The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Opinion Sun, 28 Aug 2016 03:54:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Commentary: Warming up to the late Sen. Ted Stevens after his initial cold shoulder Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I am on a ship cruising around Alaska this week, hoping that fabulous natural grandeur might distract me from the election, but it isn’t working. Every morning I go online and peruse three newspapers for the political news, no city hall meetings or pennant race, no story about the poor self-image of a famous rich person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 0 Fri, 26 Aug 2016 19:51:13 +0000
Port City Post: Answering the call of rural Maine’s wild since childhood Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Don’t think for a minute that growing up in Maine guarantees one access to the ocean. Don’t assume that all Mainers have climbed Katahdin. Don’t assume we all grew up being stuffed into kayaks. It’s not like that for most of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But hey, don’t take my word for it.

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

I couldn’t have said it better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the summer we claimed Maine as our own.

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

]]> 0, 26 Aug 2016 20:35:36 +0000
Maine Voices: When the globalists bring a world of trouble to the working American Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 HOLDEN — Americans never asked for free trade. We never complained about the cost of our cellphones and TVs. We never marched in the streets demanding more cheap stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example: Maine is shrinking. We need more people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 63 Fri, 26 Aug 2016 20:37:17 +0000
Another View: Jill Stein running a fairy tale campaign Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein argues that Americans should not vote for the lesser of two evils. Instead of voting out of fear, they should vote for the most deserving candidate. Unfortunately for Stein, even if you accepted the logic, it would not lead this year to a vote for her.

Stein sat down with our editorial board Thursday, as Republican Donald Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson have done previously. She stressed some important issues, especially climate change. As an activist in her home state of Massachusetts, she worked to shut down polluting, coal-fired power plants, and she says she would bring that activist’s sensibility to the Oval Office.

But Stein’s policy ideas are poorly formed and wildly impractical. Her “activist” approach, she said, involves building “broad coalitions,” but she criticized Hillary Clinton for reaching out to Republicans. She proposes to end all use of coal, oil, gasoline and nuclear power by 2030, guaranteeing a federal job to anyone who wants one along the way, and says she can accomplish this revolution for $500 billion – less than the cost of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus. Even this trifle would be recouped in health savings, she said, as her “Green New Deal” reduced the incidence of asthma, diabetes and other illnesses.

There would no doubt be health benefits.

But Stein is nevertheless spinning a fairy tale – an appealing fairly tale to some, but still a fairy tale. To support the feasibility of her plan, Stein cited experts whose models in fact envision an energy transition taking decades longer than she posits. To support her health prognostication, she improbably cited Cuba’s experience losing access to Russian oil after the fall of the Soviet Union, after which, she pointed out, Cubans became healthier. In fact, they became healthier because they could no longer afford to smoke or drink alcohol and because so many involuntarily lost weight. “Cubans survived drinking sugared water, and eating anything they could get their hands on, including domestic pets and the animals in the Havana Zoo,” Richard Schiffman recounted in the Atlantic. “They became virtual vegans overnight.”

On foreign policy, Stein expressed general accord with her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, who has decried the “unimaginable atrocities fomented by a demented and dying U.S. empire . . . and the gangster states of NATO,” though she said she might choose different language. Stein would “take a good hard look at NATO” and radically reduce U.S. military activity, preferring diplomacy to respond, for example, to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But when we asked what would make her diplomacy more successful than the Minsk process that has failed to end the fighting in Ukraine, there was not much of a response.

Stein did not exactly convey a sense of awe about how tough the presidency is. “I don’t believe that it is rocket science,” she said of administering the federal government. But that blitheness may not be surprising from a politician who cites climate change as a global emergency – and then argues the country would be no better off electing Clinton, who promises to continue Obama’s progress on warming, than Trump, who has said the whole thing is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

]]> 82, 26 Aug 2016 22:37:17 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Our high standard for bribery is Hillary Clinton’s only saving grace Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Bernie Sanders never understood the epic quality of the Clinton scandals. In his first debate, he famously dismissed the email issue, it being beneath the dignity of a great revolutionary to deal in things so tawdry and straightforward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Clinton response? There was no quid pro quo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 11, 26 Aug 2016 10:51:35 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Man on a mission brings message of Gospel-driven political activism to Maine Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Franklin Graham’s a tall man, as is his father, Billy, who’s 97 now and mostly housebound at his North Carolina homestead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it remains believers’ principal challenge – and obligation.

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

]]> 15, 25 Aug 2016 19:16:05 +0000
When it comes to running government, Donald Trump is in over his head Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BRUNSWICK — Preoccupation with the presidential horse race hides part of the big picture. Every four years, we elect not only a president but also a government at large.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 18, 25 Aug 2016 22:35:42 +0000
Our View: Message to America: Sorry we gave you LePage Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Dear America: Maine here. Please forgive us – we made a terrible mistake. We managed to elect and re-elect a governor who is unfit for high office.

He has a gruff exterior and blunt way of talking that some of us find refreshing, but he has shown again and again that he governs by grudge, and uses his power to beat up on people who cannot fight back.

You probably heard about the latest episode. He was asked about the toxic racial environment that he created in the state with insensitive statements about people of color. The questioner, an entrepreneur from New York, wondered how he could ever bring a business here.

This should have been an easy one for the governor: Maine is a state where more people hit retirement age than graduate from high school, and our traditional industries are shedding jobs. We desperately need new businesses and young people – of all races – who would be willing to move here to work.

The question was an opportunity for the governor to undo some of the damage that he has caused by giving members of minority groups around the country the impression that Maine is a white state where no one else is welcome.

Instead, the governor repeated one of his worst libels: That Maine’s drug crisis is the fault of black and brown transient thugs who come here not only to sell their poison but also to take advantage of “white Maine women.” It’s a matter of fact that heroin comes to Maine from other states – they don’t produce it here – but the governor is adamant about identifying the drug runners by race, leaving it to his audience to fill in the blanks of why that might matter.

This was not a slip of the tongue. He has said the same thing before, denied saying it, and then said it again before the latest incident. This time, he offered it as proof that the racial divide in Maine was not his fault – that it was the fault of black and Hispanic criminals that he keeps track of in a three-ring binder on his desk.

LePage knows that his words are widely understood to mean that he thinks that the color of their skin makes some people more likely to commit crimes. Rather than clarify or withdraw those statements, he repeats them.

We wish we could say that he is the only one in the state who feels that way. When LePage makes these comments, some of our fellow Mainers applaud him for defying what they consider to be oppressive political correctness.

But as a famous Mainer once said: “Rejecting the conventions of political correctness is different from showing complete disregard for common decency.”

Those words were written by Sen. Susan Collins in her denouncement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Like Trump, LePage is a repeat offender.

It would be nice to think that Le-Page would reflect on what he says and learn from these incidents, but he appears to be completely incapable of change. He will probably blame the media again for any embarrassment he suffers, but everyone has heard the tape and knows what the governor said.

On the bright side, America, Le- Page isn’t going to be governor forever, and when his successor takes office in 2019, Mainers of all political parties will have to work together to fix the damage he has done to our reputation. We hope that this person will be a leader who will welcome people of all races to live in Maine, and invest in our wonderful state.

Until then, please accept our apology. We’ll try not to do it again.

]]> 287, 26 Aug 2016 13:08:21 +0000
Dana Milbank: Stein unwittingly adds fuel to Trump’s firebrand campaign Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential nominee, favors alternative energy – and she leads by example. On Tuesday, she burned one of her own supporters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 10, 24 Aug 2016 19:29:01 +0000
Maine Voices: Connected Pathways further tightens the bond between SMCC, USM Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Beginning this fall, many admitted students to Southern Maine Community College will be in for a very pleasant – and meaningful – surprise. They will be informed that upon successful completion of their associate degree at SMCC that they will be admitted to the University of Southern Maine without even having to apply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we do.

