Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Sun, 26 Mar 2017 03:24:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 Gina Barreca: Do we fear listening to the other side? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/gina-barreca-do-we-fear-listening-to-the-other-side/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/gina-barreca-do-we-fear-listening-to-the-other-side/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1172288 In our conversations, whether political, public or private, we seem to be increasingly belligerent, uncivil and unrelenting, determined to crush the opposition rather than listen to the other side.

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

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

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

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

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

There are three prerequisites for conversation to be meaningful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Another View: Telling the whole story about Question 2 matters http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/another-view-telling-the-whole-story-about-question-2-matters/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/another-view-telling-the-whole-story-about-question-2-matters/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1172304 It’s unfortunate so many continue to miss the mark on what voters truly wanted in November when they cast their vote in support of Question 2, the Stand Up for Students initiative. Despite intense opposition to Question 2 from Gov. LePage, former Gov. John Baldacci, this newspaper and other newspapers around the state, voters in Maine approved the initiative. In fact, Question 2 garnered more votes than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Almost 384,000 voters in Maine supported Question 2.

The Portland Press Herald (Our View, March 21) sees the passage of Question 2 as a mandate to fully fund our local schools, but refuses to recognize the popularity and support for a 3 percent surcharge on the wealthiest Mainers. Question 2 wasn’t just about funding schools – it was also about tax fairness.

At a time of intense economic inequality in Maine, there is no better way to address these issues than asking the wealthiest earners to pay a little more to fund educational opportunities for our students. We need better-funded schools, but we also need a tax code that isn’t rigged to benefit those at the top. The 3 percent surcharge is now law, and these funds are dedicated to support our public schools.

Failing to appropriately fund our schools creates more pressure on local communities forced to make up the state’s shortfall by increasing property taxes. This needs to stop, and can stop if the state does what voters demanded in November.

The ballot language was clear; Question 2 was the shortest on the ballot. There was no ambiguity or confusion. Voters are not stupid and they are not uninformed. Now is the time to finally honor the will of the voters. Legislators and the Press Herald shouldn’t attempt to reinterpret the results of the election with a revisionist theory.

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Maine Voices: Environmental stewards should stand together against Gorsuch http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/maine-voices-environmental-stewards-should-stand-together-against-gorsuch/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/maine-voices-environmental-stewards-should-stand-together-against-gorsuch/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1172309 BAR HARBOR — Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, stood up for the health and safety of all Americans by voting against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt was the former attorney general of Oklahoma who regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections, but unfortunately he was confirmed in a close vote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Another View: Congress has obligation to weigh in on war-making http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/another-view-congress-has-obligation-to-weigh-in-on-war-making/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/another-view-congress-has-obligation-to-weigh-in-on-war-making/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1172378 Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford found something constructive to tell senators on an appropriations subcommittee this week, even if it had nothing to do with the Pentagon budget. They challenged lawmakers to finally provide a legal basis for the U.S. war against terrorist groups.

It’s something that President Obama was never able to get from Congress. So instead, for his entire presidency, Obama based U.S. counterterrorism efforts abroad mostly on the authorization for the use of force that Congress passed shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. The logical problem here is obvious: Today’s biggest terrorist enemies – groups such as the Islamic State and al-Shabaab in Somalia – didn’t exist in 2001. Thus, it’s absurd to say they count among the terrorists who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the Sept. 11 atrocities. Nor are they covered by the follow-on 2002 authorization to invade Iraq.

This is more than legal semantics. Congress has for too long abdicated its role in American war-making, another example of it ceding ever-more ground to the executive branch on matters of highest national importance.

And now that President Trump is reportedly looking at counterterrorism actions going well beyond the Obama approach – including bringing new terrorists to Guantanamo Bay, and loosening the rules on and broadening the air war in Yemen and Somalia – the legal precariousness poses a tangible threat. Any new detainees brought to Gitmo would have a strong claim to U.S. courts that their imprisonment is illegal, while international authorities could more easily make the case that drone strikes in Somalia or Yemen are war crimes.

Of course, there are many issues to be hashed out on the language of a new measure. Would it have geographic constraints, or allow the U.S. to fight the jihadists wherever they go? Would it be indefinite or have a sunset date? Would it replace the 2001 measure or just augment it? In any case, a new authorization should require the administration to report regularly to lawmakers and the public on where actions have taken place and what groups have been added to the target list.

But before Congress can even start grappling with these questions, it needs to get serious about its constitutional requirement to get involved. Let’s hope Mattis and Dunford gave lawmakers the boost of courage they needed.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/another-view-congress-has-obligation-to-weigh-in-on-war-making/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172378_APTOPIX_Iraq_Mosul_33474.jp_.jpgThree roadside bombs laid by Islamic State militants explode in Mosul, Iraq, on March 8, killing one of the Iraqi engineers tryng to defuse the devices. Groups like the Islamic State didn't exist in 2001, so it's absurd to say that the war authorization passed after the Sept. 11 attacks applies to them.Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:39:42 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Donald Trump has no idea how to tend his own garden http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/garrison-keillor-donald-trump-has-no-idea-how-to-tend-his-own-garden/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/garrison-keillor-donald-trump-has-no-idea-how-to-tend-his-own-garden/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1172274 What a world. I spend an evening looking at a friend’s video he shot in Uganda, impoverished people dancing with hands over their heads, overjoyed that a well has been dug and they can drink good water without having to hike for miles. The next day I read about a foundation grant to create storytelling programs in small towns to create radical reimagining of narratives that lead to healing. And then the Boy President on TV with Angela Merkel looking at him and thinking, “Who is that old game-show host standing at the podium? What movie am I in?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, 66 words. So I lied.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Commentary: With all the outrage about double standards, we forget they’re double the fun http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/commentary-with-all-the-outrage-about-double-standards-we-forget-theyre-double-the-fun/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/commentary-with-all-the-outrage-about-double-standards-we-forget-theyre-double-the-fun/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171625 The sphere of American politics is supposed to be a place of bottomless cynicism, yet the existence of double standards is a constant source of outrage – genuine outrage – for both politicians and commentators. Any time someone on one side does something idiotic or utters some indefensible remark, the other side complains of an insufficient reaction. What if someone on our side had said that? There’d be calls for resignation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Maine Voices: Bill to lower age for carrying concealed handgun is foolish and dangerous http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maine-voices-bill-to-lower-age-for-carrying-concealed-handgun-is-foolish-and-dangerous/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maine-voices-bill-to-lower-age-for-carrying-concealed-handgun-is-foolish-and-dangerous/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171650 As a hazardous-duty military veteran, a family physician and a father, I oppose L.D. 44, An Act to Lower the Age Requirement to Carry a Concealed Handgun, introduced by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and co-sponsored by Reps. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, and Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Special to the Press Herald

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Charles Krauthammer: In Trumpian era, American democracy is not so decadent, after all http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/charles-krauthammer-in-trumpian-era-american-democracy-is-not-so-decadent-after-all/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/charles-krauthammer-in-trumpian-era-american-democracy-is-not-so-decadent-after-all/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171680 Under the dark gray cloud, amid the general gloom, allow me to offer a ray of sunshine. The last two months have brought a pleasant surprise: Turns out the much-feared, much-predicted withering of our democratic institutions has been grossly exaggerated. The system lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Our View: Budget rollback should bypass Meals on Wheels http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/our-view-budget-rollback-should-bypass-meals-on-wheels/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/our-view-budget-rollback-should-bypass-meals-on-wheels/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171796 A federal program that covers nearly half of Maine’s Meals on Wheels costs faces an uncertain future under President Trump’s recently announced budget proposal. The network of Area Agencies on Aging, which runs Meals on Wheels in Maine, is already scrambling to meet its clients’ nutrition needs – this news puts more pressure on these groups at a time when federal officials should be doing more, not less, for older Americans.

Nationwide, the biggest source of federal funding for Meals on Wheels is the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, which covers 35 percent of Meals on Wheels costs nationally. In Maine, the federal program accounts for 44.5 percent of Meals on Wheels spending; the rest comes from state, foundation, private and corporate sources.

So a proposed 18 percent reduction in the budget of the federal Health and Human Services Department, which runs the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, has ominous implications. “It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which these critical services would not be significantly and negatively impacted if (the budget proposal is) enacted into law,” Jenny Bertolette of Meals on Wheels America – a senior advocacy group that speaks on behalf of local Meals on Wheels programs – told National Public Radio this week.

In helping to fight hunger among older Mainers, Meals on Wheels and groups like it are taking on a huge challenge. One in six Maine residents age 60 and older – some 50,000 people – is struggling with hunger, according to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger. They may not consistently have access to nutritious food, and they worry that the food they do have on hand will run out before they can afford more.

Any homebound person who’s at least 60 and can’t regularly prepare their own food is eligible for Meals on Wheels; there is no income test. Once a senior is connected with Meals on Wheels, they’re part of a program with major nutritional and social benefits.

