Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:08:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Leonard Pitts: Throw the book at folks who would pull ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from classroom http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/leonard-pitts-throw-the-book-at-folks-who-would-pull-mockingbird-from-classroom/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/leonard-pitts-throw-the-book-at-folks-who-would-pull-mockingbird-from-classroom/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 10:00:57 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1272649 It “makes some people uncomfortable.”

That was the explanation Kenny Holloway, a school board official in Biloxi, Mississippi, gave the Sun Herald newspaper last week for the board’s decision to remove from its eighth-grade curriculum a Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable,” said Holloway. He said this like it was a bad thing.

In a nation where some educational institutions now deem it their duty to offer “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” to protect their students from vexatious language or behavior like cartons protect eggs and bubble wrap protects china, maybe it is. So I beg your pardon for the heresy that follows.

Because, with pure hearts and noble intentions, these educators are doing nothing less than presiding over what I will call the stupidification and wimpification of this country. Having liberated the American mind from the tyranny of facts, we now seek to liberate it from the bother of contending with difficult words or ideas.

It “makes some people uncomfortable,” he says.

By which he means the N-word. And yes, it is offensive. Indeed, if you are not African-American, you may have trouble appreciating just how obnoxious the word is.

But it is also wholly appropriate to Lee’s moralistic tale, set during the Great Depression, of a 6-year-old white girl in the Deep South, watching her attorney father defend a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman. When one of the locals tries without success to goad her father into a brawl, should the dialogue read: “Too proud to fight, you African-American-lovin’ bastard?”

Let’s be serious.

I am reminded of recent email exchanges with readers angry over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial oppression. These readers argued that protest should not make anyone – here’s that word again – uncomfortable. One man said protest should “unify” and “educate.”

Maybe that makes sense in a color-coordinated Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner, but it has nothing to do with reality. Did the civil-rights marchers seek to “unify” with Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham? Did the colonists seek to “educate” when they committed the anti-government vandalism called the Boston Tea Party?

No, they were raising their voices, poking a stick in the eye of their oppressors. They were making them … uncomfortable. We should be grateful they did.

And we should ask those uncomfortable people in Biloxi and elsewhere: Where did you get the idea you should be sheltered from history? What made you think you had an expectation of being shielded from truth? Who told you you had a right never to be made ill at ease?

Yes, I recognize the possibility – in fact, the probability – that some of those discomfited by Lee’s book are African-American. It makes no difference.

In literature, as in protest, the audience’s discomfort is often a sign the message is being received. It can offer an invaluable opportunity to consider, reconsider, debate, teach, learn, reflect, and grow.

Or it can be an excuse to run and hide. In a nation where ignorance masquerades as authenticity, and the ability to think deeply and critically on difficult subjects has been mollycoddled into near oblivion, it is too often the latter. So I have no sympathy for those delicate folks in Biloxi.

“Mockingbird” is a seminal text of the American experience. Yes, it “makes some people uncomfortable.”

That’s the whole point.

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


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/leonard-pitts-throw-the-book-at-folks-who-would-pull-mockingbird-from-classroom/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 17 Oct 2017 21:51:36 +0000
Commentary: Dirty high-tech politicking won’t stop with Russian operatives http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/anne-applebaum-dirty-high-tech-politicking-wont-stop-with-russian-operatives/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/anne-applebaum-dirty-high-tech-politicking-wont-stop-with-russian-operatives/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1272496 Send a spy to spread rumors on the other side of the front line. Drop leaflets into enemy territory. Debilitate the enemy using its own people, in their own language – Lord Haw-Haw, Tokyo Rose – over their own radios. The tactics of demoralization are as old as politics – as old as war – and now we know what the second-decade-of-the-21st-century version looks like, too.

Pushed by a congressional investigation, Facebook has finally turned over some 3,000 advertisements and links to pages created and paid for by Russian trolls. Among them was “Secured Borders,” a fake, Kremlin-backed “organization” that appeared to be based in Idaho. It pumped out messages about immigrant “scum” and attracted 133,000 followers before it was shut down. In August 2016, its Russian backers actually promoted a rally in Twin Falls to protest an alleged “upsurge of violence against American citizens.”

At the same time, a different set of Russian operatives sponsored and advertised two black rappers who bashed “racist b—-” Hillary Clinton. They also borrowed the identity of a Muslim group that claimed Clinton “created, funded and armed” al-Qaida and the Islamic State. Meanwhile, thousands of computerized bots pushed repetitive pro-Trump messages on Twitter, persuading many actual humans to respond.

All these games are familiar: Russians have used similar tactics for years in Europe, where pro-Russian social-media users on Facebook, Twitter and many other platforms have long sought to amplify support for parties of the far left and the far right. During Germany’s recent elections, official Russian media and networks of Russian bots tweeted and posted messages warning of immigration’s dire threat to Germany and pushing the cause of Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.

As in the past, the Russian advertisements did not create ethnic strife or political divisions, either in the United States or in Europe. Instead, they used divisive language and emotive messages to exacerbate existing divisions. As in the past, it’s enormously misleading to name “Russia” as the source of the problem. The old KGB had whole departments devoted to the invention of rumors and the creation of fake extremists; the KGB’s institutional descendants simply realized, sooner than most, that social-media campaigns are a cheap way for an impoverished ex-superpower to meddle in other countries’ politics. But in 2016, they were one of many groups – among them the Trump campaign and a whole network of conspiracy-minded and alt-right trolls – who built targeted Facebook groups and bought divisive advertisements aimed at carefully sliced and segmented bits of the population.

The real problem is far broader than Russia: Who will use these methods next – and how? If Russians worked out how to create fake “Black Lives Matter” Twitter accounts, why can’t others?

I can imagine multiple groups, many of them proudly American, who might well want to manipulate a range of fake accounts during a riot or disaster to increase anxiety or fear. I can imagine a lot of people who might want to take control of Defense Department accounts, as Russian hackers also tried to do, to send false information during a military conflict. There is no big barrier to entry in this game: It doesn’t cost much, it doesn’t take much time, it isn’t particularly high-tech, and it requires no special equipment. Facebook, Google and Twitter, not Russia, have provided the technology to create fake accounts and false advertisements, as well as the technology to direct them at particular parts of the population. Many other countries and political groups – on the left, the right, you name it – will quickly figure out how to use them.

In part, this malicious world grew so quickly out of ignorance – people didn’t know, simply, how this all worked – but that’s not an excuse any longer. There is no reason existing laws on transparency in political advertising, on truth in advertising or indeed on libel should not apply to social media as well as traditional media. There is a better case than ever against anonymity, at least against anonymity in the public forums of social media and comment sections, as well as for the elimination of social-media bots. Facebook’s own experiments have shown that conversations are more civilized when people use their own names. The right to free speech is something that is granted to humans, not bits of computer code.

There is no chance that the Trump White House will show any leadership on this issue, given that it has been the main beneficiary of these damaging and divisive techniques. But other political leaders – in Congress, in the states – have an obligation to think about it. So do citizens, so do schools – and so do tech companies. The alternative is a dystopia in which election-year dirty tricks become a way of life for everyone.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/anne-applebaum-dirty-high-tech-politicking-wont-stop-with-russian-operatives/feed/ 0 Tue, 17 Oct 2017 20:32:12 +0000
Maine Voices: Expanded circuit breaker program would address housing affordability http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/maine-voices-expanded-circuit-breaker-program-would-address-housing-affordability/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/maine-voices-expanded-circuit-breaker-program-would-address-housing-affordability/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1272522 I have spent more than 20 years as a funder, policymaker, developer and property owner working to address the affordability of rental housing. Portland has a real issue with housing affordability, and we need to do more to address this issue.

Unfortunately, the proposed Rent Stabilization Ordinance (Question 1 on the city ballot Nov. 7) not only does not address the affordability issue but also undermines established tenant-landlord law while creating an enormous new bureaucracy to administer the ordinance.

The proposal erects significant barriers to removing problem tenants from stable apartment communities and imposes additional responsibilities on our police. The ordinance defines tenant behavior offensive enough to warrant eviction as five police-substantiated complaints within 60 days. Compare this standard for one apartment with the city’s disorderly house ordinance, which allows the city to shutter an 11-plus-unit apartment building for five police-substantiated complaints within 30 days. Put another way, the difference for grounds for eviction for one apartment would now rise to half of what is required for the city to close an entire apartment building and evict all of its residents.

A seven-person volunteer rent board would be charged with reviewing proposed rent increases for the roughly 18,000 apartments covered as well as hearing appeals from tenants evicted for non-financial reasons. This is an extraordinary addition to the city’s administrative workload – a workload with which it already struggles. (I find it ironic that the ordinance’s proponents are comfortable relying on the city to administer this byzantine structure when the city could not even tell them how to get their proposal on the ballot.)

The core flaw, however, of the ordinance is its failure to address the ability of renters to afford their housing. The proposed ordinance establishes restrictions on rents for most of the unsubsidized rental units in the city. The vast majority of these units are rented by people paying below 30 percent of their gross income (a commonly accepted definition of housing affordability). Often they are young people making a respectable salary in entry- and mid-level professional jobs at our region’s largest employers (such as Wex, Idexx, Maine Medical Center and others.)

Yet the proposed ordinance does not distinguish between these renters with the means to pay the going rent and those who are at risk of being priced out of the housing market. Instead, the ordinance limits rents on all apartments, regardless of the tenant’s ability to pay.

Why does this matter? Because these rent limits will be subsidized with Portland property tax revenue. Here’s how it works – rental properties are valued based on their potential income, and the ordinance would reduce their potential income which in turn will reduce property taxes collected from rental properties. This reduction in tax revenue from rental properties will be picked up by the city’s homeowners and other taxpayers.

Giving up tax revenue to cap rents for people who don’t need financial help doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, there is a much more efficient alternative that the city can use to help renters (and homeowners) who are struggling with the cost of housing.

State statue (36 MRSA §6232, sub-§1) allows municipalities to create a local “circuit breaker” program to benefit persons who live in the community. The only program requirements of the statute are that any local program a) “provide benefits for both owners and renters” and b) “calculate benefits in a way that provides greater benefits proportionally to claimants with lower incomes in relation to their property taxes accrued or rent constituting property taxes accrued.”

In fact, the City Council has already started down this path with the proposed Portland Senior Tax Equity Program, or P-STEP, which would supplement the Maine Property Tax Fairness Credit – but only for residents over 62. Both the state and local program would help with housing cost to households making less than $53,333 a year who do not already receive other forms of housing assistance.

The council can and should expand this proposal to eliminate the age restriction currently contemplated. The result would be relief targeted to both renters and homeowners who actually struggle to afford housing. Vote “no” on Question 1 on the Portland ballot and urge your city councilors to expand the local circuit breaker to cover everyone.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/maine-voices-expanded-circuit-breaker-program-would-address-housing-affordability/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1237045_149867-housing-e1502271387833.jpgFair Rent Portland hoped to get its rent stabilization measure on the ballot, in an effort to address soaring rents that have occurred in places like Munjoy Hill, above.Tue, 17 Oct 2017 20:35:30 +0000
Our View: #MeToo campaign sheds light on workplace abuses, but it’s no long-term fix http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/our-view-metoo-campaign-sheds-light-on-workplace-abuses-but-its-no-long-term-fix/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/our-view-metoo-campaign-sheds-light-on-workplace-abuses-but-its-no-long-term-fix/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1272723 Spurred by recent allegations that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has sexually harassed and assaulted dozens of women in the film industry over a period of decades, nearly a million users of the hashtag #MeToo have been opening up on Twitter about their own experiences with sexual predators. But the responsibility for mitigating the abuses that have been so movingly described shouldn’t be on survivors. It’s past time for the rest of us to step up.