]]> 0, 25 Aug 2016 14:19:12 +0000
Commentary: To counter Gov. LePage’s disrespect for women, more of them should run for office Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 At a town hall last week in Sanford, Gov. LePage and state Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, argued about the number of people on the state’s Medicaid wait list. Local media used an array of verbs to describe the conflict, including “scuffle” and “spar“.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 33 Thu, 25 Aug 2016 10:31:21 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Maine’s voter guide offers political influence – for just $500 Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Citizens! Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap invites you to be heard!

The “Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election” soon will go to press, and Dunlap recently issued a reminder that you’d think would be too good for political activists to refuse.

For a paltry $500, proponents and opponents of the six questions appearing on this fall’s statewide ballot can have a published word – actually, as many as 300 words – with Maine voters on whether to legalize marijuana, increase funding for education, expand firearm background checks, raise the minimum wage, institute ranked-choice voting or approve a $100 million infrastructure bond issue.

Such a deal?

“Not many people take advantage of it,” Dunlap conceded in an interview.

Not many indeed.

By law, the state’s voter guide must accommodate a maximum of three comments for and three against each question on the ballot – meaning this year there’s room for 36 people or organizations to sound off on why this or that question should pass or fail.

As of Wednesday, however, the secretary of state’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions had received just one – a plea to vote for Question 2 from Citizens who Support Maine’s Public Schools.

A little background:

The public comment sections in the voter guide have been around since 2006, when the Maine Legislature decided that simply listing the boilerplate information on each referendum wasn’t enough.

Lawmakers agreed that voters needed some context, some guidance, some back-and-forth debate to jump start their critical thinking before they grabbed their ballots and headed into the booths.

Or not.

Of the 42 questions that have appeared on the ballot since 2008, only five have attracted any public comment whatsoever.

That could mean one of two things: Either very few political organizers see much value in making their pitch in the voter guide, which is available before elections at every town hall and public library in Maine, and on the secretary of state’s website.

Or, in this age of Twitter, Facebook, mass emails and other forms of highly targeted, speed-of-light campaigning, many of today’s messaging wunderkinds don’t even know the voter guide exists.

Either way, the secretary of state thinks they’re missing out on a golden opportunity for “the price of a few rolls of stamps.”

“Yeah, this is 500 bucks,” Dunlap said, noting that the money goes to cover printing costs and to “weed out the frivolous ones.”

But in exchange for that money, he continued, “you’re going to reach thousands upon thousands upon thousands of voters. Because people do turn to this. They look for it.”

Go ahead and chuckle. But first answer this question honestly: Before you began reading this, could you rattle off the six questions that you’ll be asked to answer when you head out to vote on Nov. 8?

And since we’re on the subject, when was the last time you stood there in the voting booth, reading and rereading a referendum question and telling yourself, “Geez, I wish I’d taken the time to look into this sooner …”

You’re far from alone.

“Even in the modern information age, there are still people – and plenty of them – they still don’t get a newspaper, they don’t have a television, they don’t have a computer,” Dunlap said. “And they walk into a polling place with absolutely no knowledge of what’s on the ballot.”

And voter guide readers? Also known as the most engaged citizens on Earth?

“They’re looking for the information,” Dunlap noted. “They’re a highly motivated voter. They want to know a little bit more about what’s on the ballot. So they go down to the library, they go down to city hall, they find the voter guide and they start looking at the language and these advocacy pieces that tell them why somebody thinks they should vote for this and why somebody thinks they shouldn’t.”

Better yet, for anyone looking to snag their vote, some voter guide readers peruse the public comments literally seconds before they actually receive their ballots. Can there be a more strategic time to make a strong impression?

The good news, for those average folk with the money and inclination to weigh in – not to mention those highly paid political consultants still asleep at the switch – is that there’s still time.

The Secretary of State’s Office will accept public comments until the end of business on Tuesday. If you’re one of the first three in favor or opposed to whichever question rattles your cage, you’re in.

The rules? Pretty simple.

You must be for or against the question. Nobody wants to waste their precious time on a fence straddler.

You message must be “in plain English.”

That 300-word limit is firm. “Spend some time reading Hemingway,” Dunlap advised. “Learn how to keep things tight.”

Be forewarned that “no grammatical, spelling or textual changes will be made,” so don’t go blaming the secretary of state for your dangling prepositions or mixed metaphors.

That said, your comment cannot contain any “obscene, profane or defamatory language,” “incite or advocate hatred, abuse or violence toward any individual or group,” or “contain any language which may not be circulated through the mails.”

Just out of curiosity, exactly what kind of language “may not be circulated through the mails?”

“I can’t really define what that would mean,” Dunlap replied. “And if I could, you couldn’t print it.”

Finally, be advised that nothing in the rules protects you from criminal or civil liability should your words defame someone or otherwise get you into legal hot water.

Translation: This is a state publication, for crying out loud, not some anonymous internet chat room.

Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide.

But know this: Of the 10 public comments submitted on those five referenda since 2008, eight have turned out to be on the winning side.

Coincidence? Perhaps … or perhaps enough people actually read those mini-treatises and were persuaded.

So go ahead, make a little Maine electoral history. Or at least take pride in knowing you tried.

“As long as it follows the guidelines, I don’t care how coherent it is,” Dunlap said. “That’s their problem.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

]]> 4, 25 Aug 2016 09:06:49 +0000
Our View: Roxanne Quimby’s historic gift marks new era for Maine Wed, 24 Aug 2016 23:40:00 +0000 Some of the sting of the paper industry’s retreat could be eased by a more diverse economy.

When historians look back on Aug. 24, 2016, what will they say about the decision to take 87,000 acres of land in the heart of Maine’s northern forest out of production and turn it into a national monument?

We have heard a lot of predictions. Opponents claim that it represents a toe in the door for an ever-expanding federal presence in Maine and a disruption of the already struggling forest-products industry, the region’s primary source of jobs for more than a century.

Supporters of the monument envision a future in which tens of thousands of visitors will come to the Katahdin region every year to experience woods and wildlife that they can’t find at home, creating a new industry for a region hit hard by the permanent loss of two paper mills.

We think the supporters are right, but now it’s time to put the talking points away. Fighting against the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will do no good for the people who hope to build a new diverse economy in the region. The designation of this monument marks another step in a painful transition away from reliance on a single industry, and changes this big are never easy.

The arguments have been boiling for two decades, since RESTORE: The North Woods first proposed putting 3.2 million acres into permanent conservation as a national park. That drew an understandable negative reaction from the businesses community and residents, who depended on working the largest forest east of the Rockies and enjoyed hunting, fishing and snowmobiling, which had been allowed on commercial forestland.

In the intervening years, philanthropist Roxanne Quimby quietly bought almost 90,000 acres east of Baxter State Park through her family foundation, with the plan of donating the land to the people of the United States. Her plan inherited most of the opposition that had been aroused by RESTORE’s idea, and she and her son Lucas St. Clair have spent years listening to their neighbors and trying to put their suspicions to rest, not always successfully.

The plan that resulted in the new national monument divides the land into two parts, with everything east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River remaining open for hunting and snowmobiling. Forestry operations will retain the right to cross the preserved land to log remote woodlots. Quimby is donating $20 million to the National Park Foundation to serve as the basis of an endowment that will support the development of visitor amenities. She also has pledged to raise another $20 million for the endowment.

People will have to travel a long way from the nation’s major population centers if they want to walk in these woods that so many Mainers take for granted. Maine Conservation Commissioner Walt Whitcomb denigrated the parcel Wednesday, calling it “swampy woodlands” that no one would want to visit. We suspect he’ll be proven wrong.

There probably will never be another large national park created in the eastern half of the country. Population growth and development elsewhere could make this precious piece of forest a refuge for anyone who wants to see the stars or spy a moose.

