Day.

With just a modicum of cooperation, Republican and Democratic senators could restore some of the judicial resources courts desperately need. There are, most notably, 20 well-qualified, mainstream district court nominees whom the Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote without dissent. A majority of them were recommended for the bench by their Republican home-state senators. They should get a final confirmation vote during the lame-duck session that began last week.

A failure to consider these nominees during the lame-duck session means that whole process will have to start over – a waste of effort exactly when the new Trump administration needs to fill a Supreme Court vacancy and create a new government. Vacancies will continue to pile up before the administration can focus on filling them; many will still be empty in 2018.

Throughout the first six years of the Obama administration, with a dearth of cooperation in the Senate, the number of judicial vacancies hovered around 90 – the highest number of vacancies ever allowed to remain unfilled for so long.

After Republicans captured the Senate majority two years ago, the Republican leadership pledged that it would restore “regular order” to the upper chamber. Instead, despite many promises, there were few expeditious candidate recommendations or swiftly planned nominee hearings and committee votes. The major bottleneck was the Senate floor, because Republican leaders rarely scheduled final debates and votes.

So in 2015, the Senate confirmed just one circuit and 10 district judges; in 2016, it approved only one circuit and eight district jurists before departing to campaign in late September. During the entire 114th Congress, the Senate averaged fewer than one confirmation per month.

A clear example of the difficulties such obstruction creates is the Idaho District Court, where caseloads are now 20 percent higher than the national average. The court has one active judge and an 82-year-old second judge, who assumed senior status in July 2015. The nominee to fill this post has languished 11 months.

Another salient illustration is Texas, which confronts 13 vacancies (eight of which don’t even have nominees). The U.S. Courts declared all 13 “judicial emergencies” because of the protracted length of the vacancy or the substantial caseload. For instance, judges in the Eastern District of Texas manage caseloads that are triple the national average.

Stalled confirmations obviously undermine the swift, economical and fair handling of cases, which erodes public respect for the confirmation system and the coequal branches of government. Drawing out the appointment process also forces talented, mainstream nominees to put their robust careers on hold – a situation that dissuades many strong candidates from contemplating the bench.

Some Republicans may assert that 2016 is a presidential election year, when the “Thurmond Rule” holds – that is, confirmations slow and halt, especially after a new president from the opposite party captures the election.

But this “rule” is an unwritten custom, not a legal mandate – and one both parties have applied inconsistently at best. Moreover, the federal courts’ dire straits show the Senate should look to other relevant traditions.

Most pertinent is that modern Senates and presidents conventionally have accorded competent, moderate nominees a final vote. A compelling example: the Senate confirmation of Stephen Breyer to the 1st Circuit after Ronald Reagan had defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980. Republicans at least should permit confirmation votes on the 20 highly qualified, moderate district nominees who have waited months.

The courts desperately need these openings filled, and most of the nominees are capable and uncontroversial. Moreover, by the time President Trump has his administration running and confirms a replacement for Scalia, there could be 135 vacancies.

This could even precipitate third-branch dysfunction at a crucial time in the nascent Trump administration. All that can easily be avoided by confirming many judges now in the lame-duck session. Both parties should work together in these final weeks of 2016 to cut down this backlog of vacancies for the good of the courts, the Senate and the country.


]]> 2 Tue, 22 Nov 2016 19:48:59 +0000
Charles Lawton: The difference between marketing and governing is facts Tue, 22 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The deal isn’t done until the bill is paid. – Dun & Bradstreet credit and collection slogan

Elections are about marketing — crafting a message and trying to convince enough people that you can deliver that they offer you the job. Governing is about closing the deal — actually accomplishing even some of the things that your message said you would.

The beauty of a market economy is that there is precious little time between marketing and delivering. Millions of people get to decide every day if your product lives up to your marketing. If enough of these deciders put their money where your mouth was, you get to keep your job. If they don’t, you don’t.

In governments in the United States, the time between marketing and delivery – between convincing enough people to give you the job and having to face their judgment about whether or not you delivered and, thus, can keep your job – is generally at least two years.

As a result, the deciders have a lot of time to come to conclusions about the quality of your service, and often they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for a term or two. But if you don’t deliver, or worse, don’t appear to share some of the deciders’ major concerns, you’re sure to get bounced. Free elections might not be as fast as free markets, but they’re just as conclusive. And, as with markets, therein lies their savage beauty.

In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned on a message of hope and change, and a war-weary electorate said, “Give him a try.” In 2012, despite the worst economic collapse in 70 years, they said, “Give him another.”

But in 2016, his message — and, by default, that of his would-be successor — rang hollow. Six years of sputtering “recovery” were driven almost exclusively by Federal Reserve policies that, however well-intended, clearly favored those who already had lots of money. Efforts to withdraw from an increasingly confusing “war on terror” seemed merely to spawn new terrorists, some even within our borders. The predominant expression of hope came from desperate families fleeing genocide in the Middle East and dictatorial kleptocracies in Africa.

At the same time, the message of the not-so-loyal opposition – “We will oppose every action you take, even to the point of shutting down government and refusing to exercise our constitutional responsibilities” – proved equally unappealing.

In such an environment, it really isn’t all that surprising that we have elected a complete outsider as our newest president, a man whose only accomplishment is having turned his name and celebrity into cash flow that has, for decades, outpaced the efforts of disillusioned investors and creditors to keep up. We’ve got a marketing president for a marketing age.

But bemoaning and celebrating election results is fast becoming passé. Soon we’ll be on to governing. And here the question for all is clear: Who will close the deal? Who will imagine, draft, pass and implement policies that will accelerate the rate of solid and widespread economic growth that will demonstrably touch the lives of families in all regions and at all income levels?

In attempting to answer this question, all participants must recognize that the governing process has moved from marketing to production and distribution. And in this transition, the effective currency has changed from claims to facts.

No longer will filling the blogosphere with outrageous assertions spread with viral speed by financially desperate media outlets and “out to make a killing” social media artists win the day. In governing, facts matter. I have or I don’t have: a job, a home, health insurance, a chance to expand my knowledge and skills or start a business.

People all across the country will soon be saying to themselves, “I gave you your job, Mr. President (or Senator, or Representative or Governor, etc., etc.) based on a feeling of desperation, but the only way you’ll keep it will be based on facts. And don’t lecture me on how much worse I would be without your principles. They don’t put food on the table.”

As Kurt Vonnegut would have said, “And so it goes.” As I would say, “Let’s gather the pertinent facts.”

Pending recounts, Maine voters, by very slim margins, have just passed initiatives to allow the recreational use of marijuana, to impose a surcharge on income dedicated to education and to leave laws surrounding gun purchases unchanged. If they do nothing else in January, Maine legislators interested in governing should mandate the compilation and broad circulation of the results of each initiative: facts such as the number of marijuana-impaired driving incidents, specific learning enabled by tax surcharge spending, the number of privately sold guns used in crimes.

The list could go on. The point is that the only way to restore trust in government – not just in elections, but also in governing – is to restore the primacy of empirical facts.

The more we become a nation of people who accept as true only the facts we select, the more we become ungovernable. And, thus, the more critical it becomes that those who would govern us gather, sort, interpret and use facts as the very language of their deliberations.

Consulting economist Charles Lawton, Ph.D., can be contacted at:

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Maine Voices: Republicans have abandoned the environment – in the nation and Maine Tue, 22 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 HALLOWELL — In Maine, more than in many other states, the environment is the economy.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, active outdoor recreation supports 48,000 jobs across Maine, generates $210 million in annual state tax revenue and produces nearly $3 billion annually in retail sales and services, accounting for more than 7 percent of gross state product. Furthermore, the U.S. Census reports that each year over a million people enjoy wildlife-watching, hunting or fishing in Maine, contributing over $1.5 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy.

The impact on land conservation and outdoor recreation in Maine with Donald Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress is likely to be dramatic.

Our state has benefited from hundreds of millions of federal dollars for land conservation, wildlife management and local recreation projects.

Maine has received more than $65 million during the past five decades from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect important areas at Acadia National Park, Saint Croix Island International Historic Site, White Mountain National Forest and six national wildlife refuges: Rachel Carson, Moosehorn, Petit Manan, Sunkhaze Meadows, Coastal Islands and Aroostook.

Maine also got over $41 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s stateside program for hiking and biking trails, parks, ball fields and other community projects.

Through the federal Forest Legacy Program, Maine has pulled in another $75 million for “working forest” projects.

Millions of dollars more have been funneled to Maine for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, habitat conservation, endangered species and wildlife management through a variety of federal programs, including the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, Wildlife Restoration Program, North American Wetlands Conservation Act and Endangered Species Conservation Fund.

All of these federal investments have leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars in matching state and private funds. All of these kinds of federal investments are now at risk.