Started in 2007 by Tarana Burke, an African-American consultant, activist and sexual violence survivor looking to reach other survivors in underprivileged communities, the #MeToo campaign went viral Sunday afternoon with a note from actress Alyssa Milano.

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” she wrote. “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

The responses have come pouring in, with some saying just the two words, and others presenting heartbreaking memories:

Me too, my mother too, my sister too, my grandmother too, my best friends too. #metoo.”

 “I’ve been solicited and groped in an elevator by a superior who was nearly two decades older than me. I never told anyone. #Metoo.”

 “#MeToo When I served in the military. More than a few times. I stayed silent for self preservation. I regret it daily.”

 “#MeToo I’m a male. Was raped when in high school by two men. I’ve never gotten over it & sometimes I’m scared to be touched.”

#MeToo is also trending on Facebook, sparking an estimated 12 million-plus posts, comments and reactions in its first 24 hours. And every survivor who’s posted on social media deserves respect and admiration for having the courage to go public with the painful details of their personal stories.

But survivors have been shouldering a burden that isn’t rightfully theirs. Abusive behaviors won’t stop unless those who’ve been standing on the sidelines choose to become part of the solution.

If you don’t believe that harassment really happens, or you think it’s not that big a deal, or if you feel that a survivor is less credible for having kept quiet, look into the wealth of evidence that indicates otherwise. If you do believe that sexual harassment is a problem but you don’t know how to notice, handle and/or report it, informed advice – including “Step up, speak up” and “Write things down” – exists on how to do just that.

We as a culture are at a turning point: We can let this moment pass, or we can – finally – commit ourselves to supporting survivors and holding abusers accountable. The response to #MeToo is a call to action that shouldn’t be ignored.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/our-view-metoo-campaign-sheds-light-on-workplace-abuses-but-its-no-long-term-fix/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1271893_Harvey_Weinstein_Me_Too_542.jpgThousands of women responded to Alyssa Milano's call to tweet "me too" in order to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault following the recent revelation of decades of allegations of sexual misconduct by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.Wed, 18 Oct 2017 10:44:33 +0000
Another View: Trump’s remarks on Puerto Rico went beyond the pale http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/another-view-trumps-remarks-on-puerto-rico-went-beyond-the-pale/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/another-view-trumps-remarks-on-puerto-rico-went-beyond-the-pale/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1272726 When it comes to President Trump fulfilling his role as leader of the federal government, nothing he has said has been as awful as his Thursday remarks on Twitter that the United States might soon stop helping Puerto Rico – a part of our nation since 1898 – recover from Hurricane Maria.

“Electric and all infrastructure (in Puerto Rico) was disaster before hurricanes,” he tweeted. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

The comments came as authorities announced that just 9 percent of the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million people had electricity, down from 17 percent, after problems at a San Juan power plant. More than three weeks after the hurricane hit, one-third of residents still don’t have access to safe water. Some are so desperate they’re drinking water from toxic Superfund sites.

The recovery effort became more costly when the federal government didn’t renew a Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico, which means no foreign-flagged vessels can bring goods to the island from U.S. ports, only U.S. vessels with mostly American crews, thanks to an antiquated 1920 law that Congress should consider scrapping.

While the end to the waiver may be dubious, there is no indication that the federal government will abandon Puerto Rico at its moment of need. Trump’s follow-up comments Friday about helping Puerto Rico struck a note of straightforward solidarity, so Thursday’s tweets are likely inconsequential. But they remain appalling. Puerto Ricans deserve better. So do their fellow Americans.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/18/another-view-trumps-remarks-on-puerto-rico-went-beyond-the-pale/feed/ 0 Tue, 17 Oct 2017 23:13:10 +0000
Opinion podcast: Sex and power in the workplace not limited to Weinstein’s Hollywood http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/opinion-podcast-sex-power-workplace-not-limited-weinsteins-hollywood/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/opinion-podcast-sex-power-workplace-not-limited-weinsteins-hollywood/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 20:52:28 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1272420 With Sen. Collins choosing to remain in the Senate, host Greg Kesich, columnist Cynthia Dill and marketing project manager Molly Adams talk about the influence a moderate politician can have in such a politically divided time. They also break down allegations against Harvey Weinstein and discuss why it has shocked us into a new national conversation about sex, gender and power.

Finally, Greg talks with Megan Doyle, lead reporter for “From Away: Stories of Immigration in Maine,” who shares insider info about the editorial process in granting anonymity, finding sources and the decision to remove comments from the series. Read the complete series about Maine immigrants and the paths they traveled here.

Related stories:

Meet the candidates for Maine’s 2018 governor’s race

Weinstein Co. may put itself up for sale

The military aide: He risked his life to work for the U.S. government in Iraq

Podcast links:

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Stream on Stitcher

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/opinion-podcast-sex-power-workplace-not-limited-weinsteins-hollywood/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1266625_Harvey_Weinstein_Sexual_Har.jpgFILE - In this March 2, 2014 file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Oscars in Los Angeles. Weinstein is taking a leave of absence from his own company after The New York Times released a report alleging decades of sexual harassment against women, including employees and actress Ashley Judd. (Photo byWed, 18 Oct 2017 09:02:02 +0000
Maine Voices: As the ‘tailpipe of the nation,’ Maine deserves cleaner air http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/maine-voices-as-the-tailpipe-of-the-nation-maine-deserves-cleaner-air/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/maine-voices-as-the-tailpipe-of-the-nation-maine-deserves-cleaner-air/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271923 Last week, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency took steps to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards controlling carbon dioxide from power-generating plants. Before the Clean Power Plan rules were adopted, there were no limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants could dump into the atmosphere.

Here in Maine, where we have no coal-fired power plants and an increasing percentage of our energy generation comes from renewable resources, this may not feel dire. After all, this is Vacationland. “The way life should be” is our informal motto. Our air is pretty clean and this is an issue for the industrial states.


In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s another slogan commonly attached to Maine: “The tailpipe of the nation.” That’s because upwind air pollution from Northeastern cities and Midwestern coal plants blows here. Maine senators have long understood this, which is why Edmund Muskie and George Mitchell championed the creation and strengthening of the Clean Air Act. They knew that our air quality depends on strong federal pollution regulations on plants from away. Any attempts to weaken those standards directly affect Maine.

The Clean Power Plan rules issued by the EPA in 2015 take groundbreaking, important steps to reducing coal plant pollution. These include smog-forming chemicals, which cloud the air and affect our lungs; mercury emissions, which contribute to fish consumption warnings throughout the state; and carbon, which contributes to global warming. In only a few short years, these rules have paid off: Certain coal plant pollutants have already been cut by up to 80 to 90 percent.

Anyone who has ever watched their child suffer through an asthma attack, or who has dealt with respiratory illness, or who has struggled on “bad ozone days” when heat, combined with smog, makes drawing breath difficult, understands the importance – and vulnerability – of our air quality. Which makes it unacceptable that this administration is trying to roll back the Clean Power Plan and replace it with a much weaker rule.

In sharp contrast to the Trump plan, the Clean Power Plan is projected to prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks, hundreds of thousands of missed work and school days and several thousand premature deaths annually by 2030. Repealing these standards means more sick kids, more hospital visits and thousands of preventable untimely deaths. In fact, according to the Trump EPA’s own analysis, repealing the Clean Power Plan would mean a 45 percent increase in coal plant sulfur dioxide emissions and 4,500 avoidable premature deaths nationally in 2030. It would take us back to the days of smoggy skies and acid rain-laden lakes.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan isn’t just a threat to our health; it also ignores the reality that our climate is heating up and we must address the No. 1 source of climate pollution. It would leave our communities more vulnerable to more ozone warnings on hot days, and more Lyme and other tick-borne diseases as the days warm. And if this year’s relentless hurricane season provides a harbinger of things to come, more carbon in the atmosphere will lead to warmer air and water temperatures, loading the dice for increasingly powerful and destructive storms.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to limit carbon pollution. In a rather cynical move, the Trump EPA is trying to replace the Clean Power Plan with a weak replacement rule. But in doing so, they have proposed to undercut the rule’s rationale of cleaning up the power system. So, this attack on the Clean Power Plan is also an attack on the integrity of the Clean Air Act.

By moving to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is doing the bidding of the coal industry and big polluters, putting their profits before the health and safety of our children and families. Instead, we must maintain and strengthen the Clean Power Plan. Our organizations are fighting the Trump attack on clean air in the courts and in Congress because Mainers deserve clean air for generations to come.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/maine-voices-as-the-tailpipe-of-the-nation-maine-deserves-cleaner-air/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1207876_AP_Explains_Trump_Coal_8068.jpgSmoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal-burning power plant in Colstrip, Mont., in 2013. U.S. coal production fell to 739 million tons last year, the lowest in almost four decades, amid growing competition from natural gas, wind generation and solar power. From 2011 through 2016, the coal mining industry lost an estimated 60,000 jobs.Tue, 17 Oct 2017 10:29:17 +0000
Commentary: Expanding MaineCare will hurt some people that it claims to help http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/commentary-expanding-mainecare-will-hurt-some-people-that-it-claims-to-help/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/commentary-expanding-mainecare-will-hurt-some-people-that-it-claims-to-help/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271930 Several recent columns and letters praise this November’s ballot initiative to extend Medicaid (MaineCare) benefits to working-age, non-disabled, childless adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Writers foresee better access to health care, lives saved and an economic boom resulting from increased hospital jobs. However, expansion will not benefit everyone. It will hurt some it purports to help.

It is true a substantial number of Mainers have no health insurance, or “coverage.” This does not mean they have no access to health care. Coverage is not the same thing as health care. Maine is home to 150 federally qualified health centers: doctors’ offices that receive federal funds to treat uninsured people below the federal poverty level at no cost and offer very-low-cost care to patients under 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Maine law also requires hospitals to provide care at no cost to individuals below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. While not perfect solutions, these and other programs already exist to provide health care (rather than coverage) to those MaineCare expansion would cover.

In addition, many who fall within the proposed expansion criteria already qualify for federal subsidies to purchase private insurance through the Affordable Care Act. A person making $16,000 a year can buy a silver plan with a broad provider network and $200 annual deductible for $40 per month – less than the cost of a cellphone bill. If MaineCare is expanded, these individuals will no longer qualify for subsidies and will lose their private insurance.

They will have MaineCare. Low-income employees with employer-based insurance may enroll in MaineCare to avoid paying premiums and some employers may drop coverage for employees who qualify for MaineCare.

You may ask what difference it makes whether patients have private insurance or MaineCare. It makes all the difference.

Fewer primary care doctors accept MaineCare than accept private insurance. This often means longer drives and longer waits to be seen. Understandably, some turn to the emergency room – the most expensive avenue to treatment – for primary care. Not only does this divert resources from true emergencies, it also means that instead of a $100 doctor’s bill being sent to an insurance company, a $1,500 ER bill is sent to Augusta.

