Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Fri, 18 Aug 2017 01:16:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Bill dishonors immigrants of all stripes who helped build this great country http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/maine-voices-bill-dishonors-immigrants-of-all-stripes-who-helped-build-this-great-country/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/maine-voices-bill-dishonors-immigrants-of-all-stripes-who-helped-build-this-great-country/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241483 KENNEBUNKPORT — While the sniping about changes in U.S. immigration policies continues to swirl around (“Kathleen Parker: High-wire verbal duel ushers in hot dog days of summer politics,” Aug. 8), it is ironic that it was five days after the reopening of the Irish Hunger Memorial, which faces the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, publicly embraced legislation put forward by two Republican senators that will “favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”

Something snapped in my Irish spine when I read that Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the bill’s primary sponsor, said that the current immigration system doesn’t attract “the very best talent” and gets mostly low or unskilled workers.

To repudiate that insult to my County Waterford ancestors, I would like to tell the story of my first American relatives, whose experience resonates with that promised to immigrants “yearning to breathe free.” In a pesthouse in New York City, my great-grandparents Jeremiah and Ellen Lyons had their first glimpse of their new home, America.

Forced to flee famine and oppression, they left Dungarvan, Ireland, in 1845. Filled with hope and $1,500 sewn into Jeremiah’s underwear, they made the crossing. But when Jeremiah caught cholera aboard ship, he was isolated from his wife and two young daughters, Bridget and Margaret. Upon arrival in New York, unknown to Ellen, Jeremiah was placed in a pesthouse, nursed by anonymous caretakers.

For three months, Ellen searched every shanty and shack in New York City, until, in the words of the story recited at every family reunion, one day a man replied: “Well, yes, but it just couldn’t be him, he was so old and bearded and thin.”

If she wished, she was told, she may come in and look. There were no records on the book. He seemed to be traveling alone. His memory was gone, and he was without name or home.

Thus, she found her Jerry, lying on a bed of straw. He raised his head and whispered: “Ellen.” The money had disappeared. What had happened to him in the intervening months was not established. After Ellen nursed Jerry back to health, they joined with Chinese laborers to build railroads from New York to Chicago.

Near that windy city, with a growing family – including my paternal grandfather, Will – they became successful farmers and later moved to Iowa and, finally, Dakota Territory, where they spent the autumn of their lives with their pioneer sons and daughters.

Ellen and Jeremiah brought with them, and passed to their children, and their grandchildren, a passion for education and a strong commitment to the civic virtues of their new country.

They were the real radicals in America’s history. These people lived in their adopted land not as victims, but as confident and contributing citizens, whose fulfillment was in helping to build this country.

When I reflect on their odyssey, I realize that the journey to my home began in a pesthouse in New York, where the kindness of strangers gave my first American relatives a taste of the goodness and greatness of its people.

To the president and the sponsors of this horrific bill, I urge them to go to the Irish Hunger Memorial and pay their respects to the millions of immigrants, from all countries, who took entry-level jobs to build America.

As they walk among the fieldstones, which are engraved with the names of all the counties of Ireland, they will see that in this patch of earth “is packed the memory of the calamity” (to quote historian Simon Schama, writing in the Aug. 19, 2002, New Yorker) and of opportunity in a new country. And when they emerge, the president and lawmakers can “gaze north and south at the canyons of capitalism, and marvel at the certainties of the rich.”

America is great, and will become greater when it acknowledges all those who made it so in the first place.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/maine-voices-bill-dishonors-immigrants-of-all-stripes-who-helped-build-this-great-country/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/APTOPIX-Statue-Of-Lib_Wake.jpgA New York Police helicopter circles over Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty was evacuated with officers responding to a report of a suspicious package seen from Jersey City, N.J., Friday, April 24, 2015. Visitors are posting photos online showing hundreds of people being herded toward a ferry landing. Tourists say they were taken off boats while trying to leave nearby Ellis Island. Those vessels then were used to evacuate Liberty Island. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:02:38 +0000
Commentary: In the end, Mainers will reject regulators’ anti-clean-energy rule http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/commentary-in-the-end-mainers-will-reject-regulators-anti-clean-energy-rule/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/commentary-in-the-end-mainers-will-reject-regulators-anti-clean-energy-rule/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241485 AUGUSTA — Since Aug. 2, I’ve been asked many times: What happened to this year’s solar bill? And why? Despite overwhelming public support, on the last day of our legislative session, a bill protecting Mainers’ ability to create local jobs and clean energy fell short by just three votes.

Tux Turkel’s recent article does an excellent job describing the onstage events that day. Unable to convince us, the anti-solar lobby worked to confuse us.

Less visible, but also damaging, was the backstage drama. Bear with me as I explain a little bit about process. Because a two-thirds vote of those in attendance was required to override Gov. LePage’s veto, there was great pressure on moderate House Republicans to flip their votes or to be “absent.”

The most pivotal votes were those of two House Republicans who serve with me on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, and who had themselves put forward and shaken hands on the bill’s amended, compromise language.

One, Rep. Lance Harvell of Farmington, was legitimately unable to attend because of a work obligation.

The other, the ranking House Republican on energy matters, Rep. Nathan Wadsworth of Hiram, reversed his position in the final days before the vote.

Here’s what I said to House Democrats and independents the morning of the vote: Attendance was not in our favor, partisan debate was unlikely to help and the outcome would likely come down to a 1- to 3-vote margin, depending on Wadsworth’s still-unknown position.

I also said that, if we lost, job-creating, local, clean energy would win in the end. I still believe this.

Why? Because the “triple wins” of rooftop solar (local jobs, clean energy and ratepayer savings) remain clear to most legislators and certainly our constituents. Our bill garnered the overwhelming support of the Republican-controlled Senate and just under two-thirds of the House. We earned the vote of every Democrat, every independent and many Republicans.

This support was no accident. We Mainers believe in our right to create clean energy and local jobs. We understand that smaller, distributed renewables like solar help all of us because they reduce the need for Central Maine Power and Emera to continue building more and more-costly new poles and wires. We chafe at our dependence on an expensive and centralized grid, which transmits our dollars out of state to the shareholders of multinational electricity monopolies and huge oil and gas companies.

For these reasons, I’m confident that Mainers will loudly reject the job-killing, tax-increasing, anti-renewable-energy rule recently created by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which our bill would have blocked. Starting in January, the PUC rule will tax you for producing and using energy within your own home – even when it never touches the CMP grid. Already last among Northeastern states in solar capacity and solar jobs per capita, Maine will fall even further behind. Already, I am hearing reports of smaller installers selling their equipment.

Like most Maine businesspeople, I know that a level playing field in the energy markets will help all of us. Given fair treatment by policymakers, rooftop solar and other small, distributed generation will create jobs, decrease our dependence on out-of-state energy interests and lower energy costs for all of us.

Like most Maine parents or grandparents, I’ll sleep better when our carbon emissions have been reduced, and our catastrophic climate course reversed.

Like many Mainers, my wife and I enjoy the independence of harvesting our own firewood, vegetables and eggs from our hens. We certainly don’t expect to be billed by the oil dealer or grocery store for oil or food we don’t use. Yet under the new rule, we and most other Mainers can be billed by CMP for energy we produce and use in our own home.

Maine will be the first place in the world to levy such a fee. In our freedom-loving state, the new “CMP tax” will be deeply unpopular.

So, yes: Backstage political drama has killed another solar bill. But as the new PUC rule takes effect and an election approaches, I am confident that common sense will prevail. The clouds of confusion can hide the sun for only so long.

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Commentary: Elvis’ death exposed media’s sensitivity – or lack thereof – to heartland’s heartbeat http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/commentary-elvis-death-exposed-medias-sensitivity-or-lack-thereof-to-heartlands-heartbeat/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/commentary-elvis-death-exposed-medias-sensitivity-or-lack-thereof-to-heartlands-heartbeat/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241541 HILLSBORO, Ohio — Tens of thousands of fans flocked to Graceland this week to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Today, Presley’s widespread influence and appeal are well established. But four decades ago, much of the media was caught off guard by the public’s response to the singer’s passing.

In 1977, before cable news or the internet, the nightly news broadcasts of CBS, NBC and ABC were at their zenith. Newspapers were enjoying their most prosperous years. But in newsrooms across America, and particularly in the media mecca of New York, Presley was barely on the radar. If they regarded him at all, it was as a 1950s icon.

Elvis was only 42, so his passing was unexpected. But what really surprised journalists was the national reaction to Presley’s death. To them, his influence had ended when the Beatles hit the scene. But as the afternoon of Aug. 16, 1977, progressed, they couldn’t ignore the grassroots rumblings. Tens of thousands began trekking to Memphis, some walking off their jobs. Newsroom phone lines were burning up with people seeking more information.

CBS News was the ratings leader, but its anchor, Walter Cronkite, was on vacation. His fill-in was Roger Mudd, but – lacking the managing-editor authority that Cronkite enjoyed – he was at the mercy of a producer. CBS led its evening news with a story about President Gerald Ford’s endorsement of the Panama Canal treaty.

At NBC, anchor David Brinkley – a Southerner – understood the place Presley occupied in the lives of millions. ABC’s Harry Reasoner joined Brinkley in leading with the Presley story. As described in the 1980 book “When Elvis Died,” by Neal and Janice Gregory, “Millions of viewers, not finding the information they sought, immediately tuned out the video eye and switched to one of the other networks.” A CBS producer later confessed, “I had no idea that he had that much popularity.”

By early evening, editors at the nation’s newspapers were slowly recognizing the magnitude of the national reaction.

At The New York Times, according to the Gregorys, “some mild panic occurred when editors discovered no one had prepared an advance obituary” of Presley.

But Elvis had never disappeared. After his blazing start in the 1950s, he starred throughout the 1960s in a string of highly profitable, if sometimes artistically challenged, feature films. By the 1970s he was selling out the largest arenas in the United States, including four consecutive standing-room-only shows at Madison Square Garden in 1972.

The following year, he became the first solo performer to have a live concert broadcast around the world via satellite. A scant seven weeks before his death, he had completed yet another sold-out arena tour.

The media often fail to notice the divide between their interests and the issues important to Middle America. The death of Elvis Presley was a prime example. A CBS News poll in 2002 determined that while Presley’s popularity cut across demographics and regions, “Elvis’ fans are more likely to come from the Midwest – 51% of those who live there describe themselves as fans.”

In fairness, Presley’s appeal was not entirely lost on more erudite observers. No less a cultured connoisseur than William Buckley Jr. came out as a fan, writing in a 2001 essay, “Elvis Presley had the most beautiful singing voice of any human being on Earth.” He followed with a novel, “Elvis in the Morning,” to bemused reviews.

But Elvis was loved most by commoners. Why? Aside from his talent, he expressed pride in his country regardless of who occupied the Oval Office.

He openly expressed his love for his mother, served honorably in the Army, called people “sir” and “ma’am,” showered complete strangers with lavish gifts and stayed outwardly humble and devoutly spiritual.

Publicly, he shied away from politics. Asked his opinion of the Vietnam War, he replied, “I’d just sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself, ’cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say.” It remains the gold standard for celebrity answers to political questions.

In his last couple of years, Presley noticeably gained weight, and we learned after his death that he had become addicted to prescription drugs. Even his faults were quintessentially American.

Hundreds of thousands of fans visit Graceland each year, millions continue to buy his records and new Elvis-related projects abound. Even the news media seem to have caught up with the trend, a hopeful sign that eventually they become attuned to the heartland, even if it takes a few decades to get there.

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Our View: Trump’s stance on violent extremists is a disgrace http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/our-view-trumps-stance-on-violent-extremists-is-a-disgrace/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/17/our-view-trumps-stance-on-violent-extremists-is-a-disgrace/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241584 If this feels different, it’s because it is.

Never in modern American history has a president so elevated the forces of hate, or so bastardized and mangled the country’s past. Never has a president looked at a display as malevolent and disgusting as the torch-fueled march Friday night in Charlottesville and refused to condemn it, saying “there are two sides to a story.”

In a week in which the leader of the free world gave comfort to people shouting “Jews won’t replace us,” we have to ask, what kind of country are we?

At a news conference Tuesday, one day after reading off a teleprompter a canned and insincere refutation of white nationalism, President Trump showed us what he really thinks.

Speaking extemporaneously, Trump more strongly repeated his initial claim that blame for the violence in Charlottesville was “on both sides,” as if who is in the right – the Nazis calling for a racially pure country, or those who oppose them in the name of true American values – is up for discussion.

Trump didn’t come out and say that white nationalists have a friend in the White House, but he didn’t have to. After decades in which any association with Nazis was a ticket out of public life, having the president mimic their talking points was more than they could have ever hoped for.

In doing so, he also drove a wedge between Americans already uneasy with each other – those who reasonably disagree on the future of Confederate monuments. It’s hard enough for the two sides to understand each other without confusing the matter with groups representing our worst impulses.

Trump’s only defense is that his purpose in making the remarks was not to comment on race relations, but to stand up to those he sees as his enemies. The only conviction he has is that he is right, and that those who praise him are praiseworthy in return.

At the Tuesday news conference, he wasn’t trying to make a point about the complexity of race and memory in the South – he has neither the knowledge of American history nor the grasp of the role of the presidency nor the empathy to even attempt that.

Instead, he was rewarding the loyalty of people who support him – without regard to their heinous views – and lashing out at what he sees as the media’s unfair treatment. It’s not black vs. white; it’s people who like him vs. people who don’t.

But whether he believes the rubbish he spouted Tuesday or not, the end result is the same. The neo-Nazis once relegated to the shadows, and all the young white men considering that path, heard loud and clear that they are on to something, that their view of the world deserves a place in the debate.

It doesn’t. That should go without saying – and until very recently, it did.

We can fight over what it means to commemorate the Confederacy, and whether statues are appropriate. We can – and should – talk openly and think critically about the Founding Fathers’ history with slavery, and what that means for the story of America. We can debate immigration and police brutality and institutional racism, as long as we are honest about our respective biases and blind spots.

But we can’t abide leaders who purposely or through ego and weakness of character use those issues to divide us. Trump didn’t invent racism or bigotry, but he is certainly exploiting them.

As a result, we’ll have more late-night torch-lit marches, more arm-banded outcasts enjoying their time in the spotlight, more Americans wondering if the chasm between them and those with different views can ever be breached.

That is not the country we should want to be.

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Opinion podcast: Charlottesville riots, American Nazism, Sen. Collins http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/opinion-podcast-charlottesville-riots-long-life-american-nazism-sen-collins-power/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/opinion-podcast-charlottesville-riots-long-life-american-nazism-sen-collins-power/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:03:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1240964 A few days after the violence in Charlottesville, our panel gathered to discuss the history of social change and unrest in American history. And with the number of candidates growing for Maine’s governor’s race, we discuss where Republican Susan Collins can have the most impact.

Related links:

Alan Caron: The nation needs Susan Collins

Lewiston-born white supremacist leader was radicalized in prison, grandmother says

Trump says it again: There’s blame ‘on both sides’ in Charlottesville

Podcast links

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/opinion-podcast-charlottesville-riots-long-life-american-nazism-sen-collins-power/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1240524_Confederate_Monuments_Pr47-e1502766827916.jpgA white nationalist demonstrator with a helmet and shield walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches and unleashed chemical sprays on each other.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:30:03 +0000
Leonard Pitts: At our own peril we deny how America’s ugly face contrasts with its ideal http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/leonard-pitts-at-our-own-peril-we-deny-how-americas-ugly-face-contrasts-with-its-ideal/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/leonard-pitts-at-our-own-peril-we-deny-how-americas-ugly-face-contrasts-with-its-ideal/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:00:45 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241053 It has become the go-to saying for moments like this.

We whisper it when someone breaks the mosque window or scrawls hatred on the synagogue wall. It is our assurance and our hope.

“We are better than this,” we say. “This is not America.”

So it is no surprise to be hearing that sentiment days after white supremacists descended, armored and armed, on a Virginia college town, leaving injury and death in their wake. Comedian Kevin Hart and singer Camila Cabello, among others, took to social media to proclaim it as the tragedy in Charlottesville unfolded.

“We are better than this,” said Hart.

“This is not America,” said Cabello.

The words are obviously well-meant. They are also false.

Better than this? Are we also better than the laws and regulations Republicans in states like North Carolina have imposed with, as one court put it, “almost surgical precision” to suppress the African-American vote? Are we better than a “justice” system that cannot bring itself to punish police for killing unarmed black people, even when video proves the crime?

As for this not being America: America is where people who have always earned 100 percent on the dollar, people whose religion will never get them thrown off any airplane, people whose votes will always be counted, people who dominate banking, business, education, politics, media and every other field this side of pro basketball, people to whom cops and courts often defer, people who enjoy better health and greater wealth, people for whom the country is and always has been, a conspiracy in their favor, whine about how victimized they are.

Certainly, there is more to America than Saturday’s ugliness. But it is important not to deny or minimize that that ugliness is part of us, too. After all, you can’t fix what you won’t acknowledge, as our lamentable president illustrated when this guy who never misses a chance to condemn Rosie O’Donnell took two days to grudgingly rebuke white supremacists.

In fairness, what people like Hart and Cabello likely mean to invoke is not America the actual, but America the ideal. But it is important not to conflate the two, not to lapse into the lazy, magical thinking that says what happened in Charlottesville is somehow foreign to the essential American soul.

No, every bit as much as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, that bigotry is a reflection of the American soul, even as it is a rejection of the American ideal. But we sometimes forget that ideals don’t stand up for themselves, nor vindicate themselves.

That work is ours. And if America is, indeed, the hatred we saw Saturday, thank God it’s also the heroism we saw Saturday.

This was embodied in Heather Heyer, the young white woman killed when a white supremacist drove his car through a crowd of counter protesters. In being where she did not have to be, doing what she did not have to do and losing her life thereby, she stood up for what is best in this country – and challenged us to do the same. First, though, you must see the country as it actually is.

We fail to do that when we embrace false equivalence – something else the president illustrated, initially blaming the violence on “many sides” – as if Nazis and those who oppose them were moral equals. But we also fail to see the country as it is when we conflate the actual and the ideal and give ourselves credit we do not deserve.

“We are better than this,” said Hart.

But we are not.

“This is not America,” said Cabello.

But yes, sadly, it is.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/leonard-pitts-at-our-own-peril-we-deny-how-americas-ugly-face-contrasts-with-its-ideal/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 15 Aug 2017 19:58:24 +0000
Maine Voices: Let the Stars and Bars stay forever furled in favor of the flag of the free http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/maine-voices-let-the-stars-and-bars-be-forever-furled-in-favor-of-the-flag-of-the-free/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/maine-voices-let-the-stars-and-bars-be-forever-furled-in-favor-of-the-flag-of-the-free/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241048 ORONO — A long time ago, in a country far, far away, my great-great-grandfather fought in a war of independence. Not for the United States, but, rather, for the Confederate States of America. His name was Harris Levin, and he served in Company L, 2nd Virginia Reserves, which saw limited action in and around defense lines in Richmond, Virginia, in 1864. Our family has always been proud of Levin’s service, and my grandfather’s autobiography opens with stories heard at the knee of his grandmother – tales recounting the battlefield courage of CSA soldiers and the rough times faced in old Virginia when the Confederacy collapsed.

I note this personal history because I now live in Maine. And the odd Confederate nostalgia that’s popping up here in northern Maine surprises me. I neither wave the Stars and Bars nor revere “The Lost Cause.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’m proud that Maine supplied so many soldiers and heroes – like Joshua Chamberlain – to cleanse the stain of slavery from the nation and fulfill the promise of equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

The fact that so many Mainers now fly the Stars and Bars, which represents rebellion against the United States of America and its ideals, and that so many Mainers and people with Maine roots were apparently involved in the recent racist demonstrations in Charlottesville, indicates something’s apparently gone wrong in our classrooms, in our society and even our homes.

History matters. We live with its legacy every day. And if we fail to honestly and candidly address historical issues – with our families and in public discussion – we’re doomed to ignorance and the misunderstanding and violence that inevitably result.

In my family, the question of slavery and the Confederacy came up when my boys were in elementary school and first studied the Civil War. When I was a child, my great-great-grandfather’s military service constituted a legacy to celebrate. My mother was enrolled as a “Daughter of the Confederacy” at a young age, and the Levin family line has been traced back to “Light-Horse Harry” Lee of Revolutionary War fame. But Levin’s biggest influence was on my grandfather, who so enjoyed hearing those Civil War stories that in 1917 he dropped out of Columbia Law School to fight in World War I. He’d seen a poster on a bus in New York City proclaiming the Marines as “First to Fight,” so he impetuously rushed down to Times Square, enlisted and was shipped out.

He survived a massacre in Belleau Wood, when German gas killed all but 11 of the 200 men in his unit. Simply by surviving, he made sergeant. From then on Mel Krulewitch dedicated his life to the Marine Corps, retiring a major general in the 1950s after some horrific and hair-raising experiences on Saipan, Kwajalein and Iwo Jima and even in Korea.