Conservation used to be nonpartisan. Some times Republicans led, at other times Democrats or independents. Elected officials of all stripes understood the environmental, economic and recreational benefits.

However, in the past several years, Republicans have proposed slashing or eliminating the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Forest Legacy Program, the Endangered Species Act and other programs that have benefited Maine tremendously. Some of the most egregious proposals have been thwarted or tempered by President Obama, but now that Republicans have the reins of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, watch for an orgy of anti-conservation activity.

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which has opposed many conservation projects, endorsed Republicans Bruce Poliquin and Mark Holbrook for Congress. Not surprisingly, Holbrook lost in Maine’s 1st Congressional District (southern Maine), while Poliquin won in the 2nd District (the rest of the state).

Poliquin has been a reliable supporter of the tea party branch of the Republican Party in Congress and he is expected to continue to try to undermine federal conservation programs.

The Maine Snowmobile Association has also collaborated closely with Poliquin. For example, the association wrote and Poliquin introduced language to block any federal funds from being channeled to the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine. Polls show overwhelming public support for the monument, but SAM and the MSA care about their special interests, not the broad public interest.

Meanwhile, anti-environmental Gov. LePage has promised to push President-elect Donald Trump to de-authorize the new national monument. Last month, while stumping in Maine, Trump said President Obama overstepped by declaring the national monument, implying he would rescind the proclamation.

As a state with a large land base, a small population, and a shrinking resource extraction economy, Maine has long been dependent on federal subsidies from taxpayers in the rest of the country. Now that voters have put in charge a cadre of officials who have promised to work against our interests, we will have to live with the ramifications. One of the impacts could be a catastrophic loss of federal funds for land and wildlife conservation initiatives in Maine.

Maine citizens cherish our lands, waters and wildlife. I believe that President-elect Trump, Gov. LePage, narrow interest groups and anyone else who tries to drag us backward will find that people from across Maine will come together to defend and expand our conservation gains.


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Kathleen Parker: Public’s disgust at, distrust of legitimate journalism threaten democracy Tue, 22 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Of the losers in this season of discontent, the mainstream media top the list. I don’t say this lightly, and I sincerely fear loss of faith in journalism ultimately will do more harm to the nation than any enemy could hope to cause.

Only 18 percent of Americans trust national news and just 22 percent trust local news, according to the Pew Research Center. That said, three-fourths of Americans think news organizations keep political leaders in line, though about the same percentage think the news media are biased.

Not surprisingly, Republicans more than Democrats think this way. It hasn’t helped that Republican politicos and conservative cable and radio outlets have convinced their constituents that the media are the enemy. It seems we’ve forgotten that the purpose of a newspaper, as Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne put it in an 1893 column, is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Could there be a better reason to give Donald J. Trump a rough ride?

Nevertheless, distrust of legitimate journalism is no joking matter. What happens to democracy when an uninformed, misinformed or dis-informed populace tries to make sound decisions? The simple and terrible answer is: Democracy fails.

We’ve reached this critical juncture thanks largely to the digital revolution. Until relatively recently, most people relied on a limited number of trusted news sources, which provided a basis for what we referred to as “common knowledge.”

Today, of course, anyone with a smartphone to photograph or video in real time can create a virtual newsroom of one that can communicate with countless others through tweets, retweets and created buzz on fact or fiction. If you’re suddenly put in mind of insects, you’re not far off.

To those who complain that Trump received more negative coverage than Hillary Clinton did, I’d merely point out that correctly quoting the man was inherently negative. He said a lot of awful stuff and offered little of substance to offset the headlines. Moreover, the media have covered every follicle of Hillary Clinton’s scalp for 25 to 30 years. Her flaws and failures are well known to anyone who’s been half-awake, while Trump was essentially new on the political stage.

Trump’s own criticism of the press was as trumped up as many of his campaign slogans, created to deflect attention from, among other things, the fact that his manipulation of the media was the engine that propelled him to the top of the heap. But he knew that media bashing was popular among his base and gave them what they wanted.

Also contributing to the growing distrust is the perceived blurring of news and opinion, which can be a legitimate beef. Advocacy journalism, in this opinion writer’s view, belongs on the editorial and op-ed pages, though many news organizations subscribe to the notion that advancing a social cause or, perhaps, derailing an unfit candidate justifies aggressive coverage. Objectivity be damned.

It is worth noting, however, that when a mainstream reporter or editor is found to be deliberately dishonest, he or she is quickly dispatched to the outer darkness. The same can’t be said of the alternative news world or of social media. On Facebook, “fake” news creator Paul Horner recently marveled that his viral, made-up stories helped get Trump elected.

Fortunately, only 4 percent of Americans trust social media “a lot” as a news source, and 30 percent trust it “some,” according to Pew. But sometimes it’s hard to tell fake from true, or advocacy from propaganda, and therein lies perhaps the greatest challenge of our time.

News consumers must be extra vigilant in selecting news sources, while also being self-critical about those choices. The mainstream media need to work harder at presenting balanced reporting to rebuild trust. And education programs aimed at teaching students how to evaluate news, like those created by The News Literacy Project, need greater public support and an accelerated timeline.

Words to this effect from our next president wouldn’t hurt. Trump would see headlines change quickly in his favor, the world would rejoice and the Trump brand would be golden forever. Come on, do it.

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

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Maine Voices: Russians recognize in Trump their own beliefs about government Mon, 21 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 A few months ago, I stood in front of a classroom full of Ukrainians. They were there to study so that they could leave their country. But what they wanted to talk about was why they liked Donald Trump.

I was in Ukraine on a Fulbright grant; before that, I had lived and worked in Russia for several years. In my time there, I watched Trump’s popularity grow. And with Russian-American relations at a new low, that Russian support for the man who is now president-elect of the United States might mean the difference between the next Cold War or not.

Part of Trump’s appeal to Russians clearly is politically motivated. Russians see Trump as being more supportive of Russian geopolitical and economic goals than Barack Obama. Putin and Obama tolerated but clearly did not like each other. Less benignly, some Russians see Trump’s volubility as a sign that he will be easy to manipulate. Loudly expressing emotion, as Trump does, is a sign of mental instability for Russians.

However, I’ve mentioned that many Ukrainians also like Trump, and friends of Putin tend not to be popular in a country currently being invaded by Putin. So Russians are also drawn to Trump for reasons that transcend politics. He appeals to their vision of what makes a good leader. Russians particularly like his image of ruthlessness and dominance.

The threat of invasion haunts the Russian collective memory. While less deadly than the invasions of World War II, the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s also felt like an invasion for Russians. The West, they said, forced capitalism on Russia, with disastrous results.

Perhaps as a result of feeling under constant threat, Russians link the ability to dominate and control one’s neighbors with Russia’s power on the world stage. Putin sympathizes with Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” because that is what he is trying to do with his own country.

As for Trump’s wall, it’s not something Russia hasn’t already tried. In the largest country in the world, access to resources, jobs and money is determined by how well you can fight for them. In the struggle for survival, ethnic tensions flare and Russians do not shy away from identifying and condemning those groups they find to be a threat. It is “us against them,” a mantra echoed by Trump.

In the tradition of Russian pessimism, Russians think it unlikely that such tensions can be resolved peacefully. A pale intellectual named Alexei tried to explain why Russia needed a leader like Putin. In such a big country, with so many different peoples, only a man with an iron fist could be in control, said Alexei – who then turned to me and murmured, “Like America, no?” Trump certainly promises to be that iron fist.

The president-elect’s behavior is familiar to Russians. They watch reports of his extravagance and shrug. While Americans try to hide the connection, in Russia, wealth and government go hand in hand. A popular joke portrays the politician as one who steals his millions and then goes into politics to make his stealing legal.

As for the outcry over Trump’s avoiding taxes, Russians are amused by American naïveté. They assume that all politicians are corrupt. As 18-year-old Artyom, laughing, told me several months ago, “Of course Putin is corrupt, but he is corrupt for Russia. And that is good.”

The traits Russians find familiar in Trump reflect a cynical view of government. Ravaged by famines, purges and war, Russians have learned to regard government with apprehension. For them, government follows the whims of those in power, not of those who are governed.

However, Trump will not be the next president of Russia. Whatever your feelings about Trump, he won by receiving the majority of electoral votes, not through voter fraud.

The accusations and propaganda of the campaign obscured a very precious privilege we have as Americans: We believe that government exists to represent us. We heartily and almost arrogantly demand that our voices be heard, regardless of what we are saying. Russians do not get that luxury.

I personally did not support Trump, but I can understand why other people did. He promised change to white, middle-class Americans. They perhaps forget that they are but a small percentage of all the people Trump’s election will affect. A significant number of those affected will be Russians, Ukrainians, Syrians and all the others caught up in the Russian-American relationship.