Fewer doctors accept MaineCare because MaineCare only reimburses providers about 75 cents of each dollar in cost to treat a patient. To borrow a phrase from the minimum-wage debate, MaineCare does not provide a “living wage.” A card in your pocket is worthless if the doctor doesn’t accept it.

On the other hand, private insurance reimburses providers at rates that make up for MaineCare’s low payments. A critical mass of privately insured patients is vital to the continued financial viability of our hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities.

As privately insured patients are shifted to MaineCare, providers are paid less for the same service. Although Maine-Care expansion would take some patients from paying zero to paying something, it will also take many living-wage patients and make them unsustainable. A hospital that closes can’t treat anyone.

Expansion proponents claim a reduction in uncompensated care will outweigh reduced payments from other patients. On the point of uncompensated care, I can’t help but recall that MaineCare proved to be just that for several years the last time we expanded the program.

The state could not afford to make payments to providers and hospitals were stuck with hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid bills. That MaineCare expansion didn’t lead to a boom in hospital jobs. It led to layoffs.

Even if the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of expansion, 10 percent of a big number is still a big number. Estimates show expansion will add $100 million annually to the budget within a few years.

The government just shut down over a smaller amount, and expenditures in other states that recently expanded Medicaid quickly exceeded projections, just as they did in Maine.

Once implemented, the Legislature cannot control MaineCare costs. People go to the doctor and the bill goes to the state, which is obligated to pay. Increased pressure on the budget jeopardizes the state’s progress over the past few years to increase services to the disabled, the elderly, impoverished children and pregnant Mainers.

At first blush, expanding MaineCare may sound attractive, but please consider that it will not be without substantial costs, both financial and human.


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/commentary-expanding-mainecare-will-hurt-some-people-that-it-claims-to-help/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/07/473598_shutterstock_156102326.jpgThe 25,000 young parents and childless adults who lost MaineCare benefits in January have had to find other ways to access counseling and other forms of mental health treatment.Tue, 17 Oct 2017 13:40:50 +0000
Charles Lawton: Maine’s health care sector cannot replace manufacturing losses http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/charles-lawton-maines-health-care-sector-cannot-replace-manufacturing-losses/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/charles-lawton-maines-health-care-sector-cannot-replace-manufacturing-losses/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271945 I noted several weeks ago that Maine has become increasingly dependent on the health care sector for its economic well-being. Over 22 percent of our gross state product derives from revenue to our health care providers. We rank first among all states in the share of our gross state product that comes from health care spending – far above the national average of 15 percent.

Given the uncertain future of our national health care system, this puts both our physical health and our economic health at risk. But this trend also risks exacerbating the disparities between our urban and rural regions.

Some observers say that health care providers have become the new mills, helping to replace the manufacturing sector that has been so devastated over the past several decades. To a certain extent, this is true. Between 1997 and 2015, Maine lost nearly 37,000 manufacturing jobs and gained nearly 32,000 jobs in the health care and social assistance sector.

But that nearly offsetting net effect was not distributed evenly across the state. In our metro areas (Portland, Lewiston-Auburn, Augusta-Waterville and Bangor), the manufacturing sector lost nearly 25,000 jobs, while the health care and social assistance sector gained over 28,000 jobs, thus generating a net job gain. In the non-metro areas of the state, in contrast, manufacturing lost over 12,000 jobs while health care and social assistance gained fewer than 3,800 – a critical net loss. In our rural areas, health care gains in employment didn’t come close to offsetting losses in manufacturing.

In addition, health care is not a monolith. Each of its major categories – provider offices, hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and social assistance – has its own pattern of employment, wages and growth.

In metro areas, all four health care subsectors experienced substantial growth between 1997 and 2015. In non-metro areas, on the other hand, job growth was almost entirely concentrated in hospital and social assistance. Employment in nursing and residential care facilities actually dropped 5 percent, and employment in provider offices grew by less than 4 percent, far below the nearly 53 percent growth in metro areas.

Quite apart from jobs and job growth is the question of wages and wage growth. Here, there is a major difference between the provider offices and hospital subsectors and the nursing and residential care facilities and social assistance subsectors.

In 2015, average annual pay was $55,000 at metro-area provider offices and $60,000 at metro-area hospitals. In non-metro areas, the average annual wage was $45,000 for workers at provider offices and $53,000 for hospital employees. Though still not as high as the pay of their metro counterparts in 2015, the average pay in provider offices and hospitals rose much more rapidly in rural areas from 1997 to 2015 than it did in urban areas, so the regional pay differential in these subsectors has diminished substantially.

This has not been the case, however, in the other two subsectors. In metro areas, the average worker at nursing and residential care facilities earned just under $30,000 in 2015, while the average social assistance worker made just over $24,000. In non-metro areas, these figures were $27,000 and $23,000, respectively. Between 1997 and 2015, wage growth in these subsectors was approximately the same, thus leaving the urban-rural pay differential approximately the same.

In short, the idea that growth in the health care sector has offset decline in the manufacturing sector depends on what part of health care you are considering. In metro areas, the average pay of providers ($55,000) and hospital employees ($60,000) compares favorably with the average pay in metro manufacturers ($57,000), but for the nursing home ($29,000) and social assistance ($24,000) subsectors, the comparison is not even close. In non-metro areas, only hospital pay ($53,000) exceeds the average pay of remaining manufacturing jobs ($48,000). In the other health subsectors – providers’ offices ($45,000), nursing and residential care ($27,000), and social assistance ($23,000) – average earnings lag the average manufacturing pay.

The central point here is that the health care sector in Maine – far from being a countervailing force against the ravages of globalization on the state’s manufacturing sector– is itself extremely vulnerable, particularly in our rural areas. Either together as a nation, or alone as a state, we must find a way: first, to expand our health care delivery system to serve all our people; second to pay for it on a sustainable basis; and, third to drive continuous cost reductions. If we do not, we in Maine will be the first canaries to signal that economic collapse is near.

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


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/charles-lawton-maines-health-care-sector-cannot-replace-manufacturing-losses/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/693999-20170921_watchman_4.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 21: Dr. Samip Vasaiwala, left, and urse Christina Conley, a registered cadiovascular invasive specialist, prepare a Watchman device in an operating room at Maine Medical Center in Portland on Thursday, September 21, 2017. Together with Dr. Andrew Corsello, in background, they were implanting the device in the heart of patient Paul Rice to minimize his risk of a stroke. Rice has atrial fibriliation, which causes clots to form in an area of the heart, which puts him at a greatly increased risk of a stroke. Rice has been on a blood thinner medication for years to reduce his risk of stroke but it also make him more susceptible to bleeding profusely when he gets cut. In May, Rice almost died from an internal loss of blood due to issues with his esophagus. The device in his heart, called Watchman, blocks off the part of the heart where the clots form and will end the need for him to take blood thinner medication. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:51:05 +0000
Our View: Border Patrol threatens rights as it creeps inland http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/our-view-border-patrol-threatens-rights-as-it-creeps-inland/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/our-view-border-patrol-threatens-rights-as-it-creeps-inland/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271957 You probably aren’t aware, but you live in a border town. Yes, you in Newport, and you in Gorham. Yes, you in Augusta.

In fact, according to the U.S. Border Patrol, all Mainers live along the border, Windham just as much as Calais and Jackman. Almost all of the rest of New England, too.

That’s because decades ago, Border Patrol was given jurisdiction within 100 miles of any border or water boundary, an area that includes two-thirds of the country’s population.

For an agency with a record of poor oversight and a knack for overstepping its already broad powers, that is too large. At a time when the federal government has lost much of its sense on immigration enforcement, a change is desperately needed.

The 100-mile zone allows border agents to cast a wide dragnet along the southern border using permanent checkpoints and roving patrols, and the results have not been good.

Agents are supposed to have reasonable suspicion of a suspect’s “illegal alienage” before they conduct vehicle stops – and probable cause before searches.

However, investigations by the American Civil Liberties Union and others have found that a lack of critical oversight and a cavalier attitude toward the Fourth Amendment have led to many abuses, from everyday harassment to clear violations of protections from illegal stops, searches and detainment – of citizens and noncitizens alike. Complaints are rarely investigated – or even tracked and analyzed for patterns to suss out problem agents. Discipline is even more rare.

There are indications now that Border Patrol is increasing its presence in New England.

Early this year, two Mexican nationals were stopped near the farm where they worked and lived while on the way back from an event protesting for migrant worker rights. The Border Patrol won’t say why their car, with Vermont plates and absent any traffic violations, was pulled over, though one agent told Vermont Public Radio that they can tell when someone doesn’t “fit in,” seemingly a use of racial profiling.

In August, Border Patrol detained 25 undocumented immigrants at a roadblock in New Hampshire nearly 100 miles from the border. Hardly career criminals, the list included two 11th-graders and a seventh-grader from a Massachusetts charter school.

The roadblock, which stopped hundreds of vehicles, also resulted in 32 additional arrests with no connection to immigration.

These efforts show how the wide latitude given to Border Patrol can be used to target minorities, or as a way around the constitutional protections from illegal stops and searches, all under the pretense of border enforcement, even if you are nowhere near the border.

This shotgun-style approach to border enforcement, with American citizens caught in the crossfire, was hardly considered when the 100-mile zone was established, with little debate, in 1953 – at the time, there were about 1,000 border agents.

Now there are more than 20,000, and Border Patrol, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been given a new mandate by the Trump administration to target undocumented immigrants of all kinds, not just the violent criminals previously prioritized for deportation.

So now we have the country’s largest police force, one with insufficient oversight and a poor record of using its significant powers, unleashed on a vulnerable population, with American citizens caught up as collateral damage.

Congress should finally hold a review on the 100-mile zone and its effects far inland. Certainly, courts have recognized the right for expanded police powers near the border. But even those expanded powers have their limit, and it’s time to rein them in.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/17/our-view-border-patrol-threatens-rights-as-it-creeps-inland/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1271957_AP_17227497328479-e1508215732433.jpgThe wide latitude given to U.S. Border Patrol within 100 miles of any border boundary – like this crossing station between Beecher Falls, Vt., and Quebec – can be a way around protections from illegal stops and searches.Tue, 17 Oct 2017 00:49:03 +0000
Our View: Trail of Togus troubles points to deeper VA woes http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/16/our-view-trail-of-togus-troubles-points-to-deeper-va-woes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/16/our-view-trail-of-togus-troubles-points-to-deeper-va-woes/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271520 There is yet another scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and this time Maine is at the center.

An investigation by USA Today of settlement deals between the VA and doctors, nurses and other medical workers found at least 126 involved fireable offenses, including sexual harassment, improper relationships, neglect and incompetent care. In about 75 percent of those cases, the VA agreed to purge negative personnel records and provided neutral or positive professional references.

What’s more, the investigation found 88 cases in which veterans were harmed by mistakes committed by Dr. Thomas Franchini, a podiatrist at the Maine VA hospital in Togus.

Later called a “dangerous surgeon” in a sworn deposition by his surgery chief, Franchini was, as a result of his many mistakes, declared unfit for the VA hospital in 2010. But the VA notified neither state nor federal clearinghouses designed to collect information on bad doctors in order to protect public health; it took the agency more than two years to inform even Franchini’s patients of their substandard care.