Eighty-one percent of recipients say their health has improved since they started participating in Meals on Wheels (nutrition has been shown to speed recovery for those who have been ill or undergone surgery). Regular contact with the volunteer who brings their meal helps minimize social isolation, as do the check-in calls made by the program’s volunteer Phone Pals on nondelivery days.

Support for nutrition for seniors is a relatively small federal investment (less than 0.1 percent of discretionary spending) with a big payoff in health and quality of life for older Americans. The president’s budget chief and those who report to him should do a cost-benefit analysis and look elsewhere to find sources of government waste.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/our-view-budget-rollback-should-bypass-meals-on-wheels/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1171796_768548_20151225_mealsonwh_6.jpgBy delivering tasty, nutritious meals to homebound people over age 60, Meals on Wheels is helping meet a massive need: One in six Maine seniors – some 50,000 people – is struggling with hunger.Fri, 24 Mar 2017 14:02:55 +0000
Another View: Repeatedly inept Secret Service must get its house in order http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/another-view-repeatedly-inept-secret-service-must-get-its-house-in-order/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/another-view-repeatedly-inept-secret-service-must-get-its-house-in-order/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171812 The Washington Post

Seventeen minutes. That is a shockingly long time for an intruder to roam undetected on the grounds of the White House while the president is inside the executive mansion. Fortunately, the intruder March 10 was carrying nothing more lethal than two cans of pepper spray. But how could such a breach of security have occurred? Secret Service officials owe an answer.

The security failure, in which a 26-year-old man with a history of mental illness pierced the outer perimeter of the White House near the Treasury Department, renews questions about the Secret Service’s ability to protect the country’s leaders and facilities.

A series of embarrassments, including a 2014 incident in which an intruder with a knife managed to get into the White House before being tackled by an off-duty agent, brought the agency under scrutiny. There followed an overhaul of management that supposedly tightened protections. That makes this latest incident, along with the theft of an agent’s laptop containing sensitive information about Trump Tower, all the more troubling.

“I worry this is the worst one yet,” said Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chaffetz, describing a surveillance video viewed by the committee Monday in a closed-door briefing, detailed how the intruder cleared a fence and ground barriers, lingered on the south portico of the White House, moved through the south garden and peered in several windows before being apprehended.

Only after Chaffetz raised questions did the Secret Service release a timeline of events disclosing that agents failed to detect the intruder for 17 minutes.

The Secret Service urgently needs to get its house in order. The agency is without a permanent director after the retirement of Joseph Clancy. In choosing a replacement, President Trump would do well to take to heart recommendations about the need for someone from outside the agency to bring a fresh eye to its operation.

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Letter to the editor: Let Maine’s development always be within reason http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-let-maines-development-always-be-within-reason/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-let-maines-development-always-be-within-reason/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171135 I must be the voice of reason on state mining regulations (“Lawmakers to revisit Maine’s rules for mining,” March 18).

Granted, I’m not an extreme, “The United States of Business, all hail” Republican, but neither am I a radical, “save the worms, union and feminist” Democrat.

And, conversely, that whole lawsuit boogeyman that permeates America in every other sentence has to cease: You can’t buy a pencil sharpener without pages and pages of tiny-fonted wordy-words of instructions lest some lawsuit be triggered. Have some gumption!

So, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee all but guarantees siding with the touchy-feely crowd, no matter how many public hearings the committee sets up.

The bottom line is that we need work in Maine. That doesn’t mean a gigantic bicycle path through the state and balloons and calling that prosperity. Unless, of course, you have employment with the state, where tax-funded salaries and perks are no object.

Whether it was the east-west highway and pipelines or the Bald Mountain mining project in Aroostook County referred to in the article, certain people want “their” georesources intact yet have no compunction about their homes (built with natural resources), their computers and their automobiles. But it doesn’t matter where any project is located in Maine when it comes to bulldozers. Do you think our beloved Maine Turnpike would have been allowed to be constructed today?

Bill Capistran

Kennebunkport

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Letter to the editor: Professor Brooks proving to be the voice of sanity http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-professor-brooks-proving-to-be-the-voice-of-sanity/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-professor-brooks-proving-to-be-the-voice-of-sanity/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171136 Kudos to professor Franklin Brooks for his timely commentary resisting the planned cutbacks in case management and community integration services for those deemed mentally ill (“Maine Voices: We need to support the most vulnerable people in our state – those with mental illness,” March 7).

Let’s face it: With today’s many pressures and demands, an increasing number of Americans are struggling to cope each day. Yet their very real needs – in some cases, the sort Mr. Brooks champions – are often just dismissed.

But surely the Maine Department of Health and Human Services can find monies to maintain these vital services. As the great Russian writer Dostoyevsky put it, “You can judge a society by how it treats its prisoners.” And we might add, the mentally ill. Having lost a stepson to depression, may I suggest that all mental difficulties deserve compassion and care?

Let’s call Gov. LePage at 207-287-3531 and encourage him to lead on this issue.

R. Jay Allain

Yarmouth

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Letter to the editor: Not all Portland schools need be renovated now http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-not-all-portland-schools-need-be-renovated-now/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-not-all-portland-schools-need-be-renovated-now/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171137 In our already polarized world, it is distressing to see a group insisting on funding the renovation of four Portland elementary schools totally at local taxpayer expense.

There is a middle way, as proposed by Councilors Jill Duson and Nicholas Mavodones: Fund two school projects now, request state funding next year for the two others that narrowly missed the cut and go for another local bond if state funds do not materialize. The finish line is eight years away, either way.

Of course we need strong, healthy school buildings for our children. It was not fun to see my sons’ elementary school in central Maine evacuated and torn down once the extent of long-ignored mold was documented. But we also need to respect the needs of the majority of Portland residents who do not have school-aged children but who face tax burdens that are already too heavy for many.

Betsey Remage-Healey

Peaks Island

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Letter to the editor: Let Stewart’s eloquence rub off on the crass LePage http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-let-stewarts-eloquence-rub-off-on-the-crass-lepage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-let-stewarts-eloquence-rub-off-on-the-crass-lepage/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171138 I would just like to thank Garrett Stewart for the Maine Voices column he wrote (March 17).

This piece was so nicely written, and I know there are a number of Maine residents who feel exactly the way Mr. Stewart described. I only hope Gov. LePage meant his apology and that he will make no more racial remarks.

To Mr. Stewart, I say: “Thank you again for your voice.”

June Watson

Westbrook

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Our View: Maine’s child care safety net is only getting weaker http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/our-view-maines-child-care-safety-net-is-only-getting-weaker/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/our-view-maines-child-care-safety-net-is-only-getting-weaker/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171143 The central theme of the LePage administration’s welfare reform is that every working-age Mainer who is physically able to work should have a job. For an aging state with a shrinking workforce, it is in general a sound philosophy.

But if the governor wants that to be anything more than a campaign slogan, he should be helping to break down the barriers that keep residents struggling at the lowest rungs of the economy. Instead, he is putting up more.

UNAFFORDABLE CHILD CARE

According to a report in the Bangor Daily News, Maine has in each of the last four years left on the table at least $4 million in federal funds available to lower-income families for child care vouchers.

Child care in Maine is tremendously expensive – day care for an infant costs more annually than tuition at a state university. People in poverty pay more than a third of their income for child care, and in Maine it costs around 37 percent of the median income for a single mother.

Without a voucher to defray some of the cost, some parents literally cannot afford to work. For others, child care, along with housing, transportation and health care, takes up all their income each month. They can never get ahead, and are always one car breakdown or illness away from destitution.

Maine is allotted roughly $17 million a year in federal funds toward vouchers, but the state can claim those funds only if it spends enough of its own money on child care. In 2013, the Bangor Daily News reported, the state gave up $4.1 million in federal funds because it didn’t spend $2 million. In 2015, the state left $4.9 million on the table.

That money, along with the requisite state funds, could have been used to provide 1,600 additional vouchers.

Or, Maine could have raised the amount given to each recipient, which was cut in 2011 from the 75th percentile of market rates to the 50th. The state could have specifically targeted rural areas, where there are few providers, or those in severe poverty.

Instead, the money went to other states, and the LePage administration further weakened an already insufficient program.

FEWER AND FEWER VOUCHERS

In addition to the 2011 cut in the amount of each voucher, the state has taken a number of steps in the past decade – spanning two administrations – that have made the voucher program more cumbersome and expensive for day-care providers. As a result, the number of providers accepting vouchers has fallen by more than 60 percent since 2007.

With fewer providers and a smaller pool of vouchers, the number of families being helped by the program has dwindled. During an average month in 2015, only 2,800 children were using vouchers, half the number in 2007, and just 8 percent of the 44,000 who are eligible.

That may make the state budget look marginally more conservative. But in the long run it pushes Mainers – particularly single mothers – out of the workforce, and makes it significantly harder for poor families to do anything more than simply survive.