In order to maintain the uneasy balance of that relationship, Trump will have to capitalize on Russian support, but he will also have to learn how to play the political game quickly. Putin is a trained and experienced politician, motivated not by vendetta but by empire building. More dangerous still, rules and loyalty count for very little to a man who will always be “corrupt for Russia.”


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Cynthia Dill: Trump’s pick for AG is right out of the Washington ‘swamp’ Sun, 20 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Alabama is home to 96 swamps and U.S. Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who’s reported to be President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general. One of them is called the Dollarhide, another the Big Girth, and my favorite: Greasy Head Swamp.

Swamp was also a favored word recently used by Trump to describe America’s festering capital city. His campaign promise to “drain the swamp” suggested Trump might rid Washington of slithering snakes, but that was too literal an interpretation, apparently. A swamp is a wetland that is forested, you see, and wise serpents climb trees and wait for the water to rise again.

Sessions fell on the sword of Republican Party political correctness when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the federal bench in 1986 and he was voted down by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee over allegations of racist comments.

Sessions’ colleagues testified he said of the Klu Klux Klan: “I thought that they were all right until I found out they smoked pot,” and he was dogged by controversial statements attributed to him – including one that he considered the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Defense Fund and the National Council of Churches “un-American” groups.

For his part, Sessions says he was joking, and by today’s standards, his remarks seem innocent as a dove. “I am not the Jeff Sessions my detractors have tried to create,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks,” he said a year after attempting to prosecute three black people who eventually were acquitted on charges of voter fraud.

Imagine Sessions’ delight when, after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1997, he became a member of the same Judiciary Committee that had rejected his nomination to become a federal judge.

The man has instincts. Sessions was the very first senator to support Trump’s improbable bid for the White House, and now he’s one the most powerful Republicans in Washington. If the 2016 election taught us anything, it’s that Sessions’ nomination to the office of attorney general will not be blocked based on offensive remarks made long ago. People who lack a filter between thoughts and words are forgiven now, at best, or worse, lauded as a truth-teller.

Social issues like racism and political correctness are secondary now to making America great again, and science is just another liberal cause caught up in the quagmire.

Literally draining swamps stirs things up, if you believe in science, and adds a lot of heat. Wetlands are nature’s speed bump, able to slow down powerful storms as they come ashore. Draining them releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere and degrades the land.

Not to worry, says Sessions. “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases,” he has said.

Burning fossil fuel feeds the plants, so let the people eat steak cooked with coal, is our new creed. It might sound crazy, but so did the proposition that Trump would be elected president.

Who knows? Maybe Mother Earth isn’t as sensitive to greenhouse gases as we think. Maybe plants and animals can adapt to inevitable climate change. Maybe Facebook or Apple can reduce emissions by persuading us to buy expensive gadgets that make us look and feel cool. Sure, scientists will say the odds of this happening are long, but look who won the election? And who cares if the coastal elites get flooded. They have boats, right?

Wikipedia reports that Sessions was ranked by National Journal in 2007 as the fifth-most conservative U.S. senator. He supported the George W. Bush administration’s tax cut packages that increased the deficit, the Iraq War and a proposed national amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He was one of 25 senators to oppose the establishment of Troubled Asset Relief Program and has opposed the Democratic leadership since 2007 on most major legislation, including the stimulus bill, Obamacare and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he opposed all three of President Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court.

“Paludiculture” is one word that describes the cultivation of a swamp to increase its biodiversity, mitigate climate change and protect rare species, but soon there will be a shorter word – our official language now is sound bite. While Washington gets drained by the next administration, let’s hope one of the good snakes is waiting in the trees for the moment we are ready to make America smart again.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 94, 18 Nov 2016 18:35:12 +0000
Alan Caron: Both parties are the big losers this election Sun, 20 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Some Republican are gloating after the election, while Democrats are slowly overcoming their shock and sadness.

What we learned from this election is what we already knew from President Obama’s race in 2008 and from Gov. Paul LePage’s races in 2010 and 2014. The country wants change. Partisans flatter themselves into thinking that whenever they are on the winning side of the change vote, as Democrats were eight years ago and Republicans are now, it means that voters are behind their programs and ideology. The reality is that change voters aren’t particularly fond of either party.

What change do these voters want? Some hope for impossible things, like turning back the clock, restoring factories that existed before machines replaced people, pushing women out of the workplace and back in the kitchen, or returning to the days when minorities and children were seen but seldom heard.

But that’s not what the majority of change voters seek. Most simply want a stable middle class and a fair chance to earn a decent living and provide for their families. They want a smaller, smarter government. They want politicians to actually get things done for the greater good. And they want a government that works for them rather than just the rich and the poor.

While we’re all focused on who won and who lost this election, it’s worth noting that the clear losers were the two parties.

Democrats once again struggled to find a coherent argument for why voters should support them. As they’ve done with LePage twice now, their main argument seemed to be that “we’re not him.”

When pressed on the economy, Democrats invariably retreat to ideas that were born in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and programs rooted in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. All of them boil down to expanding government programs, promoting public works projects and increasing government jobs.

While Democrats have led the way as change agents for civil rights, human rights and the environment, their ideas on the economy are muddled at best and nonexistent at worst. Without new and plausible ideas on how to grow the economy, Democrats are increasingly seen by change voters as the party of government and the protector of the status quo.

The challenges facing Democrats are severe, but those embroiling Republicans are even worse.

Running campaigns is a lot easier than governing. They’re like going to a carnival where there are lots of free rides. You get to yell crazy things to adoring crowds and eat a lot of cotton candy. You also get to make outrageous promises about things you will have no control over.

So it is now with President-elect Donald Trump, whose promises exceeded everyone else’s this campaign season. He’s about to crash into the cold reality of Washington after a year of vacationing on the balmy beaches of the campaign.

In Washington, the land mines are everywhere. Thanks to Trump, the party now has a broader and more unstable tent than ever before. It’s one thing for a party to have fiscal and social conservatives, small businesses and corporate America in their coalition. It’s quite another to add a large contingent of blue-collar people expecting their factories and their middle-class lives to return.

It was corporate America, after all, that shipped the country’s manufacturing jobs overseas in the first place. They don’t want tough trade deals or walls on the border. They want weak trade deals and leaky borders.

Then there’s the problem of the fiscal hawks within the party. Trump has promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, a big increase in the size of the military, a $5 billion wall and the largest tax cut in history. The last time a combination like that was tried, under President Ronald Reagan, the deficit exploded.

Republicans in Congress have been fighting virtually every spending bill proposed by the Obama administration for years. Now they face the choice of suddenly morphing into big spenders or opposing their new president.

Health care is another ticking time bomb for Republicans. It’s one thing to call for killing Obamacare when you know it will never happen. But actually taking health care away from 20 million people just prior to the midterm elections is another matter altogether. Republicans have the power to do that, but will they have the nerve?

The Republican Party has had the luxury of being the opposition party in government. It hasn’t had to solve problems or propose solutions on issues like immigration and health care. Now they are in charge, and they’re about to find out that opposing things is a lot easier than doing them.

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:

]]> 3, 21 Nov 2016 16:47:45 +0000
Maine Observer: Howls of deer drive echo down the years Sun, 20 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When I was a boy, a popular way to hunt deer was “the drive.” Driving deer was a simple procedure where several hunters hunkered down along a woods road or along the edge of a cut-over piece and waited while others walked through the woods, driving any deer into the waiting guns.

My brothers and I went on a drive near Otter Pond once with Dad and some of his friends. He got us up in the dark, and as we ate our bacon and eggs, he explained the workings of a deer drive and what we three had to do.

We dressed warmly, put on red vests and were soon getting our instructions from the hunters before they drifted away into the gloomy darkness of an old woods road. One of them had given me his watch and said to wait 30 minutes, then follow the road to where it started downhill. Once there we were to spread out and walk down hill barking like dogs.

When we had taken our positions we began to bark. I was a great gray wolf looking for a mate, while Stevie howled like the coyotes in the cowboy movies. Chuck added the high-pitched whine of our neighbor’s little pug.

Before long we had so many barks and yelps going we began to giggle. Then a shot rang out and we went down and waited for the all clear.

Dad soon called to us and we trotted down the hill to find the men gathered around a large buck. They were congratulating him on his fine shooting and we were filled with pride as we realized the deer was ours.

The men dragged the carcass out to the car, and after it was draped across a front fender, one of the men asked if we kids were available on Monday for another hunt. Of course we had school, and he said that was too bad, because in all his born days he never heard such a racket from only three boys. The men hooted and laughed and tousled our heads, and we felt so proud to be part of such a successful hunting expedition.

The big buck hung upside down in the wood shed for several days before it was sent off to be processed. We took the opportunity to invite our friends over for a look, and did a little bragging about the part we played in the hunt.

Grandpa extracted the antlers and mounted them on a pine board then nailed them up in the wood shed where the prized horns remained for years, a reminder of that cold November morning and The Canine Kids.