But that is a prediction of what might happen, and we should put speculation aside as the people of Maine work with the National Park Service to make the monument as successful as it can be. The park is open right now, and local businesses should be given the support they need to provide services to its first guests.

In the meantime, what do we say today about the decision by the president to accept Quimby’s gift of land and money to benefit this and future generations? There is only one thing to say: Thank you.

]]> 22, 25 Aug 2016 09:49:59 +0000
Leonard Pitts: The right may have broken reality, but it’s up to everybody to repair it Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:00:52 +0000 Ordinarily, I might gloat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will take years more to find our way home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Special to the Press Herald

]]> 4 Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:55:59 +0000
Greg Kesich: Online detractors won’t spell the end of ‘Mark Trail’ comic strip Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Dig deep in this newspaper and you will find a window into another world.

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

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

Ah, fantasy …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @gregkesich

]]> 5, 24 Aug 2016 16:34:56 +0000
Our View: Maine legislators should seize reins, reallocate slot machine revenue Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The 2003 citizens initiative to allow slot machine gambling in Maine was presented to voters as a way to revive the state’s long-suffering harness racing industry.

The initiative was approved, but harness racing is still in bad shape despite receiving over $100 million in slot proceeds since Maine’s first legal gambling venue opened 10 years ago, a stunning MPBN report revealed last week. It’s a safe bet that the sorry situation won’t improve unless Maine legislators finally speak up and stop letting the gambling industry dictate public policy.

Allotted part of the net take from Maine’s two casinos – in Bangor and Oxford – the harness racing industry has received at least $7 million a year in stipends since the opening of Hollywood Slots in Bangor in 2006, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported. (Oxford Casino opened in 2012.)

Despite this influx of revenue – in the form of higher racing purses, aid to the state’s agricultural fairs and direct payments to Bangor Raceway and Scarborough Downs – the number of harness-racing stallions, mares and foals registered in Maine has declined steadily, MPBN found. So has the amount of money bet each year on horse races in the state.

Who determines how casino proceeds are divvied up in Maine? The same people who’ve written the many casino ballot questions that Maine voters have weighed over the years – namely, the casino operators. Maine legislators have consistently taken a back seat, abdicating their responsibility to regulate the industry, set limits on its growth and determine how to spend the state’s share of gaming revenue.

Casino proponents have argued that slot machine revenue will help protect farmland from development and support a traditional Maine industry. There are other ways, however, for property owners to preserve open space, such as working with a land trust. And if at least $7 million a year in subsidies isn’t enough to shore up harness racing, why should the shrinking industry keep getting the stipends?

As state Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, who co-chairs the committee that oversees gambling in Maine, told MPBN: “If you’re giving $100 million to something, you really have to make sure that it works.”

Exactly. Instead of allowing gambling interests to lead the way, it’s time for Maine lawmakers to seize the reins and the opportunity to advocate for the people they serve.

]]> 11, 24 Aug 2016 19:25:09 +0000
Another View: Governments use wrong weapon against misguided activists Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 If you think a boycott is wrong, should you boycott those who engage in it? That’s up to consumers and investors to decide – but for governments, the answer is no.

The question arises in the context of the movement to punish and isolate Israel – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey signed a bill last week barring the state’s pension fund from investing in any company that supports the BDS movement. Illinois and Florida also have passed such laws, and other states have banned these companies from receiving state contracts.

Anti-BDS laws are an understandable reaction to a movement that is wrong on both moral and geopolitical grounds. Israel is a democratic nation in a region dominated by autocrats, and it is committed to protecting freedoms – including religious expression and equal rights for women – that its neighbors do not recognize. Israel is also America’s strongest regional ally in the fight against terrorist groups that strike at liberal democracies wherever they find them. Trying to wage war on its people through economic deprivation is as foolish as it is dangerous.

But the best way to combat and marginalize wrong-headed political movements such as BDS is through popular opposition, not state law. Pension fund trustees, along with state legislators and governors, have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. When political considerations displace financial ones in selecting investments or awarding contracts, taxpayers lose.

Attempting to discriminate against companies because of their political views or policies will become increasingly problematic as more and more companies take positions on controversial issues. Consider a company that supports expanding abortion rights or gay rights. Should a conservative legislature prohibit that company from winning state business?

By all means, oppose the BDS movement vociferously. But do it without putting public dollars at stake.

]]> 0 Tue, 23 Aug 2016 20:11:27 +0000
Our View: Maine doesn’t need more barriers to addiction treatment Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Gov. LePage’s budget proposal last year sought to remove all state funding for methadone treatment, following through on his years-long promise to close clinics providing what is perhaps the best course of therapy for opioid addiction.

Thankfully, that effort failed. Unfortunately, the governor has another plan that would have a similar effect, albeit much more slowly.

New MaineCare rules proposed by the state Department of Health and Human Services would put additional burdens on methadone clinics at a time when they are already struggling to deliver services, and when delays in addiction treatment are exacerbating the state’s opioid crisis.

The new rules would, among other changes, increase counseling requirements for new patients.

Counseling is an important part of treatments involving methadone, a low-level opioid that eases the withdrawal symptoms and cravings of heroin users, allowing them to function without illegal drug use and the criminal activity and other negative behaviors that go with it.

But since lawmakers cut MaineCare reimbursement rates for methadone treatment – from $80 per patient per week in 2010 to $60 today, giving Maine one of the lowest rates in the country – clinics have been unable to serve as many patients, or to give their patients as much attention as they need.

Acadia Healthcare, for instance, was treating 611 patients at its Bangor clinic in 2010. That’s down to around 500 now, with those patients having fewer counseling opportunities.

The low reimbursement rates were also cited in the closure of programs in Westbrook and Sanford last year, and the burden is being felt elsewhere.

In drug treatment in Maine, waitlists are the order of the day. Acadia said it had around 80 people waiting for treatment, while another Bangor clinic recently cited a waitlist of 173.

With drug treatment, people are ready when they are ready, and failures to capitalize on that moment can be deadly. People waiting for treatment need to fend off withdrawal, so they’ll continue to buy drugs, contributing to the demand that drives the crisis. Some will end up in the emergency room or jail. All will suffer to some degree, as will their family and friends.

Maine has too few doctors prescribing Suboxone, another form of medication-assisted treatment, leading to the same end result.

With so many people waiting for treatment, it’s not hard to see why the problem is not going away – overdoses and arrests continue to rise.

State Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro, earlier this year proposed raising the reimbursement rate to $80, which is what it was when Maine first established methadone clinics in the mid-1990s, bringing into question whether even that is enough. But the effort failed.

Now, the DHHS wants to make it even more difficult for clinics to operate.

It is inconceivable that the LePage administration wants to erect more barriers to treatment when it should be knocking them down. Officials should listen to doctors and treatment advocates, scrap this plan immediately and go about giving methadone clinics the tools they need to fight a crisis that is growing by the day.

]]> 17, 22 Aug 2016 23:28:56 +0000
Kathleen Parker: New campaign manager could give Trump change we can believe in Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When my syndicate editor told me a few clients had been asking, “Don’t you have anyone over there who can write something positive about Donald Trump?” I thought, well, that could be fun.

But hard.

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

And: He suddenly started being nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who better than Trump?

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

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

It just might work.

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

]]> 16, 22 Aug 2016 19:22:58 +0000
Commentary: Anti-government state leaders undercut services to constituents, Alfond says Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In my eight years in the Maine Senate, I’ve met and worked with lawmakers of all stripes, including lots of Republicans. Working together to get results is the pragmatic tradition that Mainers value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have to do better.