Taking full advantage of the federal voucher funding won’t make that problem go away, but it will help, particularly if it is coupled with other changes designed to help low-income families afford child care.

A bill to increase the individual voucher amount to the 60th percentile of market rate failed last year, but there is legislation now under consideration to raise it back to 75.

There is also a lot to be said for the former system, which used county-based organizations to manage the voucher system.

On the federal level, tax credits should be made fully refundable to better help low-income families, as proposed by Sen. Angus King.

That would be a good start to repairing the system that helps low-income Maine families access child care, which was inadequate when Gov. Le-Page first took office and has only gotten worse ever since.

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Maine Voices: Exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. Period. http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/maine-voices-exempt-feminine-hygiene-products-from-state-sales-tax-period/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/maine-voices-exempt-feminine-hygiene-products-from-state-sales-tax-period/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171083 Imagine being a homeless woman. You have just $7 and you are starving, but you’ve just started your period. Now what do you do? Do you go into the store and buy food, or do you buy feminine hygiene products?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Commentary: Lawmakers must protect Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid patients http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/commentary-lawmakers-must-protect-planned-parenthoods-medicaid-patients/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/commentary-lawmakers-must-protect-planned-parenthoods-medicaid-patients/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171092 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to decide on a number of health policies that will have a very real impact on people here in Maine, such as whether to rip health care away from thousands of Mainers by repealing the Affordable Care Act, or whether to block Medicaid patients from receiving basic health care at Planned Parenthood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maine Republican leader: Our state needs workers, not welfare recipients http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/maine-republican-leader-our-state-needs-workers-not-welfare-recipients/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/maine-republican-leader-our-state-needs-workers-not-welfare-recipients/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171094 I am the daughter of Greek immigrants. Growing up, I worked in my parents’ seasonal restaurant all summer long so that I could afford to go to the University of Maine. My family, friends and, for that matter, most Mainers have the will to work hard for the betterment of their families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is not.

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

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

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/maine-republican-leader-our-state-needs-workers-not-welfare-recipients/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/860535-081106broccoli5.jpgStaff Photo by John Ewing...08/11/06...Mexican laborers cut broccoli stalks for Smith Farms' crew A as the harvest season gets underway at a Smith Farm's field near Fort Fairfield in central Aroostook County. Smith Farm's employ over 150 migrant workers to help in their harvest of both broccoli and potatos.Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:55:04 +0000
Bill Nemitz: A sermon for those on the mound, from one who’s been there http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/bill-nemitz-a-sermon-for-those-on-the-mound-from-one-whos-been-there/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/bill-nemitz-a-sermon-for-those-on-the-mound-from-one-whos-been-there/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171107 Dennis Eckersley, the onetime closer and now TV color commentator for the Boston Red Sox, once said, “I can’t recall too much about pitching, but I was anxious to get it over with.”

I, on the other hand, remember every agonizing second of my brief career on the pitcher’s mound. And like Eckersley, I wanted only for it to end.

It lasted all of one-half inning.

Memories of my long-ago trauma were tweaked this week with the news that all over Maine, high schoolers are scraping off the winter rust in anticipation of the start of baseball season on April 12.

Pitchers, who began throwing this week, will face a new set of rules this year: Per order of the Maine Principals’ Association, they face a limit of 110 pitches per game. Also, should they throw more than 95 pitches in one outing, they must get four days of rest before taking the mound again.

All of which got me thinking: Nowhere in team sports is there a position so lonely as that of the pitcher.

Throw well and you’re the hero.

Throw poorly and you’re the goat.

Throw somewhere in between and you’re at best a glutton for punishment, not to mention a candidate for psychotherapy.

It happened 50 years ago this summer.

Having just turned 13, I was too old to play Little League that year.

But when I heard about a summer league being formed for kids my age and slightly older, I jumped at the chance to reclaim my familiar – and often terrifying – corner at third base.

That is until the coach, whom I’d never met, saw me throw and asked, “Have you ever pitched?”

Yeah, right.

Me? … Pitch? …Was this guy crazy or what?

“Uhh … no,” I replied. “I play third.”

“Take the mound,” he said. “Let’s have a look.”

Fast forward to the first inning of our first game.

My Dad is among the smattering of fans on the hill behind our bench. Normally, he’s the one who gives me the thumbs-up and yells something mortifying like, “Go get ’em, Bill!”

But Dad’s strangely quiet on this day, just watching. His kid is … pitching?

For the first time ever, I take the mound. It’s all so unfamiliar: the beat-up rubber, the sticky rosin bag, the fact that everyone, on and off the field, is suddenly focused exclusively on me …

I wind up, feeling clumsy. I let the first pitch fly, thinking all the while, “Am I doing this right? … Do I look stupid? … Where’s it going to go?”

Ball one.

Again, I go through the unfamiliar motion. “Geez, that strike zone looks so tiny from up here,” I think midway through the wind-up.

And then, as I release the ball, “Dear God, please don’t let it hit him!”

Ball two.

Balls three and four come in rapid succession.

Same for the next batter – four balls in a row, and suddenly there are runners on first and second and no outs.

Same for the batter after that – and now the bases are loaded.

My teammates, full of chatter just a few minutes ago, have all gone silent.

I look to the bench, where my new coach halfheartedly claps his hands in encouragement. I see his hands come together, but I don’t hear any sound.

I look to the hill behind the bench. There sits my Dad, helplessly calm.

Did he just nod – or is he looking down because he can’t bear to make eye contact with his sudden failure of a son?

I want to run away, but I’m trapped by the simple reality that baseball, for better or worse, tends to frown on simply giving up. The ball weighs a ton. The next kid up to the plate looks more scared than I am.

And then, out of nowhere, I get angry.

“You want it? Here, take it!” I mutter, rearing back and throwing, eyes closed, as hard as I can. Only when I hear the “pop” in the catcher’s mitt do I look.

Strike one.

I’m still mad. I hurl it again, same way, without a thought for what I’m doing. If I kill the poor kid cowering at the plate, so be it.

Strike two.

I go on to strike out not just this batter, but the two who follow.

I walk off the mound to cheers, pats on the back from my teammates, a thumbs-up from my Dad. Yet I make a beeline for my coach.

“I’m begging you, please don’t make me go back out there,” I implore him. “I’m not a pitcher. I play third. Please!”

Coach relents. My pitching career – three walks, three K’s, no earned runs, a lifetime of nightmares about rosin bags – mercifully comes to an end.

These days, after the snow surrenders our soggy diamonds, I often pull over to catch a minute or three of a Little League or high school game in progress.

My eyes, like all eyes, go directly to the pitcher.

One kid, all by himself, with the outcome of the game literally in his hands.

Behind him, an entire team, poised not to act, but to react: A good pitch requires nothing of them. One bad pitch, however, and they must keep it from becoming a catastrophe.

And the batter, these days all swagger and Big Papi preparation, also waits. Go ahead, he tells the pitcher with his eyes, go ahead and try …

Bob Feller, a Cleveland Indians mound legend, once observed, “When you make a bad pitch and the hitter puts it out of the park and you cost your team the game, it’s a real test of your maturity to be able to stand in front of your locker 15 minutes later and admit it to the world. How many people in other professions would be willing to have their job performances evaluated that way, in front of millions, every afternoon at 5 o’clock?”

And so here’s to the pitchers – the good, the bad, those who command and those who collapse.

You truly are a different breed.

You work alone, even as you’re surrounded by others.

You stand atop a small hill, the better for the rest of us to watch you succeed or fail.

To do that well – heck, to do it at all – takes just a little bit of crazy.

That and a ton of courage.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Letter to the editor: No choking back outrage over abuse http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-no-choking-back-outrage-over-abuse/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/23/letter-to-the-editor-no-choking-back-outrage-over-abuse/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171134 I am writing in response to “Waterfront Concerts promoter arrested on domestic violence charge” (March 17), whose subtitle states: “Alexander Gray is charged by Portland police after allegedly knocking down his girlfriend, briefly choking her … .”

“Choking” is not the correct word to use when reporting domestic violence incidents. “Strangling” is the accurate term. Distinguishing between the two words is important, and goes beyond quibbling over semantics.

A woman can choke on a piece of a candy. She cannot be choked by her boyfriend.

Choking refers to an internal obstruction of an airway. It is accidental. Strangulation is external and intentional. It is a specific form of abuse – an exertion of power and control over another person.

Strangulation has immediate consequences. An individual who strangles another person demonstrates a willingness to take a victim’s life. Strangulation can render a person unconscious in seconds, cause temporary or permanent brain damage within 30 seconds, and/or result in internal injuries that may become life-threatening within days.

It is a common tactic used by abusers, and usually leaves no obvious physical signs. Non-fatal strangulation can even be a risk factor for eventual homicide. Many states have enacted laws that make strangulation a felony charge.