(Driving deer is now illegal in Maine.)

— Special to the Telegram

]]> 1 Fri, 18 Nov 2016 19:16:42 +0000
Maine Voices: Ranked-choice voting will make positive difference for Maine’s youth Sun, 20 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 YARMOUTH — Although I wasn’t old enough to vote in this election, the consequences of Nov. 8 will affect me and Mainers my age for years to come. To keep young, educated Mainers in the state, Maine needs a vibrant sense of civil engagement and democracy. Question 5, putting in place ranked-choice voting, will bring more democracy to a state which has “elected” a nonmajority governor on two separate occasions.

The passing of ranked-choice voting has implications not only for Maine, but for the entire nation and principle of democracy. Stanford political scientist Larry Diamond has argued that ranked-choice voting passing was the second most important vote in the United States this election. I recently interviewed Diamond to further explore why ranked-choice voting has such momentous reverberations.

At surface level, we most often think of the ranked-choice voting movement as a safeguard against electing any candidate disliked by 50 percent or more of the electorate.

However, ranked-choice voting also has potential to impact the very nature of how political campaigns are run, most prominently affecting the tone of the campaign.

“The passing of RCV will make political campaigns less likely to run negative ads or negative propaganda about competing candidates,” says Diamond.

“Research shows that negative advertising may damage your opponent but also reflects poorly on you as a candidate. Once there are more than two serious candidates it is much harder to go negative without doing damage to yourself.”

Politics without negativity, while hard to imagine given the recent divisiveness of national and local races, is key to our statewide political success.

The majority of the U.S. identifies as moderates, and one would intuitively think that the makeup of our elected officials would reflect this. However, political positions are so often held by those on the far side of either end of the spectrum. Ranked-choice voting is going to change this.

“We could have more Angus Kings winning not only in Maine but in other states. Moderate candidates of the center and third party will gain the most,” states Diamond. “I think there will be more independents and moderates, who might even hold the balance of power in legislative bodies. This could make it easier to form coalitions to get things done. The partisan warfare between Republicans and Democrats will abate.”

There couldn’t have been a more relevant time for ranked-choice voting to pass, as 58.5 percent of Americans view our president-elect unfavorably.

I’m confident that had ranked-choice voting been employed in this election, Donald Trump would not have won. This is not a partisan argument, as Hillary Clinton might not have won either (based on her 54.4 percent unfavorability ranking).

With ranked-choice voting nullifying the fear of skewing votes away from an establishment candidate, it would have instead been more likely for a supplemental, more favorably viewed candidate to enter the race.

This is sizable speculation, and the current Electoral College would be messy in combination with ranked-choice voting as it stands right now, but the point is this: By employing ranked-choice voting, we can choose the best leaders, not the most extreme. In 2018 and for years to come, elected officials will always hold the majority ideals of the Maine constituency in high regard.

Ranked-choice voting has the potential to work in states nationwide, and maybe one day on a national level. Its passing in Maine gives huge momentum to the movement in other states. Equally as important, though, will be the concrete proof of how ranked-choice voting affects future elections in Maine.

“The spread of RCV will be incremental,” voices Diamond. “Progress will depend in part on how RCV is seen to be working out in Maine – will it make a positive difference there? If it is seen to work in Maine, then I think the momentum for it will gain rapidly. There is already strong interest in Minnesota and some other states.”

Maine is leading the way in this movement for more democracy, not only putting the state on the map but proving to the nation at large that we, as Mainers, stand up for the public good and act in our majorities’ best interest.

There’s nothing more American, or more Maine, than that. The passing of Question 5 will help keep the young people of my generation in Maine.On an election night marked by bitter divisiveness and tension leaving many feeling voiceless and questioning their patriotism, the passing of ranked-choice voting is a beacon of hope that makes me and the young people across our state proud to be Mainers.

— Special to the Telegram

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Garrison Keillor: Smoke has cleared, and battered Americans are still standing Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:00:12 +0000 It was gratifying that after Wisconsin voted him into the presidency, the gentleman did not talk about putting Hillary Clinton in prison. That was a nice surprise. And when he met with Barack Obama of Kenya, the sahib was well-behaved, listened to what the African had to say, did not interrupt or call him stupid and in fact thanked the alien for meeting with him. He did a good impersonation of modesty.

Say what you will, the man is flexible. The wall on the border, his reliable applause line this past year, has been downgraded to a fence in some places and may eventually turn into a line of orange highway cones. The 11 million deportees are down to two or three. Hillary may be let off with an ankle bracelet.

While he’s making alterations, he should consider getting a presidential hairdo rather than the hair of a hotel lounge pianist in 1959. It’s distracting to watch a man talk about national security, looking like he may suddenly burst into “Volare.” A makeover would take about 15 minutes max.

And might a speech therapist try to smooth out the Tony Soprano accent and give him a presidential voice like Nixon’s or Reagan’s and cut out those irritating repetitions for emphasis – do you know what I mean? Am I right? Am I right? You know I’m right. You better believe I’m right.

He will never be my president because he doesn’t read books, can’t write more than a sentence or two at a time, has no strong loyalties beyond himself, is more insular than any New Yorker I ever knew, and because I don’t see anything admirable or honorable about him. This sets him apart from other politicians.

The disaffected white blue-collar workers elected a Fifth Avenue tycoon to rescue them from the elitists – fine, I get that – but they could’ve chosen a better tycoon. One who served in the military or attends church or reads history, loves opera, sails a boat – something – anything – raises llamas, plays the oboe, runs a 5K race now and then, has close friends from childhood. I look at him and there’s nothing there.

But politics is not everything. Life goes on. A person has to keep that in mind. The day after the election, my wife and I set out to replace some burnt-out lightbulbs in some interesting fixtures chosen by an elderly interior decorator years ago.

We are from Minnesota and we hesitate to impose our taste on others, even when we’re paying the bill. So we have several truly ugly and impractical light fixtures that use odd rare bulbs not sold at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Ace Hardware or even at boutiques with names like Let There Be Light Bulbs. Long cylindrical bulbs. Perhaps handmade by Cistercian monks on a mountaintop in Montana.

I voted for Hillary, so I’m an elitist, but still. We use regular old GE lightbulbs.

My wife is a violinist, so she has excellent small-motor skills, plus a better sense of logic and smaller hands, so she’s the foreman. My job is to stand by the stepladder, hand her the Allen wrench – yes, these fixtures, unique in the Western Hemisphere, require hexagonal wrenches – receive loose screws and the burnt bulb, hand her the fresh bulb while bracing the loose fixture and not letting it fall, and maintaining an upbeat attitude.

It’s interesting to hear how well a kind, gentle Episcopalian lady can swear while trying to replace a lightbulb in a fixture that – how many liberals does it take? Three. One to turn the bulb, one to hold the ladder and one to make sure the manufacturer offers good health care and pension plans to its employees.

This is what pulls a couple together. Every marriage has its bumps, but when she stands on a stepladder and I brace my shoulder against her to leave my hands free to hold the big glass shade as she screws the bulb into the socket and takes the Allen wrench from me and the screws and drops one and I bend down and reach for the fallen screw, and we both start laughing, this is a sweet moment that momentarily transcends politics.

I hope that Mr. Trump does not make Wisconsin regret having elected him president, but it’s still the same old story about love and glory and a case of do or die, and lovers must replace their lightbulbs as time goes by.


]]> 44, 18 Nov 2016 18:59:39 +0000
Maine Voices: Manufacturing’s best days might still be to come Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 WELLS — Modern manufacturing has had a profound impact on both our country and our economy. I cannot think of a more appropriate year to truly celebrate this than 2016, as we are in the midst right now of another manufacturing renaissance, right here at home.

It’s not just that manufacturing contributes so much to our local economy in southern Maine, creates more than 18 million jobs nationally and comprises roughly 12 percent of our gross domestic product. It’s that the sector has evolved so seamlessly into the modern workplace, where companies employ state-of-the-art technologies to deliver the best products in the world more quickly and with higher quality than ever.

Take Pratt & Whitney as a prime example, the internationally known maker of jet engines that has been a part of our community in North Berwick for decades. While Pratt’s rich history and past make us proud, it’s its future that truly excites us.


From its ultra-modernized North Berwick plant to its world-class team of talent, this is a manufacturing facility that no longer resembles what my grandfather might have remembered when he worked in manufacturing – bright, clean, ergonomic spaces have replaced those dark, gritty plants of yesterday. It’s a whole new era that companies like Pratt & Whitney are ushering in, and with a major ramp-up in jet engine production underway – the likes of which we have not seen for several decades – the energy and passion being generated right here in our own backyard is palpable.