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

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

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

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

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


]]> 106, 22 Aug 2016 19:00:26 +0000
Maine Voices: State’s warming waters create both reasons to change and opportunities Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We know that the threat of climate disruption to Maine is real, in part because we are experiencing early warning signs. The science is also clear that the problems will escalate if we do not act to further reduce carbon pollution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


]]> 18, 22 Aug 2016 23:32:30 +0000
Maine Voices: Why ranked-choice voting would be the smart choice for Maine Mon, 22 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Many of us will feel stuck with a “lesser of two evils” choice on this year’s presidential ballot. It’s familiar and discouraging – we yearn for more choices. Some of us will look to the Green or Libertarian parties (Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, respectively), and maybe the late entry of an independent candidate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 90, 22 Aug 2016 11:38:26 +0000
Our View: Westbrook police chief stands with threatened Muslim residents Mon, 22 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Terrorism came to Maine last week, and Muslim residents of Westbrook were its victims.

Several found notes – three on the ground and another stuck to a car bumper – threatening their lives because of their religion. That’s terrorism, which is the practice of using violence or intimidation for political ends. It’s also terrorizing, which, under Maine law, is to threaten to commit “a crime of violence dangerous to human life.”

If the notes were intended to frighten the Muslim families, who are also recent immigrants to America, and make them question whether they could trust their neighbors, the terrorists succeeded.

Fortunately, Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts stood with the victims, and she may have been able to undo some of the damage that had been caused. That’s leadership.

Roberts met with members of the Muslim community last Thursday and assured them that the authorities would investigate the incident and seek to prosecute the perpetrator. She also pledged that law enforcement would take the threats seriously and take the steps needed to protect the families.

“Some members of our community have been truly traumatized by this experience,” Roberts said Thursday. “For the people out there who thought this wasn’t much of anything, have some empathy and try to put yourselves in their shoes.”

After the meeting, Westbrook resident and Iraqi refugee Sahib Altameemi, seemed relieved by the response. He said, “People in America are good. The police are good.”

Roberts’ stand is inspiring, especially when compared with the lack of leadership shown by Gov. LePage on a related issue last week.

When LePage heard that an Iranian refugee and former Freeport resident had died in 2015 fighting for the so-called Islamic State, he took advantage of the situation to beat two of his favorite drums: the alleged public safety danger posed by immigrants and welfare fraud.

The governor ordered his Department of Health and Human Services to investigate how many legal immigrants are receiving aid through federal programs and promised to take action against them, even though he has no authority to do so. Nevertheless, he has created suspicion throughout Maine that people should be wary of the new Americans in their neighborhoods, promoting the unfounded notion that they could be disloyal to the country as well as be welfare cheats.

We obviously don’t condone welfare fraud, and we believe the state should take every reasonable step to maintain the integrity of the programs it administers, but the governor’s thoughtless reaction to incendiary news last week is damaging the very state he is supposed to serve. LePage’s ranting legitimizes the emotions behind the threatening notes.

As Roberts said Thursday, “members of our community” have been victimized by someone who uses terror as a weapon. Instead of supporting the victims, LePage gave aid and comfort to the person who threatened to do them harm.

It’s easy to sow fear and suspicion, but it takes a real leader to bring people together. It’s time for LePage to step up and be a leader.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3:27 p.m. on Aug. 22, 2016 to clarify where the notes were found.

]]> 81, 22 Aug 2016 15:28:26 +0000
Maine Voices: Licensing midwives in Maine has many pluses Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 YARMOUTH — The state of Maine recently passed a law that will require licensure and training standards for midwives practicing outside of hospitals. For many midwives, including those of us who also practice as naturopathic doctors, we say it’s about time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


]]> 0, 19 Aug 2016 19:20:56 +0000
Commentary: A teachable moment Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WASHINGTON — Election Day is coming soon, and Rashida Tlaib is making sure her two sons understand what a watershed event this could be for American Muslims like them. The political climate is ugly, she warns, and the rhetoric is getting nastier by the day.

They need this victory, Tlaib explained. He’s simply got to win.

No, no, not him. The candidate they’re rooting for is local: Abdullah Hammoud, a Muslim Democrat running for the Michigan legislature. Hammoud’s sweeping primary victory this month in a little-watched race is giving Muslims across the country a pick-me-up at a time when Republican nominee Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Islam proposals dominate the presidential campaign.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Tlaib, who lives in Detroit. “I want my sons to sit down with Abdullah and shake his hand and say, ‘He has a cool name like mine, and he has the same face, and he prays in the same way – and he has access to be a member of the Legislature.’ ”

Hammoud’s ascent provides one answer to a question that Muslim parents are asking themselves every day: How do I talk to my kids about this election? To Tlaib and other Muslim parents, the Michigan race is a positive aside in an otherwise wrenching election-year conversation involving thorny questions of faith, democracy and identity.

Last month, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a TV political ad called “Role Models,” featuring children listening to Trump’s offensive words about women and minorities – a direct appeal to many parents’ unease with his rhetoric.

Among Muslim parents, anxiety over the election runs even deeper. Already, families say, their American-born children ask whether Trump is going to arrest or deport them. The experience of 8-year-old Sofia, who packed up her dolls to await forcible removal from her home, triggered the hashtag campaign IWillProtectYou, with U.S. military personnel vowing to defend Sofia and other Muslims from infringement of their constitutional rights.

To avoid planting such fears, some Muslim parents have opted to tune out election talk altogether, abstaining from TV and radio to shield their children from attacks on their religion. Others prefer to charge headfirst into the fray, urging their children to volunteer at phone banks so that they learn the importance of political participation. And many more parents are caught somewhere in the middle, still unsure of how and when to have the dreaded Trump talk.

“I’m a bit paralyzed,” said Svend White, a Chicago-based Muslim father who’s facing the issue with his 10-year-old daughter. “I don’t know exactly how to broach it. I’m trying to preserve my daughter’s natural pride in her community and her background before it starts to get tainted by the fear and prejudice that’s out there.”

Aamir Nooruddin, a Muslim father in Maryland, said he decided to have an in-depth Trump talk with his 8-year-old daughter, Sakeena, after visiting a grade school where the students peppered him with questions about whether he worried about his children’s future in the country.

The fears telegraphed in the students’ questions made him wonder how his own daughter was dealing with the ubiquity of Trump’s message. When Nooruddin asked, he was dismayed to hear a girl who’d only known a black president respond matter-of-factly that Trump doesn’t like “brown people” or Muslims.

Rather than “pile on,” Nooruddin said, he emphasized that bigotry isn’t confined to one person or one political party. But then Sakeena caught him watching a New York Times montage of unfiltered scenes from Trump rallies, with supporters yelling racial slurs. She looked at her dad and asked: “Do they really hate us?”

That was tough, Nooruddin said. He came up with a response that discussed the angst among many Americans over economic hardship and the country’s changing demographics. He wrapped it up by urging her to be living proof that the bigots are wrong – just work hard, be polite, smile.

“I feel bad because what I really mean is, ‘Don’t come off as a threat,’ ” Nooruddin said. “And that’s a tragedy in itself, that as a parent you have to tell your child not to appear as a threat.”

Fatima Khalaf’s three sons and a daughter are older – 10, 15, 18 and 20 – and are already veterans at brushing off the occasional slur of “terrorist” from their classmates in Las Vegas. Khalaf said that living in Nevada, a closely watched swing state, gives her the chance to stress the importance of participation as an antidote to bigotry and xenophobia.

Khalaf is proud that one of her sons is already dipping a toe in politics: He worked on Capitol Hill in Washington this summer and was included in the photo of diverse Democratic interns that circulated after the Republican intern photo went viral because the class was overwhelmingly white.

“A Trump presidency is scary to a lot of minorities because he is so threatening,” Khalaf said. “But for a lot of us in these communities, it’s also been a rallying cry to get more civically engaged, and to talk about politics with our children.”