My two sons know our family’s military history. But the older one once asked, when he was little, why Harris Levin fought against the United States. Did he own slaves? (No.) Did he hate Abraham Lincoln? (I have no idea.) I tried to explain it as basically as I could in a way that dishonors neither Levin nor the United States of America. I told him simply that our relative “fought for the wrong side.”

And therein lies the issue. I would argue that any general celebration – or even representation – of Confederate heritage demands an honest and candid conclusion about the full meaning of Confederate service. Flying a Confederate flag in Maine doesn’t simply celebrate a romantic rebellion, or express pride in one’s race or family. It represents the greatest tragedy in American history, when too many misguided and misled citizens unfortunately fought to break apart this great nation and reject its revolutionary ideals. Though my relatives fought for the South, I’m thankful so many courageous Mainers in the 1860s enlisted – and died – to reconstitute the Union. Flying the Confederate flag up here dishonors their service and insults their memory.

In Maine, we should replace the Stars and Bars with the Stars and Stripes. If voters up here in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District want to make America great again, they should at least know this nation’s history.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/maine-voices-let-the-stars-and-bars-be-forever-furled-in-favor-of-the-flag-of-the-free/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/06/663606_Confederate-Flag-Future.JPE.jpgWhile some still say the Confederate flag stands for heritage, not hate, its days could be numbered across the South.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:21:52 +0000
Greg Kesich: As culture fragments, so may the sense of greater community http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/greg-kesich-as-culture-fragments-so-may-sense-of-greater-community/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/greg-kesich-as-culture-fragments-so-may-sense-of-greater-community/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241061 All politics is local, as you may have heard.

It’s a piece of wisdom we’ve received from former House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill, a reliable source of hard-headed insights into the world’s inner workings. O’Neill may not have invented the phrase, but he was the one who cast it in bronze and bolted to the skull of everybody who tries analyze politics.

Like James Carville’s 1990s mantra “It’s the economy, stupid,” O’Neill’s maxim has been used to remind elected representatives that most voters don’t care about ideology and will back the leaders who best look out for the narrow interests of the folks back home. If you get too deep into the world of ideas, you’ll be labeled “out of touch” and ultimately out of a job. It would be reassuring to think simple rules like that still apply, but O’Neill’s words don’t explain much about politics during the age of Trump.

If we want to understand what’s happening now, we need to listen to movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, who once said, “Let’s have some new cliches.”

Here’s my candidate: All politics is cultural.

You could see it in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, when groups of avowed racists and anti-Semites from across the country came to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue from a park that they had no reason to visit other than to provoke violent confrontations with anti-racism counterprotesters and police. Before it was over, one woman was dead and 19 were injured because a Nazi sympathizer decided to use his muscle car as a battering ram.

That level of violence is still rare, but the same kind of passionate us-against-them battle over symbols characterizes most of our debates, without much sign of O’Neill’s rational actors.

Housing, welfare and health care are treated as simple math problems in most countries, but here they turn into moral arguments over who deserves help and who doesn’t. Something as boring as the compensation formula for power produced by solar panels has become a class war in Maine, with Gov. LePage and the electric utilities taking the side of the little guy against greedy environmentalists.(Can you guess who’s winning?)

And if all politics really were local, would anyone in Maine spend their days terrified of immigration, considering that: A) we don’t have much of it and B) most employers here wish we had a bigger workforce? But many Mainers do care. They care a lot.

Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing political activist and media innovator, put it this way, “Politics is downstream from culture,” or political change follows social change, not the other way around.

The idea was further developed in an influential 2011 article by Lawrence Meyers on the Breitbart News website:

“Our lives – indeed, our very species – has storytelling wound into our DNA. From the earliest cave drawings, man has expressed himself in terms of story. Ancient civilizations understood that stories are vital to understanding our place in the world, so much so that they codified storytelling and found base rules that form it. Oral histories are a part of every culture across the globe.

“Stories instill moral and ethical values. They place joy and tragedy in context. They preserve cultures. At their best, they deliver the secrets and meanings of life.”

Meyers advised conservative candidates not only to tell their own stories, but to try to define the opposition’s as well. “He who controls the narrative wins.”

In this kind of politics, your story is your policy. There’s a reason Barack Obama’s career started after he wrote his autobiography. In Maine, Gov. LePage uses his personal history as a weapon.

Anti-war liberals could overlook Obama’s drone attacks because they “knew” he was a compassionate guy. Low-income rural Mainers could still back LePage after he cut their health care and school funding because they recognized that he was “one of us.” In identity politics, what you are is more important than what you do.

Angela Nagle, who has written about the online culture wars that set the stage for the 2016 election, says many new political habits were formed on the internet, where you rarely have to win anyone over to your way of thinking or talk to someone with whom you disagree. When alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos toured college campuses last year, his liberal opponents wanted to shut down his appearances, Nagle said, because they were so insulated in their ideological bubbles that they didn’t know how to argue anymore.

And that cultural fragmentation is probably a bigger threat to our democracy than those pathetic would-be Nazis marching around Charlottesville.

So who’s going to control the narrative now?

If someone can’t come up with a new story of America that’s big enough to include our whole complicated and diverse culture soon, we’re going to be in big trouble.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: gregkesich

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Our View: LePage’s remarks on Charlottesville are too little, too late http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/our-view-lepage-on-charlottesville-too-little-too-late/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/our-view-lepage-on-charlottesville-too-little-too-late/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241066 Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, isn’t known for holding his tongue. It’s deeply troubling, then, that while other elected officials made a point of speaking up, it took LePage nearly three days to make a mealy-mouthed comment on the racist violence that killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.

The violence erupted Saturday afternoon when alt-righter James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of people gathered as a counterprotest to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured in the attack; Fields has been charged with homicide and is being held without bail.

The condemnation from most of the nation’s governors was timely and bipartisan. By Monday afternoon, 39 governors – including every governor in New England – had commented on the tragedy, according to Maine Public Radio.

But Maine’s chief executive didn’t say anything until Tuesday morning, when he told Bangor-based WVOM: “My heart goes out to the families of the injured. I feel it’s a horrific act. It’s an issue that happened in Virginia and I think Virginia authorities should be dealing with it. I just hope it never happens in Maine again because it happened here in 1922.”

We appreciate the nod to Maine’s shameful history (the Ku Klux Klan was a political and cultural force here in the 1920s and helped elected a governor in 1924), but for LePage to say that Saturday’s attack is of limited concern outside Virginia is highly shortsighted. While Maine hasn’t seen deadly violence of the kind that unfolded in Charlottesville, vile, racially charged remarks of the kind that embolden violent people are a regular occurrence here. One of the chief offenders: Gov. LePage.

A month after he started his first term in office, he informed the NAACP that it could “kiss (his) butt” if it didn’t like him skipping the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast. Last year, the governor said that black drug dealers who impregnate “white girl(s)” were mainly responsible for the state’s opioid crisis – later upping the ante by declaring “you shoot at the enemy … and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in (to Maine to sell drugs), are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.” In January, he suggested that civil rights icon John Lewis should say “thank you” to white people for ending slavery in the U.S.

What’s more, LePage hasn’t hesitated to cross state lines when he has a chance to get involved in an issue he cares about – like his ill-informed 2015 decision to file a brief in support of a Virginia school district’s misbegotten ban on transgender students using the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Gov. LePage should have responded to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville by automatically, immediately and unequivocally condemning it. Instead, he’s chosen to ignore a level of bigotry and hatred that has caused a national crisis – one from which Maine is by no means excluded.

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Another View: Apple, Amazon cave to China as it tightens access to internet http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/another-view-apple-amazon-cave-to-china-as-it-tightens-access-to-internet/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/another-view-apple-amazon-cave-to-china-as-it-tightens-access-to-internet/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241078 China’s great firewall, a massive system of internet filters and blocking, has long had a crack in it. The firewall keeps most users in China from accessing platforms outside the country, such as Facebook, Google and Netflix, in keeping with China’s desire to censor what can be seen and read. But popular software known as virtual private networks permit a user inside China to tunnel through the firewall. Now the crack is being gradually cemented up.

A VPN has been particularly useful for foreign companies that come to China and want to link up with corporate networks outside it. Hoping to encourage such investment, China looked the other way for years at the existence of the VPNs, many available from Apple’s App Store in China. The VPNs are popular among millions of young people, as well as journalists and others.

China has been heading toward restricting them for some time, but now it is cracking down in earnest with a new cybersecurity law that carries criminal penalties. Apple informed more than 60 VPNs that they were being removed from the App Store in China on grounds that they were not licensed. Likewise, a Chinese company that operates Amazon’s cloud-computing business in China has sent a notice reminding customers to comply with local laws and cease using software such as VPNs that could pierce the Great Firewall. (Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Apple, Amazon and other Western technology pioneers can have a positive influence on China, but the laws they obey can also become tools of censorship. Apple CEO Tim Cook said last week that Apple has been “engaging” with China over this “even when we disagree.” But there is no evidence that China’s leaders are prepared to loosen the reins of control. The trend is running the other way.

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Garrison Keillor: Let us, good people, not take lunacy too seriously http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/garrison-keillor-let-us-good-people-not-take-lunacy-too-seriously/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/garrison-keillor-let-us-good-people-not-take-lunacy-too-seriously/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 14:35:29 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/garrison-keillor-let-us-good-people-not-take-lunacy-too-seriously/ Riding on a bus in the middle of the night through Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, it’s impressive, the sheer volume of traffic, hour after hour. Tanker trucks and semis and auto carriers, thousands of tons of goods moving to market, like a train of ants carrying leaves to their anthill. Out here, you don’t see the “American carnage” referred to in the inaugural address back in January. Evidently the speaker who portrayed the country as a beached whale and a victim of international conspiracies has now fixed the problems and we’re booming again. Good.

Garrison Keillor

I’m on this bus because I’m living the dream of every 75-year-old American male to travel around with a band and put on shows. People imagine I’m working hard so I get sympathy (poor old guy) even as I’m having the time of my life. To be pitied for three weeks of sheer pleasure: Life doesn’t get better than that.

I am a happy man and I feel a love of country that I could work up into a really bad song, which the country doesn’t need. We have about six very good patriotic songs, including “America” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the one about the rockets’ red glare, and that’s enough.

This is freeway America, the land of strip malls and Walmart and economy motels, not scenic postcard America, but I love its bounding vitality and good humor. In the Holiday Inn Express, we line up for the free breakfast of watery oatmeal and generic eggs and nondescript coffee, ignoring the yammer of TV news, and I take an empty seat at a long table and am drawn into a conversation with three women and two men, strangers to me, on classic topics: This Beautiful Summer & The Number of Persons I Know Who’ve Contracted Tick-Borne Disease, How Does One Correct The Bad Parenting of One’s Children, The Misery of Attending One’s Spouse’s Reunion, Hip Replacements I Have Known That Went Bad, Why (Name of Winter Paradise) Is Not What It Used To Be, and so on. The amiable complaints of my age group.

I’m an old Democrat traveling through Republican territory and I feel welcome. Geniality is all around. Nobody mentions You Know Who, the scowly man with projectile eyebrows whose last name sounds like someone dropped a fruitcake on the floor. A bad breakfast among strangers but everyone’s in a good mood or trying to be. I love this. This is America, a congenial country. Welcome, one and all. Respect the rules. Don’t throw food. If you need to be crazy, go out in the woods.

Over in the Universe Cafe where righteous Democrats gather to eat organic eggs from cooperative chickens, I imagine that you’d hear his name 20 times a minute, like a sump pump, but here, no. Democrats are forever wringing their hands about something they just read a book about, and then last weekend they got to talk about the parade of certified lunatics in Charlottesville protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. As if that were something of lasting significance.

It is more than sad that we have a president whom lunatics look up to as a hero and who tried not to offend them in his statement of semi-condemnation on Saturday that he then, without apology, had to re-do on Monday. His cluelessness is a national embarrassment. And it was an ugly, ugly day.

But let us, good people, not grant significance to crazy people. This is a gang of freaks that social media gives the power to unite – in a nation of 323 million, you can Google the secret words and get 700 sociopaths to come to Charlottesville. This is not a meaningful phenomenon. You could also get 700 people who are getting messages from Lucifer through their dental fillings or 700 apocalyptic Episcopalians who know the world will end on Thursday.

The young Teutons who converged are actors in a fantasy, men who got kicked out of Civil War re-enactments for over-enthusiasm. Maybe we create a special place for them in a wilderness canyon out West where they could goosestep and Sieg Heil, express their whiteness, feel uber Alles, feast on knockwurst, light each other’s Pupser, the whole schmegeggy. Mr. Angry Eyebrows can chopper in and visit them there with his sidekick Mr. Mask. In 2020, assuming the White House allows an election, let’s get a president who is civil and has a sense of humor. Now go enjoy your breakfast.

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Maine Voices: Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because it’s God’s creation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/maine-voices-protecting-gods-creation-the-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/maine-voices-protecting-gods-creation-the-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1240465 YARMOUTH — At more than 19 million acres, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It is also one of the last intact landscapes in America, and home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species. Established in 1960 to protect its extraordinary wildlife, wilderness and recreational qualities, the Arctic Refuge is a place where natural processes remain mostly uninfluenced by humans.

Congress in 1980 expanded its designation and declared much of it wilderness. It also said that its oil potential should be studied. Another act of Congress and presidential approval can open it to drilling.

But for all its unique beauty and importance for wildlife, the oil industry has continued to urge Congress to open this national treasure to oil drilling.

President Trump has proposed in his fiscal year 2018 budget to open the coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum drilling. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that America needs refuge oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline to reach Trump’s goal of “energy dominance” and to help balance the federal budget.

The Arctic Refuge contains one of the most fragile and ecologically sensitive ecosystems in the world. Its environment is extremely vulnerable to long-lasting disturbance because the harsh climate and short growing seasons provide little time for species to recover.

The proposed oil development would occur on the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain sandwiched between the Arctic Ocean and the Brooks mountain range, and would have serious impacts on species such as polar bear, caribou, musk oxen and hundreds of species of migratory birds. This area is considered the “biological heart” of the refuge, and habitat loss that occurs here will affect the entire Arctic Refuge and beyond.

Oil-related activities such as seismic testing, aircraft and vehicle noise, or even the mere presence of humans nearby can drive mother polar bears away from their den and cubs. Drilling the Arctic Refuge could alter the annual path of the Porcupine caribou herd, one of the longest land mammal migrations in the world. The critical breeding grounds for migratory birds would be severely affected, and could cause population-scale impacts for many species.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently unveiled a budget resolution that mirrored Trump’s provision to allow the refuge to be drilled. This is a policy that past administrations have proposed and past Congresses have rejected.

It is a proposal that is particularly troublesome to me as a person of faith. As people of faith, we are called to protect and celebrate God’s creation. There is perhaps no place where that calling is more important to live out than the Arctic Refuge.

For Alaska’s Gwich’in people, the Arctic Refuge is a critical piece of both their community and their faith. Ninety percent of the Gwich’in is Episcopalian. The Gwich’in people rely heavily on their native lands, and particularly rely on the Porcupine caribou as a primary source of food. More than 70 percent of their diet comes from caribou. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would jeopardize the survival of those caribou and the way of life for the Gwich’in.

As people of faith, we are also called to care for God’s people – especially the most vulnerable. A clear way to see God’s creation is through the beauty and majesty of public lands like the Arctic Refuge. And a clear way to manifest our calling to care for our neighbor is to protect the Gwich’in people and their way of life.

I was pleased that Sen. Susan Collins recently said: “I believe we can create an energy policy that will provide sufficient energy to meet the needs of today and of future generations without compromising America’s environmentally sensitive areas. With this in mind, I have opposed efforts to open areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Georges Bank off the coast of Maine to drilling.”

As our lawmakers make decisions about our nation’s budget and our priorities, it is my hope that they will follow Sen. Collins’ lead and carry out the call to protect God’s people and God’s creation. I hope that they show reverence for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and that they choose to protect this special place and the Gwich’in people for generations to come.

 

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Commentary: President Trump shows that he’s quick to back down http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/commentary-president-trump-shows-that-hes-quick-to-back-down/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/commentary-president-trump-shows-that-hes-quick-to-back-down/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1240476 President Trump, for all his bluster and outward aggression, is a weak man. He eventually backs down when circumstances are right. For example:

He hasn’t fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

He hasn’t fired special counsel Robert Mueller.

He signed the Russia sanctions bill.

He fired Michael Flynn (and seems to have regretted it ever since).

He reaffirmed our support for NATO.

He signed a budget resolution without funding for the wall.

He did not withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He now has singled out for condemnation the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

We do not know if a certain combination of advisers prevailed upon him to do what he had so strenuously rejected. What is clear is that his position with his base is weakening and his overall polling numbers are still sinking. He hit a new low in Gallup at 34 percent approval and new high in disapproval of 61 percent. He, therefore, may be amenable to even more pressure going forward. So what “works” with him?

First, he would rather bully aides into leaving (e.g., Sessions) than take the initiative to remove them himself. If the victim of his bullying ignores him and keeps plugging away, Trump very well may back down.

Second, when it’s hopeless to resist (e.g., a veto on Russia would have been overridden), he’ll relent.

Third, when many Republicans are on the other side, he usually does not have the wherewithal to persist in a ridiculous position. In the case of Charlottesville, even allies such as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., singled out and denounced the white supremacist groups. When they are divided or egging him on (e.g., trade restrictionism; a commission to investigate non-existent, massive voter fraud; leaving the Paris climate agreement), he is much more likely to pursue his wrongheaded, even ridiculous position.

Fourth, when he doesn’t have to explain, answer questions or concede that he backed down, he is more likely to go along with the party. He had no signing statement for the Russia sanctions; he took no questions on Charlottesville on Monday. Remember, protecting his ego is his constant task, and hearing that he “lost” is unbearable.

And this goes back to two critical points about Republicans and the Trump presidency.

• First, he got to the presidency and continues to govern in extreme, abnormal ways because the Republican Party as a whole will not challenge him. If House and Senate leadership can drain the Trump swamp by requiring full disclosure of his tax returns, ending nepotism and enforcing the emoluments clause, they can speak with one voice to demand that alt-right heroes such as Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka leave the White House. They can, once again, refuse to fund the wall – or the phony election fraud commission. Trump, we’ve learned, can be forced to back down when the deck is stacked against him.

Second, Trump has no real beliefs. Other than feeding his base, undermining his opponents, concealing his finances and racking up “wins,” he doesn’t much care what comes out of Congress. It’s therefore incumbent on constructive lawmakers, including the problem-solver caucus in the House, to set forth bipartisan, reasonable proposals on tax reform (not huge tax cuts for the rich), infrastructure, legal immigration (not slashing it in half) and shoring up the individual health care market. Trump lacks moral and political leadership; it’s time for responsible public figures to fill it.

As for Trump, Republican lawmakers, when appropriate, should denounce his lies, egregious pronouncements and wrongheaded polices. Otherwise, frankly, they should ignore him and instead follow an agenda that will draw bipartisan support. Most important, when Mueller comes out with his findings, they must, if warranted, impeach and remove the president. What we now know is if they are prepared to do so, he’ll quit first.

 

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Our View: Trump has emboldened alt-right extremists http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/our-view-trump-emboldened-alt-right-extremists/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/our-view-trump-emboldened-alt-right-extremists/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1240524 The “alt-right” is what you get when weak men hiding behind online personas spend their days entertaining each other by concocting snarky memes that attack women, minorities and immigrants.

Some of them can toss around fancy right-wing buzzwords or recite the occasional quote from Nietzsche, but, in many cases, an alt-right identity is as much a fashion statement as a commitment to actual fascism.Waving a Confederate flag or a swastika is not necessarily proof that you have a political ideology. It can also be meant to show that you’re tough, that you’re not going to be bullied or that you are not “politically correct.”

If the alt-righters had only dared to show themselves in the dark corners of the internet, the movement would have been easy to ignore.

But when they embraced Donald Trump’s presidential race in 2015, making themselves a force in the primaries, they got everyone’s attention. And when alt-right protester James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others, they showed why we have to take them seriously.

Fields has been charged with homicide and will face a lengthy legal process to see if he can be held responsible for Heyer’s death, but there is a political issue that can’t wait for the criminal case to be resolved.

Our country could probably survive the worst that racists like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and/or neo-Nazi Richard Spencer can dish out (they will never represent more than a tiny minority).

But how long can we make it with a political discourse in which there are no rules? One where there is no price to be paid for being caught lying? One where libelous attacks on minority groups are accepted as gospel because someone on “our team” said it?

Trump did not tell Fields to plow his car into a crowd last week, but during his campaign he sent a message to men like Fields that was almost as dangerous.

When Trump promised to mass deport millions of immigrants; or said that a judge’s Mexican heritage made him unfit for his job; or bragged about grabbing women’s genitals; or coyly refused to denounce avowed racists like Duke, he let the alt-right know that it was now safe to say in public the things they thought they could only tweet anonymously.

What Trump and the others call “political correctness” is just a code of conduct, in which people tacitly agree to show each other respect. The “PC Police” can overdo it at times and weaponize the language of tolerance to silence opponents, but without some rules of decorum, people who disagree on fundamental issues will never be able to work out their differences.