Giving underperforming doctors a soft landing at another hospital is seen as an issue across health care. That’s a problem whether the providers are public – as in the VA’s case – or private, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.

But the investigation and other reporting on Franchini point to larger problems at the VA, ones that call into question the agency’s institutional ability to root out and solve its own problems, as well as its desire to do what is best for the veterans under its care.


Franchini was hired in 2004 and stepped down in 2010 after he was told he would otherwise be fired. According to a lawsuit filed by six of his former patients as well as the VA itself, he left a trail of wreckage in his wake. (Franchini denies the accusations.)

The patients represent different branches of service and a wide range of ages, but the stories are similar. Surgical mistakes such as incorrectly placed plates and screws, improperly fused joints and poorly implanted bones led to years of pain and limited mobility, not to mention additional surgeries.

In the most egregious case, April Wood, now 42, had to have her leg amputated below the knee after Franchini messed up her initial surgery.

All six were notified of Franchini’s errors by the VA in 2013 along with the podiatrist’s other former veteran patients. By that point he had been in private practice for more than two years, time his former patients had spent trying to find answers for – and live life with – their unending pain.

Unfortunately, that delay put them outside Maine’s three-year time limit for malpractice suits. A judge will now decide whether the VA “fraudulently concealed” the findings, which would allow the suit to continue.

Even if the VA didn’t conspire to nullify any lawsuits, it doesn’t speak well of the agency – it makes the issue one of competency rather than ill intent.


What took the investigation so long? Why did the VA wait until 2013 to tell Franchini’s patients of the poor care, when officials knew in early 2010 the doctor wasn’t fit for a VA hospital?

Why are the revelations in the USA Today inquiry so surprising if these lawsuits have been around for years? Are these issues the result of bad personnel, or does underfunding play a role? Would the VA ever have acknowledged these problems if there were not lawsuits and newspaper articles?

In response to the reports, VA Secretary David Shulkin ordered that future settlements involving payments of more than $5,000 be approved by top VA officials in Washington, rather than regional personnel. Three lawmakers, including Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin, have proposed legislation to require medical professionals to report bad behavior directly to licensing. Those actions are a good start – but they amount to cosmetic changes to an agency that clearly has deeper problems.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/16/our-view-trail-of-togus-troubles-points-to-deeper-va-woes/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1271520_645788-April-Wood-001-e1508158815870.jpgArmy veteran April Wood had to have her leg amputated below the knee after a podiatrist at the Maine VA hospital messed up her initial surgery.Mon, 16 Oct 2017 09:00:26 +0000
Maine Voices: If citizens begin to model civil discourse, maybe politicians will, too http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/16/maine-voices-if-citizens-begin-to-model-civil-discourse-maybe-politicians-will-too/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/16/maine-voices-if-citizens-begin-to-model-civil-discourse-maybe-politicians-will-too/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271525 DEER ISLE — I’m related to the first person executed for murder in what would become the United States. You may not have heard of him, but his name was John Billington and he came over on the Mayflower. He was a troublemaker who killed a fellow Colonist and was hanged in 1630.

My grandmother bravely fought for access to birth control in the 1930s, despite the social stigma. But she also once told me that she thought that apartheid wasn’t so bad.

My hometown of Boston is often the first to stand up for higher American ideals like equality. But it also has a long and complicated history of racism.

I could tell you that I’m a Mayflower descendant, that my grandmother crusaded for progressive causes and that Boston is a leader for enlightened thought in America. But that wouldn’t be the whole truth, would it?

As humans, we tend to hold on to certain parts of our story and ignore or gloss over the messy parts because they don’t support our idealized version of reality. This has become an alarming practice in today’s political environment, where partial truths and absolutes are ubiquitous, often in the form of memes and sensational headlines addressing the outrage of the day. “Liberals want to take down the flag – share if you don’t give a damn” or “Conservatives are literally pining for a dictatorship” are two that came through my feed recently. One of these is bound to irritate you, maybe even both.

Our obsession with soundbites, memes and partial truths may serve our need for self-justification and help us commiserate with our political team; however, they not only promote divisiveness, but also miss the chance for exploring a much more fascinating and complex story. The recent cultural conflicts over Civil War memorials and kneeling during the national anthem are just two more examples of how our social media obsession is drowning out civil discourse and the opportunity to explore those gray areas, where the truth actually lives.

So where does one go to have an honest and respectful conversation these days? How do we move forward as a country teetering on the edge of a democracy and something altogether different? Admitting that your life story or point of view is filled with a certain degree of hypocrisy is a good place to start. Having a murderous Pilgrim ancestor, a feminist but prejudiced granny and a hypocritical hometown forces you to admit that maybe things are a little more complicated than they appear. Recognizing your own inconsistencies can help others admit theirs as well.

The next step is to find someone who thinks differently than you and actively listen to them. This is not the kind of listening where you spend your time figuring out your next counterpoint while someone else is talking. It’s about being curious and asking questions. It’s about making the other person feel heard, even if you don’t agree with what they are saying.

Civil discourse is not about trying to change someone’s mind. And it’s not about giving up your own values, or trying to avoid conflict altogether. It’s about disagreeing without being disagreeable. It’s about being open and respectful enough to consider a different viewpoint, so we can engage in the healthy deliberation of ideas that a successful democracy requires.

If you’re wondering how someone you have always liked can have such a different worldview, maybe it’s time to reach out and ask them how they got there. And maybe it’s time for all of us to admit that not all conservatives are racist, not all liberals believe in unlimited government handouts and we all love our country. It would open up a desperately needed conversation for addressing urgent policy issues from sensible gun laws, to health care and immigration.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to advance civil discourse, the National Institute for Civil Discourse has launched the Revive Civility project in Maine, Ohio, Iowa and Arizona, with plans to go nationwide.

They offer resources for talking to friends and family about issues that divide us, including a new program called “Setting the Table for Civility” with tools for families and friends to have civil conversations over the Thanksgiving holiday. You can find them at ReviveCivility.org. Other resources to explore include Livingroomconversations.org and Allsides.com. If we begin to model civil discourse, maybe our politicians will, too.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/16/maine-voices-if-citizens-begin-to-model-civil-discourse-maybe-politicians-will-too/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/Conversation.jpgMon, 16 Oct 2017 15:43:26 +0000
Jim Fossel: Known unknowns on Medicaid http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/jim-fossel-known-unknowns-on-medicaid/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/jim-fossel-known-unknowns-on-medicaid/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270838 There is a major problem with the Medicaid (MaineCare) expansion question on the ballot this November. It’s not just that Medicaid expansion has been tried before in Maine, with less-than-optimal results. Nor is it that the MaineCare program consistently runs in deficit and consumes more and more of the state budget. All of that’s certainly true, and it should give major pause to voters as they consider their vote on expanding it.

However, the major issue with passing this referendum measure and expanding Medicaid as allowed under Obamacare are that there are way too many known unknowns, especially as things stand right now. For one, at a state level, we have no idea who might be governor or have the majority in the Legislature in 2019. As with other complex referendums, like the recent initiative legalizing recreational marijuana, much of the implementation will remain in the hands of the Legislature and governor.

Right now, under the Affordable Care Act, there isn’t much flexibility for states, but that may change. For example, states might be granted waivers to certain requirements of Medicaid expansion. Under the previous administration, only one state was granted these waivers: Indiana, when current Vice President Mike Pence was its governor. However, the Trump administration may well decide to make the waiver process much easier for states, encouraging more to apply. That might lead to more state-level experimentation, both with Medicaid expansion and the implementation of Obamacare as a whole. If the administration moved in that direction, it would be an excellent way for them to add flexibility to Obamacare without repealing the law, but it’s not quite the vision of Medicaid expansion that proponents are touting in Maine.

Just as we don’t know exactly how the next Maine governor and Legislature might implement Medicaid expansion, we also don’t know what kind of budget they might be writing, either. If they feel their hands are tied by a citizen initiative passing Medicaid expansion, it might require major adjustments to the rest of the state budget. We could well end up not having the money to pay for Medicaid expansion, regardless of what level of federal funding is available or how the economy is doing; that’s already been the case in other states. In that situation, Augusta might end up raising taxes (which would displease conservatives) or dramatically cut spending in other areas, like education funding or revenue sharing. It was a sign of a bad trend when the referendum raising taxes to increase education funding was passed, as it marked the beginning of the state budgeting by referendum. We shouldn’t compound the error by passing Medicaid expansion.

We also have no idea how Obamacare might be changed by Congress in the next year, either. If Republicans are able to pass some version of repeal-and-replace, the increased funding now available under the law could be completely eliminated. Then Maine’s hands could well be tied, as the state would be stuck between a referendum guaranteeing Medicaid expansion and a Congress that has eliminated the funding for it. Or Congress might turn the federal funding available under Obamacare into block grants, giving the states a great deal of latitude in how they spend the money. If you’re a moderate supporter of Medicaid expansion, the idea of giving either party in Augusta virtually unchecked control of a huge pile of federal funds ought to be a matter of grave concern.

It’s high time we reject budgeting by referendum. Education and health care account for a vast majority of the state budget, so setting those spending levels through citizen initiative will always end poorly. It could wind up that the Legislature simply ignores the referendum, as they have on education ever since the 55 percent funding requirement was passed. Or, it could be that taking the big decisions out of their hands enables us as voters to continue to elect a highly divided Legislature that remains unwilling to compromise, leading to more citizen initiatives.

We need to return to the days when we trusted our legislators to solve complex policy problems in a productive, bipartisan fashion. If they can’t be trusted to do that, the solution is to send new, better legislators to Augusta, not to constantly work around them through citizen initiatives. So, even if you support Medicaid expansion, don’t vote for this referendum. Instead, let’s elect people who want to work together in a smart, reasonable way to address our problems. That’s how you really fix Augusta.

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


Twitter: @jimfossel

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Cynthia Dill: Sen. Collins confronts the elephant http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/cynthia-dill-sen-collins-confronts-the-elephant/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/cynthia-dill-sen-collins-confronts-the-elephant/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270839 Turning to “the elephant in the room” was a great pivot for Susan Collins from her brief policy speech on necessary repairs to Obamacare to the question on everyone’s mind Friday morning: whether she would stay in the U.S. Senate or run for governor of Maine.

“The elephant in the room” – get it?

Of course you do. The pun is nerdy, kind of funny and wholesome – and pretty much sums up the 15th most senior member of the United States Senate. Collins’ approval rating of 65 percent is no accident. She works hard at building political capital the nose-to-the-grindstone way, and it pays. She wins people over one by one. Her reputation is sterling, and she has power that is used sometimes more successfully than others, but she always gets an A for trying.

And Collins has got game. She did for Maine news what Donald Trump did for the national press – create an exciting buzz around an announcement, sustain interest in it and maintain suspense until the very-well-choreographed end – but unlike Trump’s, her show had more class from a podium in Rockport than any ride down a gilded escalator in New York City. The Collins brand of feel-good patriotism may lack anger, but it packs a punch. Paul LePage, Donald Trump and all the other boorish loudmouths flapping their traps and tweets can go jump in a lake.

Susan Collins is well-positioned, has broad bipartisan support and is firmly ensconced in a Senate chamber where Republicans have only a two-person majority. Her years in the wilderness as a moderate mean that she now has no chickens coming home to roost (I’m taking a good metaphor and overdoing it).