Sameena Karmally had a morning ritual of listening to NPR with her children but stopped it when Muslims became a staple of the news shows, whether because of Islamic State attacks or Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks. Then Karmally went a step further, banning all discussion of Trump inside her home. Even when dinner guests bring up the man of the hour, she said, “I politely say, ‘This is a no-Trump zone.’ ”

And still her children are keenly aware of Trump and his stances. Karmally said her 6-year-old daughter asked whether the family would have to move to Canada if Trump is elected.

“Every Muslim kid is asking their parents that,” she said. “My kids were born here and he’s made them feel like they don’t have a place in this country. I tell them, ‘There’s enough good people, and you know your neighbors and friends would never let that happen.’ ”

Trump is the worst offender, Muslim families say, but he’s hardly alone. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton doesn’t get a pass, either. Many American Muslims resent Clinton’s habit of describing ordinary Muslim citizens as the first line of defense from terrorism – an idea echoed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in his speech to the Democratic National Convention last month.

Tlaib, the Michigan mother, was aghast when another Muslim mom shared a story about a classroom game where the children were separating themselves into groups: those who could stay and those who’d be deported. Tlaib’s own sons have told her “Mama, don’t worry, if anybody asks if we’re Muslim, I’ll lie,” and “We’re lucky – we don’t look Muslim.”

The psychological effects of Trump’s words on children so infuriated Tlaib that she and a couple dozen other mothers began a Michigan-based activist group called Moms Against Trump. Tlaib was among the protesters to heckle the candidate during his economic speech in Detroit this week; security escorted her out as Trump’s fans jeered.

“One of the things we tell people is, if he doesn’t win, great, but guess what? The damage is out there and the damage is pretty deep. And it’s going to take us years to rectify what he’s done to our country and our kids,” Tlaib said. “No matter how much we try to protect them and keep them away from him, it’s out there.”

]]> 1, 20 Aug 2016 15:05:29 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Leaks sink what’s left of LePage’s credibility Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Fair warning to anyone whose confidential information may be on file with the state of Maine: Stay on the good side of Gov. Paul LePage.

Last week, amid one of his chronic tirades against Maine’s immigrants and refugees, LePage did an interview with the Boston Herald – his apparent go-to newspaper when he wants to spout off without any of those troublesome follow-up questions.

The source of his ire: Adnan Fazeli, the Iranian refugee who became radicalized after moving to Maine in 2009, left his home in Freeport to go off and fight with the Islamic State in Syria in 2013, and died in battle with the Lebanese army in early 2015.

(All of which LePage learned about from a story on the front page of Tuesday’s Portland Press Herald. A newspaper he insists he never reads.)

That LePage would be upset at the news of a jihadist springing from our midst came as no surprise. Many shared his sentiment.

But here’s where it got ominous: The Herald, citing only “Maine officials,” reported that Fazeli “was on food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for at least four years until 2013.”

“LePage said he is now calling for a review of all such benefits in his state,” the Herald continued. “He also said Fazeli’s wife is no longer in Maine.”

Let’s turn now to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 7, Part 272.1, which clearly states that those with legal access to information on food stamp recipients “must adequately protect the information against unauthorized disclosure to persons or for purposes not specified in this section.”

Now, I’m no lawyer, but I’d be willing to bet that a politically charged leak to the Boston Herald falls way outside the tightly limited disclosures (to state bureaucrats, law enforcement and immigration officials) permitted under the federal code.

And while LePage denied through his spokesman on Friday that he whispered said leak into the Herald’s ear, the governor expressed no dismay whatsoever that “Maine officials,” on his watch, clearly broke the law by posthumously outing Fazeli.

(Of course, LePage had no problem telling the world that Fazeli’s widow and three children – who, wink-wink, must have been on welfare too – no longer reside in Maine.)

Before LePage lets himself off the hook so easily, however, it’s worth noting that he became at least a de facto party to this federal violation the moment he invoked Fazeli as his newfound reason for instructing the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to “look at our welfare rolls closer.”

“This is very embarrassing to the state of Maine, and I point the finger at (President Obama) and say, ‘How did this happen?’ ” LePage told the Herald. “If the federal government doesn’t do their job, we don’t know what we’re getting.”

(Not to nitpick, but he had the wrong president. When Fazeli arrived in the United States in 2008, George W. Bush occupied the White House.)

The point here is not to defend Fazeli, who pretty much got what he deserved after he decided to take up arms with a band of lunatics bent on destroying civilization as we know it.

Rather, by ignoring the fact that legal confidentiality was violated in this case and then using it to further his own anti-immigrant agenda, LePage has sent a chilling message to anyone who might rub him the wrong way personally, politically or philosophically: State government has private information on you. And you never know when, or how, it just might become public.

Ditto for Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who picked up where LePage left off on Wednesday when she told WCSH that her department is already hard at work rooting out welfare fraud in Maine’s immigrant community.

“There are certainly a number of cases, investigations underway right now, that involve welfare fraud and abuse, that pertain to immigrants, that we are going to continue to devote the necessary resources to guard against the misuse of taxpayer dollars, that in several cases include concerns around criminal activity and terrorism,” Mayhew told the TV station.

Now suppose for a moment that I was to write a column about, say, my “concerns” that senior members of the LePage administration routinely get plastered after work and then drive home drunk.

The appropriate response? How dare I say that! If I’m going to make such a serious allegation, I’d darn well better back it up with some specifics!

Which is why neither I, nor any of my colleagues here at the Maine Sunday Telegram, would ever do such a thing.

Not so for Mayhew. She drops the word “terrorism” like a ticking time bomb at the end of her rambling quote, knowing full well that’s the one word many in her audience will remember – along with, of course, the aforementioned “welfare fraud” and “immigrants.”

Evidence? It’s, ahem, confidential. (At least until it isn’t.)

Accountability? Hey, it’s television. People will remember what was said long after they’ve forgotten who said it.

Compassion for the least fortunate among us? Sure, as long as they don’t have hard-to-pronounce surnames.

Click on the reader comments beneath the online version of this column and I guarantee you’ll find a pack of LePage apologists whining that I can’t seem to sit down at the keyboard lately without zeroing in on the governor or those aligned with him.

You’re damn right I can’t.

Maine is stuck with Paul LePage for another two-plus years. Mary Mayhew has made no secret of her interest in taking his place.

Both have a sworn duty to uphold the law as they go about their official business. Instead, they raise nary an eyebrow while the law gets sucker-punched in the name of political opportunism.

Both have a moral obligation to treat all Maine residents equally, regardless of skin color, ethnic origin or time spent living here.

Instead, to an incessant far-right drumbeat, they single out immigrants and refugees with not-so-subtle undertones of suspicion and contempt.

Both, by virtue of their lofty titles, would have us regard them as leaders.

They’re nothing of the sort.

And as they now turn their blind eyes and deaf ears to the notion of personal privacy, their shame has reached new depths.


]]> 239, 20 Aug 2016 20:58:30 +0000
Alan Caron: No escaping the election, even abroad Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We are drifting slowly down the Rhone River in southeastern France, through occasional locks and past ancient Roman cities and vineyards on the surrounding foothills. In just a few days, we’ve learned a surprising amount about the history of the many regions of this 500-mile valley and the personalities of the grapes that define them: Pinot Noir and Merlot. Black Gamay in Beaujolais. Hermitage at the entrance to Provence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 10, 19 Aug 2016 19:13:40 +0000
Cynthia Dill: The Trump Bros: Ryan Lochte’s new team? Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 How much do you want to bet that Ryan Lochte is a Donald Trump supporter? He’s got the hair for it, right? Lochte’s blue locks with Trump’s red pelt and the white hair of Roger Ailes will look so beautiful on stage at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, with hundreds of foreign workers slaving away in the background.

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

And look at those hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 26, 19 Aug 2016 19:15:07 +0000
Our View: Gov. LePage shirks duty to Maine paper industry Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 New ideas and strong public-private partnerships are critical in determining the next life of Maine’s pulp and paper industry. Unfortunately, Gov. LePage has time for neither.