If any good comes out of Charlottesville, it will be that it shows where extremist rhetoric will take you.

Violent words lead to violence. We don’t need censorship, but we do need people willing to police themselves.

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Renegotiating NAFTA: Don’t expect normal and don’t rule out collapse http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/renegotiating-nafta-dont-expect-normal-and-dont-rule-out-collapse/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/renegotiating-nafta-dont-expect-normal-and-dont-rule-out-collapse/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1240562 WASHINGTON — The NAFTA renegotiations – long promised by President Donald Trump – are about to start. We have never renegotiated a trade agreement before, and this is our largest and most important by far.

There are reasons to be deeply worried about the outcome. Trump’s history on trade and the administration’s declared priorities in reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement create a bleak backdrop for the Aug. 16 launch of renegotiation talks.

The optimists’ playbook on the president has been, “watch his actions, not his words.” We now have had six months of actions – backed up by decades of words – and the verdict is in on Trump and trade: He is the most unorthodox and nationalist president of the modern era.

Nor are his views recent or lightly held. Indeed, trade – along with his other signature issue, immigration – stand out as remarkably stable strands in his worldview. They are two steel rods in the shifting sands of his words and policies, visible through the decades and connecting strongly to Trump’s base. In 1987, Trump spent nearly $100,000 to take out a full-page ad on trade in The Washington Post and other major newspapers – and his words then match his words today.

Hope is natural, but the realities of the U.S. objectives cannot be overlooked. True, much of the recently released “Summary of Objectives for the NAFTA Renegotiation” is straight out of the trade wonk’s script: borrowing from other recent negotiations, including the TPP (irony of ironies), and “modernizing” this 23-year-old agreement.

But what makes the NAFTA objectives – and the upcoming talks – so exceptional, even radical, is the very first objective: “Improve the U.S. trade balance and reduce the trade deficit with the NAFTA countries.” This is new and unique. As the accompanying news release puts it, “for the first time USTR has included deficit reduction as a specific objective for the NAFTA negotiations.”

Trump’s single-minded focus on bilateral trade deficits puzzles mainstream economists, whose assessment is that they mean little on their own and instead reflect deeper issues such as savings and consumption rates rather than inherent unfairness. Nevertheless, deficit reduction surfaces over and over in the president’s thinking – back to 1987, remember – and it is now officially Objective No. 1, for NAFTA and no doubt all future Trump trade talks.

What impact will Objective No. 1 have on the negotiations? Well, our trade deficit with Mexico is approximately $60 billion. Although the objectives assert that the United States will seek to reduce that deficit by expanding U.S. exports, Mexico’s economy is comparatively small and its citizens’ and businesses’ purchasing power comparatively limited. Can Mexico afford to buy $60 billion more from us rather than producing it themselves? Voluntarily? That equals 6 percent of its total gross domestic product. Doubtful.

There are only three sure ways to reduce a trade deficit as large as Mexico’s, and they would do so by brute force: tariffs, quotas or managed trade, such as the “voluntary” restrictions on Japanese auto and semiconductor imports back in the 1980s. These blunt instruments are anathema to the much smaller economies of Canada and Mexico, and indeed to all of our trading partners. Add the issue of the wall, and the outlook can only be bleak.

If the NAFTA talks that begin this week are an “arena” where nations “compete for advantage,” as the president’s aides have described the president’s “clear-eyed” worldview, and the president’s unchanging and unyielding views on trade are now officially Objective No. 1 – then no one should expect a normal negotiation, and no one should rule out collapse.

If the administration surprises and the talks go well, we would wind up with a modernized NAFTA well-suited to the 21st century. But if the talks fall apart, then our relations with our closest neighbors would be shattered, supply lines across our continent sundered, and our borders north and south thickened. North America would enter a new era riven with trade barriers, tariffs and mutual suspicion.

And the winner in all this would be China, no longer competing against a unified and efficient North American manufacturing platform and a gigantic internal market.

So just as when Trump pulled us out of the TPP and the Paris climate change accord, the global benefactor may well be the very country against whom Trump directed so much of his campaign rhetoric.

Trump wants to put America First. Instead, he may be helping ensure a China Next.

 

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Our View: State should do more than profit from booze sales http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/our-view-state-should-do-more-than-profit-from-booze-sales/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/our-view-state-should-do-more-than-profit-from-booze-sales/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239728 If alcohol were an illegal drug, it might be easier to see how dangerous it is.

According to the National Institutes of Health, it kills 88,000 Americans every year – more than twice as many deaths as are caused by opioid overdoses, a crisis that was declared a national emergency last week by President Trump.

But unlike illegal drugs such as heroin, alcohol does not hide in the shadows. There are lethal doses of it in brightly colored packaging on the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores in every corner of Maine. And instead of drug gangs getting rich off the addicts’ misery, it’s the state that directly profits from alcohol sales, with drinkers who have the biggest problems producing the biggest share of the revenue.

This is a problem Maine cannot afford to ignore. Like opioid addiction, alcohol abuse is a serious public health crisis that requires government intervention to minimize the number of lives lost or ruined.

Even if it means cutting profits, the state should use its power to make this drug harder to get.

Alcohol abuse is caused by some of the same psychological and social factors as the opioid addiction crisis, and like that national emergency, evidence is mounting that abusive drinking is getting worse.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study last week that revealed alarming increases in both high-risk drinking (five or more drinks per occasion for a man at least once a week, or four or more drinks for a woman) and alcohol-use disorders, the clinical term for alcohol addiction.

Unlike other studies that rely on unverified self-reporting, this study used face-to-face interviews with 40,000 participants in two waves, 10 years apart.

The researchers found a 49.4 percent increase in alcohol use disorders, from 8.5 percent in 2001 and 2002 to 12.7 percent a decade later, but the increase was not evenly distributed.

There were much greater than average increases in alcohol use disorders among women (84 percent), which can be expected to lead to birth defects and negligent parenting.

People with incomes below $20,000 a year or those who have less than a high school education also saw above-average increases in alcohol disorders. But the most alarming data was related to age. People between 45 and 64 reported an 81.5 percent increase in alcohol use disorders over a decade, and the rate of people over 65 with those disorders more than doubled in 10 years, increasing by 106 percent.

These findings should ring an alarm bell for Maine, a relatively poor state with the oldest median age in the nation. Anything that affects these demographic groups is going to hit us with force.

Some of the worst consequences of excessive drinking are so common that they may pass unnoticed. Alcohol’s death toll is not limited to poisoning or car crashes. It also includes tens of thousands of people who die every year from preventable liver disease, cancers and heart disease. These often start as chronic conditions that result in years of suffering, lost productivity and exorbitant health care costs, which are paid by others through taxes and insurance premiums.

What Maine needs is a re-commitment to public health, after seven years of neglect under Gov. LePage.

Just as with illegal drugs and cigarettes, the state should employ programs that prevent young people from starting high-risk drinking, strictly enforce the laws limiting who can drink or where they can drink, and offering treatment to people with abuse disorders so they can undo any damage done.

And the state should use its regulatory authority to boost alcohol prices – not to increase profits, but to discourage sales to the people who need liquor least.

If we are going to collect the profits, we are responsible for the consequences. Mainers can’t keep pretending that they don’t see the problem.

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Maine Voices: Secure border would prevent deaths of those now seeking illegal passage http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/maine-voices-secure-border-would-prevent-deaths-of-those-now-seeking-illegal-passage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/maine-voices-secure-border-would-prevent-deaths-of-those-now-seeking-illegal-passage/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239765 BRIDGTON — Lou Barletta is a congressman from Pennsylvania who is an ardent promoter of secure borders. His position is summed up in a July 29, 2013, Washington Times headline: “BARLETTA: No border security, no amnesty.”

His congressional website provides additional emphasis: “There should not and cannot be a plan to offer amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens present until we secure the borders.”

To which I say: “Amen.”

I have been to our southern border nine times, starting in 2005, and most recently in April. While apprehensions declined significantly – 72 percent from December 2016 to March 2017 – hundreds of thousands continue to stream across our border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Southwest Border Migration report on apprehensions between Oct. 1, 2016, and April 30, 2017.

One agonizing and distressing aspect of our border problems came to the surface – once again – last month with the deaths of 10 illegal aliens in a trailer found in a parking lot in San Antonio.

Death on the border is a little-remarked-upon issue, and one I first became aware of in 2004, 13 years ago, when a friend of mine from Framingham, Massachusetts, spent a weekend on the Arizona border with local activist Chris Simcox, editor of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper. They came across two “solos” while driving through the desert (“solos” are illegal aliens who come across the border without a coyote to guide them). The migrants were suffering from exposure, and one of them would have surely died if they had not come along and called the sheriff’s office, who dispatched an ambulance to rescue them, Mother Jones magazine reported in its July/August 2005 edition.

Simcox had started the border watch group under the tutelage of Henry Harvey, a retired Border Patrol agent. “Dub” Harvey instructed Simcox on the techniques of the job, and stressed to Simcox the importance of dealing with illegal aliens with restraint and compassion, something Simcox related to us at the memorial service for Harvey, who died while I was there on my first trip in 2005. Jim Gilchrist, the Californian who organized the Minuteman Project along with Simcox, credited Harvey with being “the inspiration in getting the Minuteman Project going.”

I returned to the border in 2006 (twice) and in 2007 and 2008. It was either in 2007 or 2008 that a body was found close to our encampment at a ranch along Route 286 in southwestern Arizona. The local coroner was called and the body was removed.

A Los Angeles Times article published in the Portland Press Herald on Nov. 5, 2013, told the story of Lori Baker, a forensic anthropologist at Baylor University who examines the remains of those who die in the desert in order to identify them and inform their relatives. In 2012, 463 migrants died in the desert, the Times reported.

This is a national disgrace, and personally distressing; I was ashamed to be an American when I read of the 463 migrants who perished in 2012. No one should be dying on our soil in this manner. The intensity of my reaction is simply my sense of country and belief that there is no difference between my feelings about my country and my domicile here in Maine. My country is my home; my home is my country. I would not let anyone die on my doorstep, and no one should die coming across our border.

The author of a recent Press Herald letter to the editor (“Borderland tragedies heartbreaking,” Page A6, July 21) mentions some of the same observations as mine from her trip to the border. While that writer, Mary Lee King, offered no solutions, it is obvious she would not agree with mine, which is a totally secure border.

President Trump, in his Jan. 25 Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, addresses the issue of border security with a definition of “operational control” as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States.”

Emphasis is on the word “all.”

We either have a border, or we don’t have a border. We either have a nation, or we don’t have a nation. The border must be made secure, and the responsibility lies with our feckless politicians in Washington, D.C., who should be fulfilling their constitutional duty in assuring the safety, security and sustainability of our nation. That includes the entire Maine congressional delegation.

 

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Our View: Maine’s ‘most vulnerable’ citizens are failed again http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/our-view-maines-most-vulnerable-citizens-are-failed-again/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/our-view-maines-most-vulnerable-citizens-are-failed-again/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239348 Who should get help from the state? That has been the central question raised by the Department of Health and Human Services under Gov. LePage, and it has set off a years-long and ongoing debate over what circumstances warrant taxpayer-funded government assistance.

However, there has at no time been any disagreement that Mainers with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at the front of the line. In fact, along with seniors they are the residents mentioned at every turn by LePage administration officials to justify cutting Medicaid rolls and other services – they are the “most vulnerable” for whom state funding in other areas must be sacrificed.

Yet it’s that very population that has been so egregiously let down by DHHS.

FAILURE TO REPORT

According to a federal audit released last week, DHHS failed to follow federal requirements and state law for reporting, investigating and recording incidents in which the care for people with developmental disabilities was compromised in some manner, from minor medication errors to sexual abuse and death.

The audit concerned the 2,640 recipients of Medicaid (known here as MaineCare) being cared for by community-based providers, including about 1,800 adults with intellectual disabilities who live in group homes.

Those Mainers are cared for in the community, rather than in an institution, under a federal waiver that requires providers who run the group homes to report to DHHS “critical incidents”: abuse, medication issues, deaths, restraint usage, injuries and exploitation.

Examining the period between January 2013 and June 2015, the Office of the Inspector General within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that one-third of critical incidents went unreported.

When incidents were reported, the audit found, the state did not ensure that the most serious incidents were investigated, with a detailed final report submitted to DHHS, nor did the department refer appropriate incidents to law enforcement, or investigate any of the 133 beneficiary deaths.

In short, the department failed in meeting even its most basic obligations to the federal waiver, and to Mainers whose disabilities leave them unable to fully care for themselves. It placed at risk those Mainers, many with serious disabilities, unable defend themselves or even communicate, and prevented the kind of systemic review that can lead to better, safer care.

RESPONSE RINGS HOLLOW

Maine is not alone in getting this wrong; the OIG has issued similar reports regarding care in Massachusetts and Connecticut. But that doesn’t excuse it, particularly when it appears the state was aware of the system’s faults during the time in question.

Care providers say the system for reporting incidents is in “disarray,” with no clear guidance from the state. Some say the state told them not to report most incidents.

They say they have approached the department with concerns over the system repeatedly through the years, with little or no response.

DHHS disputes that characterization. Officials deny telling providers to forget the incident reports, although one wonders how thousands of missing reports went unnoticed by DHHS.

And they say any shortcomings identified in the audit have been corrected, though providers say problems persist, and the department has offered no data or other hard facts to back up that assertion.

This is not the first time that DHHS has argued a position in opposition to all available evidence. Officials said they had heard nothing of a shortage of opioid treatment options while everyone involved in treatment was screaming for resources, and they said conditions at Riverview Psychiatric Center were fine while employees pleaded for help, to name two.

But those were both political fights in nature.

There may be disagreements over the proper level of Medicaid reimbursements for the caretakers of the developmentally disabled, but there is no controversy over the state’s obligation to oversee that care, to track and investigate when things go wrong.

If DHHS can’t do that correctly, what can it do?

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/our-view-maines-most-vulnerable-citizens-are-failed-again/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239348_387043-AugustaDHHS_2-e1502637188759.jpgAn audit revealed that Maine officials did not investigate 133 deaths of people who lived in residential treatment programs because their disabilities prevented them from taking care of themselves.Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:17:26 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Mary Mayhew lacks even a sliver of remorse for chilling DHHS fiasco http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/bill-nemitz-mayhews-mess-worsened-by-her-mendacity/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/bill-nemitz-mayhews-mess-worsened-by-her-mendacity/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239665 Forget about her incompetence. Mary Mayhew just descended to downright disgusting.

“There is nothing more important than the health and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens,” the former head of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, now a Republican candidate for governor, said Thursday in response to a federal audit that should leave all of Maine hanging its head in shame.

The report by the Office of the Inspector General lays out, sometimes in chilling narrative, how 133 of those “most vulnerable citizens” died on Mayhew’s watch.

Yet Mayhew did nothing.

The 77-page audit report, which covers the 2½ years between January of 2013 and June of 2015, also cites a litany of unreported “critical incidents” that befell hundreds of developmentally disabled adults – things like sexual assault, suicidal behavior, injuries requiring hospital treatment …

Yet Mayhew did nothing.

“Therefore, Maine failed to demonstrate that it has a system to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the 2,640 Medicaid beneficiaries with developmental disabilities,” concluded the audit team.

Mary Mayhew

So how did Mayhew, who jettisoned her job in May to run for the Blaine House, react to this punch to the gut of her fledgling gubernatorial campaign? By doing what she does best:

She blamed those who came before her, calling the scathing report “a reflection of prior administrations and years of explosive entitlement growth prioritizing able-bodied adults at the expense of our most vulnerable.”

Right. It’s all John Baldacci’s and Angus King’s fault.

She boasted how much better things became during her six-year tenure: “Today the department is prioritizing our most vulnerable, there is financial discipline and stability, and a commitment to accountability and quality results.”

Translation: We count dollars, not dead people.

And never, not once, in her 104-word communique did Mayhew apologize or accept so much as a sliver of responsibility for her utter ineptitude atop Maine’s most vital government operation.

“I cleaned up significant problems within the Department,” she huffed, “and prioritized services for our most vulnerable.”

Cleaned up significant problems? Mayhew, who spent all those years perfecting her skills at dodge ball, was the most significant problem.

This is no longer a politician putting lipstick on her prize pig. This is an obscenity.

As is the response that came from DHHS after the release of the audit.

“We are proud that we have successfully made improvements since the audit period,” the department said in a statement under the letterhead of acting Commissioner Ricker Hamilton.

A word of advice for whoever crafted this piece of artful deflection: When a team of federal investigators charge you with routinely ignoring the deaths of people you’re supposed to be keeping safe, simply decency would dictate that you avoid using the word “proud” in your rebuttal.

And if you’re going to toss around the word “vulnerable,” you might at least pause long enough to consider what it truly means.

It means these people are susceptible to harm, that they need protection – and when they don’t get it, they need someone in a position of authority to dig deeply into what happened and why.

What they don’t need are excuses that are as hollow as they are morally repugnant.

“The Department expressed to OIG that this is a complex system with many programs working together to assist and protect a vulnerable population and that the OIG’s approach did not capture all of the necessary data,” read the DHHS statement.

To the contrary, the Office of the Inspector General captured more than enough data to demonstrate that DHHS failed miserably to ensure that all critical incidents were reported, to analyze those reports to see what trends might exist and, most importantly, to use that information to prevent these nightmares from recurring.

As for it all being such a “complex system,” cry me a river.

Yes, enabling Maine’s developmentally disabled citizens to live in the community rather than behind locked doors is a complicated undertaking. We get that.

But using that as a cudgel to attack the messenger isn’t a fair and legitimate response. It’s grasping at straws – a reflex reaction by the entire LePage administration whenever its lofty rhetoric dissolves in a flash flood of cold reality.

One can’t help but wonder how long Mayhew has seen this coming.

When she announced her candidacy for governor two months ago, she took a shot at fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins for supporting the long-overdue expansion of Medicaid, known as MaineCare here.

“We have worked too hard to see all we have done undone,” Mayhew said at the time. “We need bold leadership and someone who is prepared to make difficult decisions in the best interests of this state.”

Perhaps, sometime between now and the Republican primary next June, she might explain those “difficult decisions” to the family of the 57-year-old MaineCare “beneficiary” who went to the dentist for a cleaning and ended up having six teeth extracted.

“One tooth was infected and another was cracked, but the community-based provider did not know why the other four teeth were pulled,” the audit report states. “The dentist did not prescribe antibiotics following the extraction of the infected tooth or provide the beneficiary with gauze to stop the bleeding because of concerns that she might swallow it. The beneficiary aspirated blood from the site of the extracted teeth and was taken to a hospital emergency room with a fever 5 days after the extraction.”

Five days. If it were your family member, Ms. Mayhew, how long would you have waited?

The report continues: “The patient was diagnosed with double pneumonia and sepsis and died in the hospital’s intensive care unit 2 weeks later. The beneficiary’s death was not investigated by the State agency or reviewed by OCME (Office of the Chief Medical Examiner). The (DHHS) Mortality Review Committee reviewed the report but no corrective actions were taken and no preventable causes were identified.”

Meaning nobody bothered to ask how a routine trip to the dentist somehow resulted in what was dismissed by DHHS as death from “complication to illness.” Or how such a tragedy might be prevented in the future.

You won’t hear about that debacle – or eight others like it detailed in the federal audit – in the coming months as the heiress apparent to Gov. Paul LePage traipses around the state congratulating herself for “prioritizing our most vulnerable.”

Neglect, injury and death, after all, don’t play so well on the conservative dog whistle.

So go ahead, Mary Mayhew, keep patting yourself on the back. Run for governor to your heart’s content.

But don’t think for a minute you can hide.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Maine Observer: Beach to Beacon is the way a race should be http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/maine-observer-beach-to-beacon-the-way-a-race-should-be/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/maine-observer-beach-to-beacon-the-way-a-race-should-be/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239256 I just watched the 20th Beach to Beacon race in Cape Elizabeth, the 10th one I have attended in my 74 years.

I don’t run – just walking to the route is difficult enough for me – but I wouldn’t miss being a spectator for this magnificent race, which brings people from all corners of our world to our small Maine town.

There is an area near Delano Park that we named “Cowbell Corner.” Each year my whole family gathers together at that spot to cheer the runners on.

On the morning of the race, our family and many friends meet at my daughter’s house for breakfast at 6:30. At 7 my husband drives me to Cowbell Corner, since the road closes at 7:30 for the race to begin at 8, which means I only have to walk home.

There we unload the large bag of signs that say “More Cowbell” and a chair for me. Now I’m not sure what cowbells have to do with a road race (it’s a reference to a “Saturday Night Live” skit about a rock band), but my three children and husband are avid sports fans and know all about cowbells, so I am along for the ride and I love them, too.

Before the race, the family members of all ages gather. All have cowbells, some small and some large – we even bring the old school bell I actually used when I was a teacher at Saint Patrick School many years ago. (Some runners might hear that ring and run faster!)