Domestic violence is a public health problem. It affects individuals in our community of all socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, race, age and religion. Words matter – and in this case, words may be the difference between life and death.

The public needs to be made aware of strangulation as a specific form of abuse so that we all, including those currently experiencing intimate partner violence, understand its lethality. To refer to this act as “choking” is not only inaccurate, it also minimizes this heinous and willful alleged act by a man against his partner.

Tiffany Greco

Westbrook

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Thanks to Comey, Trump may finally have to face the music named truth http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/thanks-to-comey-trump-may-finally-have-to-face-the-music-named-truth/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/thanks-to-comey-trump-may-finally-have-to-face-the-music-named-truth/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170652 On Monday, accountability finally arrived for Donald Trump. After 70 years spent largely skating free of consequences for his puerile misbehaviors and diarrheal mouth, he likely found it something of a shock. Seven decades is a long time, after all, and if the so-called president has learned nothing else in those years, he has learned this: Accountability is for other people.

Received a bill? Stiff the vendor.

Get caught in a lie? Tell another.

Say something stupid? Blame somebody else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/thanks-to-comey-trump-may-finally-have-to-face-the-music-named-truth/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 21 Mar 2017 20:30:57 +0000
Increased screening for colorectal cancer could save thousands of Mainers’ lives http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/maine-voices-increased-screening-for-colorectal-cancer-could-save-767-mainers-in-2018/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/maine-voices-increased-screening-for-colorectal-cancer-could-save-767-mainers-in-2018/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170603 There are far too many cancers where the opportunity for either prevention or early detection simply does not exist. In these instances, we often find the cancer only when it becomes symptomatic in an advanced stage. But this is not the case for all cancers. In fact, for some cancers, such as colo- rectal cancer, we have highly effective methods to prevent the cancer or to catch it at an early and highly treatable stage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rep. Chellie Pingree: Passing ‘Trumpcare’ would take us backward http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/rep-chellie-pingree-passing-trumpcare-would-take-us-backward/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/rep-chellie-pingree-passing-trumpcare-would-take-us-backward/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170638 WASHINGTON — Last weekend, hundreds of Mainers turned out for a town hall I held on the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Trumpcare. People who attended shared their battles with cancer, disease and poverty and described how the Affordable Care Act, while imperfect, had opened a door for them to access care and prevent bankruptcy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Special to the Press Herald

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Our View: Grants for drug treatment in Maine’s jails could break cycle of relapsing, reoffending http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/our-view-grants-for-drug-treatment-in-maines-jails-could-break-cycle-of-relapsing-and-reoffending/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/our-view-grants-for-drug-treatment-in-maines-jails-could-break-cycle-of-relapsing-and-reoffending/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170691 About two of every three of the nation’s jail and prison inmates have substance use disorders, but only 11 percent of those who are addicted receive treatment while incarcerated, according to a 2010 study.

Though these are national figures, it’s likely that Maine – which had a record 378 overdose deaths last year – fits the same pattern. But new legislation offers cause for hope by making it possible for jail inmates to access addiction treatment while behind bars.

Sponsored by state Sen. Justin Chenette, a Saco Democrat, L.D. 377 would establish a Corrections Department grant program that would be designed with mandatory input from Maine’s sheriffs and county commissioners and pay up to half the cost of county jail-based drug treatment programs.

Grants would be awarded based on need, local buy-in and county financial support. Applicants also must present evidence-based proposals – a category that covers everything from detoxification services and medication-assisted treatment to recovery coaching and faith-based treatment.

Given how many inmates in Maine are struggling to overcome addiction, it’s clear that L.D. 377 could do a great deal of good. But Jenna Mehnert, head of the mental health advocacy group NAMI Maine, made an important point during the public hearing on the bill, when she told the lawmakers who are weighing the measure that it’s important to distinguish between people facing felony charges who “simultaneously struggle with addiction,” and low-level offenders whose crimes are directly related to their substance use.

The serious offenders, she said, would benefit from Corrections Department-approved inmate rehabilitation services, which would “allow for recovery to begin before inmates are released” – but those accused of drug-related misdemeanors would be better served by being diverted to a program that offers services such as housing, job training and health care in lieu of arrest. And the evidence backs up her recommendation: Diversion programs like those being piloted in Portland, Bangor and several other Maine communities have been shown to prevent relapse and recidivism.

Maine’s cash-strapped county jails – which have become what Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce recently called “the state’s largest mental hospital and detox center” – are feeling the impact as the addiction epidemic continues to escalate. L.D. 377 is based on a sound concept; with some revisions, the bill could cut off a frustrating and often tragic cycle of release, relapsing and reoffending that rarely, if ever, results in recovery for Mainers suffering from addiction.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/our-view-grants-for-drug-treatment-in-maines-jails-could-break-cycle-of-relapsing-and-reoffending/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1170691_24596-20150402-Liberty-in-J.jpgAbout two-thirds of the people behind bars in the U.S. have a substance use disorder, but only 11 percent of the inmates who need addiction treatment receive it in jail or prison.Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:03:24 +0000
Another View: There’s little to celebrate in outcome of Dutch elections http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/another-view-theres-little-to-celebrate-in-outcome-of-dutch-elections/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/22/another-view-theres-little-to-celebrate-in-outcome-of-dutch-elections/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170699 It says something about European politics that the Dutch election results are widely seen as cause for celebration. Geert Wilders – a far-right populist who makes Donald Trump look like a cautious centrist – did worse than expected. But he was by no means crushed, and the anger Wilders and his ilk are channeling is still there.

In due course Prime Minister Mark Rutte will be able to form a new coalition government. (These things take time in the Netherlands.) But his center-right party has lost seats and had to tack to the populist right to avoid a worse result. Wilders’ PVV party increased its tally of seats from 15 to 20.

It won’t be hard to exclude the PVV from the new coalition government, but this was no shattering defeat for the far right.

And consider what it took to contain the threat. Rutte had to toughen his language (if not his policy) on immigration – “behave normally or leave,” he told migrants in a letter published in January in Dutch newspapers. Rutte’s standing up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan late in the campaign probably also helped his cause.

More encouraging is that the Netherlands, unlike the U.K., shows little interest in quitting the European Union. On the whole, strongly pro-EU parties did well in the election, and Wilders’ fervid opposition to the EU may actually have held him back.

Immigration remains the most troublesome issue. The Netherlands used to stand as a model for multiculturalism, but no longer. Like many other EU countries, the Netherlands has failed to assimilate its immigrants.

It can be argued that this is what multiculturalism means. If the sentiments driving far-right populism are to be defeated, however, assimilation will have to take precedence. Education, language training and housing policy must be recruited to the cause. Making it easier for migrants to find work – the Dutch record on this is especially poor – is crucial.

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Maine Voices: A little money goes a long way at the Portland Museum of Art http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/maine-voices-a-little-money-goes-a-long-way-at-the-portland-museum-of-art/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/maine-voices-a-little-money-goes-a-long-way-at-the-portland-museum-of-art/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170035 About a week ago, I had the pleasure of hosting the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, William “Bro” Adams, at the Portland Museum of Art, giving him a tour of the newly reopened museum. This was no happenstance: The NEH awarded the PMA a $400,000 grant for our multiyear project, “Your Museum, Reimagined,” which allowed the museum to reinstall every piece of artwork and reposition itself as a welcoming space for everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/maine-voices-a-little-money-goes-a-long-way-at-the-portland-museum-of-art/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1147622_720121-20170202_PMA1233.jpgasdf'l;k';lk;l'k .... "Woman in the Woods" by Alex Katz is now on display near the entrance at the Portland Museum of Art. ..... sdfa;klj asfdhsadfljk; sfda;ljk fsda;kl asdfhasd;fklj erwa;hl asfl;jk a;lsdfhk asdfkl;j sadflk;j sadflk;j sdaf;lkj sdaf;lkj sadf;lkjewra;jklrweakljwarewaer.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:26:06 +0000
Kathleen Parker: Presidential budget logic: Help single moms by building the wall http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/kathleen-parker-trumps-budget-logic-help-single-moms-by-building-the-wall/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/kathleen-parker-trumps-budget-logic-help-single-moms-by-building-the-wall/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170053 From Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” to Donald Trump’s “Detroit single mom,” the unmarried mother remains a constant fascination to Republicans wielding budget-cutting scalpels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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Charles Lawton: For productivity and its growth, similar areas hold lessons for regions in Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/charles-lawton-for-productivity-and-its-growth-similar-areas-hold-lessons-for-regions-in-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/charles-lawton-for-productivity-and-its-growth-similar-areas-hold-lessons-for-regions-in-maine/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170076 One of the most important forces in human affairs is the power of example. Sometimes it manifests as competitive resentment or envy – “If he/she can do it, why can’t I?” In other cases, it emerges as sympathetic inspiration – “If so-and-so succeeded after enduring such a horrible event as that, surely I can overcome my own less catastrophic history.” In both cases, it is possible to find motivation and inspiration from the example of others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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Our View: Level of funding, not its sources, is key for Maine schools http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/our-view-level-of-funding-not-its-sources-is-key-for-maine-schools/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/our-view-level-of-funding-not-its-sources-is-key-for-maine-schools/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170081 The debate over school funding now underway in the Legislature will surely be influenced by a new state report showing the harmful effect that a 3 percent tax surcharge on high incomes could have on the Maine economy.