Representatives of eight federal agencies joined local officials and statewide business leaders last week for a tour of communities affected by changes in the industry. The purpose was to find a way forward for a sector that despite its challenges still employs thousands of Mainers, and still displays a lot of potential.

The effort will produce recommendations for how federal expertise can help Maine capitalize on the new products and processes that are moving the industry beyond the manufacturing of paper. It should be an exciting prospect for anyone wondering what’s next after the closure of five paper mills in two years.

LePage, though, has pulled all state involvement in the effort.

It may be a negotiating tactic over an ongoing tariff dispute, a sign of his continued antipathy toward the federal government, or an indication he has no patience for solutions other than his own. But all he’s really doing is hurting communities that need the forest products industry to thrive.


The federal agencies were called in after Madison Paper Industries announced in March that it would close, costing the state more than 200 jobs.

The Department of Commerce offered the services of an economic development assessment team, which provide the resources of multiple federal agencies to areas in trouble. Teams have previously been deployed to help after the collapse of the New England fisheries and for the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, among other places and industries in peril.

The team arrived last Wednesday for a three-day tour that included stops in Bucksport, Dover-Foxcroft, Millinocket, Old Town and Skowhegan alongside the congressional delegation, business development and industry leaders, and local officials. The co-chairs of the team are local – the directors of the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine Forest Products Council.

The team will formulate a long-term economic plan with the help of nearly $8 million in federal grants. The funds will help grow an airplane manufacturing company, facilitate the move of a paper company’s research and development facility from Canada to Orono, support University of Maine research into making jet fuel from biomass, and expand the precision machining technology center at Central Maine Community College.

It is those kinds of investments that are the building blocks for a new economy in rural Maine. But to LePage, they represent “another failed stimulus package” that provides “false hope,” as he wrote in a July 5 letter to the Department of Commerce.


Instead, LePage said Maine has to reduce taxes and energy costs, and improve its forest management. He also asked for the federal government to remove tariffs placed on Canadian paper companies that employ Maine workers. Until those challenges are acknowledged, he said, his administration won’t be involved.

LePage’s single-minded focus on energy and taxes misses important changes in how and where paper is manufactured. They are certainly factors, but so too are transportation costs, product demand, automation and others that Maine and even the federal government have little control over. The international conglomerates that operate mills like Madison Paper are making decisions based on global forces, not only – or even predominantly – the cost of doing business in Maine.

So while taxes and energy costs may be too high, and the tariffs may be harmful, they are part of a much bigger picture that the governor fails to acknowledge.

That kind of thinking will only leave former mill towns in the past, when the future could be so bright if we choose to invest in Maine businesses and their innovative new products.

U.S. Sen. Angus King made that point late last month, when he said Maine has to “think about what comes next – not instead of lumber, not instead of paper, but in addition … What products can we create that we can’t even imagine from the gold mine of fiber found in this state?”

That’s the future of Maine’s forest products industry. Too bad Gov. LePage wasn’t there to hear it.

]]> 38, 20 Aug 2016 21:00:00 +0000
Another View: Beach to Beacon is generous supporter of Maine charities Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We are compelled to correct what we consider to be mischaracterizations of the Beach to Beacon 10K road race in both an Aug. 7 Maine Sunday Telegram article and an Aug. 17 Press Herald editorial.

People are drawn to Maine to experience this challenging road race that inspires them to achieve their best. As correctly stated in the article, nonprofits are not required to give to charity but many nonprofit road races do. Many don’t. We do. And we do much more. We fulfill our primary mission of staging a world-class road race in Maine that draws the best runners in the world alongside 6,500 recreational runners from almost every state. Our 2016 online registration filled in under four minutes – faster than any other race in the country.

We carefully align expenses with income from entry fees and sponsors’ contributions to close each race year with a balanced budget. Our focus is not on profit.

Each year the cost of putting on the event grows, from tents to sustainability initiatives to medical innovations that save lives. Our race revenue goes to bringing forth a safe, world-class event. Above all this, we also give back to the community. The race’s Beneficiary Bib Program has generated more than $1.5 million over 19 years for our race charities, in addition to the $570,000 generously donated by the TD Charitable Foundation. We integrate sponsorship partners who give back proceeds to support our charities, we have volunteers who collect every recyclable bottle and give proceeds to the beneficiary, and we allocate PR resources to maximize awareness and support for the race beneficiary. And these are just a few of the things we do.

We are proud of our commitment to both the running community and how we give back to the charities we work with. The paper’s view of what our goals should be will not deter us from continuing our mission to produce a professionally run, world-class road race that has truly become a part of the fabric of people’s lives.

]]> 1 Fri, 19 Aug 2016 19:16:52 +0000
Maine Observer: Scooter gives a glimpse of the wild side Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When I was a teenager I wanted a motorcycle in the worst way. I grew up in Las Vegas, and the coolest guys in my junior high school rode Honda 50s, a kind of starter bike. They had a look, too: long hair, white T-shirts, faded Levi’s and cowboy boots. And the most important part: A cute girl perched behind them, clutching them tightly as they pulled in and out of the student parking lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 2 Fri, 19 Aug 2016 19:19:01 +0000
Commentary: My destiny: Making sauce, chasing chickens around the yard Sat, 20 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 STORRS, Conn. — Destiny: Those parts of your life you can’t escape no matter how hard you’ve worked to avoid them.

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

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

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

For Italians, cooking is more choreography than culinary.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s quiet, and I’m happy.

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

Then, I see the chickens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody ever said that being young is easy.

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

]]> 0, 19 Aug 2016 19:25:16 +0000
Our View: Homeless camp argument won’t get to real problem Sat, 20 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 An ongoing police operation to shut down a homeless encampment in Portland has sparked an argument. Unfortunately, it’s not the one we should be having.

On one side of the current dispute we have the property owners of the Tent City’s location and the neighboring homeowners who want to see the improvised village removed along with its inhabitants.

On the other, there are the residents of the encampment themselves, who say they would rather live in a tent than in the city shelter, where they would be exposed to bedbugs, lice, scabies and the “drama” of sleeping in close quarters with scores of others who have nowhere else to go.

But this isn’t an either-or problem. It’s both.

Neither the illegal campground nor the overcrowded “emergency” shelter are adequate ways for human beings to live.

The city has no choice but to evict the campers if the landowners don’t want them on their property, but that is not a solution to a problem; it’s just another complication in a thorny crisis.

It’s overly simplistic to look at homelessness as a lack of housing alone. There are many contributing factors, including domestic violence, untreated mental illlness, difficult re-entry for veterans, drug and alcohol abuse and other bad lifestyle choices.

But those factors have always existed and homelessness has not – at least not in the way we have grown to tolerate it since the 1980s.

That was when the federal government stopped building public housing, pushing the responsibility to state and local governments working with private landlords and nonprofits.

Since the housing market does not provide the right incentives for private developers to build new housing for the poor and near poor, many are left outside – literally and figuratively.

The homeless are just the visible evidence of the affordable housing shortage. For every person lined up at the shelter or pitching a tent, there are many more paying most of their incomes in rent or wearing out their welcomes by sleeping on friends’ and relatives’ couches. The National Coalition to End Homelessness estimates that there is a deficit of 7 million units of affordable housing to meet current needs.

Homeless people can’t just move to someplace where housing is cheaper, as some argue, because cities, where there are the biggest concentrations of homeless people, are also the place where jobs, public transit and other services are concentrated – especially important for people who don’t have cars.

So, it’s pointless to argue whether a tent city or a crowded emergency shelter is the best way for people to live.

Neither should be considered acceptable, and figuring out the best way to finance new low-income housing in the places where it is needed should be the argument we are having.