The wheelchair competition begins and we watch for Christina, one of our favorites, who has been in this event for many years.

As soon as the first competitor comes into view, cowbells begin ringing and they never stop. We cheer for many relatives and good friends and of course strangers and especially Maine’s own Olympic gold medalist, Joan Benoit.

As they pass Cowbell Corner they run up the big hill where the music greets them. “Sweet Caroline” blares from a house and the crowd sings along.

Now this year was special: We had two heroes. One was Jesse Orach of Gorham, who was almost at the finish line when he collapsed from heatstroke.

The other hero was Robert Gomez of Windham, who was running neck and neck with Jesse and stopped to pick him up. They crossed the finish line together. That’s Maine, the way life should be.

We stay at Cowbell Corner until all the runners have passed. We have cheered for cousins, friends, many of my former students and friends of my children and grandchildren. So many beautiful faces, even some much older than me – I don’t know how they do it.

What’s funny and makes us laugh is that some runners actually stop and take pictures of us.

YUP, that’s the way life should be, and that’s the way Mainers are.

It’s great spending time with the family and friends at Cowbell Corner, and I can’t wait till next year.

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Analysis: What Kim Jong Un really wants http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/analysis-what-kim-jong-un-really-wants/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/analysis-what-kim-jong-un-really-wants/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239323 SEOUL, South Korea — Between American threats of “fire and fury” and North Korea’s vow to unleash a “historic enveloping fire” on a U.S. territory, the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington has suddenly raised fears of escalating into an actual war.

It also has brought a rush of speculation about the brinkmanship at play – including trying to understand the moves and motives of the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

With his unequivocal words, Trump appeared intent on sending a message to North Korea – and to its traditional backer China – that enough was enough, according to administration officials.

But with Kim, the endgame is all about seeking to stay in power, analysts said.

“What Kim Jong Un really wants is to improve his missiles and nuclear weapons and to keep the country under his leadership,” said Michael Madden, who runs the North Korea Leadership Watch website.

Although the Western caricature of the 33-year-old Kim is of a pudgy madman with a funny hairdo, he has been a textbook dictator, making rational decisions for someone who wants to retain absolute power.

On Thursday, South Korea’s National Security Council urged North Korea to calm down, offering the prospect of talks, while its military issued a much sterner warning. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea would suffer “strong and resolute retaliation” from American and South Korean forces if it mounted an attack on either country.

The warnings came after North Korea earlier Thursday made an unusually specific threat. In a statement attributed to the North Korean army’s strategic forces commander, Pyongyang threatened to fire four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 ballistic missiles “3,356.7 kilometers for 1,065 seconds” – nearly 18 minutes – by the middle of this month, saying they would fly over Japan and land within 18 to 25 miles of Guam, the American territory in the Pacific that is home to Air Force and Navy bases.

This threat was not made in response to Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks – the wheels of Kim’s bureaucracy move more slowly than Trump’s – but rather in reaction to the U.S. launching a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 2.

A war remains in no one’s interest – especially not in that of the 25 million South Koreans who live within range of North Korea’s conventional artillery – but the combination of two tempestuous leaders with nuclear codes has created an atmosphere where anything seems possible.

The Kims have kept a tight grip on North Korea internally through a brutal system of repression and fear, and have increasingly kept the outside world at bay by developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. This has traditionally been viewed as a deterrent to fend off the kind of fate that Saddam Hussein suffered in Iraq and Moammar Gadhafi endured in Libya.

While his weapons might work as a deterrent, it would be suicidal for Kim to actually use them and risk retaliation by the much more powerful American military.

“Kim Jong Un is not trying to pick a fight,” Madden said.

An American analyst who is in contact with senior North Korean officials, Madden said Pyongyang is well aware that Trump has a habit of speaking – or tweeting – off the cuff.

“North Koreans are not taking this seriously. They’re saying that Trump is saying these kinds of things because he hasn’t ‘consolidated his power’ yet,” he said – using a line that American experts use to describe questionable things Kim does.

Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korean leadership expert at the left-leaning Sejong Institute in the South, agreed with Madden that Kim does not want actual conflict with the United States.

“North Korea is not developing ICBM technology to start a war with the U.S.” Cheong said. “This is all about preventing the U.S. from intervening in any military conflict on the Korean Peninsula. It wants to influence American decisions. The U.S. does not want to be criticized for risking American lives to protect its allies.”

Others see a ploy by North Korea to ratchet up the tensions and make the most progress on its weapons program before sanctions bite and it is forced to return to the negotiating table.

“The U.S. will only agree to talk with the North if it thinks a physical clash is imminent,” said Koo, the former South Korean intelligence official. “The North is not aiming for a clash but increasing the tension to create an environment for negotiation.”

But behind the assessment of Kim as a rational, if brutal, leader with a master game plan lies a worrying precedent. Rational leaders of new nuclear states with a small number of weapons tend to be most reckless in their early years, said Van Jackson, an expert on North Korean security issues at Victoria University in New Zealand.

“There’s a temptation to see how much juice they can squeeze out of these weapons that they’ve spent so much money and effort making,” he said, adding that this created more pressure, not less, to demonstrate nuclear capability.

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Cynthia Dill: Rob Gomez makes losing honorable, as rulers make winning look scary http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/cynthia-dill-rob-gomez-makes-losing-honorable-as-rulers-make-winning-look-scary/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/cynthia-dill-rob-gomez-makes-losing-honorable-as-rulers-make-winning-look-scary/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239331 As a student resident of the University of Vermont’s “no-nukes” Living/Learning Center program in the Reagan years, when America remained precariously close to nuclear war with the Soviet Union, it was unimaginable that I would ever look to the Old Testament for inspiration in writing about winning and nuclear war – but times have changed.

Today Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes is my go-to source for a coping mechanism in a world where the U.S. president flippantly tweets threats of nuclear annihilation from his golf course in New Jersey to a trigger-happy “crazy fat kid that’s running North Korea,” as Sen. John McCain once described Kim Jong Un, the 33-year-old ruler of the authoritarian state.

For everything, there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. There’s a time to seek and a time to lose. Trump and Kim are seekers in a dangerously foolish tit-for-tat that may make now a time for war – a war that humanity can’t win.

Kim is only one year younger than second-place finisher and local hero Rob Gomez, whose time it was to lose the Maine men’s division of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K road race to Jesse Orach, the front-runner who collapsed right before the finish line. Instead of passing Orach to win and leaving him in the dust to suffer the consequences of heatstroke, Gomez helped his competitor to victory, saying, “He deserved to win … he needed to win.”

Chinese social media sites routinely refer to Kim as “Fatty, the Third,” which may explain in part why he is not a nice person. Nice guys finish last in North Korea, if at all.

In Cape Elizabeth, kids who participate and nice guys who finish second get a trophy. Gomez was given a handmade keepsake box crafted by Thos. Moser and engraved with the Beach to Beacon logo, something usually reserved for the divisional winners.

This running season, sportsmanship took the prize. Kindness was the victor.

It’s unlikely President Trump will be joining the chorus of adulation for Gomez because he’s too busy smack-talking Kim, the guy known for executing his uncle (a longtime mentor) and poisoning his half brother.

Someone like President Trump would have no time for the likes of Gomez and his feel-good story. Let’s face it, giving Orach the win because he needed it sounds an awful lot like good old-fashioned communism, doesn’t it? Wasn’t it Karl Marx who said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”?

There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, the Bible says, and now is no time for weeping, folks. Weeping is for crybabies this season.

We are therefore compelled by circumstances beyond our control and by the Holy Bible to laugh at what we can imagine President Trump would tweet about Gomez and the B2B to stoke his base of evangelicals:

“Toughen up, you baby! Only losers lose!”

“What saps! B2B babies’ tender feelings disgusting! Make America great again and win!”

“We won’t let communists ruin our sports!”

Maybe the season of Donald Trump is for a reason. Maybe his tough talk and threats of military dominance are the killer antidote to small, powerful men aiming big missiles at our shores, like Lil’ Kim. The arms race is no road race. The rules are different, and participation guarantees no rewards.

In the context of geopolitical saber-rattling, the Gomez- Orach story raises questions about the times we live in.

Has the bar for human interaction in a hypercompetitive free-market world of cable news shrieking heads been lowered so much so that a simple act of kindness is extraordinary?

Is the adoration of athletes who simply behave well deserved? Did the good Samaritan deserve a trophy? Does winning matter?

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: @dillesquire

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/cynthia-dill-rob-gomez-makes-losing-honorable-as-rulers-make-winning-look-scary/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:04:14 +0000
Jim Fossel: Venezuela crisis bears watching http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/jim-fossel-venezuela-crisis-bears-watching/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/jim-fossel-venezuela-crisis-bears-watching/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239332 If you haven’t been paying attention to foreign affairs much of late, that’s understandable, as U.S. domestic politics have certainly been tumultuous enough for the past six-plus months.

If you have been monitoring global events, you might have been zeroing in on tensions with North Korea or Russia, assuming that those should be at the top of this country’s agenda. If you did, that’s also certainly understandable, as that seems to occupy the lion’s share of foreign affairs coverage in the U.S. media today. However, you’d be wrong. There’s a simmering crisis involving a major American trading partner in the Western Hemisphere that the media isn’t covering nearly as thoroughly as it should: the imminent collapse of Venezuela.

The crisis in Venezuela really began under the previous president, Hugo Chavez, who imposed his vision of socialism on the country. He took the profits from the country’s oil exports and invested them towards his goal of reformulating Venezuelan society, which helped lead to an economic crisis of massive proportions. This led to massive protests, especially under his equally corrupt but far less charismatic successor, Nicolas Maduro. Thanks to Maduro’s incompetence, the opposition took control of parliament several years ago. Rather than listen to the will of the people, however, Maduro ignored the election results.

Currently, a constitutional assembly packed with his supporters through a rigged election is working to end democracy in the country. They removed the country’s chief prosecutor, a top critic of the president, from power and declared themselves the top governmental body in the country. Maduro, meanwhile, is working feverishly to stifle dissent, arresting and killing opposition leaders.

Now, to be sure, Venezuela has had its share of political crises before. Economic instability has led to coup attempts in the past, and Nicolas Maduro is not the first dictator in the country’s history. However, for 40 years before the rise of Hugo Chavez, the country had enjoyed democracy and – for the most part – economic stability, thanks to its oil exports. Even after Chavez pushed through a new constitution in 1999, he allowed some semblance of democracy to persist; Venezuelans actually rejected his attempt to expand his powers in 2007. Maduro seems intent on stripping all of those semblances aside and assigning himself absolute power.

The United States is, rightly, condemning Maduro’s actions, and is imposing sanctions against individual members of his regime. We have clear moral reasons to act against a regime that is violating the human rights of its citizens, but there are strategic reasons to act as well. Venezuela is a major power in the region, and instability there could undermine regional stability, returning the continent to the days of coups, dictatorships and revolutions. While it may be too late to prevent an all-out civil war in Venezuela, it may not be too late to prevent it from spreading.

Fortunately, the United States has a lot of potential sway here. We are Venezuela’s major trading partner, by far, accounting for almost a quarter of both its imports and exports. In other words, trade with the U.S. is the backbone of the Venezuelan economy, but that’s hardly the case in reverse. The U.S. mainly imports oil from Venezuela, and – thanks in no small part to the growth of domestic production of late – that accounts for only about 6 percent of our supply. So we could completely cut off trade with Venezuela without doing crippling damage to our own economy.

However, the U.S. should tread cautiously there: In the past, sanctions have propped up enemy regimes by giving them the perfect foil. Maduro already paints the U.S. as an enemy, so he could benefit from sanctions. Sanctions spectacularly failed to lead to regime change in countries like Iraq, North Korea and Cuba; there’s no reason to think that they would be successful here, either. Once you impose sweeping trade sanctions, you’ve used your biggest threat short of military intervention. That’s why the administration has thus far wisely imposed limited sanctions instead, targeting individual members of the Maduro regime.

As consumers, we can refuse to do business with Venezuelan companies. The most prominent of these locally is Citgo, which is majority-owned by the Venezuelan state oil company and minority-owned by the Russian state oil company. If you want to avoid supporting the Maduro regime, then you should certainly avoid refills at Citgo stations.

For now, other than that, all any of us can do is hope that there’s a peaceful resolution.

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

jwfossel@gmail.com

Twitter: @jimfossel

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/jim-fossel-venezuela-crisis-bears-watching/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239332_APTOPIX_Venezuela_Politic2.jpgVenezuelan troops fire rubber bullets at anti-government protesters in Caracas last month.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:21:05 +0000
Alan Caron: The nation needs Susan Collins http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/alan-caron-the-nation-needs-susan-collins/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/alan-caron-the-nation-needs-susan-collins/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239334 If you’re traveling these days, and people discover that you’re from Maine, don’t be surprised if they want to talk about Susan Collins and Angus King. As I found in my recent trips, they’ll most likely want to express their gratitude to the people of Maine for electing two of the country’s most thoughtful senators to Congress.

Maine has long had a reputation for sending people of distinction and intelligence to Washington. Now that reputation has been rekindled. And it couldn’t come at a better time for the country, given that Washington looks increasingly like a place where the inmates have overtaken the asylum.

Both of our senators earned the respect of many in recent weeks as they stood up against partisan-fueled attempts to throw millions of Americans off their health care and drive up rates for everyone else. But Collins’ vote was far more difficult and courageous, as a devoted Republican. It was also, without a doubt, her “Margaret Chase Smith” moment of courage in the face of partisan madness. And it may not be her last.

Sen. Collins is at the height of her influence and power in Washington. It is a power that can grow even further if she continues to lead an emerging bloc of moderate senators, from both parties, who are working together to fix the nation’s health care system.

With Congress so closely divided between Republicans and Democrats, a small, bipartisan group of moderates can become a bridge between the parties, put a stop to reckless ideas and promote new, common-sense solutions to the country’s problems. Nobody is better prepared to lead such a group than Collins.

Over the next month or so, Collins will confront one of the most difficult decisions of her career, as she ponders whether to stay in the Senate or run for governor. In the Senate, she has a growing opportunity to help Maine and the nation. She may even become, in the foreseeable future, chair of one of the Senate’s more powerful committees.

Running for governor will bring her closer to home, and to the state that she obviously loves. But that path is fraught with peril. Gov. LePage and other Donald Trump supporters in Maine have promised to work to defeat her in a Republican primary, no doubt with the president’s enthusiastic support. Those are not idle threats. One recent poll shows that while Collins enjoys broad public support, she has only 33 percent support among Republican primary voters.

In a run for governor, Collins’ problem isn’t winning in the fall election – it’s surviving the Republican primary.

This is not the Republican Party that Collins grew up with and has supported all these years. It is not the party of Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen or Olympia Snowe. Instead, it has become a party dominated by conservatives who despise government and distrust nearly everyone connected to it – a party that values anger over results and opinions over facts.

The Republican Party in Maine has become, for this moment in time at least, the party of the tea party, Paul LePage and Donald Trump.

As Collins considers her choices, she might want to take a hard look at the habits and trend lines of the two parties, over the last few decades. Both suffer from shrinking primaries dominated by small groups of uncompromising activists and special interests. And both have created a gantlet for rising candidates that has the effect of winnowing out those who do not conform.

But that’s where the similarities end. The narrowing of the Republican Party has consistently produced candidates who are outsiders, fueled by distrust of and hostility to anyone who disagrees with them. Think LePage, 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Trump.

Democratic primaries, on the other hand, have produced candidates who are longtime insiders and prominent figures in the party, such as Joe Brennan, John Baldacci, Libby Mitchell, Mike Michaud and, most recently, Hillary Clinton. There’s another difference: Republicans have won with their candidates, and, in more cases than not, Democrats haven’t.

Those trend lines make a primary run for governor a dangerous road for Collins, despite her general popularity.

If Susan Collins decides to stay in the Senate, she will have an enormous opportunity to lead and to be of great benefit to the people of Maine and the nation. If she still wants to run for governor, she should give long and serious consideration to following the path that Angus King has blazed, and run as an independent.

If she does that, she won’t be leaving the Republican Party. It has already left her.

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:

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/alan-caron-the-nation-needs-susan-collins/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/AP17214729730279.jpgSen. Susan Collins, R-Maine returns to her office on Capitol Hill Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, as work in the Senate begins to wind down toward August recess. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:03:07 +0000
Another View: Nixon’s record of accomplishments is worse than Trump’s lack of one http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/another-view-nixons-record-of-accomplishments-is-worse-than-trumps-lack-of-one/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/another-view-nixons-record-of-accomplishments-is-worse-than-trumps-lack-of-one/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239344 In the Aug. 6 Maine Sunday Telegram, columnist Jim Fossel compares Donald Trump to Richard M. Nixon, pointing out Nixon’s so-called positives, and saying it’s unfair to compare.

I agree it’s unfair. Obviously, Mr. Fossel wasn’t around when Nixon and his mass-murdering secretary of state, war criminal Henry Kissinger, were committing treason by sending Nixon aide (while he was still a candidate!), Anna Chennault, to the 1968 peace talks to convince the South Vietnamese to walk away from the negotiations, resulting in 24,000 more dead soldiers and a million more dead Vietnamese, many of them civilians.

Lyndon B. Johnson had tapes of Chennault doing this. Nixon also expanded the war into Cambodia, killing and bombing anything that moved, and shot down protesters at two American colleges.

You want to tell us how Trump’s actions even come close to Nixon’s treacherous war crimes?

 

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Commentary: Nuclear terror remains a threat 72 years after Nagasaki http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/commentary-nuclear-terror-remains-a-threat-72-years-after-nagasaki/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/commentary-nuclear-terror-remains-a-threat-72-years-after-nagasaki/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239356 This week marked the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. At 11:02 a.m. on Aug. 9, 1945, a 5-ton plutonium bomb exploded a third of a mile above the city. Its blast winds tore through the city at 2½ times the speed of a Category 5 hurricane.

Two-year-old Masao Tomonaga was asleep in his home while his mother worked in another room. Within seconds of the blast, their house imploded on top of them. Remarkably, both survived. At 1.7 miles from the bomb’s hypocenter, they were out of reach of its most intense infrared heat rays, which instantly carbonized human and animal flesh and vaporized the internal organs of those directly beneath the bomb.

Tomonaga’s mother pushed her way through the rubble to find him. They had minutes to escape to a hillside shrine before fires sped through their neighborhood, leaving their flattened home in ashes.

Six weeks ago, Tomonaga, now a leading specialist on long-term radiation effects on the human body, flew to New York as Nagasaki’s official representative in support of a breakthrough international nuclear weapons ban treaty, adopted at the United Nations on July 7.

Backed by 122 nations and with strong support from civil society organizations across the globe, the accord is the world’s first comprehensive treaty banning the use, threat of use and production of nuclear weapons. It places nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as all other weapons of mass destruction – including chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions, which have long been outlawed.

The treaty was not an act of naïveté. Its proponents knew that nuclear-armed and nuclear-defended nations – including Japan – would vehemently reject the ban, defending their position that nuclear weapons prevent nuclear war. The ban was negotiated too with clear understandings of the current heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, because of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and testing, and President Trump’s nuclear posturing.

The strategy – as was successfully implemented with landmines – is to delegitimize and ultimately eliminate the most destructive and inhumane weapons made. After treaty ratification in September, the next step is to convince first one, then other nuclear-armed or defended nations to abide by it. Similar treaties banning weapons of mass destruction have resulted in policy changes even by countries that haven’t signed them – including the United States, which now follows the landmines ban without having signed that treaty.

Testimony like Tomonaga’s can only help. Using his experience as a survivor, radiation scientist and physician who has treated hibakusha (atomic bomb-affected people) for nearly 50 years, Tomonaga gave a statement before the U.N. that countered vague images of nuclear war with details of its terrifying acute and long-term human consequences.

Within weeks of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, adults and children began experiencing mysterious and excruciating symptoms: vomiting, fever, dizziness, bleeding gums and hair loss. Purple spots appeared all over their bodies – the effects of high-dose, whole-body radiation exposure. Many died within a week of the first symptoms.

Over the next nine months, pregnant women whose fetuses had been exposed in utero suffered miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths. Many newborns developed physical and mental disabilities.

By 1948, childhood and adult leukemia rates began increasing among hibakusha – and these rates remained high for decades. At highest risk were children under 10 within a mile of the bombing, who developed leukemia at a rate 18 times greater than the general population.

By 1955, numerous other cancers also appeared at rates far higher than for non-hibakusha. Even today, the bomb’s radiation continues to ravage the bodies of aging survivors, now in their 70s and 80s, who are developing a special type of leukemia, MDS (Myelodysplastic syndrome). Scientists are still studying second- and third-generation hibakusha for genetic effects potentially passed down from their parents and grandparents, reminding us how much we still don’t understand about the insidious nature of radiation exposure on the human body.