Susan Collins leads by example and reinforces common-sense rules for the younger generations. Be prepared, be brief, know your topic, dress for success, don’t be a moron – and if you must marry your boss, wait at least 35 years.

Finding common ground is a cliche in political circles, but some people really do try harder to connect with others rather than disconnect. Sen. Collins and I don’t agree on big things – the biggest probably her decision not to support Hillary Clinton for president. But we both married men named Tom, we both grew up in families that come from the lumber business and we both lost general elections to Angus King in a three-way race. The personal voicemail message Collins left for me after my loss in 2012 remains one of the most treasured gestures I’ve received in politics. I think I saved the recording somewhere and hope the Russians are on top of that.

Collins’ polished and sometimes boring public persona is steady like an old wood-paneled station wagon with big leather seats. Her personal constituent outreach and her staff’s polite and professional responsiveness are the hallmark of civic life.

To be sure, the bar is very low these days, and Susan Collins can’t part the waters or walk on top of it. There is not much happening in Washington to be proud of, but there is some joy and dignity in being well represented. The larger, national challenge is to increase the level of satisfaction among voters in other parts of the country. If more people felt better about government, they might stop sending representatives to Congress to burn the place down.

The devil of politics is in the details of the laws that pass or the regulations that get undone. Great politicians manage the policy wars and strive to see some degree of goodness in others – or at least appreciate the cost of making enemies. At a minimum, a master in the art of politics sees people for what they are, what they are trying to do and for what and why they stand. Experts appreciate the need for occasional expedience and don’t give and take everything personally.

Now that Susan Collins has made her move, others will follow suit. Would-be governors are licking their chops now that a whiff of competition is in the air. Maine is poised for a vigorous race. If Maine people want more people like Susan Collins or Chellie Pingree or Angus King to serve, the application process at the primary level should test a candidate’s ability to lead by following common-sense rules. Elections should not be like cage fighting, tiger wrestling or winning a round of “Survivor.” The jobs are too big and too important for fools.

Susan Collins isn’t running for governor, but a lot of other people are – some more willing to see people as people rather than people as political affiliation. If, as Collins suggested Friday, extreme partisanship is not a pre-existing condition, then the elephant in the room might not be an elephant. Get it?

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


Twitter: @dillesquire

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Our View: Collins’ presence needed to contain Trump’s chaos http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/our-view-collins-presence-needed-to-contain-trumps-chaos/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/our-view-collins-presence-needed-to-contain-trumps-chaos/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270897 Sen. Susan Collins could not have picked a better moment to announce her decision to forgo a race for governor and continue serving in the United States Senate.

Just as she was walking the members of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rockport through her analysis of the problems in our health care system, President Trump was in Washington trying to make that system fail.

The contrast was stark. Collins was talking about ways to make the system better while Trump was looking for leverage, no matter who gets hurt along the way. It should be obvious to everyone why Maine and the nation need an independent-minded Republican like Collins in Washington to block the administration’s dangerous excesses and, when possible, forge pragmatic deals that keep the country moving forward.


Trump’s moves on health care last week expose his approach to policy-making and a shocking disregard for the millions of people who stand to lose health coverage because of his desire to put pressure on his opponents.

In an executive order signed Thursday, Trump opened the door to insurance companies to sell low-cost plans across state lines. While that might sound good, it’s not. The premiums are less expensive because the plans don’t cover much. A young, healthy person who doesn’t expect to get sick or injured might be willing to take the risk, but these are exactly the people needed in the insurance pool to spread costs. If the only people who buy state-regulated health insurance are the ones who are most likely to make a claim, the premiums will go sky high, and many people will be forced to drop coverage. And to make sure that happens sooner, rather than later, Trump announced with a tweet that he would unilaterally end subsidies that help insurance companies cover out-of-pocket costs for lower-income plan members. That will also drive premiums up, and force people to drop coverage.


Creating chaos in the health insurance markets might deliver some short-term political advantage for Trump, but it won’t get more people covered by decent comprehensive health insurance.

And it will not address the basic underlying problem with health care in this country, and that, as Collins rightly pointed out Friday, is its cost. We pay twice as much for our care as people in other developed countries, and often with worse outcomes. Health insurance can’t be affordable if care costs so much.

But for the last decade, health care reform has been focused on who pays the bills – insured versus uninsured, government insurance versus private insurance – and not enough on why the bills are so high. The Affordable Care Act aimed to expand coverage, and it achieved its goals in that regard, but it did not end medical inflation.

It’s the high cost of health care, not the regulatory mandates of Obamacare, that have been driving insurance premiums up, and the chaos of Trumpcare will just make things worse.


Collins said her focus would be on cost control, after the existing insurance markets are stabilized (“First, do no harm,” she said, quoting the Hippocratic Oath).

She identified competition among providers and regulation of the prescription drug industry as good places to start. She should also advance work on payment reform, to encourage preventive care and chronic disease management, which save money by keeping people healthy.

Mainers have been encouraging Collins to run for governor since the 2014 election, and Collins seemed legitimately interested in the prospect of coming home and administering programs that affect people’s lives, instead of arguing policy points in Washington.


But she has also consistently said that she would base her decision on what would be best for Maine, and she made the right one. Very few Republicans are willing to stand up against Trump, as Collins did with her votes against irresponsible health care overhauls and some of his worst appointments.

Other pragmatic Republicans have been afraid to speak out because they don’t want to face an extreme opponent in a primary. Collins is in a secure position, with three years left on her current term and the high regard of Maine voters, and has made her presence known.

It was good to hear that Collins plans to continue to serve in her current role. As long as Trump is in office, the people of Maine – and the rest of the nation – need her in the Senate.

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Another View: Sexual harassment didn’t begin or end with Harvey Weinstein http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/sexual-harassment-didnt-begin-or-end-with-harvey-weinstein/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/sexual-harassment-didnt-begin-or-end-with-harvey-weinstein/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271270 Let’s stop talking about Harvey Weinstein for a second. When I was 11, my gym teacher told me to kiss his cheek, in front of a crowd of peers, his and mine. Was that appropriate? Should I have made a fuss? Am I supposed to know that at 11? I let him do it because I knew it would be over and done. At my last summer job, before leaving college, the hands and eyes of male supervisors were wandering constantly, on a thigh, as a shoulder rub, in the dress code. I wasn’t staying long so I literally let it slide. Should I have said something? It was never that bad, but who determines what “that bad” is and where the line is? When I worked in a local pub, the hands and eyes of most customers were everywhere. Is that just part of the job description, when serving beer to 50-year-old factory workers every day? And, at 20, I figured it was normal, nothing around me told me otherwise.

Do the Weinsteins of the world start that way, or do they get away with little things incrementally, until it becomes unacceptable and where on earth is the line?

The line of course is “my body, keep your hands off” but my personal examples all show that I didn’t do that. What is an over-reaction? Is anything an over-reaction? And, when you are the young woman with no power and no experience, how the hell do you know what to do?

What Weinstein did is both deplorable, shocking and yet completely unsurprising. Everyday sexism is rampant, but do we diminish the little things when we engage only with the big things? We only pay attention when it gets big, but everything big has a root system.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/sexual-harassment-didnt-begin-or-end-with-harvey-weinstein/feed/ 0 Sat, 14 Oct 2017 16:50:33 +0000
Maine Voices: Rural hospitals face downward spiral http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/maine-voices-rural-hospitals-face-down-spiral/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/maine-voices-rural-hospitals-face-down-spiral/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270727 Health care for nearly 700,000 rural Mainers faces an uncertain future. Rural hospital closures have gained considerable attention in Maine and elsewhere, but the problem is in fact, much larger. These hospital closures put access to emergency care, primary care, public health, long-term care and other support services at risk.

Rural Mainers depend on their community hospital as a vital source of care. Maine’s 22 rural community hospitals form the cornerstone for the area’s health care services with local primary care practices, health clinics and nursing homes depending on the local hospital’s structural and financial foundation. As the single largest source of employment in rural counties, health care is also vital to the increasingly fragile rural economy in Maine.

Data from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill indicate that the financial condition of many small, rural hospitals in Maine has deteriorated since 2011, with seven of the state’s 16 critical access hospitals having negative financial margins in 2015.

This August, we learned that health services in Jackman were threatened with the closure of the town’s nursing home and changes in the local emergency medical services. Also, this past summer, Calais Regional Hospital found itself unable to support its obstetrical services. This situation reflects a common pattern: Rural hospitals cannot provide a broad range of basic services because there are too few patients to cover the high fixed costs of those services. In response, hospitals eliminate services and reduce staff, but the financial problem only accelerates as patients begin to lose faith in their local hospital and choose to seek care elsewhere.

Faced with losing their local hospital, communities often mobilize to raise money or protest in an attempt to try to save their hospital. Rarely are the roots of the problem examined or discussed in a community forum where people can come together to understand the challenge. For example, the hospital’s financial problems are exacerbated when local residents choose not to use their local hospital.

Yet this behavior is rarely acknowledged or examined. Nor is the growing burden of chronic disease in rural communities closely reviewed, and the question asked: “What would turn this around?” And alternatives, such as building a regional service network with other hospitals with broader telehealth access to services, often become the focus of contentious negotiations among health care providers.

Hospitals and communities confront many challenges in the face of these potential closures. Ideally, communities and hospitals would have access to support and potentially financial assistance to develop a plan for transitioning to a new, rural health care future. To that end, we offer the following suggestions.

First, Maine’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, in collaboration with hospitals and other health care stakeholders, should examine the current financial circumstances of Maine rural hospitals and health care providers to identify those facilities at highest risk.

Second, communities and hospitals and their federal and state government partners need to consider alternative models for organizing hospital, emergency care and other services in the rural context. Freestanding emergency departments with the ability to deliver overnight observation and/or the development of regional delivery models, together with new payment models, are among the options being considered in several states.

Third, rural communities, including health care providers, payers and employers, must acknowledge that both time and financial resources are needed to develop realistic plans for transitioning to a re-configured health system.

Finally, Maine needs a point person and/or agency in state government tasked with the responsibility (and appropriately resourced) to work with the private sector and communities to mobilize the support and assistance needed to respond to short-term crises and implement longer-term plans.

The closure of OB services in Blue Hill in 2009, Lincoln in 2014 and Calais in 2017 are canaries in the coal mine. Let’s heed the warning immediately and start working with financially vulnerable rural hospitals, other providers, employers and communities to craft plans that ensure access to essential services in Maine’s rural communities.


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/maine-voices-rural-hospitals-face-down-spiral/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1270727_9884_20170831_rural_birth_4.jpgThe closure of OB services at Calais Regional Hospital, above, should be a warning of the need for plans that ensure access to essential services in rural Maine.Mon, 16 Oct 2017 10:57:23 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Shawn Moody could make race for governor interesting http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/nemitz-shawn-moody-could-make-race-for-governor-interesting/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/nemitz-shawn-moody-could-make-race-for-governor-interesting/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1271286 Exit Sen. Susan Collins. Enter Shawn Moody.

That, in a nutshell, describes the sudden turn the Republican race to replace Gov. Paul LePage took last week.

With political observers from Augusta to Washington, D.C., hanging on her every word, Collins drew a rousing ovation from the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce with her long-awaited announcement that she will stay put in the U.S. Senate rather than run for the Blaine House.