]]> 81, 19 Aug 2016 19:26:51 +0000
Maine Voices: Trump demonizes, bullies, fails on all points of Civil Rights Act Sat, 20 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WESTBROOK — What does the Civil Rights Act have to do with the presidential race? Apparently, not as much as it should.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


]]> 40, 20 Aug 2016 19:59:38 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: United States pays the price of powerlessness in the Middle East Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The State Department pretended not to be surprised. It should be. It should be alarmed. Iran’s intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 5, 18 Aug 2016 21:06:26 +0000
Maine Voices: Celebrate Social Security’s 81st birthday by lobbying candidates to keep it strong Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WINDHAM — Social Security was signed into law more than 80 years ago on Aug. 14, and, as we celebrate its 81st birthday, it is important to consider how crucial this program is to all Mainers, particularly to Maine women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Special to the Press Herald

]]> 4, 19 Aug 2016 12:44:36 +0000
Our View: Recent shooting raises red flag
 on preventing violence Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A shooting this week in Jefferson, carried out by a man who wounded his ex-girlfriend before taking his own life, shed light on an aspect of domestic abuse that news coverage rarely considers: the connection between suicide and intimate partner violence-related homicide.

The incident Monday took place around 10 p.m., when Michelle Creamer, 30, was sitting in a car, parked outside a friend’s house, talking on the phone with her 34-year-old ex-boyfriend, Shane Prior.

Creamer got out of the car, police said, only to be forced down the driveway by Prior, who had been hiding on the property. She escaped after being struck in the arm by a shot fired by Prior, who led police on a short car chase before exchanging gunfire with a police officer and then killing himself.

Both from Cushing, they’d recently split up after 16 years together; their two children were on the premises but didn’t see the shooting and weren’t injured.

The circumstances leading up to the incident are under investigation. Police don’t know whether Creamer ever sought a protection order against Prior – or whether he had any criminal history at all. But the fact that Prior killed himself after a dispute that authorities have characterized as an act of domestic violence links the shooting to other high-profile domestic abuse cases in Maine.

In 16 cases that the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel considered for its most recent report, released in June, nine perpetrators threatened suicide, six of whom followed through. These facts accord with the results of multiple studies and analyses that have found a link between a perpetrator’s threats to kill himself and an increased risk to the lives of his loved ones.

Threatening suicide is a coercive tactic, often used to keep a current partner from leaving or to cajole a former partner into a face-to-face meeting. It’s also a way that a perpetrator can keep control without physically abusing his target.

But friends and family members often don’t see these threats for what they are: a declaration that the abuser’s present or past partner is at risk. So when someone in a rocky relationship threatens to harm himself, that’s sufficient grounds for calling 911, according to the homicide review panel.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that while an abuser who threatens suicide may have a mental illness, these conditions do not cause abuse. The illness and the abusive behaviors should be considered separately, and the abusive partner should be held responsible for their actions.

Thankfully, the victim of the Jefferson shooting survived. But there are far too many examples in Maine of domestic violence killings that could have been prevented if more of us took suicide threats seriously.

]]> 6, 18 Aug 2016 22:04:31 +0000
Another View: Keeping Klansman in prison ensures justice for girls’ killers Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It will soon be 53 years since a bomb was planted and set off by a hatred-filled group of Klansmen, killing four little black girls preparing to worship inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

It would be years before justice would come for Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Morris, all 14, and 11-year-old Lisa McNair. Now, the only surviving person convicted in their deaths will remain in prison – where he should stay.

Alabama’s parole board recently did right by refusing to grant a release for Thomas E. Blanton Jr., who was among the Klansmen who put a bomb outside the church. Though for years believed to be a suspect in the case, he was not convicted of the murders until 2001.

The sister of Addie Mae, Sarah Collins Rudolph, who is now 65 and was seriously injured in the bombing, asked the board to ensure that her sister’s killer stayed put. He is in a one-person cell in Springville, Alabama. Two other men convicted in the bombing died in prison.

As heartbreaking as it is to remember what happened that Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, it is equally devastating, and disheartening, that Blanton has neither taken responsibility for the murders nor shown a shred of remorse. The former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Blanton agreed that he should not be released. Doug Jones said that letting Blanton out would increase the “insurmountable pain” the children’s families have faced and send the wrong message to anyone with a hate-filled heart.

He’s correct. Healing must always be given advantage. Hate must never be given advantage.

]]> 2 Thu, 18 Aug 2016 22:39:37 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Leaders need to wake up to the elephant chart in the room Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Occasionally some opinionator peers behind the curtain of daily events and unveils an insight that puts the news in a newly clarifying perspective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 14, 19 Aug 2016 18:49:23 +0000
Maine Voices: Good Samaritan law, safe injection sites would help cut opiate overdose deaths Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My name is Alex Klein, and I moved from the Baltimore suburbs to Portland to improve the quality of my life through personal growth and the maintenance of my recovery, as well as to help others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 1 Wed, 17 Aug 2016 19:08:49 +0000
Our View: Poliquin tries to have it both ways on Trump Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Like many members of Congress, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin doesn’t like to be pinned down.

That is the kind of thing you can do in Washington, where there are many votes on every issue and complicated procedures can obscure the ones that really matter.

But that’s in Washington. Like every other Mainer, Poliquin will be asked to cast just one vote for president in November, and he should not get away with playing both sides on this important question.

Will Poliquin vote for Donald Trump or not? The congressman won’t say.

The question presents itself again because Poliquin is piggybacking on a major part of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. On Tuesday, Poliquin responded to the discovery that a former Freeport resident had become radicalized and joined the so-called Islamic State forces in Syria, where he was killed in combat in January 2015.


Poliquin issued a statement “in light of news regarding a Freeport refugee” that condemned resettlement programs and claimed that President Obama “and his liberal allies are ignoring the rightful concerns of millions of Americans and moving forward with a dangerous Middle East immigration and refugee policy.”

That lines Poliquin up directly with Trump when it comes to taking advantage of Americans’ fears and demonizing people who are trying to escape from murderous regimes during wartime. The Poliquin-Trump position calls for a screening process so strict it would eliminate risk to American communities.

But there is no screening process that would have prevented Adnan Fazeli from entering the country, if you can believe the FBI. According to its investigation, Fazeli self-radicalized in Maine with the aid of jihadi internet sites. The only vetting that would have kept him out of the country would have been the outright ban on all immigration from war-torn countries that Trump proposes, which amounts to an abandonment of America’s historic commitment to humanitarian relief.

Since Poliquin is on the same side as Trump when it comes to immigration, and, according to earlier statements, they agree on trade, it is odd that the Maine Republican will not publicly support his party’s nominee.


Maine Sen. Susan Collins recently made it clear that she won’t vote for Trump because she considers that lack of character and discipline make him unfit for high office. Other Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan have chosen to overlook Trump’s personality flaws because they agree with him on policy.

But where is Poliquin? He won’t say.

It’s easy to see why. Associating with Trump could alienate many independents who might otherwise vote Republican if they weren’t repelled by the presidential nominee. Denouncing Trump risks offending his hard-core supporters, who make up a significant part of the Republican electorate. So he appears to be sending coy signals to Trump supporters while refusing to comment on the record about his support for the candidate.

Neither group of voters should let Poliquin get away with this. There will be only one vote for president, and no one can have it both ways.

]]> 63, 17 Aug 2016 19:07:30 +0000
Commentary: Aetna’s exit from health exchanges signals bigger issues Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Aetna is pulling out of 11 of the 15 states it serves on the Obamacare exchanges and canceling plans to join the exchange in Maine. The reason is no surprise: It’s losing substantial amounts of money on its exchange policies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 15 Wed, 17 Aug 2016 19:12:50 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Fazeli’s family deserve our thanks for alerting authorities Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The next time someone says we need to start pounding on the doors of our immigrant communities to “find out what the hell is going on,” remind them of Adnan Fazeli.