The beauty of modern manufacturing is the seemingly limitless reach and impact it can have, the number of businesses that can grow up and thrive within a vital manufacturing sector. For a company like Pratt & Whitney, the supply chain it depends on is integral to its success; while the company’s engines are devised and created by its own engineers, the actual construction of each engine depends on tens of thousands of suppliers, many of which are local to our area.

The fact that 80 percent of the parts that make up one of these jet engines comes from the supply base speaks both to how crucial a role these smaller shops play and how expansive and collaborative the manufacturing community is.

A similar reach can be seen into the educational community, where top manufacturers like Pratt depend on local universities and community colleges for hands-on experience in building the workforce of tomorrow. Persistent outreach into local higher education institutions – including investing in courses of study and providing internship and apprenticeship opportunities – is how these companies mine the top talent for years to come.

Companies like Pratt & Whitney are hiring and looking for new talent as we speak; the race to retain these highly skilled jobs is on. And with a robust manufacturing sector that is only getting bigger and better, it’s a race we can all win.


We expect this new horizon for manufacturing to define the era and inspire the next generation of leaders to continue the amazing legacy laid down a century and more again by people like Samuel Colt, Henry Ford and Frederick Rentschler.

This is the group that will not only lead companies like Pratt & Whitney, but also determine the next great manufacturing frontier to follow. A century ago, it was the automobile and manned flight. A generation ago, it was the advent of the post-industrial era. What comes next? We are limited only by our imagination.

Pratt & Whitney and its fellow manufacturing giants created an industry in America nearly a century ago, an industry that built our cities and infrastructure, won our country’s wars, developed millions of careers and generated the spirit of opportunity which inspired us and made us proud to be Americans. That spirit is still with us today, alive and well in a manufacturing sector that stands poised to lead us in the 21st century. And that indeed is something to celebrate.


]]> 1 Fri, 18 Nov 2016 18:50:19 +0000
Commentary: Twenty-two of the times Michelle Obama endured personal attacks Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 There are many things I will miss about the Obama White House: having a first family that genuinely seems happy to be a family; a president who valued diplomacy; a first lady who was highly educated, stylish, graceful and who tried to be a positive role model. What I won’t miss is the seemingly endless barrage of attacks on her for the most mundane things.

In a list that is by no means exhaustive, here’s a roundup of the vitriol I can’t wait to say goodbye to:

1. She expressed some mixed feelings about being proud of America as a black woman, which was obviously unpatriotic.

2. She’s “strikingly ungracious.” (Jim Geraghty, writing for National Review)

3. She doesn’t look like a first lady (and she does pushups). (Virginia voter Bobbie Lussier)

4. She disrespected the flag, as determined by lip readings of her whispering something inaudible to her husband during a ceremony. (Washington Times, American Thinker, conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel)

5. She weighs too much to care about health: “The problem is – and dare I say this – it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritional, dietary advice. And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving, yeah it does – what do you mean, what do I mean?” (Rush Limbaugh)

6. She “needs to lose a few pounds” before she can be taken seriously on the issue of nutrition. (Keith Ablow, prominent member of the Fox News “Medical A-Team”)

7. She eats too much, as demonstrated by a cartoon of a chubby Michelle chowing down on a burger and fries, telling a skinny Barack to “shut up and pass the bacon!” (the Breitbart website

8. She didn’t support dessert enough, and she “cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children.” (Sarah Palin)

9. She forced preschoolers to be weighed. (Urban legend, debunked by Snopes)

10. She has “no business being involved” in what people eat. (New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie)

11. She’s a “feminist nightmare” for focusing on her family. (Michelle Cottle, writing in Politico)

12. She is actually a man, and she murdered comedian Joan Rivers to cover it up. (InfoWars broadcaster Alex Jones)

13. She’s not classy enough and is an “atrocity” as first lady: “She makes a fool of herself – every time she comes on TV, I have to turn it off. Laura Bush was so classy, and that’s what we really need again.” (Laurie Boilard, quoted by Bloomberg, who came to listen to a Republican candidate’s wife at a 2015 party in Bedford, New Hampshire)

14. She dared to talk about the enslaved people who built the White House.

15. She is an “ape in heels.” (Pamela Ramsey Taylor, director of Clay County Development Corp. in West Virginia, who later swore she was not racist)

16. She has a “gorilla face.” (Patrick Rushing, mayor of Airway Heights, Washington)

The Huffington Post reported: ” ‘Gorilla face Michelle, can’t disagree with that,’ Patrick Rushing, mayor of Airway Heights, reportedly wrote in a Facebook post. ‘The woman is not attractive except to monkey man Barack. Check out them ears. LOL.’ ”

17. She is a “poor gorilla” who “needs to focus on getting a total makeover (especially the hair), instead of planning vacations.” (Georgia schoolteacher Jane Wood Allen)

18. She put her left elbow on a table once. (Salon)

19. She ” ‘voluntarily surrendered’ her law license in 1993 after a Federal Judge gave her the choice between surrendering her license or standing trial for Insurance fraud.” (Chain email)

20. She went “to Buckingham Palace in a sweater.” (Oscar de la Renta)

21. She’s Barack’s “baby mama.” (Fox News)

22. She wore shorts.


]]> 8 Fri, 18 Nov 2016 18:48:09 +0000
Commentary: Mainers do not support Paul LePage, his causes or his candidates Fri, 18 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The most jarring elections in recent history are done, and the results are clear: Paul LePage lost.

But for some reason, Gov. Le-Page seems elated at the results of the 2016 election. Maybe it’s because the Donald Trump victory can be seen as affirmation of LePage’s crass and truthless style of governing.

However, a review of the actual results of Maine’s elections reinforces a very clear truth: The majority of Maine voters do not support Paul LePage, his causes or his candidates.

LePage began his foray into the 2016 elections by fighting his own party. He challenged a sitting Republican senator, Linda Baker, with fringe alt-righter Guy Lebida in Sagadahoc County. And he pushed aside the Republican Senate’s pick for one of the Aroostook County seats by propping up the far-right Rep. Ricky Long in a primary. On election night, both Lebida and Long were defeated. That starts LePage off at 0 for 2.

LePage also openly opposed Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau. LePage spent the last several years publicly maligning Thibodeau, a smear campaign that culminated in robocalls placed to his district by LePage’s daughter that called the conservative Senate president a “socialist.”

Thibodeau won re-election despite LePage’s efforts, and was re-elected as Senate president by his fellow Republicans. 0 for 3.

Next was LePage’s foray into the referendum process. Before the election, the governor put out statements on all of the referendum issues, many of them in hostage-style video format distributed through social media. In fact, his first video – opposing Question 1 – was so silly and made so many baseless claims, the administration was soon forced to remove it from the internet.

The two questions LePage focused on most were Questions 2 and 4 – the education tax on upper-income earners and the increase in the minimum wage. Shortly before the election, Le-Page went as far as saying that the passage of these two questions would make Maine “an economic wasteland” and that their proponents should be jailed for attempted murder, and suggested he’d leave the state if they passed.

How did Maine voters respond to these threats? They passed Questions 2 and 4. That makes LePage 0-5.

LePage got trounced on referendums this year. He opposed Questions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. His side won just one of those – the background check bill. And Question 5, ranked-choice voting, was put on the ballot and passed as a direct answer to the question, “How do we keep Paul LePage from happening again?”

That puts the governor’s tally at 1 win, 8 losses. And finally, let’s look at the presidential race. LePage, as he has said himself, was Trump before Trump was Trump. LePage stumped for the Republican nominee, hosting several visits to Maine, and even had his wife film a television commercial for him. So how did the people of Maine react to the LePage endorsements of Donald Trump?

Maine voted for Hillary Clinton, making LePage 1-9.

LePage’s record for endorsements is terrible, starting with his gushing support of Chris Christie for president. LePage openly attached his political fortunes to Christie, and speculation of a place for LePage in the Trump administration was largely predicated on their relationship. But Trump fired Christie from his transition team late last week, leaving LePage as the head of a losing effort in Maine with no friends left at the top.

This abysmal showing on Election Day was nothing new for Paul LePage. Since he came onto the political scene in 2010, he has never garnered majority support in Maine for anything. He won election and re-election with less than 50 percent support. His first two years in office resulted in the Republican Party losing both the House and the Senate. His tax plans have failed, his energy policies have gone nowhere and the Legislature has gotten used to fashioning the state budget without his input. His endorsements fail time after time, and his approval ratings remain the lowest of any of Maine’s major elected officials.

LePage and his alt-right allies may be louder than their opponents, but they do not make up a governing majority. It bears repeating: Mainers do not support Paul LePage, his causes or his candidates. This should be a reality Maine legislators remind themselves of in these last two years of his term.

Maine faces a daunting array of challenges, and those challenges can only be met if the will of the Maine people is considered with more priority than the rantings of Maine’s most unpopular political figure.