But Question 2, the ballot question approved by voters in November that included the surcharge, was never really about taxing the rich. Instead, it was about lawmakers failing for so many years to live up to their obligation to Maine schools by finding a way to fund 55 percent of K-12 education.

How the Legislature fulfills that obligation is up to them – just as it has always been. If lawmakers do not like the tax surcharge, which would raise an estimated $124 million, they should find another source of revenue. That’s their job, and it’s time for them to do it.

They’ve ignored it long enough. Voters in 2004 approved the measure establishing the 55 percent state-funding level, and the state edged toward that goal for the next few years, until the economy collapsed in 2008. It hasn’t come close since – the gap between the state mandate and actual funding was around $240 million in 2015.

It wasn’t necessarily an aversion to state education funding that caused the gap, but rather wide disagreement on how to pay for school costs. The backers of Question 2 decided on the 3 percent tax surcharge on marginal incomes higher than $200,000, and voters approved it by a slim margin last November.

But just as with the 2004 referendum, state officials are threatening to ignore the wishes of voters on school funding.

Gov. LePage has made opposition to the surcharge one of his central themes, saying it will devastate the state economy. Meanwhile, he’s proposed a budget that cuts school spending by 2 percent next year, and would mean less money for 65 percent of the state’s school districts.

The governor’s office recently released a report backing up the governor’s claims. The additional tax, the report says, would cause people to leave the state, or dissuade them from coming here to start a business, and others would shield income from taxes.

As a result, the report says, private-sector employment, real disposable income, population and gross domestic product would all decline in the first year, and the negative effects would accumulate as the years go on.

The report contains some questionable assumptions on just how much tax policy influences people’s movements in and out of Maine. But it is certainly resonating with Republican lawmakers.

One bill, L.D. 571, from state Sen. Dana Dow, R-Damariscotta, would scrap the 3 percent tax and instead use marijuana sales taxes, among other items, for school funding.

This is why we came out against Question 2 before November’s election. Changes to tax policy and school funding don’t happen in a vacuum – they have to be weighed against other priorities. There will certainly be other lawmakers making a case for how to spend the marijuana funds, just as there are for all state revenue. That’s a job for the Legislature, not the referendum process.

So as lawmakers consider what to do with Question 2, they shouldn’t ignore it altogether, as the governor’s budget does, or send it back to voters, as would a bill proposed by state Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough.

They should honor the will of voters, expressed twice now, that the state fund 55 percent of education costs, and together figure out a way to get there.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/21/our-view-level-of-funding-not-its-sources-is-key-for-maine-schools/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1170081_442187-20140129-Core-Math-1.jpgFor over a decade, the state of Maine has failed to follow the law and fulfill its obligation to fund 55 percent of K-12 public education costs.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:20:03 +0000
Our View: Report puts spotlight on juvenile court records http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/20/our-view-state-courts-need-better-training-on-youth-records/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/20/our-view-state-courts-need-better-training-on-youth-records/#respond Mon, 20 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1169315 Believing doesn’t make it true, and when it comes to court records, it’s not belief that counts.

Consider this widely held belief that juveniles with a criminal record get a fresh start when they turn 18. Lawyers believe it and so do their clients. Judges believe it, and so do the clerks who manage the records.

But the problem is that it’s only sort of true.

A recent study by researchers at the Muskie School of Government at the University of Southern Maine found that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the law. A juvenile criminal record can be sealed by a court, but the process is not automatic and past offenses might be showing up in a job seeker’s criminal background checks without his knowledge, making a smooth transition to the straight and narrow adulthood tougher than necessary.

The report “Unsealed Fate: The Unintended Consequences of Inadequate Safeguarding of Juvenile Records in Maine” found few people who understood how the system really works.

“The myth of records being sealed automatically at 18 was being repeated by so many different players,” said Susy Hawes, one of the study’s authors. “Everyone we spoke to in the system had that belief. It’s a vicious cycle of believing something and then hearing it again and believing it.”

Juvenile records are treated differently than adult offenses for a good reason. The juvenile system is designed to rehabilitate a young person who has made some bad choices during a time when their brains are not fully formed. Most young people get through that period without violating the law with support from good families and strong communities, but even the best kids can be led astray.

It’s right to expect an adult to live with the consequences of his choices for the rest of his life, but it’s in the interest of both the juvenile and society in general to give them another chance to get on the right track.

Aside from the fact that it isn’t well understood, there is nothing wrong with the current law.

A juvenile has to wait three years after a conviction to petition the court to have his record sealed. To have a chance at closing that chapter of his life from others’ eyes, the offender has to have a clean record, paid all fines and completed all other instructions and requirements. Even then a judge could refuse to grant the petition, and the former juvenile offender cannot appeal.

It’s a good law because it gives a youthful offender the incentive to straighten out his act. The law gives the court a chance to help a kid who made a mistake while protecting the community from someone who would hide behind juvenile confidentiality while continuing to commit crimes.

Hopefully, this report will be used by lawyers, judges, clerks and probation officers in their training so they can give young offenders and their families the correct information.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/20/our-view-state-courts-need-better-training-on-youth-records/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1169315_501694_20170104_kayla_ste_4-e1490006188772.jpgA judge can seal a juvenile's record after he is clean for three years and meets other requirements. Even then a judge could refuse to grant the petition, and the former juvenile offender cannot appeal.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:17:51 +0000
Maine Voices: Business experience doesn’t necessarily mean economic success http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/20/maine-voices-knowing-business-doesnt-necessarily-mean-knowing-economics/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/20/maine-voices-knowing-business-doesnt-necessarily-mean-knowing-economics/#respond Mon, 20 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1169320 SKOWHEGAN — There has been a long-standing belief among Americans that experience in business prepares one for political leadership. Yet although we have elected plenty of businesspeople as governors and presidents, their economic record has never been any better than that of their peers without business backgrounds. It does not matter which economic indicator or when measured: A relationship between a chief executive’s business experience and his administration’s economic success does not exist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Jim Fossel http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/jim-fossel/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/jim-fossel/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 14:37:21 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170875 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/jim-fossel/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/Jim-FosselWeb.jpgMaine Sunday Telegram columnist Jim FosselWed, 22 Mar 2017 16:06:06 +0000 Jim Fossel: Timing of requesting expansion of Medicaid in Maine is surprising http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/jim-fossel-medicaid-expansion-in-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/jim-fossel-medicaid-expansion-in-maine/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168922 Over the past several years, a curious dichotomy has emerged in Maine: Liberal ideas succeed at the ballot box, while liberal candidates fail time and time again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jwfossel@gmail.com

Twitter: jimfossel

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Another View: The full bill for your vegetables isn’t present until tax time http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/another-view-the-full-bill-for-your-vegetables-isnt-present-until-tax-time/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/another-view-the-full-bill-for-your-vegetables-isnt-present-until-tax-time/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168884 It seems inappropriate for Source, a section of the Maine Sunday Telegram dedicated to sustainability and environmental stewardship, to promote agribusiness trucking in hundreds of workers across thousands of miles to harvest local crops while undercutting the local labor market (“Immigration cloud hangs over local farms,” Page S1, March 5).

It is more environmentally responsible to purchase a tomato from Central America grown by indigenous people than to buy a tomato grown in Massachusetts by workers shipped from the same region.

Sure, the business owner makes out, and the migrant laborers can live on welfare payments while sending the wages home, but the locals and the environment suffer.

When a business owner complains, “I can’t find any workers …,” it’s always appropriate to add the words she’s careful to leave out: “… at the wages I am willing to pay to sustain my profits.”

If you can’t pay enough to attract workers, then you don’t really have a sustainable business. The only reason they can keep pocketing profits is they have socialized the cost of labor. It’s a pretty neat trick that agribusiness has managed to foist the true cost of workers onto the taxpayers. I feel bad for the local farmer, teenagers and unemployed who can’t make a viable economic arrangement because the big farm next door is busing in hundreds of migrant workers.

It would be better for the environment and the local community to ban this practice. And if you think a pint of blueberries is inexpensive, that’s because the real cost is hidden in your tax bill.

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Bill Nemitz: State cutting programs for mentally ill? She minds http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/nemitz-mentally-ill-mainers-are-pushing-back/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/nemitz-mentally-ill-mainers-are-pushing-back/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1169323 Donna Deigan sat in a downtown coffee shop Tuesday morning as the blizzard bore down on Brunswick, her materials neatly arranged before her on the table: a checklist of issues to discuss in our interview, her recent testimony to the Maine Legislature, a single dollar bill.