The use of a nuclear weapon, designed to inflict catastrophic harm to vast numbers of people, would violate international law, which prohibits the targeting of civilians during wartime. Yet almost 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist today; over 4,000 are actively deployed across the globe. Whether by intentional military choice, a nuclear accident or an act of terrorism, we risk far worse humanitarian and environmental disasters than Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

After decades of monumental efforts to champion Tomonaga’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, this treaty fills the legal gap in the prohibition of such weapons and puts us on the path to their total elimination. Perhaps now there is a chance that after a 72-year reign of nuclear terror, the narrative of nuclear war that started in 1945 will come to a close.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/commentary-nuclear-terror-remains-a-threat-72-years-after-nagasaki/feed/ 0 Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:52:04 +0000
Maine Voices: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument should be left in place http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/maine-voices-the-northeast-canyons-and-seamounts-national-monument-should-be-left-in-place/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/maine-voices-the-northeast-canyons-and-seamounts-national-monument-should-be-left-in-place/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239374 As part of the Trump administration’s review of national monuments, the Department of Commerce is reviewing four marine monuments. All of the designations should be left in place, but I am writing particularly about the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument.

This marine monument includes three underwater canyons on the southern edge of Georges Bank, and four seamounts farther to the southeast. The scale of these formations is tremendous – the canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon, and the vertical rise of the seamounts is greater than any mountain in the eastern United States. Because of their remoteness and difficult topography, they have been relatively free of impacts from commercial fishing, especially bottom trawling.

The marine life within them is quite rich. There are cold-water coral forests, some of them centuries old, growing on the canyon walls and seamount peaks. Seventy-three species of coral have been identified so far, and there are believed to be more. This rich bottom environment combined with nutrient upwelling supports diverse populations of fish, marine mammals and seabirds.

Although the Gulf of Maine is an extremely productive ecosystem overall, it is a shadow of what existed four centuries ago. Most of us are familiar with the depletion of fish stocks in recent decades, but this depletion is in fact a continuation of a long trend.

A partial history of this trend is told in University of New Hampshire historian Jeffrey Bolster’s book “The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail.” In it, he recounts descriptions by early European settlers of the Gulf of Maine’s abundance. As just one example, James Rosier wrote that in 1605 off Monhegan Island, his crew “with a few hooks got above thirtie great Cods and Haddocks, which gave us a taste of the great plenty of fish which we found wheresoever we went upon the coast.” But these days, Maine’s formerly thriving groundfishing industry is struggling to survive.

And we face an uncertain future. On the one hand, good management measures are now in place to rebuild most fisheries, and the removal of some dams and improvement of stream passage is restoring sea-run fish stocks. At the same time, we are beginning to see the impact of greenhouse-gas pollution, such as warming ocean temperatures and increasing ocean acidification.

Most of us recognize the need for protected places, such as wilderness areas, ecological reserves and wildlife refuges, on land. We need them in marine environments as well.

A marine protected area can be both a link to the ecological richness of the past and a buffer against future environmental threats. It can give us an indication of what the natural environment looks like when it’s relatively free from human use – a “baseline” for scientific research. It can also shelter populations of marine life such as shell-building organisms and cold-water-adapted species, which will be under increasing stress in years ahead.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument is the first marine monument created on the Atlantic coast. It’s only 1.5 percent of U.S. waters along the Atlantic, and yet is the only area that provides permanent protection from commercial uses such as fishing, oil and gas exploration and mining. Marine protected areas such as this, along with other measures, will be essential to rebuilding the health and productivity of the Gulf of Maine to its true potential and protecting it from future threats.

For several decades, my family’s business, Diversified Communications, has produced commercial fishing and seafood trade shows and the commercial fishing publication National Fisherman. I’m proud of our connections to these industries, and I believe that a true marine protected area in the Northeast, like the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, will help support a healthy Gulf of Maine and the communities that depend on it.

Public comments about any of the marine monument designations can be made at the Commerce Department’s website (regulations.gov/document?D=NOAA-NOS-2017-0066-0001; click the “Comment Now!” icon). The comment period continues through Tuesday.

 

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Another View: Trump’s DOJ joins Ohio voter suppression effort http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/another-view-trumps-doj-joins-ohio-voter-suppression-effort/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/another-view-trumps-doj-joins-ohio-voter-suppression-effort/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239456 The idea that voting should be encouraged, and voter registration simple, has been a touchstone of federal law for decades. That idea is now under assault by Republicans in statehouses across the country and, more recently, in the Trump Justice Department.

On Monday, political appointees in Justice engineered an about-face in the government’s position on a key voting rights case before the Supreme Court, backing Ohio’s efforts to purge hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters from the state’s voter rolls.

You read that right. According to Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, who is now running for governor, it’s OK for a state to disqualify people from voting in the future if they haven’t voted in the recent past – specifically, in the past six years.

Husted’s crusade in Ohio is one front in a nationwide Republican campaign to suppress voting generally, the calculation being that most of those kicked off voting lists will belong to Democratic-leaning constituencies, especially minorities and younger voters. Seeking loopholes in federal law, Husted and his counterparts are pressing their case for the ostensible purpose of combating voter fraud and maintaining electoral integrity.

Never mind that in-person voter fraud barely exists in the United States and that the integrity of the vast majority of American elections is very rarely in doubt.

As the demographic challenges to Republican electoral prospects mount, they have redoubled attempts to retain power where they hold it not by broadening their appeal but by shrinking the electorate.

In Ohio, the tactic has been to mail warnings to registered voters who have skipped elections for two years, and then delete their names from voting rolls after four more years if they aren’t heard from, either by casting a ballot at the polls or making some other contact with election officials.

The policy rests on the bizarre presumption that a voter must have died or moved if he or she fails to cast a ballot in a six-year span. It ignores a general rule in the National Voter Registration Act, enacted in 1993, against removing names because of a failure to vote.

That prohibition, although subject to certain exceptions, prompted a federal appeals court last fall to order Ohio to allow several hundred thousand people to vote in the November presidential elections despite Husted’s attempt to disqualify them. Ohio then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Obama administration agreed that Ohio’s method of culling voters was unlawful. Now, in a court filing signed by political appointees – but not a single career attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division – the Trump administration has reversed course.

A few other states, including Georgia, employ a process like Ohio’s. But there are better methods to maintain “clean” and current voting rolls, such as using change-of-address forms filed with the Postal Service and death notices. In practice, Ohio’s system is a mess, with no uniformity among the state’s 88 counties. As documented by the Cincinnati Enquirer, some counties routinely delete thousands of names from their rolls; others don’t.

The bias in a democracy should be in favor of more voting, not less. That Republicans have taken a different tack reflects their doubts – not about electoral integrity but about their prospects at the polls.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/another-view-trumps-doj-joins-ohio-voter-suppression-effort/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239456_Voter_ID_Arkansas_34271.jpg.jpgInstead of making it easier for people to come to the polls, the U.S. Justice Department is now working to decrease the number of people who can cast a ballot to convey a partisan advantage to Republicans.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 20:59:21 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Class reunion takes stock in ordinary goodness of life http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/garrison-keillor-class-reunion-takes-stock-in-the-ordinary-goodness-of-life/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/12/garrison-keillor-class-reunion-takes-stock-in-the-ordinary-goodness-of-life/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239319 So. We have a vulgar, unstable yo-yo with a toxic ego and an attention deficit problem in the White House and now we can see that government by Twitter is like trying to steer a ship by firing a pistol at the waves, not really useful, but what does it all add up to? Not that much, if you ask me, which you didn’t, but I’ll say it anyway.

We will survive this. He will do what damage he can, like a man burning books out of anger that he can’t read, but there will still be plenty of books left.

I went to my high school class reunion last week and the gentleman’s name never came up. He’s been front-page for months, every bleat, blurt and yelp played over and over on cable news. But among my old classmates, not a word. They spoke with awe and reverence of their grandchildren (we’re the Class of 1960), some about travel, plumbing projects, beloved old cars, stories of youth and indiscretion, nothing about death or Trump. After five hours with them, I have no idea whether their wing is left or right. Remarkable.

Marvin Buchholz and Wayne Swanson are still farming, though they, like the rest of us, are 75 or close to it. They both know what sweet corn is supposed to taste like. Dean Johnson is still tinkering with cars. Rich Peterson is in terrific shape, thanks to teaching phys ed all these years. His parents ran Cully’s Cafe out back of the Herald office where I wrote sports when I was 16, and I’d come in to eat hot beef and gravy on white bread and potatoes while reading my own immortal words in black type. They loved their boy, and he turned out well.

Bob Bell and I discussed some classmates whom I considered lowlifes and hoods because they wore black shirts with white ties and drove old cars with flame decals and loud mufflers, but he saw a better side to them and stood up for them, and good for him. His dad was an attorney, so Bob grew up with the idea that everyone deserves a good defense.

Carol Hutchinson was a librarian, Vicky Rubis a schoolteacher, Mary Ellen Krause worked at the town bank, one of the sparkplugs who kept our hometown’s enormous Halloween parade going all these years. Carl Youngquist and I remembered our basketball team of 1958, a good bet to win State but we lost in the early prelims to a bunch of farmboys from St. Francis. St. Francis! It was like Rocky Marciano being KOed by Mister Peepers.

It’s a privilege to know people over the course of a lifetime and to reconnoiter and hear about the ordinary goodness of life. By 75, some of our class have gotten whacked hard. And the casualty rate does keep climbing. And yet life is good. These people are America as I know it. Family, work, a sense of humor, gratitude to God for our daily bread and loyalty to the tribe.

If the gentleman stands in the bow and fires his peashooter at the storm, if he appoints a gorilla as head of communications, if he tweets that henceforth no transcendentalist shall be allowed in the armed forces, nonetheless life goes on.

He fulfills an important role of celebs: giving millions of people the chance to feel superior to him. The gloomy face and the antique adolescent hair, the mannequin wife and the clueless children of privilege, the sheer pointlessness of flying around in a 747 to say inane things to crowds of people – it’s cheap entertainment for us and in the end it simply doesn’t matter.

What matters are tomatoes. There is an excellent crop this year, like the tomatoes of our youth that we ate right off the vine, juice running down our chins. There is nothing like this.

For years, I dashed into supermarkets and scooped up whatever was available, tomatoes bred for long shelf life that tasted like wet cardboard, and now I go to a farmers market and I’m astonished all over again. A spiritual experience. The spontaneity of the tomato compared to the manufactured sweetness of the glazed doughnut. An awakening takes place, light shines in your soul. Anyone who bites into a good tomato and thinks about Mr. Trump is seriously delusional.

 

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Commentary: Fear strikes Guam, despite its familiarity with military conflict http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/commentary-fear-strikes-guam-despite-its-familiarity-with-military-conflict/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/commentary-fear-strikes-guam-despite-its-familiarity-with-military-conflict/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238777 GUAM — Living on Guam is a dichotomy – a beautiful island in the middle of the Western Pacific that plays an important strategic role in scary world events, the homeland of the Chamorro people for 3,500 years or more. We who call Guam our home are reminded of this reality every day.

We wake up to colorful sunrises, drive to work next to the deep blue Pacific Ocean, see brilliant rainbows and spectacular cloud formations every day. The reef life, waterfalls, beaches and sunsets are awesome all the time.

The living is easy, and we love it intensely!

Some 1.3 million people visit Guam each year to enjoy it with us. Mostly Asian, the visitors come to enjoy the beauty of Guam and the warm hospitality of the Chamorro people. Tourists are the bedrock of our economy.

But we also see uniformed soldiers, warships, submarines that we know are heavily armed and huge military planes and helicopters around daily. There are international military exercises here regularly. Nearly everyone on the island has at least one relative serving in the military.

It’s just a small island – we know one another, including the U.S. Armed Forces personnel stationed here. We shop and eat and drink together.

This has been Guam’s fate – the island is large enough to host a good number of people, has plenty of fresh water and a nice-sized, deep harbor. And we’re used to being treated as a pawn in other powers’ strategic games: In 1941, the United States gave up Guam without much of a defense against Japanese attack in World War II. U.S. forces sent their dependents home just before Japan attacked, leaving a small contingent of soldiers here ill-equipped to protect the island. Chamorros suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese for 21/2 years. More than 1,000 Chamorros were killed.

Memories of that devastating time were brought back this week as President Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong Un threatened each other, making the people of Guam feel as though we all have targets on our backs. On Wednesday, North Korea announced that it might fire missiles to within 25 miles of Guam.

We try to shrug it off, make some jokes about how idiotic these two leaders are and get on with our lives. As we watch hour after hour of the news, people say brave things like: We are strong, we are resilient, our faith will sustain us. The U.S. military will protect us this time, because now we are U.S. citizens. It seems all the world’s media is finally looking at us.

Just about everyone on Guam is getting tearful, panicky calls from friends and family off-island begging them to leave and go somewhere safer. Social media is heavy with these conversations, and people are angry that this is happening here once again.

We just celebrated our Liberation Day with memories of war fresh on our minds.

One woman told me her son called worried sick, as his whole family is on Guam except him. If Guam is bombed, he will be all alone in the world. She spoke with him for quite a while and said he’s OK now. She asked him to pray for peace and is confident the U.S. military will intercept any missiles fired at us.

Another friend told me she has broken out in a terrible rash due to stress. She has a granddaughter in the military stationed at the Korean DMZ and fears for her safety. The young woman told her by phone this week that they have been immunized for poisons and wear protective clothing. They will have only two minutes to act if attacked, she said. But “don’t worry, Grammie, we’re going to be all right. You raised a tough Santa Rita girl.” After she hung up, my friend cried, because she knew her granddaughter was terribly scared and just trying to put on a brave face.

A neighbor looks at it this way: We’ve all been given one life to live, and she is choosing to be the best person she can, to live fearlessly and courageously. Another said she will not let this ruin her life. She will continue her everyday life, she said, and she rests in the hands of God.

A veteran told me he knows the scenarios of engagement and is aware of the assets and capabilities of the U.S. and its allies. He also knows that no one wants a nuclear war, because everybody loses. He said it’s time for a regime change in North Korea.

Many people here have been angry about a Fox News graphic showing that Guam has a total of 3,831 Americans affected by the threat – which excludes the local population of 160,000 people, all of whom are American citizens, too, though as an unincorporated territory of the United States, we don’t vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress.

It’s a never-ending dilemma for us, leaving us with a sense of disempowerment. We’ve worked for years on decolonization and self-determination but haven’t made much progress.

We are all watching, though, to see if the military starts sending their dependents off Guam again. We are fervently hoping that cooler heads will prevail.

— Special to The Washington Post

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Another View: Web data on how governments spend could help save trillions http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/another-view-web-data-on-how-governments-spend-could-help-save-trillions/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/another-view-web-data-on-how-governments-spend-could-help-save-trillions/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238805 The productivity revolution that drove the U.S. economy’s surge in the late 1990s has never reached the public sector. Thirteen years ago, the McKinsey consulting group concluded that “the opportunity to improve government productivity is huge (with) three classic management tools … organizational redesign, strategic procurement and operational redesign.” Yet that never happened.

This April, a new McKinsey report concluded governments of the world could save a staggering $3.5 trillion a year if they adopted a “best practices” approach in areas like health care, education, public safety and tax collection. Yet no one’s holding their breath.

This backdrop is what makes former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s new big data project so intriguing. The tech billionaire has created an interactive website – USAFacts.org – that provides statistics on local, state and federal governments, what they spend their money on and how efficient they are at helping the public. A column this week by Bloomberg’s Albert R. Hunt detailed how the website intends to compare how states handle the same problems.

This has potential to shake up a government status quo defined by inertia. Massachusetts has consistently been in the top three of rankings of state public education systems since it adopted comprehensive education reforms in 1993, which rigorously evaluate which programs actually improve student performance and use simple standards to assess how students, teachers, administrators and superintendents are handling their responsibilities. In the private sector, companies would eagerly follow the lead of a firm with such an exemplary record. But not in government.

If Ballmer’s initiative helps change this mindset, Americans will be hugely in his debt.

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Our View: ‘Anti-white bias’ investigation addresses made-up issue http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/our-view-anti-white-bias-investigation-addresses-made-up-issue/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/our-view-anti-white-bias-investigation-addresses-made-up-issue/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238818 The past 50 years of social progress have been tough to accept for those Americans who wonder why nobody holds “heterosexual pride” parades or celebrates White History Month. But now one of them is leading the U.S. Justice Department, and by threatening to take U.S. colleges and universities to court over so-called “reverse racism,” Jeff Sessions is showing that he’s prepared to administer a destructive cure for a disease that doesn’t exist.

The initiative came to light last week in a New York Times story that cited an internal announcement of the department’s new priority: “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” Though the document didn’t specify who’s considered at risk from affirmative action policies, both critics and supporters of the initiative told the Times that the effort is targeting programs that seek to help black and Latino students.

Why this issue, and why now? The second question is easier to answer than the first one.

Amid ongoing chaos, the White House is trying to appeal to Americans who see so-called “anti-white bias” as a significant problem – and nearly half of Trump voters believe that whites face “a lot of discrimination,” they told HuffingtonPost/YouGov pollsters just after the election. What’s more, according to recent research by Cato Institute polling director Emily Ekins, the voters who feel a sense of racial solidarity with the president are also the most likely of his supporters to stand by him through his administration’s many twists and turns.

And the idea that anti-white bias is actually doing harm is staggeringly hard to combat, despite the mountain of data that show that white people are well served by our higher education system.

White Americans, for example, are far more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree than their black or Latino peers. Whites made up 60 percent of the nation’s high school graduates in 2004, according to a 2012 Stanford University study, but accounted for nearly three-quarters of all applicants admitted to the nation’s most selective colleges. And white young people from wealthy families have advantages that others don’t, in the form of parental donations and legacy admission preferences that propel their college applications to the top of the pile at elite institutions.

But in an increasingly diverse society where a bachelor’s degree has become the key to a living wage and a middle-class life, we can’t afford colleges and universities whose doors aren’t open to all students. If the Trump administration can’t be persuaded by the moral arguments for maintaining affirmative action, let’s make the pragmatic case instead. We have too many actual civil rights issues to address without being distracted by a made-up one.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/our-view-anti-white-bias-investigation-addresses-made-up-issue/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1238818_shutterstock_493393264.jpgData indicate that white people are well served by the U.S. higher education system. Whites made up 60 percent of the nation's high school graduates in 2004 but accounted for nearly three-quarters of all admissions to the nation's most selective colleges – where white applicants from wealthy families have traditionally had an advantage in the form of parental donations and legacy admission preferences.Thu, 10 Aug 2017 23:06:15 +0000
Maine Voices: Breakfast After the Bell is the way mornings should be for Maine students http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/maine-voices-breakfast-after-the-bell-is-the-way-life-should-be-for-maine-kids/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/maine-voices-breakfast-after-the-bell-is-the-way-life-should-be-for-maine-kids/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238717 On Maine beaches this week, children build sandcastles, jump on skim boards, chase seagulls and collect sand dollars. Summer in small-town Maine is idyllic, complete with parades, fireworks and family cookouts.

Often, though, by the sea not all is as it seems. Camouflage is how nature keeps the peace. The rust-colored lobster can be impossible to see against the rocks. The octopus changes color and shape to hide in plain sight. The moon snail looks inert on the sand, although beneath the surface, it drills furiously through the shell of a clam to suck out its sustenance.

Likewise, on the beach, not all is as it seems. The kids are every bit as happy as they look, but many are not Maine kids. They are visiting from elsewhere: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York.

Maine kids don’t have it nearly as good. Between 2011 and 2015, the rate of children living in deep poverty – half the national poverty level, or less than $10,000 for a family of three – rose faster in Maine than in any other state in the nation. More than 85,000 students in Maine qualify for free or reduced-price meals. One in five kids in Maine struggles with hunger.

When kids are hungry, they can’t learn. Hungry kids struggle to keep up with their peers. Hunger means lower test scores, poorer grades and increased behavioral and emotional distress. Eating school meals improves nutritional intake, social emotional development, behavior and academic achievement.

While adequate nutrition can be a powerful tool to set children on the path to success, only 47 percent of kids eligible for free or reduced-price meals in Maine eat school breakfast.

Many schools serve breakfast in the cafeteria before the morning bell rings to ensure that all students are nourished and ready to learn, but too many hungry kids miss it because of transportation delays or are ashamed to admit they need a free breakfast. By simply changing the time a school serves breakfast, test scores rise, behavioral problems drop and graduation rates soar. From Massachusetts to Montana, schoolchildren across the country are eating breakfast in the classroom and seeing these remarkable outcomes.

Maine schools are also catching on one by one: In Caribou, Breakfast After the Bell means that 350 percent more kids ate a nutritious breakfast at school last year. Breakfast After the Bell produced a drastic drop in morning visits to the school nurse because of hunger, and increased focus and attention in the classroom. Louise Dean, the food service director in Caribou, says teachers chase her down in the grocery store to tell her how much more alert and ready to learn the students are with breakfast in the classroom.

Earlier this summer, despite support from thousands of Mainers, the Legislature failed to override Gov. LePage’s veto of L.D. 809, a bill that would have moved schools to Breakfast After the Bell if more than 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

This bill did not create a new government program, nor would it have cost any additional state revenue – the bill simply would have made Maine’s school breakfast program work more effectively to reach hungry kids. With one seemingly minor vote, the Legislature missed a major opportunity to brighten the futures of so many kids in Maine.