Hours later, dressed in a company sweatshirt, jeans and a pair of semi-disintegrated sneakers that most people would have tossed out months ago, Moody sat in his unassuming office at Moody’s Collision Center in Gorham and reflected on his status as a newly enrolled Republican. And, in all likelihood, a second-time candidate for governor.

“I think there’s a high probability,” he replied when asked if Collins’ departure means he’s in.

Pull up a chair, folks. This could get interesting.

We last saw him as an independent for governor in 2010 who, despite not entering the race until after the June primaries, managed to secure 5 percent of the vote.

As disappointing as that finish might have been to him, it nevertheless made Moody a much sought-after recruit from both sides of Maine’s partisan divide.

Democrats came knocking soon after that election, but he turned them down flat.

Why? Because he’d watched how many in the party had deserted their candidate, Elizabeth Mitchell, in droves and flocked to independent Eliot Cutler, and he wasn’t impressed.

“I’m a pretty loyal guy,” Moody said. “And that was a big sign to me.”

Long courted by Republicans as well, Moody finally decided last week to enroll – for the first time in his life – for two reasons.

One was the realization that, like it or not, if you want to run for statewide office, you’re a lot better off propelled by the full weight of a party apparatus.

The other: “I really believe the Republican Party is more closely aligned with my values.”

Which are, for those who may have forgotten?

“If you had to categorize me, I don’t like waste,” Moody said. “And waste is all around us.”

Unlike last time, Moody will have many months to expand on that philosophy. Expect to hear a lot about the auto salvage business he owns in addition to his statewide chain of auto-body repair shops and how it operates on a philosophy of “No waste. Lean processes. Handle it once. These things are in my DNA.”

At the same time, expect to hear how sometimes, “you have to spend money to save money. Maine needs to invest strategically.”

To wit: Two years ago, Moody’s Collision Centers footed the bill for a solar-power installation that currently provides Maine Audubon with 80 percent of its electricity at its headquarters in Falmouth.

In addition to federal tax credits, what was in it for Moody?

“It was an experiment,” he said, noting that he’s long been interested in developing energy-saving innovations for his business. “It provided a laboratory for us.”

Therein lies what could, in the long run, be Moody’s magic: A self-described “fiscal hawk” who will wear a pair of sneakers until they’re literally falling apart, yet at the same time a businessman who sees solar power not as a leftist plot, but rather as a sound investment in the future.

Add to that what we’ll call the “Opie effect” – that boyish good nature, reminiscent of the perpetually optimistic TV son Ron Howard once played to Andy Griffith. It left Maine voters in near-unanimous agreement seven years ago that Moody, if nothing else, is one heck of a nice guy.

Consider what happened when, following the 2010 election, LePage nominated Moody to sit on the boards of trustees for both the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System.

After a member of the governor’s staff put out feelers to key legislators on Moody’s chances of confirmation, he told Moody he couldn’t say it was a slam dunk. (Moody now serves on both boards.)

“But I can tell you one thing,” the staffer told him. “You haven’t got any enemies.”

That is no small asset, especially when juxtaposed with the current state of Maine’s Republican Party.

“The two highest elected officials in the state (LePage and Collins), both Republicans, don’t even speak to one another.” Moody observed. “I mean I think we’ve got some work to do, right?”

Only Moody can make that observation with a straight face. The rest of the Republican field – former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason – all head into next year’s primary burdened by the very intraparty dysfunction Moody bemoans.

What’s more, while that crowd talks endlessly about the need for jobs and economic development, Moody has been out there growing his business and plowing 10 percent of his company’s after-tax profits into an employee stock option plan. (See: redistribution of wealth.)

“I don’t think anyone in the race has even close to what I have in terms of business acumen,” he said. “And the ability to, you know, tighten up, conserve.”

Talk like that, in this era of “let’s throw the bums out and bring in a non-politician for a change,” could serve Moody well once he formally enters the race – he plans an announcement sometime before Thanksgiving.

And for those still loyal to one or another of the declared competition, consider the real possibility that ranked-choice voting will still be the law of the land come June.

If ever there was a popular second choice, which under the ranked-choice system can spell easy victory in a crowded field, it’s the guy who steadfastly refused to go negative last time around because his mother once told him, “Shawn, you can try hard to grow to be the tallest tree in the forest, or you can take a chainsaw and cut all the other trees down.”

Moody knows that Collins, had she decided to run, could have figured out a winning strategy “on the back of a napkin.”

And now that she’s out, he has nothing but praise for her decision to go back to the “mosh pit” that is the U.S. Senate and keep fighting the good fight for Maine.

But truth be told, he said, “I would have run either way.”

So, is this just another pipe dream?

Or can Moody, the guy in the sweatshirt who’s tight with a dollar, gain traction as a newly minted Republican?

Time will tell.

Meanwhile, he’ll need a new pair of sneakers.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/nemitz-shawn-moody-could-make-race-for-governor-interesting/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/nemitz1.jpegPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Sun, 15 Oct 2017 19:11:27 +0000
Maine Observer: Driving in fog is clearly a Maine rite http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/maine-observer-driving-in-fog-is-clearly-a-maine-rite/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/maine-observer-driving-in-fog-is-clearly-a-maine-rite/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270753 Several mornings this fall commuters have had to drive to work in heavy fog. The fog has been especially heavy in the lower parts of the road. This has reminded me of times when my family has had to drive home in the dark in fog so thick that we looked for another car to follow. In fact, when we had that car to follow, we followed so closely that sometimes we turned into the person’s driveway, soon backing up and discovering that we were on our own.

I’m sure you have heard the quip that you can tell a Massachusetts driver because he drives in the breakdown lane. You can tell the out-of-state driver because he doesn’t stop and then, after looking to see that all is clear, takes a right on the red light. You can tell a Maine driver because he straddles the line in the middle of the road when there is fog. My family were straddlers, particularly when the fog was heavy and we were returning from Portland on a country road in the dark.

When I was young, the Portland airport was very small and planes did not have the ability to land in fog as they now do. Instead, the flights would be canceled for that day.

Once my father was arriving in Portland at the end of summer and his flight from Boston was canceled. He ended up on a Greyhound bus that took him from one airport to the next. Fog is not as problematic as it used to be for flights in and out of Portland.

Another experience with fog occurred when my mother came to see the fireworks down on Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk. When we arrived with our beach chairs, we could see the boats out on the water and we sat down anticipating a wonderful show. Within a half hour the fog had rolled in with huge moist clouds, and we could no longer see the boats or anything more than a few feet in front of us. When the fireworks started, we heard the booms and saw a faint glow in the sky, but that was all. The fog had obliterated the display. The fireworks went on, but it was only boom and glow.

Fog is magical, mysterious and such an interesting part of living on coastal Maine.


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/maine-observer-driving-in-fog-is-clearly-a-maine-rite/feed/ 0 Fri, 13 Oct 2017 18:09:53 +0000
Commentary: Casting couch Hollywood intimidation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/commentary-casting-couch-hollywood-intimidation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/commentary-casting-couch-hollywood-intimidation/#respond Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270835 It wasn’t just the complicit silence around Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment that made it so dangerous.

It was the opposite of silence, too.

It was the public humiliation that could be used to retaliate against alleged victims who spoke out.

Weinstein used the media like a bludgeon to keep his alleged victims in line, by many accounts. He did it skillfully – and with plenty of help.

“Harvey could spin – or suppress – anything; there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine,” Rebecca Traister wrote last week in New York magazine’s the Cut about an altercation in 2000 with Weinstein.

One technique: Supplying information that would drag an accuser’s name through the mud.

The Italian actress Ambra Battilana Gutierrez found that out when she filed a sexual assault complaint against Weinstein in 2015.

“Details about Gutierrez’s past began to appear in the tabloids,” the New Yorker reported Tuesday in its exposé of Weinstein’s sexual misbehavior. (The New York Times broke its major story on the same subject last week; and in its wake, Weinstein was fired from his own company, though he denies the accusations.)

The gossip pages reported that Gutierrez had attended one of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s infamous orgy-parties, and that, as a teenager, she had made a charge of assault against a business executive but later backed out of cooperating with prosecutors.

It was a powerful, tried-and-true method of control.

Just last week, as a blockbuster New York Times story on Weinstein moved toward publication, negative information about one of Weinstein’s accusers was offered to a Washington Post reporter. The timing could, of course, be coincidental, but seems suspicious and tracks with Weinstein’s well-known practices. (The Post had begun checking into it when The Times story, naming the accuser, was published.)

All of this raises a tricky journalistic question: Should reporters consider, before deciding to publish, a source’s motivation, or the effect of a story on reputation and career?

In politics, opposition research on a candidate has resulted in many legitimate – and important – news stories. The journalistic standard is fairly simple: Is the information true, and is it newsworthy?

This same standard tends to be used for public figures of any kind – and Hollywood actresses may, or may not, fit into this category. (Are we talking about Meryl Streep or an unknown starlet?)

What the conventional practices often ignore is the reality of a vast power imbalance – the kind experienced by the women victimized by Roger Ailes at Fox News, or by the dozens of accusers who have come forward regarding the television star Bill Cosby.

Weinstein’s media manipulation could also cut in quite another direction, Jordan Sargent wrote in a 2015 piece, published by Gawker Media’s Defamer site, “Tell Us What You Know About Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Open Secret.'”

He could hype the reputations of aspiring actresses who cooperated with his demands. A blind item in one gossip column was widely read as a cautionary tale planted by Weinstein: An unnamed actress mysteriously scores a prestigious magazine cover as the next It Girl, but then withdraws her favors from her powerful benefactor.

“Well, It never happened,” the item read. “So she’s gone back to the major player who tried to make it happen for her the first time.”

The message, over time, was clear: Cooperate with me and you might be a star. Accuse me and you’ll be smeared.

Far more than complicit silence, this was Hollywood buzz at its most insidious. But then serious reporting, amplifying the voices of courageous accusers, changed all that.

Given Weinstein’s decadeslong media manipulation, it’s fitting – gratifyingly so – that what brought his downfall was media exposure.


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/15/commentary-casting-couch-hollywood-intimidation/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1270835_381022-HarveyAndTabloids2.jpgFri, 13 Oct 2017 17:41:51 +0000
The humble Farmer: When you hear ‘Progress for Maine,’ know it means the opposite http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/the-humble-farmer-when-you-hear-progress-for-maine-know-it-means-the-opposite/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/the-humble-farmer-when-you-hear-progress-for-maine-know-it-means-the-opposite/#respond Sat, 14 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270865 It was only by chance that I developed a gambling addiction, and it happened like this. A man we call “Hummer Dave” gave me some scratch lottery tickets for my 77th birthday. The Hummer explained that I should take a knife and scratch away the paint on the little circles and then take the cards into the grocery store and ask the clerk how much I had won.

I did as he said and was told I’d won $2. “Do you want two more dollar tickets?” the clerk asked.

“You gotta be kidding,” I said. “Why should I buy more when I’m $2 ahead?”

The clerk gave me back the winning ticket. I took it home and framed it along with the two dollar bills, and you can see it on my office wall today.

You are hearing this story up front so you will know that, although I have nothing whatsoever against gambling, I laughed out loud when I got a circular in the mail promoting a casino in York. It came from an organization called Progress for Maine.