“This right here is a piece of paper,” she said, picking up the dollar. “It is not living, it is not breathing. But we put so much value on it.”

Putting it back down, she continued: “I’m a living, breathing person. And I may have a mental illness, but I still have something to contribute to the world. And that is sharing my story.”

It might be easy to lose Deigan in the rising tide of Mainers whose mental health services are once again under siege in Augusta – if not for one thing.

She refuses to disappear.

Deigan, 50, has long struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder – none of which was properly treated until she finally underwent intensive treatment with Sweetser, a statewide behavioral health care provider, just over three years ago.

She grew up in Cleveland, where she was verbally, physically and sexually abused as a child. She remembers coping with a dysfunctional household by becoming “Robin,” her imaginary twin, “in order to try and pretend I was somebody else because I hated the way I was being treated.”

She’s been raped three times over the course of her life.

She’s been hospitalized during mental health crises.

More than once in her tumultuous past, she’s attempted suicide.

Even now, if she forgets just one thing in her morning routine – get up, shower, brush teeth … – it’s likely to throw her off balance for the entire day.

Yet she refuses to disappear.

Last spring, Deigan was one of more than 400 clients of Merrymeeting Behavioral Health Associates who were thrown into a tailspin when the agency abruptly shut down with no apparent thought to those who relied on its services for case management, therapy and community-based support.

At the same time, she was one of some 8,000 Mainers rocked by changes in Maine- Care rules that now limit intensive community support services to those with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and other acute mental health impairments.

That crackdown continues under the broader effort by Gov. Paul LePage to cut taxes at the expense of Maine’s most vulnerable: Under a proposed rate change by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, reimbursements to agencies that provide support services to the mentally ill would be pared by close to 25 percent.

As a DHHS spokeswoman put it in January, LePage’s budget aims to shrink “the size and cost of state government” by targeting “short-sighted welfare policies that have perpetuated dependency.”

Still, despite such demonizing rhetoric, Deigan refuses to disappear.

Last month, she listened to LePage’s State of the State address – the first one she’d ever heard – and shook her head when she heard the governor thump away at the “Do No Harm” theme of his budget.

” ‘Do no harm.’ He kept repeating that,” she said. “But he’s harming people. And at what point do you draw the line between governing a state and actually hurting your citizens? At what point do you draw the line?”

Deigan draws it at the emergency room entrance to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick.

There, working for a local mental health agency, she now provides peer counseling support for those with no place else to turn.

Late last month, nerves shaking her like a leaf, she stood up before the Legislature’s Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees to talk about her work. No, make that her newfound calling.

“What happens when a person has a heart attack?” Deigan asked lawmakers. “They go to the emergency room and are treated!”

Not so for mental health patients, she continued, listing 10 teenagers, elderly folks and others in between who have showed up in crisis on her watch and waited for days to be routed to proper treatment – or, in some cases, to just be sent home.

“Physical trauma is treated immediately,” she testified. “Why does trauma of the mind, which is part of the body, get delayed, cut off and ignored?”

Last summer, working with state Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, Deigan co-founded the Behavioral Health Coalition for Maine. It’s a group of about 20 mental health providers, substance abuse experts and law enforcement officials leaning into the winds of blame and shame on behalf of those too scared, or too caught up in daily survival, to do it themselves.

Refusing to disappear, Deigan now chairs the group.

On Tuesday, she’ll speak to lawmakers about mental health recovery at a gathering of the Legislature’s bipartisan Behavioral Health Caucus, organized by McCreight to counterbalance LePage and Co.

In an interview Friday, McCreight marveled at the change she’s seen in Deigan since the two first met a year ago amid the unfolding MaineCare cuts and the Merrymeeting closure.

“She’s amazing,” McCreight said. “It’s been so inspiring to see her do this.”

That said, McCreight added, Deigan remains a person in need of her own mental health help – and she knows it.

Last June, the death of Deigan’s mother – they’d reconciled in recent years – drove her into a deep depression.

She climbed back out.

Then in December, issues with her estranged brother – her lone surviving direct relative – touched off a crisis so severe that she actually contemplated suicide for the first time in years.

Again, she survived.

“She’s one of those people who are very good about reaching out when she needs help – and we’re not all very good at that,” McCreight said. “All along the way, I see her getting more confident, stronger.”

Back at the coffee shop, Deigan explained what it’s like to be in a mental health crisis without readily available support:

“You’re in a very … dark … tunnel. Alone. You cannot see the light. And there’s a huge rock pile. The rocks are all over you. And you’re weighted down. And you cannot move those rocks on your own.”

As she spoke, the visibility outside dropped by the minute with the incoming storm.

Deigan reached once again for that dollar bill.

“It takes a village, it takes a state,” she said. “It takes people to choose to understand, not just take away a piece of paper and say, ‘We’re taking this dollar away from you because it has more value than you do.’ ”

In the coming weeks, the powers that be in Augusta will fight tooth and nail over that dollar. But win, lose or draw, one thing will not change.

Donna Deigan, living proof that mental health treatment creates a stronger, sounder, more compassionate society, will keep standing tall. Not just for herself, but for thousands of fellow Mainers just like her.

They will not disappear.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/nemitz-mentally-ill-mainers-are-pushing-back/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Sat, 18 Mar 2017 19:05:50 +0000
Our View: Maine should listen to lobster industry’s concern http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/our-view-maine-should-listen-to-lobster-industrys-concern/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/our-view-maine-should-listen-to-lobster-industrys-concern/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168891 Another year, another record catch by the Maine lobster industry. With the value and volume of landings up just about every year for a decade, it seems like it will never end.

But we only have to look a few miles south, to Massachusetts, to know that it can. And even closer, in Maine’s own mill towns, we can see what happens when we don’t see the future for what it is, and don’t plan for what’s next.

For the sake of towns up and down the Maine coast, state and industry leaders can’t make that mistake. Planning for what seem like inevitable changes in the lobster industry have to start now.

RESEARCH NEEDED

The first step is finding out just what is going on in the Gulf of Maine. Warning that the record catches may not last, state-funded scientists say the number of very young lobsters is way down, signaling there will be drop-off in catch once that generation is old enough for the dinner table.

That decline could mean that lobsters are reproducing at a different time, or at a different depth. Or it could mean that they have moved north in search of colder waters.

Gov. Paul LePage is proposing to fund that research out of the state surplus, telling the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on March 4 that he no longer wants to raise fees on lobstering licenses.

The support from the governor is great news – not enough of the money earned from the record landings has gone to lobstermen themselves, and the entire state has a stake in maintaining the fishery.

But the governor also should be prepared to follow the research where it goes. It could be that the decline in young lobsters is just a blip; however, evidence suggests warmer water is the culprit, and LePage has not in the past been friendly toward policies aimed at curbing climate change.

In fact, the record catches are partly attributed to warming waters, which cause younger sexual maturity in lobsters. In that way, they could be a sign that a fall is coming.

WARNING SIGNS

That dynamic is well-known in southern New England. Lobster landings in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, went from just under 1 million pounds in the 1980s, to 400,000 in the late 1990s, to just 72,000 pounds in 2012.

Farther south, in Long Island Sound, the lobster catch fell from 3.7 million pounds in 1998 to just 142,000 pounds in 2011.

At the same time, water temperature recordings taken off Waterford, Connecticut, found that the number of days over 68 degrees – a key marker for lobster reproduction – increased dramatically after 1998, when there were just five.

There were 55 days over 68 degrees in 1999, then 75 in 2000, and it has stayed around that level since.

Lobstermen in Maine, who want the research as much as anyone, don’t have to be told the data to know what they’ve seen with their own eyes. Sure, the catch has increased steadily, but it also has moved, with more of the action that was once seen in Casco Bay now centered around Stonington and other Down East ports.

Indeed, lobsters are searching for the right mix of cold and warm water, and that search in the North Atlantic is moving them 43 miles a decade, according to the journal Science.

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than just about anywhere on the planet. What that means to the next generation of lobstermen, and the communities that live and die by lobstering, is up to us.

PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE

Maine can’t do a lot by itself to combat climate change, but it can set an example – for instance by recommitting to renewable energy.

Our state and federal elected officials also can lobby Congress and the president to maintain vehicle emissions and air quality standards, to stay dedicated to the Paris climate change accord and to consider bipartisan measures, such as a carbon fee and dividend system, that hold hope for real progress.

There also must be a better plan – any plan – for economic development for the communities away from Maine’s metro areas.

Everything possible should be done to support and maintain the lobster industry, but the state also should begin planning for a different future. Paper mills that failed to adapt to market forces failed, and the mill towns that relied so heavily on one industry have been devastated. There’s a lesson there.