The Legislature and governor should take the lead on good policymaking by encouraging Maine schools to operate the school breakfast program in a way that works best for all Maine kids.

Breakfast After the Bell is the kind of rare policy that crosses the partisan divide. The Maine bill garnered widespread bipartisan support, but fell just a few votes short of overriding a veto from the governor. Governors and legislators from both parties are championing the success of Breakfast After the Bell in states including Nevada, Illinois, Virginia and Arkansas. All kids deserve to benefit from such a smart policy.

Maine’s informal motto is “The way life should be.” For tens of thousands of Maine’s kids, life is what it should not be: empty, uncertain, stressful, a struggle. When the sun shines on our beaches, the sea sparkles and the sky is impossibly blue, it is magic. But too many of Maine’s kids trapped in poverty are not there to enjoy it.

 

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Commentary: President Trump should heed lessons from the Cuban missile crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/gerson-president-trump-should-heed-lessons-from-the-cuban-missile-crisis/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/gerson-president-trump-should-heed-lessons-from-the-cuban-missile-crisis/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238764 Donald Trump doesn’t spare much time for reading. “I never have,” he explains. “I’m always busy doing a lot.”

But what he is now busy doing is managing a global crisis with nuclear dimensions and historical precedents. One adviser, Sebastian Gorka, has said, “This is analogous to the Cuban missile crisis.” Which demonstrates how a little bedside reading might come in handy.

In his account of that 1962 nuclear standoff, “Thirteen Days,” Robert F. Kennedy describes a meeting with President John F. Kennedy early in the crisis. “A short time before,” recounts RFK, the president “had read Barbara Tuchman’s book ‘The Guns of August'” – a still-compelling account of the lead-up to World War I. “He talked,” RFK continues, “about the miscalculations of the Germans, the Russians, the Austrians, the French and the British. They somehow seemed to tumble into war, he said, through stupidity, individual idiosyncrasies, misunderstandings, and personal complexes of inferiority and grandeur.”

“I am not going to follow a course,” JFK later says, “which will allow anyone to write a comparable book about this time, ‘The Missiles of October.’ … If anyone is around to write after this, they are going to understand that we made every effort to find peace and every effort to give our adversary room to move.”

Is it possible to imagine our current president reading “The Guns of August” and applying its lessons to current events? By all indications, Trump lives in the eternal now of his own wants and compulsions. He combines a total ignorance of the past with a total confidence in his own instincts. Now, in the first crisis not of his own making, he must produce traits of leadership he has not exhibited before: judgment, prudence and wisdom. His default mindset is not only indifferent to these traits; it is antithetical to them.

Trump’s main virtue as president (and there are some) has been his choice of responsible, respected advisers on foreign and defense policy. The three generals – John Kelly as chief of staff, H.R. McMaster as national security adviser and James Mattis as defense secretary – are the real reasons Americans should sleep well at night, or at least sleep. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – though resented by his own demoralized department – is trying to be a calming influence.

But Trump has begun this chess game with a move taken from cage fighting – promising “fire and fury” if North Korea makes “any more threats to the United States.” This may be the flimsiest, most foolhardy red line in presidential history. The North Koreans – with a threat to Guam – crossed the line immediately, without consequence. Trump’s statement, made after days of briefings with advisers who surely urged pacific rhetoric, is perhaps best interpreted as a declaration of independence from those advisers themselves. It may have been Trump throwing off the resented constraints of sound counsel.

Ultimately, the most consequential event in the current crisis will take place between the president’s ears. He must decide if a North Korea with nuclear-tipped ICBMs is acceptable or not. Yes or no.

A case can be made for both sides. In one view, the North Korean regime is a criminal enterprise, not a suicidal death cult. The logic and practice of nuclear deterrence – which includes the right of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike – will hold. In another view, the North Korean regime is deeply unstable, prone to miscalculation and capable of unthinkable horrors. With the artificial confidence of nuclear capabilities, the North Korean regime could blunder past real red lines and set off unpredictable escalation.

This is the decision we are trusting Donald Trump to make – a choice that will determine policy at every stage of the standoff. And what will inform that decision? The instincts of an untested leader? The deal-making experience of the New York real estate market? The collective wisdom of military leadership?

During the 1962 crisis, President Kennedy determined that the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba was unacceptable. But he consistently pushed back against the advice of military action and probed its assumptions. In the end, he pursued a nonnegotiable objective with maximal diplomatic flexibility.

“Above all,” he later said, “while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

What Trump may need most at this moment is a geography lesson. The White House library is in the basement, right next to the main stairs.

 

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Our View: Secretary of state sending mixed signals on access to voter data http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/our-view-dunlap-sending-mixed-signals-on-voter-data/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/our-view-dunlap-sending-mixed-signals-on-voter-data/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238144 Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap calls it a very straightforward problem, but please forgive us if we’re still confused.

Dunlap may have the legal right to withhold voter information under his control when he thinks privacy is at risk, but it’s hardly straightforward or transparent. It would be much better if the state had one rule for everyone and stuck with it.

The latest controversy started last month when election officials in all 50 states were served with a request for voter data from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a panel concocted to support President Trump’s unfounded allegations that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in the last election.

Dunlap, who is a member of the commission despite strongly believing that all the elections he has anything to do with are well-run and produce trustworthy results, initially said he would comply in part with the request, turning over those records that are not excluded by law from public access.

Then, after consulting with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, Dunlap said he would not release any data, because the request letter from the commission said that it planned to publish what it collects in a public database.

The “straightforward” problem took another twist with the report that Dunlap’s office regularly shares the information it denied to the commission, not only with the courts and other government agencies, but also, on a fee basis, with political parties, candidates for office, lobbyists and people organized to support or defeat ballot initiatives.

Dunlap says state law gives him the authority to refuse requests for voter information, as he has done so at least once in the past.

Sorry, but that doesn’t look straightforward to us. It looks needlessly complex. For one thing, it’s not fair. Political parties and referendum campaigns are private associations that don’t deserve any special privileges when it comes to public information. Why should the hired hands of a casino developer in Las Vegas have more information about someone in Maine than his next-door neighbor? If an ordinary citizen can’t walk into a government office and review the data without stating a reason, why should a political operative get it?

And it’s ripe for abuse. There may be no indication that Dunlap or his predecessors have used their discretionary powers for political advantage, but what’s to stop it from happening in the future?

If Dunlap can refuse to release information to the Presidential Advisory Commission, the next secretary could decide that the Democratic Party is up to no good, or that the “Vote No on the Transportation Bond” campaign can’t be trusted. The potential is too great for an official willing to hide political bias behind a stated aim of protecting privacy.

A better – and more “straightforward” – approach would be to determine and protect the data that are too sensitive to be made public (such as birth dates, Social Security numbers, party registration or voting history) not just from some people, but from everyone. And anything that’s not excluded by law from release to the public should be public – all the time and for anyone who asks for it, regardless of the reason.

That would be a much fairer way to balance the public’s right to know with an individual’s privacy, while not giving certain political interests an unfair advantage.

Trump’s commission might not find much voter fraud, but it may have unintentionally identified a real problem here in Maine that needs to be straightened out.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/our-view-dunlap-sending-mixed-signals-on-voter-data/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1238144_708845-20170725_Voting_2279-e1502332955646.jpgThe state knows a lot of private information about who votes. It doesn't make sense for the government to sell some of that data to political campaigns, but tell ordinary citizens that it's off limits to them.Wed, 09 Aug 2017 22:43:35 +0000
Collins must break with incompetent, erratic and dangerous president http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/maine-voices-collins-must-break-with-incompetent-erratic-and-dangerous-president/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/maine-voices-collins-must-break-with-incompetent-erratic-and-dangerous-president/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238152 BELFAST — In the 241 years of this republic, two Mainers have made indelible marks on its history. Two Mainers bravely stood up to corrupt thuggery at the highest levels of government. It is time for a third.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ role in the health care debate has been principled and courageous. Collins showed real courage in standing up to her party’s effort to throw 23 million off health care and give 40 percent of the proceeds to the 1 percent. She held her ground. She refused to vote for legislation that would devastate Maine. Bravo.

During Senate debate, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., was caught on microphone telling Collins he thought President Trump was “crazy,” to which Collins replied, “I’m worried.”

Collins is right to be worried, but that’s not enough.

In the 1950s, Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s vicious anti-communist witch hunt was destroying lives, poisoning political debate and threatening the very functioning of government. But Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith stood up to McCarthy and bravely denounced him on the Senate floor. It was the beginning of the end for McCarthy, and the entire world is better and safer for it. As the first woman elected to the Senate without first having been appointed to serve, Margaret Chase Smith paved the way for Susan Collins’ election to that body.

Then there was William Cohen, who in 1974, as a congressman from Maine’s 2nd District and member of the House Judiciary Committee, voted to send articles of impeachment against President Nixon to the House floor. Cohen was one of the first Republicans to openly break with a president who less than two years before had won the biggest landslide in presidential elections. It was a gutsy move for a young freshman congressman.

It was not enough for Bill Cohen to be worried about a corrupt president who was abusing power. Cohen rose to the occasion. His pivotal vote was the beginning of the end for a despotic and dangerous president. In his final days and weeks, Nixon was so out of control that the nuclear codes were taken away from him. That’s how serious it was.

It’s that serious again.

North Korea recently fired a ballistic missile capable of reaching California and maybe even the East Coast. Experts now believe those same missiles may be nuclear armed within a year. We have one year to solve North Korea, and Donald Trump is incapable of solving North Korea.

There’s more.

U.S. military aircraft are flying perilously close to Russian military aircraft in the skies over Syria. This is an extremely dangerous situation not just for the United States and Russia, but for the entire world.

With both North Korea and Syria, what is needed is judgment, prudence and restraint. Trump has none of these things, and he compensates for this with bluster, bravado and aggression.

President Trump has yet to fill many State Department positions that are key to solving these and other dangerous conflicts, and his budget aims to drastically cut the State Department. And his incessant tweets undermine an already incoherent foreign policy.

In both Korea and Syria, aggression risks disaster. North Korea, if attacked by the United States, could decimate Seoul, South Korea, a city of 10 million, and could do so with its existing capabilities, even without nuclear weapons. In addition to very possibly killing millions of innocent civilians, this could greatly destabilize much of the world. With 1.5 million North Koreans under arms, a ground attack could decimate U.S. troops, and China, which borders North Korea, might not stand idly by.

In the face of these two potential disasters, neither the United States nor the world as a whole can afford a U.S. president who encourages and delights in White House chaos and disarray.

In the health care debate and vote, Sen. Collins showed courage and fortitude. It is now time for Collins to follow in the footsteps of Margaret Chase Smith and Bill Cohen and be the first Republican senator to break, in the boldest way she can, with an incompetent, erratic and dangerous president. That way is to leave the Republican Party – that’s how serious and urgent the situation is. Trump must go, and Collins can lead the way.

Circumstances demand bold measures. Bold leadership is needed. It is not enough to be worried, and history will judge harshly those who knew of the danger and did nothing.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/maine-voices-collins-must-break-with-incompetent-erratic-and-dangerous-president/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/AP17214729730279.jpgSen. Susan Collins, R-Maine returns to her office on Capitol Hill Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, as work in the Senate begins to wind down toward August recess. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:33:00 +0000
Dana Milbank: Kremlin-style propaganda abounds as Trump world pumps out verbiage http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/dana-milbank-kremlin-style-propaganda-abounds-as-trump-world-pumps-out-verbiage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/dana-milbank-kremlin-style-propaganda-abounds-as-trump-world-pumps-out-verbiage/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238208 The fake news media is full of accounts about how President Trump’s standing is slipping among his “base” – his most loyal supporters.

Balderdash.

There is absolutely no reason to think Trump’s support has slipped in the slightest among those who like him best: the 144 million men, women and children of the Russian Federation. A poll released by the Pew Research Center end of June found that fully 53 percent of Russians have confidence in Trump, 67 percent there think he’s a strong leader and 62 percent find him charismatic and well qualified.

The poll was conducted earlier this year, but there’s every reason to think Trump’s numbers in Russia have held steady or improved. (Vladimir Putin has had plenty of time to send those who disapprove of Trump to Siberia.) Trump is performing almost 20 points better in Russia than in the United States, which, of course, only proves true the biblical aphorism: A prophet is not without honor except in his own country.

Unfortunately for Trump, most Russian nationals are not (yet) eligible to vote in the United States. But Trump’s eastern base nevertheless has ways of boosting his popularity at home, and not only by hacking the Democratic National Committee and doing other things of interest to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

As The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip reported, “a virtual army of accounts identified as having ties to a Russia-backed disinformation campaign targeting the U.S. political system zeroed in on efforts among Trump’s supporters to attack his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, over the firing of two Trump loyalists.”

That’ll teach the national security adviser to cross Trump’s Kremlin cohort.

Phillip noted that Trump, on his golf vacation, retweeted with thanks a tweet Saturday from the subtle handle @Protrump45, an account that “bears a lot of signs of a Russia-backed disinformation campaign.”

But while it’s generous of Putin to put his bots to work for Trump, this White House is perfectly capable of importing Russian-style propaganda without help from Moscow.

This week, meanwhile, saw the debut of Trump TV: a web-based broadcast of “real news” by Kayleigh McEnany, a pro-Trump pundit formerly of CNN. In the first installment, she announces, in front of a Trump-Pence campaign backdrop in Trump Tower: “President Trump has created more than 1 million jobs. … President Trump has clearly steered the economy back in the right direction. … President Trump is finally putting the American worker first. … President Trump is dedicated to honoring these men and women who fought valiantly for our country.”

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted: “Wow. Feels eerily like so many state-owned channels I’ve watched in other countries.”

We hardly need Trump TV, though, because we already have “Fox & Friends,” the Fox News morning show. Vox this week analyzed transcripts of 17 months of the show and found some extraordinary changes since the election: They started using “we” statements with much more frequency (“we need to,” “we are going”), referred to the occupant of the Oval Office as “the president” far more often than under President Barack Obama, and had many more statements instructing or advising Trump and predicting actions.

Then there’s “the president” himself, a one-man propaganda machine. This week he has, among other things, gone after Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who had spoken on TV about Russia’s election meddling.

Trump attacked Blumenthal for lying about serving in Vietnam. (He served in the Marine Reserve during the war but not in Vietnam.) Trump said Blumenthal “cried like a baby” when caught.

This was similar to Trump’s attack on ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, claiming she was “crying” and in “tears” after Trump won. Neither appears to be true.

Happily, the Trump White House has not yet borrowed all forms of propaganda employed by the Putin regime. Russian state media released several photographs this week of a shirtless Putin boating and fishing on a Siberian lake.

If the White House follows suit and releases photos of a shirtless Trump golfing in New Jersey, it will be time to talk seriously about impeachment.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Bill Nemitz: Tuning out the world, tuning in the Little League World Series http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/bill-nemitz-hooked-on-the-little-league-world-series/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/bill-nemitz-hooked-on-the-little-league-world-series/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238210 I admit it. I’m hooked. Try as I might, from day into night, I can’t look away from the big-screen television.

Cable news? Nope – not if it’s August.

Welcome to the Little League World Series.

Every summer around this time, I tune out the politics and mass disasters screaming for my attention up and down the channel guide.

I ignore my overgrown lawn.

While the rest of the world has fun in the sun, I park myself in front of the tube for game … after game … after game …

Why the fixation?

Because when it comes to pure drama, nothing touches these kids, still on the cusp of adolescence, as they chase down their wildest dreams in front of a national TV audience.

You want ecstasy? You got it Tuesday evening when pitcher Aiden Lee of the South Portland American team, Maine’s state champs, got the last hitter to pop up to right-center and thus kept Maine alive in the New England Regionals in Bristol, Connecticut.

(Point of clarification: Tuesday’s game actually was streamed live on ESPN-3, which I called up on my laptop. Like I said, I’m obsessed.)

You want heartbreak? It was etched on the face of the poor opposing pitcher after a passed ball enabled South Portland’s Nolan Hobbs to scamper home with the winning run in the 3-2 squeaker over Cumberland, Rhode Island.

You want grit? Nobody out-hustles South Portland catcher Richie “Big Daddy Hacks” Gilboy, who ran into and through an open gate in the chain link fence behind home plate in pursuit of a foul pop – and then returned to his position with a “What just happened?” smile plastered across his face.

More on the kids from Maine in a minute. First, it turns out I’m not alone.

“I haven’t missed a year,” Paul Pickett, 58, told me Wednesday morning during a short break from his nonstop chimney service business. “I keep telling my wife, I say, ‘One of these years I’m going to go down there and watch it.’ And I will. That’s one of the things on my bucket list.”

Pickett, who now lives in Gray, batted second and played third on the 1971 Augusta East Little League team – one of only three in Maine baseball history that have made it all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (The other two were Portland Suburban in 1951 and Westbrook in 2005.)

“It was awesome,” recalled Pickett, who was joined on the roster by his younger brother, Ed “Poochie” Pickett. Their uncle, Charlie Gallant, coached.

“Charlie just forced defense down our throats,” Paul Pickett said. “At practice every day, no lie, each kid would have to take 100 ground balls, and if you missed one, you ran out and got it. And we did that day after day after day. People would call it child abuse if they did it now.”

But it worked.

They marched through the state tournament, in which Pickett remembers hitting an opposite-field triple and scoring on a passed ball to beat Saco, 3-2, in extra innings and keep Augusta’s hopes alive.

They ran circles around the Eastern Regional, fighting back from an 8-6 deficit to beat powerhouse Maryland, 10-8.

And on they went to the big show in Williamsport, where they finally fell to Spain, 5-0.

Back then, ABC televised only the final championship game between Indiana and Taiwan – a far cry from the dozens of games now shown either on cable or online.

But memories? Pickett has tons.

“I remember I first get there and the first thing I see is this kid who looks like a man,” he said.

That would be Lloyd McClendon of Gary, Indiana, who went on to play eight seasons in the majors and manage the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners. He’s now the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers.

“I think he swung his bat six or seven times and hit six or seven home runs,” recalled Pickett. “He was just a man among boys. I’ll be damned if I didn’t grow up and follow that name.”

Start to finish, the entire Augusta team felt like royalty.

Despite being knocked out in their first game – unlike today’s double-elimination format, it was “one and done” back in those days – they went to the White House to meet Vice President Spiro Agnew. Then came dinner with Neil Armstrong, who just two years earlier became the first man to set foot on the moon.

But it was the baseball that truly mattered.

“No lie, we had one error in 11 games,” Pickett boasted. “That’s just crazy.”

Back in 1996, almost the entire Augusta team gathered for a 25-year reunion. Two years ago, more than half of them showed up to be inducted, as an entire squad, into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.

Meaning they haven’t forgotten. If anything, Pickett said, memories of that summer sharpen as the years, and now the decades, fly by.

“I still think of it now and then,” he mused, “Especially at this time of year.”

Which brings us back to our current Maine champs.

It’s a Cinderella story in the making: The entire South Portland American Little League, from which these 11 all-stars were drawn, consists of just 33 players divided among three teams – a far cry from other Maine cities and towns with triple that number.

“So, to compete the way we have and to see these kids doing what they’re doing is pretty incredible,” said Jim Poole, the head coach, in an interview Wednesday from Bristol.

Yet there they are, with a 2-1 record, playing their hearts out to avoid that season-ending second loss.

Things looked bleak Tuesday evening after Rhode Island jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. But then pitcher Andrew Heffernan drew a deep breath, dialed in a curve ball that both TV commentators christened “nasty,” and shut his opponents down until reliever Lee took over in the fifth.

“That was a super game,” said Poole. “Very exciting for the kids.”

Three more wins and they punch their ticket to Williamsport, starting today at 1 p.m. against Vermont on ESPN.

And if per chance they don’t make it? Life will go on, as will the tournament.

“I just say, ‘At the end of the day guys, you know why we’re here and there’s nothing that can stop us,’ ” said Poole. “And they believe it. Any challenge that comes at them, they’ve handled it. It’s fantastic.”

That’s why, political winds be damned, I’ll be watching. So will Charlie Gallant, now 70, who guided that Augusta team almost a half-century ago.

“I have not missed one since we went,” Gallant said over the phone Wednesday as he flipped through his Little League scrapbook. “I just love it. To me, that’s real baseball.”

And these are the real boys of summer.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/bill-nemitz-hooked-on-the-little-league-world-series/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Thu, 10 Aug 2017 17:00:58 +0000
Commentary: Portland city charter well-designed, but it can’t force trust, collaboration http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/commentary-portland-city-charter-well-designed-but-it-cant-force-trust-collaboration/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/commentary-portland-city-charter-well-designed-but-it-cant-force-trust-collaboration/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1238214 By now, most Portlanders have grown tired of hearing about Portland’s leaders not getting along in City Hall. Some want to blame all the strife on the recently adopted city charter (2010), which allows Portland voters to directly elect their mayor for a four-year term.