Fazeli, 38, died on a battlefield in Lebanon last year after leaving his home and family in Freeport to become a fighter for the Islamic State in Syria.

As reported in Tuesday’s Portland Press Herald, he came to the United States in 2008, became radicalized after moving to Portland from Philadelphia in 2009 and, as time passed, became increasingly isolated from his family and the local immigrant community before suddenly hopping on a plane for the Middle East in August of 2013.

And how do we know all of this now?

Because those closest to him called the FBI, that’s how.

A federal government affidavit, obtained by Press Herald staff writer Scott Dolan, identifies them only as “CI 1,” “CI 2,” “CI 3” and “CI 4.” (“CI” is shorthand for “Cooperating Individual.”)

But a close reading of the document leaves little doubt that some if not all of them were closely connected to Fazeli during the roughly four years he spent with his wife and children first in Portland, then in Westbrook and finally in Freeport.

As Ebrahim Fazeli, Adnan Fazeli’s nephew, told staff writer Megan Doyle, “Our family were the ones that initiated this investigation. We did it long before all these terrorist organizations were in the news.”

It’s a murky world, to be sure. Maine State Police Detective George Loder, acting as a member of an FBI task force, noted in the affidavit that the FBI paid three of the four informants for their information on Adnan Fazeli.

But this much is clear: Without that information, it’s highly doubtful Fazeli would have been so much as a blip on the FBI’s radar screen a full 17 months before he was killed in a battle with the Lebanese army on Jan. 23, 2015.

Noted Loder in the affidavit, “On August 23, 2013, CI 1 told a local FBI agent that CI 1 believed an individual named ‘Abu Nawaf’ (an alias used by Adnan Fazeli) had converted from a Shia to a Sunni Muslim. CI 1 reported further that Nawaf was an Iranian national then residing in Freeport, Maine, and had recently grown a beard and had become very religious …

“CI 1 had overheard Nawaf expressing anti-American rhetoric while at an Iraqi market in Portland, Maine, where Nawaf was known to associate.”

The tips kept coming: “CI 2” told the FBI that Fazeli “at some point changed and became very angry.”

“CI 3” provided Fazeli’s back story from Iran to the United States, where he “did not adapt well” and eventually became radicalized.

“CI 4” provided details of that radicalization, from Fazeli’s conversion to Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Sunni Islam, to his penchant for watching Islamic videos on YouTube.

The good news for Maine is that Fazeli took his anger elsewhere. Ten days before the FBI’s first interview with “CI 1,” Fazeli boarded a Lufthansa flight from Boston to Frankfurt, continued on to Istanbul and never returned.

But what if he had stayed in Maine?

What if, rather than join the fight over there, he’d resolved instead to start one of his own right here in the belly of what he perceived to be the American beast?

Suddenly those “cooperating individuals” would no longer just be helpful sources in solving a puzzle that self-destructed halfway around the world – and thankfully, according to the FBI, left no co-conspirators back in Maine picking up where he left off.

No, with Fazeli still in our midst, our very lives might depend on those informants’ willingness to step forward and sound the alarm.

So with that in mind, what’s the buzz in the wake of Tuesday’s stunning headline?

With painful predictability, both Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin reflexively went after President Obama, claiming that Fazeli is the latest example of an immigration system that LePage called an “utter failure.”

What neither acknowledged is that no system, short of an outright ban on all immigration, can account for the individual who goes off the deep end only after arriving here and deciding for whatever reason – too much time alone on the internet? – that America is the enemy after all.

Nor does a tighter border (or higher wall) protect us from the terrorist who is actually born here and enjoys all the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen before he turns on his own country. (See: Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen.)

Our only protection against those threats is advance warning. And our only hope for such warning begins and ends with the eyes and ears of those who realize, before anyone else, that something’s not quite right with an Omar Mateen or … an Adnan Fazeli.

More than once in recent months, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for monitoring mosques throughout this country and, if necessary, shutting some down altogether.

Speaking in Ohio just this week, Trump called for a Commission on Radical Islam that would develop “new protocols” for law enforcement officials as they go about investigating possible terrorist threats.

That may be red meat for the xenophobic masses. But if you’re a new arrival to this country, wondering nervously whether you should drop a dime on a suspicious countryman and thus invite law enforcement into your life, it translates into four easily understood words: Keep your mouth shut.

Ebrahim Fazeli showed no such compunction when, upon learning that his unhinged uncle had gone off to fight with ISIS, he picked up the phone and called federal authorities.

Nor did Adnan Fazeli’s brother, Portland physician Jabbar Fazeli, who told the Bangor Daily News that he too alerted authorities about his brother. He finally decided to go public, Dr. Fazeli said, as a “lesson” to future immigrants with information worth sharing.

That takes courage.

It takes integrity.

And now more than ever, it deserves our heartfelt thanks.

]]> 48, 18 Aug 2016 08:10:28 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Explosion of Milwaukee violence shows frustration of African Americans Wed, 17 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 As racial martyrs go, you could hardly do worse than 23-year-old Sylville Smith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they’re getting tired of asking nicely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 2, 16 Aug 2016 17:54:28 +0000
Our View: Beach to Beacon falls short of fulfilling ‘giving back’ mission Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There are a lot of good reasons why TD Beach to Beacon 10K is Maine’s biggest road race – the scenic course, the enthusiastic onlookers, the supportive volunteers and the continuing involvement of Joan Benoit Samuelson, race founder and running icon.

Beach to Beacon’s stated mission, though, is to promote and celebrate “health, fitness and giving back.” And while the event clearly fulfills the first two objectives, the recent news that the race organization gives a negligible percentage of revenue to charity should galvanize organizers into reviewing their financial model and determining whether it’s still working.

Beach to Beacon’s finances were the centerpiece of an Aug. 7 Maine Sunday Telegram analysis by staff writer Steve Craig. He found that while revenue from the race has more than tripled over the past 15 years (from $242,099 in 2000 to $926,967 in 2014), the amount given to charity – $30,000 – has stayed the same.

What’s more, Craig reported, that grant doesn’t come out of race revenue. Instead, it’s provided by the TD Bank Charitable Foundation, an arm of the race’s sponsor. The funds donated by the race organization itself, TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Inc., come from voluntary fees paid by runners who choose to make a donation when they sign up for the race. In 2014, the race organization gave $5,462 to charity, or 0.59 percent of total revenue.

The same year that Beach to Beacon gave less than 1 percent of proceeds to charity, the nonprofit that organizes Masssachusetts’ New Balance Falmouth Road Race – a bigger event that, like Beach to Beacon, has a sold-out field and draws elite athletes – donated 18.4 percent of revenue to charitable groups. And the Maine Track Club, organizer of the likes of the Maine Marathon, gave 24 percent of its revenue to charity in 2014.

It’s true that Beach to Beacon enables charitable giving that’s not reflected in the race organization’s financial statements. Beach to Beacon chooses a different charitable recipient each year.

Along with the donations from TD Bank Charitable Foundation and Beach to Beacon, the Telegram’s Craig noted, the current beneficiary gets 25 race registration bibs as tools for the organization’s own fundraising and can buy up to 25 more. Past beneficiaries can purchase up to 25 bibs. The groups raised $116,750 in 2011 and $134,300 in 2012, with most coming from the bib-number program.

But this isn’t enough. While competitions like the Falmouth Road Race are showing that they can put on an elite-level event and embrace their charitable aspect at the same time, Beach to Beacon isn’t extending itself for its charity partners.

“It shouldn’t always be about the money. It’s good will,” race director Dave McGillivray told Craig.

This is an excuse, however, for a practice that’s out of line with Beach to Beacon’s own mission – and it shouldn’t be allowed to stand as a mode of operations if the organization wants to maintain its credibility.

]]> 40, 16 Aug 2016 19:21:28 +0000