Whenever you get inundated with colorful expensive circulars from organizations with names like Progress for Maine or Americans for Prosperity or the Association for Knowledge and Progress, you can bet that a close examination will reveal their goal is to do the exact opposite of what their name implies. Someone far from where you sleep is going to end up with a lot of money that came out of your pocket.

We are encouraged to vote in favor of this casino as we read that it will generate millions for teachers, schools and veterans.

At this point you might have an urge to get down on your knees and bless this shadowy, altruistic billionaire who tossed and turned on his bed for many nights before deciding he could best help you and your Maine friends by giving you a casino.

But before you wrinkle your trousers, let me tell you what little I know of casinos and what I read when I Googled this one.

Did you know that folks who can get a new casino licensed in Maine can turn right around and sell that license for 10 or more times than what it cost them? A wicked good profit for a small $5 million or $10 million investment in misleading newspaper and television advertising, coupled with direct mail and a cadre of people hired to visit your neighborhood and knock on your door. Even $50 million is not much to pay for a vacuum cleaner that will suck more money out of Maine than a big box store.

A distant cousin works as a dealer in a casino in a state near here. She said that the amount of traffic has been hard on roads. The casino is not liable for repairs, so local taxpayers foot the bill for the fixes – as well as for the salary of an extra state trooper and the attendant social services for families who were attracted in spite of the low wages. She said you go to work even when you’re sick or you could lose your job. As I recall, there was also an interesting story about the police discovering one room with 12 or so casino employees and their children living in it.

We have read that CQ Press analysts ranked Nevada as the nation’s most dangerous state for seven years in a row. When you stop to think that Nevada is famous for its gambling, doesn’t it make you wonder why our Maine neighbors aren’t clamoring for at least one more of those economy-enhancing casinos in their hometown?

Even closer to home, my brother-in-law has managed a casino way out west for years, and The Almost Perfect Woman and I have visited his digs there. He said when people ask to be directed to the best machine, he sends them to the ATM. Surprised that his office was no larger than the tiny cubicles of the eight or so women who worked with him, I asked him about it.

He said, “You don’t stand up in a crowd of women and say, ‘I am the boss.’ ”

Of course he treated us to dinner in the casino diner, where food was cheap and plentiful. I was reminded of the restaurants all along Maine’s coast. If you get there early enough, the server will seat you next to a window where you can see lobster boats unloading the day’s catch. We were also seated by the window where we could see Brink’s trucks leaving with theirs.

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


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/the-humble-farmer-when-you-hear-progress-for-maine-know-it-means-the-opposite/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1270865_humble.1014.jpgThe humble Farmer took up gambling when he got these scratch lottery tickets for his 77th birthday, but when he won $2, he decided to quit while he was ahead.Fri, 13 Oct 2017 23:29:55 +0000
Commentary: Realtor groups are urging a no vote on rent stabilization referendum http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/commentary-realtors-urge-no-vote-on-rent-stabilization-question/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/commentary-realtors-urge-no-vote-on-rent-stabilization-question/#respond Sat, 14 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270868 The Greater Portland Board of Realtors, the Maine Association of Realtors and the Maine Commercial Association of Realtors oppose Question 1 on Portland’s Nov. 7 ballot, and urge voters to vote “no” on this reckless referendum, which could have dire and unintended impacts on the city of Portland and its rental market.

We made the decision to oppose the referendum based on our commitment to support safe, affordable housing and private property rights in Portland. As Realtors, we are in the business of finding people homes – whether that be a single-family home, a multi-unit apartment building, or a rental. We know how vital the housing and rental market is to the fabric of a community. Our community and the availability of affordable housing are very important to us, both personally and professionally. While we agree that the availability of affordable housing is a major issue in Portland, this referendum is not the solution to the problem, and there are many unintended negative impacts this ordinance would create, the effects of which would be long-term and far-reaching.

First and foremost, there is no provision in the ordinance that would guarantee that low-income tenants would get a rent-controlled apartment. In fact, this will make it harder for low-income tenants to obtain housing, as landlords will be much more selective regarding who they rent to, and will look for tenants with higher credit scores and incomes, which would limit access to affordable housing for people who need it the most.

Typically, applicants who get into rent-controlled units tend to stay for long periods of time, which further exacerbates the housing supply problem. This really is an issue of supply and demand, not one of out-of-control rents. What the city needs is more affordable housing, which would ease the supply problem.

Rent caps would leave landlords little incentive to improve or maintain their properties, and that will lead to a decline in neighborhood quality, which will then result in decreased assessed property values, and increase the burden on the tax paying community.

Under this proposal, landlords would be unable to evict problem tenants. The requirement that landlords place five police calls in order to evict a problem tenant could be dangerous for neighboring tenants and places a lot of extra work on the Police Department. Neighbors of these problem tenants would have to live beside them for an untold amount of time before a landlord could remove them.

A new city department would also need to be created to monitor the 18,000-plus rental units in Portland, and voters don’t have any idea what the costs associated with this additional bureaucratic entity would be. The proposed landlord board would be comprised of four tenants and one landlord, which is not fair representation.

Question 1 would create unfair hurdles for landlords and for the creation of new affordable housing in Portland. It is a direct attack on private property rights. If passed, this dangerous policy cannot be changed for five years! We agree that the city must work to provide safe, affordable housing in Portland, but this proposal is not the way to do that. The negative consequences and impact this would have on the rental market in Portland would be extreme, and exactly the opposite of what the proponents of this policy hope to achieve. It is bad policy, bad for homeowners and bad for Portland.

We also would like to remind Portland residents to not be confused by the “Vote Yes On Question 1” signs all around the city that say this question will offer tax relief. These signs are referring to the state’s ballot Question 1 regarding the York County casino referendum. These are two very different referendum questions, and Question 1 on Portland’s ballot will definitely not offer any tax relief to Portland taxpayers. In fact, there is a very real chance that this referendum would increase the tax burden on property owners in Portland if passed.

For these reasons, we oppose Question 1 and strongly urge city residents to vote “no” on Question 1 in Portland on Nov. 7.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/commentary-realtors-urge-no-vote-on-rent-stabilization-question/feed/ 0 Fri, 13 Oct 2017 18:21:43 +0000
Another View: Criticism of Columbus overlooks navigator’s monumental feats http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/another-view-criticism-of-columbus-overlooks-navigators-monumental-feats-2/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/another-view-criticism-of-columbus-overlooks-navigators-monumental-feats-2/#respond Sat, 14 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270976 After reading Cynthia Dill’s Oct. 8 column about Christopher Columbus in the Maine Sunday Telegram, I was reminded of a quote from L.P. Hartley: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” They do indeed, and Ms. Dill would have done well to consider just how different the 15th century was from the 21st, before embarking on her ill-considered tirade on the sins of Columbus.

With very few exceptions, that distant age accepted conquest, pillage, slavery and forceful conversion of captives to the victor’s religion as acceptable, even praiseworthy behavior. This was not just the case in Europe, but also in Africa, the Islamic world, India and the Far East. And, yes, it was also acceptable behavior among the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

The Taino people of the Bahamas, who Columbus first encountered, had recently been pushed out of the lusher, more fertile islands to the south by the Arawak, who in turn, were slowly being overwhelmed by the Carib people. These Caribs were originally from northeastern South America and were engaged in a brutal conquest of the Caribbean islands at the time Columbus arrived. Does Ms. Dill also want to rename the Caribbean Sea because the Caribs were ruthless colonialists?

We can argue endlessly over whether the Caribs or Columbus were the more barbaric, or whether the Apaches were crueler than the Puritans. What was most egregious in her column was Ms. Dill’s breezy dismissal of Columbus’ monumental feat of navigation. Columbus, like all educated people in the late 15th century, knew that the world was spherical, and that its circumference was roughly 24,000 miles at the equator.

This was known since the time of the ancient Greeks. What was unknown in the 15th century was the distance that the Asian landmass extended to the east. Columbus, and some others, thought that Asia wrapped around the globe to within 3,000 miles or so of western Europe.

He was brave, reckless and very lucky that the islands of the Caribbean were about 3,000 miles west of Spain. He was also brilliant, having spent years previous to the epic 1492 voyage, sailing thousands of miles north and south, recording the latitudes of the easterly trade winds in the tropics, and the prevailing westerly winds of the higher latitudes. Without this knowledge, he would never have been able to return to Spain in the ships of his era, which had almost no ability to sail to windward.

Christopher Columbus was a superb navigator, whose geography was a little weak. That is why the honor went to Amerigo Vespucci and we call the continents “North America” and “South America,” not “Columbia.”

Columbus was also very much a man of his age, who, not surprisingly, was lacking in 21st-century standards of tolerance and social justice.

However, his courage and navigational skills are unquestioned and changed the entire world forever. For this we honor him.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/another-view-criticism-of-columbus-overlooks-navigators-monumental-feats-2/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/10/727601_columbus.1011.jpgChristopher Columbus’ voyage inspired further conquest of native peoples, this time in the New World.Sat, 14 Oct 2017 11:05:17 +0000
Maine Voices: Those trapped by human traffickers can benefit from Preble Street program http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/maine-voices-preble-street-training-program-helps-pinpoint-victims-of-human-trafficking/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/14/maine-voices-preble-street-training-program-helps-pinpoint-victims-of-human-trafficking/#respond Sat, 14 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270998 A recently published article (“Trafficking victims turn to hotline with pleas for help,” Oct. 1) spoke to the horrors of human trafficking and the important efforts of the National Human Trafficking Hotline in reaching survivors. The highest volume of calls coming through the hotline originate from big cities, but trafficking can and does happen everywhere, to women and men, cisgender and transgender people, and children right here in Maine.

Whether through labor or sex trafficking, human trafficking victims are forced, by sexual, physical and psychological coercion or violence, to do work – including domestic services, massage parlors, street prostitution and agricultural and restaurant work. These are all examples we have seen in Maine, many hidden in plain sight – working alongside others who aren’t being trafficked.

Sylvia was in her early 30s when she escaped from her traffickers – a family in Maine who used physical and emotional abuse to control her while she cooked, cleaned and cared for their children, for an average of 18 hours a day with little pay. She was forbidden to leave the house for over two years, and had no access to a phone, computer or any way to communicate with the outside world.

Brian was 20 years old when a trafficker took advantage of his substance use disorder and used heroin to recruit and control him, forcing Brian to engage in commercial sex work and taking the money he earned.

Preble Street recently joined The Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Massachusetts as the state lead for Maine in the New England Coalition Against Trafficking, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and will be working with Maine partners as well as those in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island to develop and implement efforts to increase outreach, identification and service referral for victims of human trafficking across New England.

Preble Street has been receiving referrals through the human trafficking hotline since we started our anti-trafficking program in 2013, and we partner closely with the hotline to ensure that systems and protocols in Maine are working to safeguard the well-being of any person experiencing trafficking.

As well as working directly with trafficking survivors, Preble Street works with a network of area service providers – including Caring Unlimited, Catholic Charities, Day One, Family Crisis Services, the Immigration Legal Advocacy Project, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine – to facilitate healing and growth and to promote individual and systemic justice for all trafficked persons, families and communities.

From the outset, clients are offered access to services including intensive case management; assistance with medical and substance use treatment; mental health counseling; shelter and housing referrals; and advocacy through the criminal justice system.

A critical component of the anti-trafficking effort is training first responders and allies – law enforcement officers, medical providers and social service providers – to identify victims and refer them to the resources and services in Maine that address human trafficking.