But don’t blame the charter. Our city charter cannot make people get along or agree any more than the Maine or U.S. constitutions can make state or federal legislators get along.

Functional government in a democracy, of any form, requires that individuals trust each other and collaborate. Charters and constitutions create an outline of responsibilities and duties, but they succeed only when people do their job. No form of government can succeed when people turn cooperation into conflict.

Portland is no different. Like most cities in America, Portland has a “council-manager” form of government where “policy” authority is vested in a City Council, and “management” authority is vested in a professional city manager. If those two entities don’t get along, Portland struggles.

In 2010, Portlanders voted to change our city charter (our city “constitution”) to improve the accountability of our City Council, and to increase the council’s ability to make and set policy for the long term. After several failed development projects in the city (like the Maine State Pier project), Portlanders wanted more leadership from the city, and more direction.

The answer was to do what most cities like Portland have done: allow voters to directly elect their mayor for a term of years, and give the mayor new tools to help lead the City Council. The new charter also retained the authority of the city manager to implement – but not set – the policies adopted by the council.

Some people have asked, “But why have a mayor and a city manager? Isn’t that redundant?”

Very simply, no. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all “council-manager” cities have an elected mayor and a city manager, including Kansas City, Missouri; San Jose and Long Beach, California; San Antonio and Austin, Texas; and Cincinnati, Ohio. Moreover, even cities with an “executive” mayor (think Boston or Chicago) have a position called “chief of staff” who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of government.

OK, others challenge, but what can our mayor really do? Isn’t the position just ceremonial? Still no. Unlike city managers, who are not elected, a mayor has the authority to speak for the city, and a directly elected mayor means Portland voters have a say in their mayor, which had not been the case for over 86 years. We wouldn’t want to take away this right.

Moreover, unlike our old system of rotating part-time mayors, our current mayor position gives our mayor enough time to work closely with constituencies inside and outside the city. This increases the city’s opportunity to obtain grant funds, succeed in Augusta and Washington, and develop policies that promote sustainable growth and prosperity. Even a few wins, which Portland mayors have accomplished, have more than paid for the cost of our elected mayor.

However, despite these new mayoral responsibilities, setting policy in Portland still requires a five-vote majority on the City Council, not the single vote of a mayor. This means that for Portland’s mayor to succeed, the mayor must work collaboratively with other councilors and city staff, and be a “facilitator” – which is a word that appears multiple times in the city charter regarding the mayor position. In this respect, our mayor’s new powers are designed to help the mayor develop a working majority on the council, but the powers do not ensure such a majority. That is something the mayor must earn through trust and collaboration – exactly what most of us want from our government.

The good news is that, despite the turmoil in City Hall, Portland is succeeding as a city. Our population is growing, our tax base is growing and unemployment is low. But we can always improve, and there are several important policies – from schools, to housing, to jobs – that need to happen in order for our city to keep moving forward.

If we want these policies to happen, our city leaders need to stop scouring the charter to figure out how much power they have to “force” their colleagues to listen, and instead spend their time developing reasons for their colleagues to want to listen – because they like what they hear. Don’t get us wrong: Many of our leaders are working hard to collaborate, and we applaud that. But no city charter can force everyone to cooperate. Rather, it is our leaders who must exercise the choice to cooperate.

So please, in the best interest of Portland, we ask all of our city leaders to put aside their differences and work together. It’s time.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/commentary-portland-city-charter-well-designed-but-it-cant-force-trust-collaboration/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1238008_117351-20170809_rally1207.jpgPORTLAND, ME - AUGUST 9: Jack O'Brien a member of Fair Rent Portland speaks during a rally at City Hall in Portland to reign in rents Wednesday, August 9, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:46:03 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Book by conservative Sen. Jeff Flake on Republican indecency comes late in the game http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/leonard-pitts-the-book-by-conservative-sen-jeff-flake-of-arizona-on-the-republican-retreat-from-decency-comes-late-in-the-game/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/leonard-pitts-the-book-by-conservative-sen-jeff-flake-of-arizona-on-the-republican-retreat-from-decency-comes-late-in-the-game/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 10:00:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237737 The book pulls no punches.

It sharply condemns conservatism for its role in a “culture of vicious dehumanization,” not to mention its sins of incoherence, rejection of empirical fact and plain hypocrisy. Writing of the rush by the conservative party, i.e., the Republican Party, to embrace the regrettable Donald Trump during the last election, the author is blunt and unsparing. “Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles …”

No, these are not new complaints; they have been made repeatedly in recent years. But what makes this particular bill of charges against conservatism and the Republican Party noteworthy is not the substance, but the source.

Meaning, a self-described “proud conservative and a lifelong Republican” – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Flake’s new book, “Conscience of a Conservative” – the title is an ode to Barry Goldwater’s 1960 tome of the same name – takes conservatism and the Republican Party to task in no uncertain terms. It’s being called an act of moral courage. It might even be one.

At the very least, the book is timely, particularly in its lamentation of the hatefulness – the word is not too strong – of the nation’s political divide. Flake captures this starkly in one painful anecdote:

January 2012, President Obama’s State of the Union address. Flake is sitting next to a friend, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering after being shot in the head the year before. “During President Obama’s applause lines, Gabby wanted to stand up but was unable to do so on her own, so I helped her. That often left me standing, a lone Republican among cheering Democrats.”

He stood, he writes, not to support the president, but to help “a cherished and brave colleague.” Which should have been patently obvious to anyone with eyes and a functioning conscience, but it apparently made little difference to those who sent him “furious text messages and emails” during and after the speech, taking him to task for this act of political apostasy.

As noted, Flake’s “Conscience” is being widely lauded. The Washington Post called it “brave.” USA Today dubbed it “courageous.” Columnist Michael Gerson said it was “the single largest act of political bravery of the Trump era.”

You’ll get no argument here. But you will find an observation: This courage would be more impressive had it shown itself sooner. The Republican Party, after all, didn’t lose its mind when Trump came to town. Rather, it was the loss of its mind that made Trump possible. And that loss predates his presidency by a good two decades.

How much of the dysfunction of those years – the baseless 24/7 investigations, the birther idiocy, the Islamophobia, the death panels, the obstructionism – might have been ameliorated by a little in-the-moment conservative courage? Republicans are not asked to abandon their low-taxes, small-government orthodoxy. No ideology, after all, has a monopoly on good ideas.

But this is not about ideology. Rather, it’s about the Republican Party’s en masse retreat from reason, responsibility, statesmanship and simple decency.

This retreat has been objectively obvious for years, but the list of Republicans willing to stand up and concede the objectively obvious has been pathetically small. Now Flake adds his name, making it … slightly less small.

Brave? OK. But that bravery is irrelevant until and unless his conservative conscience touches someone else’s. His party, his people, need to acknowledge their dysfunction, need to own it – and fix it.

Otherwise, he’s still standing alone while the wrong people applaud.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/leonard-pitts-the-book-by-conservative-sen-jeff-flake-of-arizona-on-the-republican-retreat-from-decency-comes-late-in-the-game/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 08 Aug 2017 20:42:52 +0000
Commentary: Florida lets residents object to school textbooks – and that’s a good thing http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/commentary-florida-letting-citizens-object-to-school-textbooks-and-thats-a-good-thing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/commentary-florida-letting-citizens-object-to-school-textbooks-and-thats-a-good-thing/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237676 Hey, check out those yahoos in Florida! They’re censoring textbooks!

My fellow progressives have worked themselves into a good liberal lather over a new law in Florida that allows citizens to object to books assigned in the public schools. Promoted by conservative activists, who accused textbooks of fostering left-wing propaganda, the measure lets anyone in the state raise concerns about teaching materials and entitles those who object to a public hearing of their complaints.

Liberals immediately raised the specter of censorship, worrying that schools would purge information about sex, evolution and climate change. But we should applaud rather than resist the popular scrutiny of textbooks, which has been a force for social justice and equality in other key moments in our past.

If you think otherwise, I’ve got three words for you: “Little Black Sambo.”

Remember Sambo? He was the jolly, ostensibly “Indian” figure who dotted the pages of elementary school readers and spellers for much of American history. But he was really a slave, and a happy one at that. “Sambo” was racist shorthand for a childlike African-American who cheerily accepted his subjugation to the white master.

He’s gone from our textbooks, thankfully. And the reason is – you guessed it – citizen pressure on the schools. Starting in the 1940s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other African-American organizations issued a steady drumbeat of protest against “Little Black Sambo” and other types of racism in textbooks.

History books valorized the Ku Klux Klan. Music books featured the original lyrics of Stephen Foster songs, including the N-word. Geography books described Africa as a dark continent of barbarity and superstition.

And in New York City, with its millions of Jewish and African-American residents, schools taught an anti-Semitic and racist play called “The King’s English.” It told the story of a boat shipwrecked on an island where a black cannibal – “Kawa Koo” – threatens to eat all 20 of the survivors.

Eventually, Kawa agrees to let a single passenger survive. The boat’s white captain, Ripley O’Rannigan, decides to select the person who speaks the best English. That draws gripes from the boat’s lone Jewish passenger, Perlheimer, who “talks with both hands” as he denounces Ripley.

“Inklish? Vat for I speak Inklish?” Perlheimer asks. “I read Yiddische papers. I talk Yiddish mit mein friends.” Ripley cuts him off. “You may have him, Kawa!” he tells the cannibal. “America doesn’t want him. He’s indigestible.”

Black and Jewish protests led the New York schools to drop “The King’s English” in the early 1950s. Little Black Sambo held on a bit longer, but he mostly disappeared from our textbooks by the late 1960s.

Does that mean racism has been purged from school materials? Of course not. Just two years ago, a Texas citizen discovered that her son’s history textbook described slaves as “workers” who came from Africa to America “to work on agricultural plantations.”

She objected, of course, and the publisher agreed to revise the offending passage. And that provided an object lesson in American democracy, which is always enhanced by citizen participation.

That doesn’t mean every objection is valid, of course. Supporters of the new Florida law took aim at biology books describing evolution and human-made climate change, although both concepts are embraced by almost every informed scientist. Others condemned history textbooks that allegedly praised government services at the expense of individual initiative and self-reliance.

But the answer to this challenge isn’t to cut off citizen challenges, which would also prevent complaints of the sort that the Texas mom made. Nor should we squawk about censorship, which is the ultimate red herring in these debates. I’m glad “Little Black Sambo” and “The King’s English” were “censored,” if by that term we mean their removal from the official curriculum. Aren’t you?

Instead, we liberals should use this occasion to call for more public engagement – not less – in school affairs. The Florida law specifies that school boards must conduct an “open public hearing” about every citizen complaint before an “unbiased and qualified hearing officer.”

There’s our opening. When conservatives move to eliminate material about climate change or evolution, we need to flood these hearings to defend it. We’ve got knowledge on our side, just as we did in the case of “Little Black Sambo.” Depictions of slavery as a benign institution weren’t simply racist or offensive, although they were surely that. They were false.

Condemning the new Florida measure, one Democratic state legislator warned it could “let anybody come in and complain about … the history of slavery, or the fact that maybe we shouldn’t have evolution in our textbooks.” He was right, but it would be wrong to prevent that.

If you don’t like what the schools are teaching, raise your voice. In America, that’s the only way we get closer to the truth.

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Maine Voices: State’s balking at new cap on greenhouse gases threatens our fishing heritage http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/maine-voices-states-balking-at-new-cap-on-greenhouse-gases-threatens-our-way-of-life/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/maine-voices-states-balking-at-new-cap-on-greenhouse-gases-threatens-our-way-of-life/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237685 FRIENDSHIP — As a lobsterman for more than 30 years, I have a direct connection to the ocean and its abundance. It’s how I make my living, and I’ve seen it shape my way of life and the people around me. Fishing and seafood are an inextricable part of Maine’s heritage and culture, and it’s thanks to good conservation practices in the lobster fishery that we enjoy the bounty reflected in our record landings of late.

But keeping this way of life requires a continuation of good decision-making now – not only for the health of our ocean, but also for the health of Mainers and our economy. Cutting carbon emissions is an imperative element of that, and we can’t settle for either the status quo or a return to the times and policies that paid little heed to the environment around us.

One program on the state and regional level that has shown great success already, but now faces an imminent decision on its future, is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. After a 20-month review, a choice must be made on the amount of carbon reduction required – which directly translates into protecting Maine’s people and resources.

Maine is one of nine states (along with Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) that participate in an interstate cap-and-invest system that limits carbon dioxide emissions from power companies and allows them to buy and sell permits for the emissions they create. The revenue from auctioning off these permits is put to work to further reduce emissions, providing funding for energy-efficiency programs and helping pay power bills.

RGGI has been an unparalleled success – it’s a shining example of how states can lead the way to low carbon-based economies. When initiated in 2009, doomsayers predicted huge jumps in the cost of power, lost jobs, and a faltering economy. Instead, RGGI has:

Grown regional employment by more than 30,000 job-years.

Reduced electricity rates in member states by 3.4 percent (while the price grew in non-RGGI states).

Contributed to 25 percent growth in member state economies (again outpacing non- RGGI states).

Saved utility customers $618 million on their energy bills to date, with billions more expected over these measures’ lifetimes.

Provided public health benefits valued at $5.7 billion (and that’s just the estimated benefit from the reduction in CO2; other illness-causing pollution has been cut as well).

Reduced carbon pollution from power plants by 40 percent (outperforming the rest of the country).

These results speak for themselves. But for me, cutting carbon is more personal: It’s very real and is essential for protecting our oceans. About 25 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the ocean, and the resulting chemical reactions cause ocean acidification. Acidification, as the video “A Climate Calamity in the Gulf of Maine Part 2” shows, is especially harmful to creatures with shells. This means oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, crab and, yes, lobsters, too.

Research indicates that the Gulf of Maine is particularly vulnerable to acidification. It’s also warming 99 percent faster than the rest of the world’s oceans (carbon pollution carries the blame there as well). It’s time for seafood lovers to speak up to ensure that the abundance we’ve enjoyed for so long continues.

While scientists are exploring ways to adapt to our changing waters, we have to address the root cause: carbon emissions. RGGI is the best tool that Maine has to do this. The decision that’s up for debate is whether RGGI’s cap will continue to decline at only 2.5 percent annually, or whether we adopt more ambitious caps of up to 3.5 percent a year from 2021 through 2030. The difference could mean an extra 99 million short tons of carbon eliminated by 2030. That’s more than a year’s worth of emissions for the region at a cost to utilities of less than one-tenth of a penny per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Why wouldn’t we jump at such a cost-effective chance to reduce emissions?

Unbelievably, Maine is one of the states balking at the higher cap, even though the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative subsidizes our electricity rates, making them the lowest in New England. Now is the time to speak up for the health of our ocean, our people, and our economy. RGGI’s cap should increase to 3.5 percent annually, getting us closer to our climate policy goals and ensuring that the Maine way of life continues for generations to come.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/maine-voices-states-balking-at-new-cap-on-greenhouse-gases-threatens-our-way-of-life/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/835433_Monitoring-Oysters.JPEG-d2.jpgJeff Auger inspects young oysters being grown on the Damariscotta River. Greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming also are making the ocean more acidic, which can interfere with the ability of shellfish like oysters to develop their shells.Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:20:14 +0000
Our View: President Trump spurns proven anti-drug strategies for tough talk http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/our-view-president-trump-spurns-proven-anti-drug-strategies-for-tough-talk/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/our-view-president-trump-spurns-proven-anti-drug-strategies-for-tough-talk/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237759 President Trump’s promised “major briefing” this week on the opioid epidemic – held the same day the federal government reported record-high overdose deaths – spurns his own commission’s public health-oriented recommendations in favor of tough-talking, enforcement-centered policies that have already been shown not to work.

In 2015, we lost about 142 Americans every day to overdoses – “a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” notes the July 31 report from the president’s panel – and the toll is still climbing. The fatal overdose rate in 2016 reached a record 19.9 deaths per 100,000 population between July and September, compared to 16.7 per 100,000 over the same period in 2015, according to federal estimates released Tuesday.

On the heels of this devastating news, the president announced no new policies. Instead, he doubled down on ineffective current ones, calling for more abstinence-based addiction treatment and vowing to ramp up drug prosecutions and tighten drug sentences.

The president’s tragically shortsighted proposals are at odds with the recommendations of his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which formally urged Trump to take steps that could make a real difference, like declaring a state of emergency – which would allow states or communities deemed addiction “disaster zones” to use federal funds for things like addiction treatment or the overdose-reversal medication naloxone.

The panel also called for equipping all police officers in the U.S. with naloxone; increasing the use of medication-assisted treatment; expanding the number of treatment beds; cracking down on synthetic opioids, and broadening legal protections for people who seek help for overdose victims.

All these are recommendations that those who are familiar with the drug crisis have been making for years – including in Maine, where everyone from addiction experts and treatment providers to police officers and corrections officials agrees that we won’t be able to combat the opioid epidemic until we address the shortage of beds in treatment programs and the lack of government funding to treat uninsured Mainers who need help but can’t afford it.

And as bad as the crisis is in Maine, where a record 376 people died of overdoses last year, there are signs that it’s growing even more dire.

Talk in the Portland-area drug treatment and recovery community – combined with the publication since July 22 of seven Press Herald obituaries that cite a drug overdose as the cause of death – has raised fears of a possible spike in overdoses in Maine’s largest city, caused by more powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl or carfentanil.

Fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, has already made inroads here. The percentage of overdose deaths in Maine involving the painkiller more than doubled between 2015 and 2016. But the influx of the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, which is about 5,000 times as potent as heroin and officially claimed its first life in Maine in April, could cause the epidemic’s toll to metastasize to unprecedented levels.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump pledged to help those struggling with addiction. As president, he’s squandering an opportunity to follow through on his promise, instead putting forth a substance-free plan of action that may beef up his tough-on-crime image but will do nothing to help the millions who have seen their own or their loved ones’ lives ravaged by this merciless epidemic.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/09/our-view-president-trump-spurns-proven-anti-drug-strategies-for-tough-talk/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1237759_651943-201508012_MEDCU_5A-e1502246660761.jpgPortland paramedics administer naloxone to reverse a heroin overdose in this 2015 photo. That year, overdoses killed roughly 142 people a day in the nation– "equal to September 11th every three weeks," says a presidential panel – and the toll continues to climb with synthetic opioids on the rise.Wed, 09 Aug 2017 11:10:09 +0000
Opinion Podcast: Sportsmanship personified, election fraud, and cell phones in your car http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/opinion-podcast-good-sportsmanship-election-fraud-cell-phones-car/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/opinion-podcast-good-sportsmanship-election-fraud-cell-phones-car/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 20:18:21 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237507 In this episode, our columnists discuss a viral moment of sportsmanship at the 2017 Beach to Beacon 10K; Cynthia Dill argues that our good feelings were misplaced. Also: Bill Nemitz shares a behind-the-scenes story from Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s involvement with President Trump’s voter fraud commission, and our panel sounds off on using handheld cellphones while driving.

Related stories

B2B Maine winner collapses shy of finish, then ‘I felt someone pick me up’

Maine regularly sells voter data it denied to feds

As session ends, Legislature overrides LePage veto, raising legal age for tobacco to 21

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/opinion-podcast-good-sportsmanship-election-fraud-cell-phones-car/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1236809_179115-20170805B2Brace_9A.jpgRob Gomez helps Jesse Orach cross the Beach to Beacon finish line after picking up the fallen Orach, who had collapsed within sight of the finish, instead of running past him.Thu, 10 Aug 2017 10:31:07 +0000
Kathleen Parker: High-wire verbal duel ushers in hot dog days of summer politics http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/kathleen-parker-high-wire-verbal-duel-ushers-in-hot-dog-days-of-summer-politics/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/kathleen-parker-high-wire-verbal-duel-ushers-in-hot-dog-days-of-summer-politics/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237116 What better way to usher in the hissingly hot dog days of summer, otherwise known as August, than with a high-wire verbal duel between CNN senior White House correspondent (and well-known cosmopolitan) Jim Acosta and White House sniper (and senior adviser) Stephen Miller.

The sniping began during a news conference last Wednesday, the same day President Trump endorsed Senate Republicans’ plan to reform legal immigration from family-based to skill-based standards.

Reactions were swift, predictable and hysterical:

“Oh my God, who’s going to harvest the crops? This is so un-American! Trump is a bigot!”

More or less.

Acosta contributed to the latter lament by citing what he called Trump’s three issues: Muslims, Mexicans and media, all of which the president presumably dislikes – except when he’s in Saudi Arabia, Mexico or appearing on Fox “News.”

Passions intensified when Acosta further suggested that Trump only wants immigrants from English-speaking regions, prompting Miller to accuse him of having a “cosmopolitan bias,” which seems like something one would like to have – or drink. “Cosmopolitan” means “worldly,” after all, and what’s wrong with that? Perhaps some interpret worldliness as globalist or elitist, but then Miller, a Duke University graduate from California, probably isn’t carving duck calls in his spare time.