]]> 103, 18 Nov 2016 12:59:25 +0000
Museums provide a space for us to reconnect with our shared humanity Fri, 18 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 One of the questions we ask ourselves most at the Portland Museum of Art is: “Why do museums matter?”

Bill Williamson – Bank of America’s market president for Maine, PMA trustee and great friend to the museum – recently shared the thoughts of his colleague Rena De Sisto with our members.

De Sisto felt, “The arts are a record and reflection of the intelligence, creativity, passion, devotion, beauty, emotionality, rationality and irrationality that we as human beings are capable of when we are our best selves. Art, like history and the written word, is our record and a manifestation of the gifts that make us human.”

In this national moment of unprecedented diversity and contentious political climate, art and museums are more valuable than ever. They provide a space for us to reconnect with our shared humanity.

They provide a place to reflect, consider and absorb the best of what makes us us. They are evidence of our shared experience, our common history and our future’s potential. They are a place that brings communities together and helps us to remember that we are all one people, united.

When I think of the PMA collection, there are so many works that speak to this.

I look at N.C. Wyeth’s “Dark Harbor Fishermen,” and I think of Maine’s working-class heritage.

I think of Ahmed Alsoudani’s “Untitled.” Ahmed was forced to flee his native Iraq in 1995 after defacing a mural of Saddam Hussein. He lived in Maine while studying at the Maine College of Art and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and his difficult, grotesque imagery transcends topical history, war and political painting to create universal images.

I think about Jocelyn Lee’s lush, empathetic series of photographic portraits, all of which capture her Munjoy Hill neighbor Kara at various stages in life, from 1997 to 2013 and childhood to adulthood.

To me, even completely disparate works such as these speak not to our differences, but to our commonalities. Art provides this luxury because it asks you not to judge, but to gain a glimmer of understanding.

At the PMA, like many museums, we complement our art collection with programming that brings together varying perspectives. In the past year, we’ve hosted events featuring artists and historians talking about Native American representation in art; lawyers and artists discussing the civil rights movement; organic farmers from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; a women in business forum, and much more.

These are crucial reminders that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. If you’re feeling left out, or underrepresented, museums are places to feel included. I speak with directors at other museums all the time and one of the biggest things we discuss is how to make our institutions more accessible.

This involves demystifying and opening up our museum, confronting stereotypes of museums being monoliths rather than community centers for dialogue and culture, rethinking how people engage with art and enabling people from as many backgrounds as possible to access our collections and understanding our shared heritage.

To these ends, we strive to make sure people are represented, and their voices are heard – at the PMA, we always welcome feedback for ways we can improve this experience for you.

We recently installed a work by Maine-born artist Tim Rollins, who moved from Pittsfield to the South Bronx at another uncertain moment in history – the early 1980s – and began working with students, mostly poor and almost all of color, to form what is now a world-famous artist collective called Kids of Survival.

This group represents America as well as any I can think of: people of different generations, ethnicities and sexualities, from both rural and urban backgrounds, collaborating on art that has exhibited all over the world. I am reminded of a quote of Rollins that is particularly poignant: “Only beauty can change things.”

The quote’s power is in its simplicity, but as I think about our country’s future, I think I’ll amend it a little: Only we can change things – together.

]]> 0, 17 Nov 2016 22:38:23 +0000
M.D. Harmon: The Electoral College isn’t going anywhere – nor should it Fri, 18 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I was going to write a column about the Electoral College, but Bill Nemitz not only beat me to it this past Sunday, but also made me wish I had written what he said.

Hillary Clinton’s winning a plurality of the total vote but losing the election has raised ire among her backers, some of whom want to abolish the Electoral College so the president could be chosen by direct popular vote.

But Nemitz, quoting Colby College government professor Sandy Maisel, pointed out several problems with that, including the fact that eliminating it would require three-fourths of the states to pass a constitutional amendment – which is not likely to happen.

Let me expand a bit on why. In the Electoral College, each state gets votes for president based on its number of senators (two) plus one for each congressional district. Maine has two districts, so we get four electoral votes. California has 53, so it gets 55. But if we chose the president by popular vote, voters in a dozen of the largest states could pick our chief executive every time, while voters in the other three-dozen-plus states would never again feel like they participated in the process.

That’s why the Founders created it: So a successful candidate would have to raise broad support over the entire nation. And that’s what Trump did: A map of the vote by county shows the nation as a sea of red with a few blue islands scattered here and there. (Email me and I’ll send you a copy.)

Disenfranchising most states’ voters in every presidential election would create far more problems than the occasional presidents (five in our history) picked without a majority or plurality behind them.

Thus, most smaller states would never approve an amendment that would void their presidential votes. The Electoral College isn’t going away – nor should it.

n I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Donald Trump is a populist, not a conservative, and while there is some overlap, he will make decisions that will not please those on the right.

For example, his endorsement of a couple of Obamacare’s most popular provisions disappointed some on the right (and cheered some on the left). Both sides misread him, because the provisions are relatively minor features that can be folded into any major reform.

So conservatives should hold their fire. He’s pledged to take on “sanctuary cities,” those refuges for criminal aliens whose attitude toward federal authority is reminiscent of the Confederate States of America. And he promised again this week to appoint Supreme Court judges who take the Constitution, the Second Amendment and the rights of the unborn seriously.

n He also pledged during the campaign to protect traditional Christians and others in exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religious expression.

That goes a long way to explain why Trump got 81 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote. (He also won the Mormon vote, 61-25.)

And, according to a Nov. 9 report by, a Catholic site, “Trump decisively won a majority of those self-identifying as Catholics, by 52 to 45 percent. By contrast, President Barack Obama won Catholics narrowly, by a margin of 50 to 48 percent, in 2012.”

Clinton did win Hispanic Catholics 67-26, but that was an 8-point drop from Obama’s 75-21 margin in 2012.

All that has produced some consternation, with last Saturday’s Religion & Values page carrying a Washington Post story proclaiming a potential “evangelical schism” over support for Trump.

One Anglican laywoman was quoted as saying that evangelicals’ Trump support showed “the underbelly of the toxic relationship that can develop between politics and religion,” and a former staffer for President Obama said, “The people I work with view Trump as a moment for Christians to actually separate themselves from towing (sic) a particular party line.”

But you don’t have to wonder why Trump won majority Protestant and Catholic support. First, his choice of a staunch and vocal evangelical, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, as his running mate was well received by traditionalists.

And as the Crux story says, “Coming on the heels of an administration known for court battles with faith-based businesses, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders over policies such as the HHS contraception mandate, which includes sterilization procedures and drugs critics regard as abortion-inducing, revelations (from WikiLeaks and other sources) seen as indicative of team Clinton’s hostility to aspects of evangelical Protestantism and the Catholic faith certainly didn’t help.”

Religious voters who backed Trump weren’t electing a church leader. They were supporting a modern Conan the Barbarian who promised to fight for them against the forces of secular progressivism that have targeted traditional Christians for years.

They backed him because he knows how to swing a mean sword when a fire-breathing dragon is eyeing them for dinner.

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

]]> 8, 17 Nov 2016 19:47:25 +0000
Dana Milbank: Whether he admits it or not, Trump is making America hate again Thu, 17 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Being called a “nut cake” by Newt Gingrich is like being called “ugly” by the proverbial toad, but perhaps I should be flattered that the Donald Trump lieutenant singled out a column of mine condemning Trump’s enabling of the alt-right.

When John Dickerson asked Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” about what Trump should do about the racists and anti-Semites who rose with him, Gingrich dismissed the notion as “garbage” and “hysterical,” citing my column as “crazy.”

“I had never heard of the alt-right until the nut cakes started writing about it,” he said.

It was a breathtaking denial, from a man representing the president-elect, of one of the most visible byproducts of Trump’s ascent. The denial of the obvious by Trumpworld suggests grim times ahead.

If Trump wants, as he claims he does, to unify the country, he’ll disavow these white supremacists in unmistakable terms. But so far he’s doing just the opposite, naming as his top White House strategist Stephen Bannon, a man who bragged that the publication he ran was the “platform for the alt-right.”

As The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel reported, Stormfront, the neo-Nazi website, has celebrated the Bannon appointment, while the white-nationalist writer Richard Spencer exulted that Bannon will “chart Trump’s macro trajectory.”

Trump has been emboldening the hateful for some time. The FBI just reported a 67 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims last year, part of a 7 percent overall rise in hate crimes. Since the election, the Anti-Defamation League has seen a proliferation of racist and anti-Semitic vandalism, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has received allegations of over 400 instances of hate-based intimidation and harassment. The white supremacists have generally celebrated Trump’s triumph, with David Duke boasting that “our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!” and the head of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer bragged that “we did this.”

This is a time of self-flagellation in the media, as we scold ourselves for being out of touch with the anger in the country and failing to hear the beleaguered white working class. But this is both misleading and potentially harmful.