The decline of lobstering may be decades away, if it comes at all, and we should do everything possible to support and grow the industry.

But we’d be foolish to see the change in lobstering as it crept up the Eastern Seaboard and not believe it could happen here.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/our-view-maine-should-listen-to-lobster-industrys-concern/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1168891_170874-lobster.jpgSOUTH PORTLAND, ME - JANUARY 16: Lobster traps sot on the Portland Street Pier, a city-owned pier that is one of the waterfront piers the city of South Portland is taking steps to revitalize in the hope of encouraging aquaculture enterprises. (Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)Fri, 17 Mar 2017 18:38:50 +0000
Maine Voices: Lilley delighted in punching upward http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/maine-voices-lilley-delighted-in-punching-upward/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/maine-voices-lilley-delighted-in-punching-upward/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168898 Dan Lilley (who died March 11 at the age of 79) was one of the best, most expensive defense attorneys in Maine. Dressed to the nines, with haute couture suits and shoes so shiny the courtroom lights bounced off them, he worked a jury like a symphony, rising from the purr of violins to the clash of cymbals.

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

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

WATCHING THE DRAMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WITNESS STEAMED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/maine-voices-lilley-delighted-in-punching-upward/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1168898_710605-20130726_GwaroTria2.jpgDan Lilley, pictured in 2013, won an acquittal in the DiMillo tax case by successfully putting the government on trial.Sat, 18 Mar 2017 17:55:22 +0000
Maine Observer: Dog spurs his owner to hit the ski trail http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/maine-observer-dog-spurs-his-owner-to-hit-the-ski-trail/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/maine-observer-dog-spurs-his-owner-to-hit-the-ski-trail/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168901 Now that I have a dog again, I try to go cross-country skiing as much as possible, so he can romp through the snow as I ski the groomed trails in the woods around my neighborhood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cynthia Dill: A dangerous plunge into a frigid pond raises regrets http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/commentary-a-baptism-by-ice/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/commentary-a-baptism-by-ice/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168916 One regret I had while falling through the ice in 6-degree weather as the sun set last Saturday was the lukewarm chicken cacciatore I had cooked the night before. My last supper before almost dying while walking the dog in the woods behind our house wasn’t hot enough, and nobody complained – a sad acknowledgment of my fallibility, a characteristic made more obvious by the bone-chilling water flooding my boots and rushing up my legs to above my waist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

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Alan Caron: Trump owes Obama an apology http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/alan-caron-trump-owes-obama-an-apology/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/19/alan-caron-trump-owes-obama-an-apology/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168918 You can tell a lot about political leaders by how they act when they make a mistake or say something that is not true. Do they have the strength of character, the humility and the basic honesty to admit their mistake? Or do they launch into a set of juke moves, smoke screens and dance steps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t seem like a tough call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

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The humble Farmer: Maine’s old men and the sea were once young men at sea http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/18/the-humble-farmer-maines-old-men-and-the-sea-were-once-young-men-at-sea/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/18/the-humble-farmer-maines-old-men-and-the-sea-were-once-young-men-at-sea/#respond Sat, 18 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168957 The email said that the “St. George Community Sailing Foundation teaches sailing, seamanship, and water safety to young sailors, ages 9-18, of all skill levels in beautiful Tenants Harbor on the coast of Maine.”

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

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

‘YOU DON’T KNOW’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘LOST AT SEA’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html

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Our View: Portland City Council should back four-school bond issue http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/18/city-council-should-back-four-school-bond-issue/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/18/city-council-should-back-four-school-bond-issue/#respond Sat, 18 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1169200 You don’t need a scientist to explain why school facilities make a difference in education. All it takes is common sense.

A girl who is cold all winter won’t focus as well as one who’s warm. A boy in a loud and raucous room won’t have the same chance to build his reading skills as one in a quiet room, even if the first boy gets headphones to muffle the extraneous sound.

Kids who have to put on their coats and boots and trundle out of a trailer and into the snow when it’s time to change activities or even just to go to the bathroom won’t have as much time to spend on task as ones who spend all day inside a building.

Portland’s City Council will take an important vote Monday on how to invest in the city’s elementary schools and bring them all up to the same high standard.

The council will consider a proposal to bond $64 million to rebuild four elementary schools: Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche. Alternative proposals to start the project with a $32 million bond for two schools and another to bond $24 million for the high-priority projects in all the schools will also be on the table.

It’s not an easy question, but we support the comprehensive four-school bond because it would best meet the needs of both the families who live here now, and the families who would choose to come to Portland in the future because of its schools. Portland will not be able to achieve the kind of growth it needs without a major investment in vital public infrastructure, and that starts with a clear statement of commitment to high-quality neighborhood schools.

There are new schools at East End and Ocean Avenue and one under construction at the site of the Hall School, and Riverton Elementary was renovated in 2007. Students in those neighborhoods don’t face the same obstacles as those who attend school in the old buildings, even though they have the same needs and rights as their counterparts. As any kindergartner could tell you, that’s not fair.

City Councilors Nicholas Mavodones and Jill Duson make a compelling case for bonding two of the schools right away, and taking a chance on getting state funding for at least one of the others. They argue that there would be time to issue a second bond later if Portland is unsuccessful with the state, which has already decided against funding these schools.

It’s a reasonable proposal, but it lacks support on the council and in the community because it would not take into account the delicate politics behind this issue. It’s hard to argue that a bond would fix an equity problem if it invests in only two schools instead of four. It’s impossible to promise that a future council and electorate will come back and approve a second school bond issue right after they approved the first one.

And a scaled-back bond package does not put down Portland’s marker as a community that has a long-term commitment to high-quality education, which is the kind of commitment that attracts new families.

This is important because the Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche schools are just a small part of the aging city infrastructure that needs to be brought up to date. To pay for those upgrades, Portland needs to expand its tax base with new housing for people of all incomes, and commercial development that generates jobs for city residents as well as tax revenue.

The elementary school project is a long-overdue step in that process. The council should put the question out to the voters and let them decide if it’s a step they want to take.

Correction: This editorial was updated at 10 a.m. on March 18 to correct an inaccurate description of Riverton Elementary School. It is a not a new school, but it was recently renovated. 

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Will Sen. Collins take a stand against companies that want to sell your data? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/18/maine-voices-will-collins-take-a-stand-against-companies-who-want-to-sell-your-data/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/18/maine-voices-will-collins-take-a-stand-against-companies-who-want-to-sell-your-data/#respond Sat, 18 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168882 FREEPORT — Companies like Charter, Comcast and others want to sell your browsing history without your consent – and a resolution introduced in Congress last week will let them do just that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Podcast: Free advice for Republican politicians. Paul LePage, outsider? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/podcast_free_advice_for_republican_politicians/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/podcast_free_advice_for_republican_politicians/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 17:38:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168725 Portland Press Herald Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich, and columnists Alan Caron and Cynthia Dill talk offer some free advice to Republican politicians. They also ponder some questions. Can Paul LePage still run as an outsider? Will Angus King talk to constituents in Maine Second Congressional District about Judge Gorsuch? Will Bruce Poliquin make a firm commitment? Can Obama sue Trump over wire tap tweets?

Subscribe to the Portland Press Herald Podcast to make sure you never miss an episode

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Charles Krauthammer: For those trying to replace Obamacare, all options lead to trouble http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/charles-krauthammer-for-those-trying-to-replace-obamacare-all-options-lead-to-trouble/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/charles-krauthammer-for-those-trying-to-replace-obamacare-all-options-lead-to-trouble/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168436 The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it’s not that easy. Once something is given – say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans – you take it away at your peril. This is true for any government benefit, but especially for health care. There’s a reason not one Western democracy with some system of national health care has ever abolished it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Another View: They may be ‘wired and tired,’ but today’s teens aren’t wasted http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/another-view-they-may-be-wired-and-tired-but-todays-teens-arent-wasted/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/another-view-they-may-be-wired-and-tired-but-todays-teens-arent-wasted/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168440 American teens have been riding a 10-year trend of reduced experimentation with drugs and alcohol. That’s the same decade that put smartphones and social media accounts into the hands of most young people. Coincidence? Researchers don’t think so.

As first reported this week by The New York Times, experts suggest that many young folks are no longer looking to illegal substances for thrills and entertainment because their interactive world plays to similar impulses, including sensation-seeking and the desire for independence.

One assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, David Greenfield at the University of Connecticut, said that in the hands of a teenager, the smartphone is “a portable dopamine pump.”

For sure, a mobile device can prove to be an option or a distraction from more reckless activities such as drugs. As one 17-year-old explained it to The Times reporter: The phone provides a valuable tool for people at parties who don’t want to do drugs because “you can sit around and look like you’re doing something, even if you’re not doing something, like just surfing the Web.”

Regrettably, the teens’ internet-over-drugs bent seems short-lived. While drug use has fallen among youths ages 12 to 17, it hasn’t declined among college students.