As for Acosta, what could explain his apparent extrapolation that prioritizing English proficiency is tantamount to restricting immigration to certain races or ethnicities? Or that reforming immigration to emphasize skilled workers would exclude people from countries where English is not the first language? One may infer that Trump is a bigot in certain instances, but not necessarily in this one. Are there no other reasons besides bigotry to prefer skilled to unskilled workers?

Acosta’s accosting of Miller is why so many Americans see the media as biased. Let’s be honest: If Donald Trump discovered a cure for narcissism, no one would object if he used it first on himself, but most in the media would insist that the cure was simply further evidence that Trump is a narcissist.

To Acosta, the president’s bias in favor of English-speaking people is obvious and runs counter to the nation’s purpose as described in the poem on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses. Acosta, his inner soliloquist liberated at last, engaged in a recitation, whereupon Miller gleefully retorted that said poem, written in 1883 by one Emma Lazarus, was tacked onto the statue years after it was erected.

In 2017, we can’t welcome skilled workers, too?

Today’s wretched excess, if you will, is the direct consequence of the well-intentioned Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which gave preference to extended family members of people already here. Long lines ensued and increased quotas followed, as did the flow of immigrants too impatient for the legal process. Legal immigration has increased from 296,697 annually in 1965 to more than 1 million today. Of those, 39 percent are from Asia. About one-third emigrate from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Before the law, 70 percent of legal immigrants were from Europe and Canada, compared with just 10 percent today.

Perhaps these figures account for Acosta’s sense that Republicans want to keep Americans hablando ingles. But might there also be other reasons to prefer skilled workers, who would find jobs waiting to be filled, pay taxes and contribute to the rising tide that lifts all boats?

If such preferences are tantamount to bigotry, then others have been equally guilty, including Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, as well as civil rights leader Barbara Jordan, who in 1972 became the first African-American woman from the South to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. As head of an immigration special task force, Jordan worried that opening the floodgates to unskilled workers would rob American citizens of jobs and strain social services. She, too, suggested focusing more on skilled immigrants.

Kennedy, who in 1965 downplayed such concerns and supported the immigration bill, later changed his mind and in 2007 joined Sen. John McCain in a push for skills-based reforms. But then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed the idea because, hold your air horns, they couldn’t bear the idea that families (aka future Democratic voters) might be torn asunder.

Oh, the ironies. The Republican Party has finally defined exactly which families they value, while Democrats have clarified their need for the needy. It would seem we have a draw. Yet somewhere in all the squabbling is space for the “brain power” Jordan urged Americans to call upon for a rational conversation about immigration reform that best serves the national interest.

Meanwhile, thanks for the show, and enjoy ye dog days while ye may.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/kathleen-parker-high-wire-verbal-duel-ushers-in-hot-dog-days-of-summer-politics/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1154857_Day_Without_Immigrants_Ca2.jpgDelilah Gutierrez, 10, left, holds a sign during a protest against President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on immigration on Thursday in San Francisco.Mon, 07 Aug 2017 20:10:21 +0000
Maine Voices: Monument Square justice: Who goes to jail? Who deserves our help? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/maine-voices-monument-square-justice-who-goes-to-jail-who-deserves-our-help/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/maine-voices-monument-square-justice-who-goes-to-jail-who-deserves-our-help/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237144 Recently, the nice folks at Sisters Gourmet Deli on Monument Square (where I work, too) were confronted with a very unpleasant and potentially dangerous situation in their excellent sandwich shop, when an unwelcome visitor entered and threatened everyone in sight for several minutes before police arrived. With the help of surveillance video, Facebook and the press, the word has spread once again that, yes, the unholy combination of mental illness, drug and/or alcohol addiction and homelessness is a major problem in Portland and often results in criminal activity.

Throughout the peninsula, our brothers and sisters suffering from mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness are everywhere. Each day outside my window, somebody is yelling obscenities or peacefully nodding off, begging for money or stealing food and alcohol, chatting happily with passers-by or arguing with imaginary demons. Many of them I have represented in the criminal courts, and always the questions return: Who deserves to go to jail? Who deserves our help? And what can the courts possibly do?

In this case, the defendant was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct: the crime of being so offensive that it could cause a violent response by an ordinary person. And now we hear that although he pleaded guilty immediately and was sentenced to serve five days in jail, police would like for him to be charged with a hate crime as well (“Police ask Maine attorney general to review Monument Square deli incident,” Aug. 2).

As a court-appointed defense attorney, I often serve as the lawyer of the day (volunteer advocate for indigent defendants) when homeless people are first brought to court, and I see the homelessness problem as it interacts with the imperatives of the criminal justice system.

When a person is arrested and is unable to afford cash bail, they appear in court in an orange jumpsuit within 48 hours of their arrest to either plead guilty and be sentenced, or plead not guilty and try to bail out. Homeless people arrested off the street are almost always charged with drinking in public (the crime of drinking alcohol outside), criminal trespass (being somewhere you are not supposed to be), obstructing a public way (standing in the street), possession of drugs (not having a prescription for your drugs) or disorderly conduct.

These are all misdemeanors, all very easy for the state to prove and all typically punished by a short jail term (usually between 24 hours and 30 days). Prosecutors, court-appointed lawyers and judges are so experienced with the never-ending stream of homeless defendants that often an entire criminal case opens and closes, from a criminal complaint to a guilty plea, within an hour or less.

When I meet with these clients, most are happy to plead guilty as long as it means getting out of jail, and since none of them can post bail, pleading guilty gets them out. As in many other jurisdictions around the country, here in Portland we lock up homeless people, and then we let them out again.

Sometimes we pretend that locking up such people is good for them – they get a shower and a square meal and maybe a chance to detox from alcohol or drugs, the argument goes – but in a nation founded upon the sanctity of liberty and freedom, the idea of sending someone to jail for their own good is offensive. And besides, ask anyone who has been there: Nothing about jail is therapeutic.

Sometimes we pretend that locking up such people keeps the community safe – they committed a crime, after all, and jail should deter criminals from re-offending – but we all know this is not true, as we see the same folks in court over and over. A common strategy of prosecutors is to seek escalating jail time for so-called “frequent fliers” so that while a first offense may mean 24 hours in jail, the fifth offense may be punished by 30 days. The folly of this deterrence strategy is easy to see on a casual walk through downtown.

Sending mentally ill and/or intoxicated homeless people to jail is plainly not working to solve a problem that has gotten much worse in recent years. Nearly every corner has a beggar, nearly every park a zombie or two. Perhaps smarter minds can find a solution to help people move on from unhealthy and dangerous lives, but in the criminal courts we just lock them up.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/maine-voices-monument-square-justice-who-goes-to-jail-who-deserves-our-help/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1235822_428137-deli-e1502211040520.jpgA surveillance video posted online shows a man identified as Jesse James Taylor yelling at Sisters Gourmet Deli staff July 29. Such incidents have become a daily fact of life wherever a lot of people congregate.Tue, 08 Aug 2017 12:50:50 +0000
Commentary: Aficionado culture is where fun goes to die http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/commentary-aficionado-culture-is-where-fun-goes-to-die/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/commentary-aficionado-culture-is-where-fun-goes-to-die/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237152 Are we making cooking too complex?

That’s the gist of a thought-provoking tweetstorm from economist Lyman Stone, which I’ve edited into a slightly easier-to-read paragraph form:

“There are two things happening in U.S. food culture: more eating out AND a complexification of cooking. If you look at recipes from a generation or two ago, there are few ingredients, few steps. Simple, largely working-class type stuff.

“A ‘good cook’ today is expected to be an expert at analyzing the vast panoply of globalized ingredients available on the market today. We are told that good cooking requires specific ingredients, has numerous rules, has to have a salt-rubbed cast-iron skillet, etc.

“The normative hurdles we erect for what constitutes good cooking are enormous as we have gotten more choices. … But what you’re doing isn’t excellent household food prep but farm-league restaurateuring.

“Some of this is welfare maximizing: Globalization creates new choices and scale efficiencies that make the whole food culture tastier! But I worry that the preference-forming mechanism in our food culture is changing, too; are people really more satisfied with their food now?”

I think that the answer is “Yes, they are.” A once-common creature has nearly gone extinct in our society: the bad cook. My grandmother’s generation was full of them, people who understood that they had an obligation to feed their families, but lacked either the skill or the willingness to do it well. Now, I’m always surprised when I sit down to the table of someone who’s a bad cook; most people who don’t like to cook eat out, or buy something they can heat up. And the rest of us don’t much miss the rock-hard biscuit; overcooked vegetables; and flavorless gray meat which are so ubiquitous in the novels of yesteryear.

On the other hand, Lyman Stone also has a point. There’s a common pattern you see when technology renders some skill less necessary: It becomes a sort of luxury, and in the process, demands vastly more and more well-honed skills.

A hundred and fifty years ago, lots of people climbed onto the back of a horse every day. Outside of a few specialty professions like herding, the people who do so in 2017 are likely to be affluent, and engaged in some fairly complicated sport like show-jumping, barrel-racing or dressage. The kinds of folks who just plopped themselves into the saddle and sat there like a sack are all off doing something else.

You can name any number of other activities where this is true, from rowing a boat to woodworking. When activities become hobbies, the average skill level rises, and the activity itself tends to become more complicated and intensive. After all, the people doing them really enjoy what they’re doing, so naturally they look for more ways to enjoy themselves – and to show off for fellow hobbyists.

But that rising level of skill, effort and information intensivity becomes a barrier to entry for the casual aficionado who might well develop a solid repertoire they could at least occasionally haul out, if the core hobbyists weren’t so busily complexifying everything: a phenomenon that economist Arnold Kling attributes to “matching technology.”

“Instead of settling for a lowest-common-denominator activity, like a game of social bridge,” he writes, “you can find something that really excites you and connect with people who share your excitement. With better matching technology, the total number of viable interests goes up, and the share of people who settle for activities in which they are only moderately interested goes down.”

You see this phenomenon even within hobbies: I’m a pretty skilled cook, and there are still cuisines I don’t really attempt, because I know I don’t have the fundamental skill set to do them justice – while friends who are superb at those cuisines quake in terror of pastry and hollandaise. Forty years ago, we’d probably all have been more willing to do a thing half-well.

You can’t put all the blame on matching technology – dressage hypertrophied into one of the world’s least accessible sports long before the internet. But the internet has undoubtedly accelerated the natural human tendency to take everything to its illogical extreme.

Of course there are gains from all this – “gains from trade,” as the economists like to say. But there are also some losses, too, in the people who never get to feel the wind on their face as their horse canters along, in the people who might have made something delicious, if they weren’t too intimidated to pick up that first spatula.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/commentary-aficionado-culture-is-where-fun-goes-to-die/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1147557_824966-20170131_GreenPlat2.jpgThe author demonstrates how to fold a three-cornered dumpling. Be vigilant about the seal so the dumpling doesn't split open during cooking.Mon, 07 Aug 2017 20:05:00 +0000
Our View: Rep. Poliquin’s bill eats away at effective school nutrition program http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/our-view-poliquin-bill-eats-away-at-effective-school-nutrition-program/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/our-view-poliquin-bill-eats-away-at-effective-school-nutrition-program/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1237162 Let’s start by saying there’s nothing wrong with more students across the country eating Maine blueberries. They’re nutritious, delicious and certainly plentiful.

But when they are shipped across country, or consumed out of season, there is one thing they are not – fresh. That’s not a judgment, but a fact, and because they are not fresh, they are not eligible for the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program.

Unless Rep. Bruce Poliquin gets his way.

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program has a single narrow goal – to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to students who otherwise wouldn’t get much of either. Started as a pilot 15 years ago and now available in more than 7,500 schools across all 50 states, it helps low-income schools provide fresh produce as a between-meals snack, and it has been a success.

However, Poliquin has reintroduced a bill that would allow into the program frozen, canned, dried or pureed fruits and vegetables. Those are just as healthy as their fresh counterparts, Poliquin argues, and allowing other forms would make things easier on school food directors.

The 2nd District congressman is right on both accounts, but that doesn’t mean that the bill, which failed two years ago, should pass.

Certainly, few kids eat enough fruits and vegetables of any kind. However, fewer still have access to the fresh variety, particularly in the low-income school districts that the federal program targets.

What’s more, the experience of eating corn on the cob, freshly picked strawberries or a carrot that was in the ground last week is a singular one. It’s different from eating a handful of raisins or a serving of applesauce – it makes more of an impression on an impressionable mind, and makes it more likely that students will keep eating fruits and vegetables into adulthood.

Now others want a crack at those impressionable minds. Producers know that when they sell their food to schools, they are making customers not only of school districts, but of students, too, and possibly for a long time to come.

That’s why Poliquin’s bill has bipartisan support – because food companies in other congressional districts want access to developing palates, and a piece of the $180 million spent annually by the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program, just as Poliquin wants to help blueberry growers get their product into schools.

School lunch policy has always been susceptible to politics. In fact, the program originally allowed raisins in order to gain the vote of an influential California congressman.

But it’s not like the producers of frozen, canned, dried or pureed foods are being left out in the cold. The Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program accounts only for about 1 percent of the more than $19 billion that the U.S. Department of Agriculture spends on school nutrition – the rest is dominated by packaged food.

Even without Poliquin’s bill, Maine blueberries, almost all of which end up frozen, are grabbing an increasing piece of that pie. Now available at schools in more than 19 states, more Maine blueberries were sold in schools in April than in all of 2016.

But even with all the gains to school nutrition made during the Obama administration, students have little access to fruits and vegetables straight from the farm.

So keep selling the country on Maine blueberries, Rep. Poliquin. Make sure the Maine agricultural industry gets its portion of the billions of dollars spent under the USDA for school nutrition. Get blueberries into schools in all 50 states.

But leave the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program alone.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/our-view-poliquin-bill-eats-away-at-effective-school-nutrition-program/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1237162_editorial.0808-e1502162442743.jpgFood service staff at a Delaware high school serve a locally sourced lunch, including kale, in 2015. Only about one percent of the USDA's $19 billion school nutrition budget goes toward introducing fresh produce.Mon, 07 Aug 2017 23:22:07 +0000
Our View: Key Obamacare subsidies must be maintained http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/07/our-view-key-obamacare-subsidies-must-be-maintained/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/07/our-view-key-obamacare-subsidies-must-be-maintained/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1236768 As President Trump threatens to allow the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace to “implode,” he seems oblivious to the fact that he is the one holding the detonator.

The negotiator in chief, whose push to dismantle the ACA is already increasing premiums, is warning Congress to pass a horrible health care bill, or else he will stop making payments to insurance companies that allow for affordable health care for millions of Americans. That’s like a doctor refusing to treat a broken leg unless the hospital gets a new coat of paint.

Fortunately, Congress sees the pointlessness in such a strategy, and is preparing to send out its own ambulances.

At issue is the ACA requirement that insurers offer comprehensive plans with deductibles and co-pays artificially reduced so that they are affordable to Americans who earn between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or up to about $30,000 for an individual.

To offset these cost-sharing reductions, the federal government makes direct payments to the insurers.

That part of the ACA was created by executive rule-making, not an act of Congress, so Trump can decide unilaterally not to make the payments, the next of which is due Aug. 21.

Following through on that threat, though, would do great harm to the insurance market, particularly in states like Maine that have not expanded Medicaid, and therefore have more poor residents using insurance through the ACA exchanges.

If Trump stops the payments, insurance companies offering plans through the exchanges would either raise premiums to account for lost funding, or leave the market altogether.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that premiums would rise an additional 19 percent on average, and 21 percent in states that have not expanded Medicaid, or MaineCare as it is known here.

The increases would have to be absorbed by individuals whose income is too high to qualify for premium subsidies through the ACA, provided they don’t drop insurance altogether.

For those who do qualify for subsidies, the government would have to increase the amount of each subsidy to match the premium. Kaiser estimates that this would cost an additional $12.3 billion, while stopping the cost-sharing reduction payments would save only about $10 billion.

Trump’s comments already have created uncertainty for insurers and caused insurance premiums to rise. But because insurers in most cases cannot immediately change plans or drop out of the market, the damage from stopping the cost-sharing reduction payments would take some time to fully develop.

In that time, Congress could step in to put the payments in law, taking their fate out of Trump’s hands. The Republican Senate chairman of an important health care committee already has urged Trump to maintain the payments, and his committee will start work in September on stabilizing the ACA market.

Two Republican House members said last week that it is imperative they work with Democrats to fund the payments as part of a bipartisan fix. “It’s clear to us that what we have to do is come together, find that common ground and govern for the American people,” said Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins agrees. On “Meet the Press” on July 30, she said that the Trump administration threats are actively destablizing insurance markets, calling the payments “vital assistance” to low-income Americans.

It’s likely that Trump’s threats, made from a place of ignorance on health care policy and governance in general, are meant to scare Senate Republicans into passing the health care bill that Collins helped kill.

But any damage done by the president’s comments or actions does not reflect poorly on the Affordable Care Act, and it does not warrant the acceptance of a bill that would decimate health coverage for millions.

It’s time for Congress to stabilize the insurance market, and take the detonator out of Trump’s hands.

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Maine Voices: Rigid referendum process ill-suited for nuanced zoning, housing issues http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/07/maine-voices-rigid-referendum-process-ill-suited-for-nuanced-zoning-housing-issues/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/07/maine-voices-rigid-referendum-process-ill-suited-for-nuanced-zoning-housing-issues/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1236770 On Monday, a referendum petition is being submitted at Portland City Hall. A second petition is coming on its heels. If certified, both petitions will be on the citywide ballot in November. One referendum would make an absolute hash of Portland’s burgeoning housing market. The other is a terribly written, unenforceable, unconstitutional, unnecessary and unabashed end run around an exhaustive and inclusive development review process.

Many of us in politics like to hit the “pause” button during August. But it is time to press “play,” because these two abominations could pass.

Maine people lately are growing weary of politics by referendum. This year the Legislature handled no fewer than a dozen bills seeking to restrain the citizen-initiated referendum process. Moreover, bad law enacted by referendum is increasingly moving legislators to break their tradition of “respecting the will of the voters.”

Several recent referendum campaigns have been widely criticized for dubious signature-gathering practices. Walking into the supermarket and glancing at a clipboard in the hand of an aggressive signature gatherer, one might easily perceive both these Portland petitions as good and necessary policy. Some issues are better suited for referendum than others. Remember how simple it was when the question was “casinos yes” or “casinos no”?

The right of citizens to petition our government is sacrosanct, and a necessary backstop. But it can be misused and overused, particularly in Portland. My colleagues in the signature-gathering industry love the Forest City because it is so easy to get signatures here. Lots of fair-minded folks here sign any petition because we want to hear the debate.

Nuanced policy issues such as land-use zoning and mercurial housing markets belong in the deliberative legislative realm. Increasingly, these referendum debates are propelled by fake news and huge money. Portlanders need to understand and reject the proposed questions because they are so uncompromising.

Sometimes even a bad referendum can serve as a lever to effectuate a good policy change. Three recent Portland ballot questions are cases in point: Congress Square, view rights and a $15 local minimum wage.

I worked against the Congress Square referendum, but I noted shortly before the election that the outcome was going to be positive regardless of the vote tally. Why? Because the folks who advocated for protecting Congress Square Plaza had coalesced into such an effective force for sustainable improvement. The once-dead space is alive and well today because of it.

In 2015, I worked against the view rights ordinance, and I give credit to the development group that was the sole target of that referendum. They worked tirelessly with their detractors – and it cost them a lot of time and money – to amend the project plans sufficient to thwart the sentiment that might have otherwise produced a “yes” vote.

I also worked against the Portland-alone minimum wage of $15 per hour. In the months before that 2015 referendum, I gave it a 50-50 chance of passage. Then, just weeks before the election, the Portland City Council stopped it dead in its tracks by passing its own version of a minimum wage at $10.10.

Unlike the Congress Square situation, today’s snob-zoning referendum is a blunt instrument that contains no leverage elements allowing it to result in a positive outcome.

Unlike the viewshed issue, there is no opportunity in the neighborhood veto referendum for bargaining between developer and opposition, hence no hope for a positive compromise. The ballot question’s unconscionable retroactivity clause, which has one project (ironically, a housing development) in its cross hairs, ensures that no good can come of this.

Unlike the minimum-wage debate, where the City Council swooped in to save the day, the neighborhood veto referendum has no potential middle ground that would salvage a happy ending.

As for the well-intended rent control referendum, Portland has already responded and continues to respond heroically. We have adopted several policies that are working. The market has responded with about 1,000 housing units that have been produced or have begun development since we all declared a housing crisis. This proposed rent control referendum arrives years too late, and it goes miles too far.

Please do your own research, but start right here with a healthy dose of skepticism: After studying the language of both questions – for reasons of both policy and process – I am certain that it is time for Portlanders to push back at referendum misuse. We can begin by resoundingly defeating both questions.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/07/maine-voices-rigid-referendum-process-ill-suited-for-nuanced-zoning-housing-issues/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/11/750757_531072-MIP-AERIALS-1700-WES.jpgA subdivision at Camelot Farm could easily tap into existing water, sewer and gas lines..Mon, 07 Aug 2017 14:49:55 +0000