Yes, most journalists expected a Hillary Clinton victory, based on polls showing her with a 3-point edge. (At current count, she’s about 1 point ahead in the popular vote.) There’s much to criticize in the failure of battleground-state polls, but it’s absurd to say the media was blind to the Trump phenomenon.

I don’t speak for the media, but I wrote March 4: “Trump’s bigotry and xenophobia are a disgrace to the party. But Democrats would be foolish to think this guarantees victory for Clinton in November, because, for all his faults, Trump has an advantage: He connects with Americans feeling economic anxiety.” I said the weakness with disaffected white working-class voters could “doom” Clinton, and I suggested she put Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on the ticket and embrace her populist themes.

The “out-of-touch” criticism suggests that the solution is to give more voice to Trump and show more respect for his supporters than we have. That’s fine if it means amplifying their grievances about economic reversals. But it would be tragic if the media were to avoid calling out the smaller number of Trump supporters (and advisers) who flirt with totalitarian ideas and racist sentiment.

No economic grievance justifies the “lock her up” mentality that political opponents are not just to be defeated but imprisoned. After Harry Reid made intemperate remarks about Trump, adviser Kellyanne Conway threatened the Senate minority leader, saying he should be “very careful … in a legal sense.”

Trump, while claiming he was “very surprised” to learn of violence and racial threats being made in his name, made a helpful gesture when he told “60 Minutes” that “if it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’ “Alas, that was contradicted when the Wall Street Journal asked if any of his campaign rhetoric had gone too far. “No,” he said. “I won.”

Latent racism has long been common in the U.S. and perhaps always will be. But for a small number of overt racists, Trump’s campaign made it safe to hate again. Now the president-elect can mitigate the damage. He can stop the denials, disavow the white supremacists and send them back to their dark corners. But will he?

]]> 100, 17 Nov 2016 19:06:31 +0000
Commentary: Fight for reproductive health access will not abate Thu, 17 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 As we absorb and reflect on the results of last week’s U.S. presidential election and prepare for a new administration, one thing is clear: We will continue to fight for a world where all people have access to health care, where women and girls are empowered, and where all people have full control of their own bodies and can determine their own destinies.

We know many here in Maine are reeling from the outcome of the election and fear the uncertainty that comes with this transition. Already President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to roll back reproductive rights less than a week after the election. Rest assured, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is here to provide care and support for every community in Maine, no matter what. Our doors will stay open.

There is an expression often cited by people working in global health and diplomacy: “When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold.” At times like these, when reproductive health access is actively under threat, we must acknowledge that the policies set by our government have an impact that extends not only to vulnerable communities here, but far beyond our borders to women, girls and marginalized communities around the world.

These women and girls may not have a voice in our elections, but our policymakers’ decisions in the weeks and months to come will affect their health and lives. The potential for rolling back human rights and increasing barriers to accessing health care comes on top of challenges that many women and girls already face, especially in humanitarian crises, which have become all too common in too many corners of the world.

Women and girls in humanitarian crises face an increased risk of a number of challenges, including gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality. Meeting their sexual and reproductive health needs is an essential component of the response to the global refugee crisis, whether in refugee camps abroad or for resettled communities here in the United States.

The U.S. plays a significant role in addressing these issues globally – and we should all be immensely proud of this work. U.S. funding and policies support a wide range of services for women and girls worldwide. This includes promoting gender equality, access to education for girls, preventing child, early and forced marriage and providing life-saving reproductive and maternal health care.

The U.S. also joins over 100 countries in contributing to international agencies like the U.N. Population Fund, which provides critical reproductive health supplies and trained personnel to ensure the needs of women and girls are met in emergencies ranging from the public health crisis created by Zika virus or the refugee crisis driven by conflict in Syria.

In Maine, we have welcomed refugees and migrants from over 30 countries, many within just the last 15 years. In Portland, individuals and families from crises all over the world have the opportunity to resettle yet still need the support of community based organizations to rebuild and thrive.

Maintaining U.S. support for programs that ensure women and girls have access to basic health care, no matter where they live, is critical. We are fortunate that southern Maine’s representation in Congress has a strong bipartisan record for supporting U.S. foreign aid and programs that advance the health and well-being of women and girls worldwide.

With growing numbers of women in the Senate, Sen. Susan Collins is well-positioned to serve as a senior leader and bipartisan deal maker to maintain support for programs that contribute to the empowerment of women and girls everywhere, like our family planning programs, and reject policy restrictions that undermine access to contraception and jeopardize the progress we’ve made to save and improve lives. If ever there was a time to double down on this support, it is now.

As a part of the global community, at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England we feel we have a shared mission in fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable communities at home and around the world. And we’ll deepen our commitment to defend the rights of all people and to advocate for the rights of women and girls everywhere, especially those who have no voice with our government.

To secure the world that we want and a healthy future for all, each of us – whether policymakers or community members – must step up to support women, girls and young people so that they can achieve their full potential, no matter who they are or where they live.

We invite members of the community to join us for a discussion at the Portland Public Library on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss “The Complicated Political Road Refugees Travel to Access Reproductive Health.”

]]> 8, 16 Nov 2016 22:24:10 +0000
Maine Voices: Studies pinpoint how stress from parental discord physically damages kids Thu, 17 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Here at the Kids First Center, an agency whose mission is to lessen the negative impact of divorce and parental separation on kids, we talk with parents every day who are dealing with one of the most stressful life events they will ever encounter. They worry about how they’ll get through the next week, month or year, and they worry about the long-term effects of their decisions on the kids.

What do we tell parents? Keep your kids out of the middle and away from prolonged conflict. It’s not divorce or separation that harms kids as much as the toxic stress of living with years of negativity and discord between parents who aren’t co-parenting effectively. And now, recent scientific discoveries are reinforcing just how damaging chronic exposure to stress hormones early in life can be.

Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor are now studying exactly how stress incites inflammation in the body and, in turn, disease.

A comprehensive study conducted in the late 1990s proved the relationship between chronic stress early in life and health problems in adulthood associated with inflammation and immune dysfunction.

Chronic stress is caused by adverse childhood experiences, identified in the study as physical, emotional or sexual abuse; physical or emotional neglect; parental mental illness; parental substance dependence; parental incarceration; parental separation or divorce; and domestic violence. When Kaiser Permanente and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed over 17,000 adults and asked about their childhoods, a strong correlation was discovered between those who had experienced the most adversity in their childhood, and those with the most disease in adulthood.

Renowned pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris, in her 2014 TEDMED Talk, tells us that many people look at this data and say, “Come on. You have a rough childhood, you’re more likely to drink and smoke and do all these things that are going to ruin your health. This isn’t science. This is just bad behavior.”

But the truth is, Harris tells us, even if people don’t engage in any high-risk behavior, they’re still more likely to develop conditions such as heart and lung disease, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis and suicidality if they experienced chronic stress in their childhood than if they didn’t.

Why is that? In times of stress, our body gets a signal to release stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, which initiate the pounding heart, dilated pupils and open airways that prepare us to do battle in a classic fight-or-flight response.

However, Harris explains, when this system is continuously activated and C-reactive protein levels are constantly elevated, as is the case for children living in chronically stressful environments, it may damage a person’s health. Children are especially vulnerable because their brains and bodies are still developing.

“High doses of adversity not only affect developing brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed,” says Harris.

Thankfully, not all divorces and separations involve “high doses of adversity.” But the sad truth is that far too many still do.

Our kids are not only reacting emotionally when they overhear us fighting or badmouthing their other parent, rolling our eyes, slamming phones or refusing to communicate altogether – they are reacting physically as well. Their bodies are being flooded with stress hormones that have a cumulative effect and, we now know, can cause them serious health problems years down the road as adults.

Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, believes that “adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.” The potential to harm our children’s future health is real.

What can be done to prevent these dire outcomes for our kids? Medical screening, individual and family counseling, support groups, co-parenting education, meditation and exercise all have a role to play in the prevention, identification and treatment of toxic stress in children.

At Kids First, we work with kids in support groups, where we give them tools for coping with stress and alleviating the physical symptoms that often accompany their emotional responses to tense family situations.

We work with parents every week in our more intensive programs who are committed to their children’s future health and are working hard to learn ways to prevent future high-conflict interactions with one another. While they know that they can’t undo their mistakes, they understand that they can prevent further harm and are determined not to damage their children’s lifelong health and well-being.

]]> 0 Wed, 16 Nov 2016 22:20:54 +0000
Leonard Pitts: United we should not stand behind the scoundrel who won the election Wed, 16 Nov 2016 11:00:00 +0000 It is time for the country to heal, time for us to come together.

Or so people have been telling me since last week when democracy laid the biggest egg in American history.

Well, here is my response: I have no interest in seeing this country heal. And I refuse to come together.

Understand: If this were just about politics, I’d never say something like that. No, I’d do what you’re supposed to when the candidate you favored is defeated. Suck it up.