And digital technology can do its own share of damage to physical and mental health, whether in the form of deadly texting behind the wheel or the 24-7 hamster wheel of “wired and tired.” Smartphones can reduce focus and mess with young people’s sleep patterns. They also are a tool credited with helping students adapt to a changing world and make real social connections.

And if smartphones occupy time that otherwise would be spent on partying, that’s probably a good thing as well.

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Our View: Maine delegation should unite against proposed EPA cutbacks http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/our-view-maine-delegation-should-unite-against-proposed-epa-cutbacks/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/our-view-maine-delegation-should-unite-against-proposed-epa-cutbacks/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168450 We can’t say we didn’t see it coming. The man who vowed during his presidential campaign “to get rid of” the Environmental Protection Agency has just put out a spending plan that would gut the department. This senseless proposal would devastate the health of our air and water, and Maine’s congressional delegation should speak up loudly and clearly against it.

President Trump’s first budget outline pours money into defense and immigration enforcement while slashing most other programs in the discretionary budget. The biggest cuts would be at the EPA, where Trump wants to roll back spending by 31 percent and eliminate about 3,200 positions, or around 20 percent of the agency’s workforce.

What would this mean for Maine? Nothing good. Funding for upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and drinking water supplies faces a 30 percent cut. So does the so-called “brownfields” program, which helps cities and towns clean up old industrial and mill sites – projects that are often the first step toward creating new economic opportunities in struggling areas.

Also targeted is funding for cleaner, more efficient school buses; to help private landowners pay for fixes to dirt roads that erode into lakes and ponds, and for assistance on testing and treatment to summer camps, campgrounds, small businesses and schools that have wells providing drinking water.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection would be hard hit: The EPA funds over 20 percent of the state agency’s budget and pays for nearly 100 DEP workers. Given that the DEP has already shrunk, from 460 employees in 2004 to 372 today, further staffing cuts would compromise the agency’s ability to carry out its mission.

Maine’s elected representatives in Washington have come out against Trump’s attack on the EPA – mostly. In the March 12 Maine Sunday Telegram, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King called the cuts “deeply troubling.”

King specifically condemned the reduction in brownfields funding, as have Republican Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District. The only one in the delegation who’s made no specific criticisms? U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District: He pledged Thursday to “closely look at any changes to environmental services that directly impact Maine,” but avoided getting into particulars.

The damage done by polluted water and air affects all Maine residents, regardless of political affiliation; likewise, ecological safeguards make everyone’s lives better. Mainers on both sides of the aisle helped craft pioneering federal environmental policies, and our current delegation should honor their legacy by presenting a united front against efforts to dismantle the framework that allows those policies to be implemented.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/our-view-maine-delegation-should-unite-against-proposed-epa-cutbacks/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1168450_376481-KBrownfieldsCobbos.jpgPresident Trump's proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency call for a 30 percent reduction in state grants for water-pollution control. The plan would hinder efforts by communities that use grant funding to identify contaminants in bodies of water such as Cobbosseecontee Stream, above, in Gardiner.Thu, 16 Mar 2017 23:22:12 +0000
If Gov. LePage really meant his apology, he will stop making racially divisive remarks http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/maine-voices-if-gov-lepage-really-meant-his-apology-he-will-stop-making-racially-divisive-remarks/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/maine-voices-if-gov-lepage-really-meant-his-apology-he-will-stop-making-racially-divisive-remarks/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168264 YARMOUTH — My name is Garrett Stewart, I am 50 years old, I live in Yarmouth and I have been a Maine resident my whole life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Commentary: Health care overhaul bill just a first step, Rep. Poliquin declares http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/commentary-health-care-overhaul-bill-just-a-first-step-rep-poliquin-declares/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/commentary-health-care-overhaul-bill-just-a-first-step-rep-poliquin-declares/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168373 The Obamacare law is failing. It’s taking the health insurance market down with it and hurting tens of thousands of Maine families. We must fix this serious problem, or it’ll get worse.

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

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

And it’s getting worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bill Nemitz: One comma left out gives judge pause in Oakhurst overtime case http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/16/nemitz-an-ot-case-punctuated-by-grammar/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/16/nemitz-an-ot-case-punctuated-by-grammar/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 02:16:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168360 Grammarians rejoice! The Oxford comma survives.

Chances are you’ve never heard of this arcane little punctuation mark, considered by many a useless piece of clutter amid the complexities of proper English usage.

Only, it isn’t. In fact, the absence of an Oxford comma, also known as a serial comma, could soon cost one Maine company a ton of money.

“For want of a comma, we have this case,” began Judge David Barron of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a unanimous ruling handed down Monday.

The decision reopens the door for a class-action lawsuit against Oakhurst Dairy by its drivers, who claim in a case dating back to 2014 that they illegally were denied overtime pay.

Not so, countered Oakhurst, arguing that state law specifically exempts the drivers from eligibility for overtime compensation.

That would be the same state law that’s apparently missing a serial comma.

The law states that overtime is not required for employees engaged in “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.”

We’ll get back to that in a second.

First, let’s look at how a serial comma – used before the final item in a list of three or more things, just before the conjunction “and” or “or” – can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

With a serial comma: “We invited the strippers, Trump, and Putin.”

Without a serial comma: “We invited the strippers, Trump and Putin.”

(Full disclosure: A long-cited version of the above, commonly found online, uses the names “Kennedy” and “Stalin.” I updated it because, well, it just felt more relevant.)

In the first example, the serial comma makes it clear that the invitees include Trump and Putin, along with the strippers.

In the second, however, the lack of a comma suggests that Trump and Putin are, in fact, the strippers.

Now that we’ve burned that image onto your brain, back to the lawsuit.

At issue before the Court of Appeals was the phrase “packing for shipment or distribution of” the various perishable products.

Oakhurst claimed, and a lower court agreed, that “distribution” means the company’s drivers and thus exempts Oakhurst from having to pay them overtime.

Not so fast, countered the drivers.

Without a serial comma before the word “or,” both “distribution” and “shipment” flow directly from the phrase “packing for …” Since they drive the trucks and don’t pack anything, the drivers argued, they are not included among the list of exempted jobs.

Put another way, had the statute read “storing, packing for shipment, or distribution,” the drivers would have been out of luck.

Judge Barron, bless him, spent 29 pages examining the absent comma from every conceivable angle.

He looked at the 214-page Maine Legislative Drafting Manual – yes, there is such a thing.

Right there on page 113, it specifically advises, “Although authorities on punctuation may differ, when drafting Maine law or rules, don’t use a comma between the penultimate and the last item of a series.”

Aha! Case closed … or not.

Barron also noted this overarching advice from page 114 of the drafting manual: “Be careful if an item in the series is modified.”

Meaning, without a serial comma, both “shipment” and “distribution” easily can be seen as modifiers for “packing for …” As in “packing for shipment or (packing for) distribution.”

That may be bad news for packers who work more than 40 hours a week. But because the drivers pack nothing whatsoever and are not set apart by a serial comma, Barron reasoned, they still get their overtime.

The judge also plunged bravely into gerunds, which are nouns formed from verbs by adding “ing.” (See: “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing …”)

Because neither “shipment” nor “distribution” is a gerund, noted Barron, they are notably out of sync with the other exempt jobs – further supporting the notion that lawmakers used those words only to modify the job of “packing for …”

(Of course, one could counter that the average Maine legislator doesn’t know a gerund from a gerbil. But hey, the law is the law.)

What really tipped it for the court, however, was existing case law requiring, when ambiguity is found in Maine’s wage-and-hour laws, that they “should be liberally construed to further the beneficent purposes for which they were enacted.”

Because overtime laws are intended to benefit employees, the judge essentially ruled, a tie in this case goes to the drivers.

Augusta attorney David Webbert, representing the drivers, said in an interview Thursday that Judge Barron certainly “earned his paycheck” with this lengthy, erudite decision.

“This is an example of the rule of law actually working for the average person – not the rule of law designed to protect the powerful,” Webbert said. “I think it was a really well-written decision. I was really proud of the Court of Appeals for not taking shortcuts.”

The case now will proceed either to settlement talks – ultimately, this week’s decision could benefit upward of 125 drivers – or additional court proceedings to, as Webbert put it, “add up the money.”

But when that’s all said and done, a timeless lesson will remain: Language without proper punctuation is like a highway with improperly placed road signs. One missed comma and you simply can’t get there from here.

Webbert, who once chaired his local school board and was dismayed to learn that grammar wasn’t taught as a stand-alone subject, sees this as a wake-up call not only for lawmakers, but for us all.

“It’s not just about grammar,” he said. “It’s about communicating well.”

Just ask those strippers, Trump and Putin.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/16/nemitz-an-ot-case-punctuated-by-grammar/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Fri, 17 Mar 2017 11:59:06 +0000