But my anger is not about any given policy of the new president.

No, it is about him, about the election of a fundamentally unsound, unserious and unfit man, a misogynist who brags about sexual assault, a bigot cheered to victory by the Ku Klux Klan. I have no idea how to “heal” woman hating and no desire to “come together” with the Klan.

I am similarly impatient with those who say we must give the new president a chance to lead and hope for his success.

Is that what Republicans did for Barack Obama when they gathered on the night of his inauguration and plotted a conspiracy of obstructionism to cripple his presidency?

Is it what Donald Trump did when he spent years questioning the veracity of an ordinary birth certificate?

More to the point, the call to let Trump lead and hope for his success fails to address obvious questions:

Where is he leading us? How are we defining success? Should we applaud even if he “leads” us into another unnecessary Middle East conflagration? Are we expected to be happy if his “success” comes in criminalizing abortion?

Frankly, I won’t cheer him even if he is not a disaster. In the unlikely event the man who considers global warming a Chinese hoax took action to stem that threat, I’d be happy, yes.

On the improbable chance the man who swore to repeal the Affordable Care Act crafted something better, I would be glad, sure.

But at the end of the day, the man who did those things would still be a misogynist and a bigot.

Forgive me – or don’t; I really don’t care – if that remains a deal breaker for me.

I refuse to participate in this process of organized amnesia, to cooperate in normalizing a man who stands for everything America should not.

So what now? Well, now those of us who feel the same way must make it a priority to get off our assets and vote in 2018. And in the meantime, resist.

Sunday evening on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver offered a list of organizations that defend the causes and peoples that will be most threatened in the coming Reich and suggested you volunteer them your time and money. I think that’s a great idea, so I pass his list on to you:

Planned Parenthood (; the Center for Reproductive Rights (; the Natural Resources Defense Council (; the International Refugee Assistance Project (; the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (; the Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth ( and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund ( I’d also add the Southern Poverty Law Center ( and the American Civil Liberties Union (

It’s time the majority that believes in a progressive, inclusive and compassionate America did more than just tweet about it.

Nothing wrong with tweeting, but forces of exclusion, hatred and rage have overtaken the highest office in the land, so it’s also time for some old-school activism.

Time to march. Time to assail lawmakers. Time to boycott. Time to stand and be counted. Enough is enough.

Let’s take our country back.

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

]]> 44, 15 Nov 2016 21:29:41 +0000
Greg Kesich: Gut check shows nation beset by a widening great divide Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 In the sleep-deprived post-Election Day haze last week, a couple of friends told me they had a familiar feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

It was the way they’d felt after 9/11.

Overdramatic? Maybe. Nobody died because Wisconsin and Pennsylvania tipped over to the Republicans last Tuesday. And unlike the terrorist attack 15 years ago, this was bad news only for some of us. About half the voters on Tuesday got the outcome that they were hoping for, and they are not in mourning now – they’re celebrating.

So feeling wounded and alone is a shared experience that only some people are sharing, and rather than bringing everyone together, this selective cataclysm is another sign of how divided we are.

Watching Donald Trump’s victory roll out in slow motion reminded me of a different event in recent history.

In September 2008, I was a union representative involved in negotiations with an investor group that was considering buying my company. We were facing each other across tables in a hotel conference room when suddenly the private-equity guys on the other side of the room started getting messages on their BlackBerrys. (These were the days when grownups didn’t use iPhones.)

One by one, they all hurried out of the room and only the union reps were left, looking at each other. We knew something had just happened but we had no idea of what it was or what it would mean.

We soon found out. The House had just voted down President Bush’s Wall Street bailout bill and the stock market was in a nosedive. Our negotiations quickly reflected the new economic reality.

In my mind, these three events are connected – and not just because Trump’s election would be unthinkable if not for 9/11 and the financial collapse. (I know, as recently as last month, anyway, I said that his election would be unthinkable, but really – what would Trump talk about if not Islamic terrorism and the abuses of the elites?)

For me at least, all three carry a very heavy feeling that we are at the end of something we know and entering a new phase of history. We are at the stage of the revolution where the old regime has been chased out, but the new one still hasn’t taken shape. The Bastille has been overrun, but there’s no guillotine set up in the square yet. No one knows what’s next.

No one in the media, least of all me, should try to predict the future after this election, but what is it that just ended?

Barack Obama will leave the White House early next year, and I’m afraid that the era of Obama already is over. Many Americans are celebrating that, but not me.

The first time I ever heard of him was at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, when he gave the most incredible political speech I had ever seen, with lines like “There’s not a liberal America or a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

It was a heady notion. It felt like the fulfillment of the Civil Rights Movement, the opportunity to heal old wounds.

Obama gets credit for a number of successes, but when it came to rebuilding a national consensus, he failed. We are the same 50/50 country that we were when he first burst on the scene.

Some will blame the unrelenting opposition he faced from Republicans in Washington, who did whatever they could to thwart him.

But Obama’s opponents were rewarded by voters all around the country in 2010, in 2014 and again this year. The hope for a united United States has been beaten every time the president himself is not on the ballot.

He may have offered healing but too many of us would apparently rather stay sick.

I know that there are people reading this who will think I must be living in an alternate universe.

To them, Obama is a dictator who pushed through policies like the Affordable Care Act without their consent. They don’t see him as a unifying figure, but a divisive one. His approval rating is over 50 percent, but not by much.

Which is why this election creates such strange, dissonant feelings in the country.

For some people it’s the Fourth of July, for others it’s 9/11.

If we can’t agree on what just happened, how are we going to know what’s next?

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Maine Voices: Tiny condos, apartments fit the big picture of Portland’s housing needs Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I am a building developer. It is not my primary occupation, which is communications, but I find myself now part of a small, four-unit (or four-condo) development in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood.

In reference to the Portland Press Herald’s Oct. 26 story on tiny RV homes in Bayside, I would like to add perspective on Portland’s housing problem and discuss why we are building four typical-sized condos at 180 Washington Ave., rather than “tiny condos” or “micro-apartments.” The primary reasons are parking requirements, building height limitations and the 400-square-foot minimum for each unit of housing in a new multi-family building.

First, micro-units can be awesome!

If a unit is built at 300 square feet with 11-foot ceilings instead of the typical 7-foot, 6-inch ceilings, space for utility of living can be arranged efficiently with progressive design. One example is a bathroom with a 6-foot, 6-inch ceiling, located under a loft bed with a 4-foot, 6-inch ceiling (both are within the same floor of the unit).

Micro-apartment projects in cities such as New York and San Francisco are now receiving exemptions to zoning rules, which, of course, were created years ago, when lifestyles were much different. Many single people today would rather live alone, and a micro-apartment makes sense for them.

With progressive designs, the livability of a micro-apartment at 300 square feet can be similar to the livability of one twice its size. Many testimonials of this are available online.

If the building development that I am part of were allowed to include micro-units – perhaps four units per floor for a total of 16 – rents of $500 per month could be charged. The numbers on this would result in a profit on 16 tiny condos, priced at $125,000 each, comparable to the profit on four average-sized condos (and, with tax incentives, possibly even higher).

So now a developer has incentive to build micro-apartments instead of typical-sized condos.

In addition, the building project that I am part of is going to be a passive house, which is a building with a thicker, exterior envelope and triple-glazed windows. The new Friends School in Falmouth is a passive house, and it was recently announced that that the energy-efficient building is now a net-zero structure, which means it produces as much energy – solar, in this case – as it uses (nice on the budget).

In fact, with the multi-family passive house concept, a unit with no heating can maintain an interior temperature – even in the dead of winter – of at least 55 degrees. That’s nice to have during a power outage.

A passive house also results in uniform, fresh air at 72 degrees. There is no more turning down the thermostat in the winter to save money. (Who would miss that?)

In a city, the majority of the pollution comes from buildings. And the irony of this is that Maine’s per capita building carbon footprint is higher than most because of our colder winters and the use of oil over gas. We don’t think of Mainers as being polluters, but per capita it is a fact.

Avery Yale Kamila, who writes on progressive food options as the Press Herald’s Vegan Kitchen columnist, is a Facebook friend of mine and posted a link to the aforementioned Press Herald article on tiny RV homes. In the Facebook comment thread, she wrote, “Why is it okay to house dozens of people (homeless) on thin mats in a room full of other people but not okay for one or two to live in a tiny RV home (or micro apartment)?” Good question, Avery.

A creative symposium hosted by the city and attended by city planners, building developers, architects, interior designers and bankers (for rent-to-own options) is a good start to developing realistic solutions and amending laws to alleviate Portland’s housing problem. Portland was voted the most livable city in America by Forbes in 2009. It would be nice to keep that accolade current.

]]> 5 Tue, 15 Nov 2016 21:21:31 +0000