But how do 211 or 911 operators know whom to call? Do school systems know that there have been cases of students recruited into traveling magazine sales or groomed for forced prostitution by their romantic partner, all within the confines of the classroom? What about the utility workers or cable companies who regularly go into homes? Or health inspectors who see the working conditions of restaurant workers, or the work the Department of Agriculture does to ensure farm safety?

Training those who are most likely to interact with potential victims – either in the sex industry or in any other industry – is key to ensuring that when law enforcement, a nurse or a fellow worker sees exploitative working conditions, they can name it and report it.

Preble Street has trained over 1,700 people and as a result, has received referrals for more than 300 people who have experienced trafficking. And it takes each member of the community to be aware, ask questions and make referrals to the systems created by Preble Street and its partners to help identify and connect people who may have experienced trafficking to the support and safety they need.


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Maine Voices: The time for universal health care and single-payer is near http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/maine-voices-the-time-for-universal-health-care-and-single-payer-is-near/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/maine-voices-the-time-for-universal-health-care-and-single-payer-is-near/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270310 Seventeen years ago, I wrote an op-ed for the Maine Sunday Telegram headlined “Universal Medicare: The time is coming” (Nov. 19, 2000). Apparently I jumped the gun, as it has not taken place yet.

Now I feel like a cicada, an insect that looks like a huge fly, emerging after 17 years of hibernation under the bark of a tree and emitting unique and characteristic shrill buzzing sounds to attract attention to itself. Now the sounds come from independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The concern of our nation regarding health care for all is reaching a crescendo, and we need to address this. The resounding will of the people should be recognized and acted upon.

The recent and astounding conversion of now-retired Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., into a supporter of a system of single-payer care like that of Canada leaves one breathless. Baucus owed this to every American, having blocked single-payer eight years ago as an architect of the Affordable Care Act.

Today I repeat the message after all these years. The time for universal health care and single-payer is near, and the politicians of all parties have an obligation to awaken and do what hundreds of millions of Americans crave. Poll after poll expresses this desire.

Current efforts otherwise in Washington are dying day by day, and the gasping last breaths of politicians to repair, replace, revise, renew or whatever are just roadblocks and flimsy efforts to make an easy job impossible.

President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and so many others should be ashamed they have not pushed the easy button bringing superior health care to every last citizen of America. Repeated tweaking of and failures to change the system with little study and no experience only expose amazing incompetence, lack of education and profound political positioning. Trying to solve these issues with political threats and outright lies rather than facts would be laughable if it were not such a serious matter, easily the most important domestic issue of our time.

We owe it to one another to bring about this change and elevate our position to the top. In a recently released, reliable comprehensive study of health care worldwide, our only top position is cost. We blow away every other nation as we spend $9,000 per capita yearly on care – about 17 percent of our gross domestic product.

However, we are far down the list, tied with Estonia and Montenegro, in quality of and access to health care. On a scale of 0 to 100, our overall grade point average is 81. That, to me, is a cruel joke. Top score went to Andorra, a little country in the Alps – boasting a score of 95. Big countries like Norway and Australia beat us with ease. Yes, this is hard to believe. Just check the article, published May 18 in The Lancet – the accurate, highly regarded journal from the U.K. It is all there.

Money is not the problem. How can we wear Gucci shoes while preemies die? How can we let our horn of plenty stop on Wall Street while addicts lives’ end as they wait in vain down the street for rehabilitation services? How can we spend $4 billion on another destroyer scraping its sides on the Panama Canal while health care-related bankruptcies humiliate Middle America?

Should we be sending billions to Egypt to buy tanks that shoot at each other? Or a billion to Ukraine for forgotten reasons?

I again submit: The time has come for Americans to take care of ourselves. Look over our northern border and we will see how it works – at huge savings. Note that the per capita cost of health care here has more than doubled since the publication of my 2000 Telegram op-ed – even though Canada has enjoyed both liberal and conservative governments during this time, with no change in the love for single-payer there.

The per capita cost of health care in Canada is a little less than half of what we pay in the U.S. Politics should not lead the way on how to fix your mother’s hip – or how to pay for it. We need more civilized ways to face these responsibilities. Virtually all polls agree with this position.

Personally, I have more at stake here. I do not want to wait another 17 years to see a change that is so critically needed now. I am sick of living under the bark of a tree. Please study the issues on switching to universal health care and single-payer. Then join Bernie Sanders and a huge majority of our fellow Americans in supporting single-payer care.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/maine-voices-the-time-for-universal-health-care-and-single-payer-is-near/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1269196_health_care_birth_control_61.jpgDemonstrators rally in Washington in 2014 in support of the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers cover contraception in their health insurance plans. Under a new federal rule, any "sincerely held" religious or moral objection to the mandate is now valid grounds for an employer to end birth control coverage.Mon, 16 Oct 2017 14:04:25 +0000
Commentary: Trump’s border wall is a fair trade for protecting ‘Dreamers’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/commentary-trumps-border-wall-is-a-fair-trade-for-protecting-the-dreamers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/commentary-trumps-border-wall-is-a-fair-trade-for-protecting-the-dreamers/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270324 It’s time to build the wall – and, in doing so, prevent an estimated 690,000 DACA “Dreamers” from being deported from the United States. It’s a fair deal that could be scuttled only by intense and self-serving partisanship from the White House and the Republican and Democratic congressional leadership.

As almost everyone knows by now, DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” a program created in 2012 by President Barack Obama that President Trump says he wants to undo. Because the beneficiaries were brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents, it’s hard to make a case that they should be punished. As a practical matter, most have grown up as Americans. They have few roots in their country of birth.

A deal seemed within reach after Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed to negotiate. But now prospects seem to be fading, because the White House is insisting that building the border wall be part of the package – and Schumer and Pelosi say, no way.

“This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise,” they said in a joint statement. Actually, that’s not true.

If Trump is going to save the Dreamers – repudiating a campaign promise that he would end the program – he needs something big in return. This could be the wall. Schumer and Pelosi’s notion of compromise is hardly any compromise at all. Their position is: Be reasonable, do it our way.

Full disclosure: I have been a supporter of the wall for some years, predating Trump’s presidential campaign. I justify this on three grounds.

n First, I think it would reduce – though not eliminate – illegal immigration. It would be harder to cross the border; some wouldn’t try. Controlling our border is vital, even if, as the Pew Research Center estimates, there is now some net migration back to Mexico. This could change, and the gross flows in both directions remain large.

n Second, the wall would symbolize a major shift in U.S. immigration policy – a tougher attitude – that would deter some from crossing the border illegally and, more important, justify legislation requiring employers to verify workers’ immigration status before being hired. If we were to increase border security but not require proof of legal status, much of the wall’s benefit would be lost. Workers would still come.

n Finally, the wall is required as a political act of good faith to immigration opponents. They believe the wall would be effective, and the only way to prove – or disprove – these claims would be to try it.

I know and respect many critics of the wall who believe it would be a waste of time and money.

They could be right, and I could be wrong, but the only way to find out is to build it.

That’s my case for the wall. True, it would be costly. One common estimate is $25 billion. Still, even this amount is a rounding error in a $4 trillion federal budget.

The price would be tiny if the result protects the “Dreamers” and inspires real bargaining on many immigration issues: sanctuary cities, family preferences, and a path to citizenship, among others.

Compromise involves giving up things you want and accepting things you don’t want for a result that, despite its defects, leaves you better off than when you started. In that sense, a grand compromise on immigration is conceivable. The open question is whether both sides are willing to compromise – and today’s agendas are simply negotiating positions – or whether they prefer endless political theater.

— Special to The Washington Post

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Commentary: Let’s all work to make sure ‘A Day Without Water’ never happens http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/commentary-third-annual-imagine-a-day-without-water-observed/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/commentary-third-annual-imagine-a-day-without-water-observed/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270341 A day without water means you wake up, turn on the tap to brush your teeth, and no water comes out. There is no morning cup of coffee. When you flush the toilet, nothing happens. Firefighters have no water to put out fires; farmers are unable to water their crops; sanitation at medical facilities could be compromised. A single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. In just eight days, a national water service stoppage would put nearly 2 million jobs in jeopardy.

When you stop and think about it, a day without water is nothing short of a crisis in all respects. That is why the Portland Water District joined other water utilities and community leaders Thursday to participate in the third annual “Imagine a Day Without Water,” a nationwide day of education and advocacy about the value of water.

Across the country, communities struggle with water shortages, pollution and inadequate infrastructure. Water issues abound from man-made tragedies in Flint, Michigan, water scarcity issues in central California and farm and wastewater runoff in the Midwest. In 1993, in my former hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 400,000 people became ill and over 50 died when the parasite Cryptosporidium passed through the treatment plant and into the drinking water supply. That waterborne disease outbreak turned the drinking water industry on its head and led to improvements to protect public health.

Working for Milwaukee Water Works between 1995 and 2017, I saw firsthand the impacts this event would have as it led to an immediate and unprecedented $89 million investment in infrastructure in Milwaukee.

The challenges that face our drinking water and wastewater systems are complex and multi-faceted. But common across the nation, infrastructure is aging and in need of investments.

The good news is that Americans believe water infrastructure investment is a priority, with 82 percent of voters saying that they view the issue as either important or very important.

Here at the Portland Water District, we think good, clean water means everything! Actions supporting that statement start at the source, Sebago Lake, with watershed protection activities and a state-of-the-art drinking water treatment facility. It continues with the upkeep of nearly 1,000 miles of distribution main and 17 pumping and storage facilities which deliver the clean, healthy water to your homes and businesses. But it does not stop there. A complex system of wastewater pumping stations, sewers, and treatment plants collect and remove pollution before the cleaned water is returned to the Presumpscot River and Casco Bay.

Regular updates and maintenance are required to ensure proper functioning systems that deliver clean water. That’s why we invest approximately $20 million each year to upgrade infrastructure, $7 million of which is dedicated to water main replacements. While we have conducted a comprehensive water main replacement program since 1985, the amount we invest each year has steadily risen from $2.5 million in 2011 to $7 million today in order to maintain water quality and reliability of service. This level of investment allows us to replace roughly 5 miles of pipe annually. Ideally, it is recommended that distribution systems are replaced at a rate of 1 percent a year, which would equate to 10 miles locally. Balancing affordability and investments is part of the planning process and why the Portland Water District implements modest water rate increases annually.

Investments have paid off – our drinking water quality is exceptional, water main breaks have declined and are well below national averages, the wastewater collection system is improving and the performance of the wastewater treatment plants is benefiting from system renewals and process enhancements.

Yes, you’ll get a bill from us once a month. An average residential household of four people receives a month’s worth of clean, cold tap water for under $30, approximately two-thirds less than the average American’s cable bill.

Americans rate water service as their most important monthly expense, above electricity, heat and phone, yet it is one of the cheapest and most overlooked, accounting for only 12 percent (water and wastewater) of monthly expenses, compared to 33 percent for telephone and 37 percent for electricity. The revenue generated from water and sewer bills goes toward investments in infrastructure and the operations that keep “a day without water” as a distant thought.

— Special to the Press Herald

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/commentary-third-annual-imagine-a-day-without-water-observed/feed/ 0 Thu, 12 Oct 2017 21:36:52 +0000
Our View: Drilling plan amounts to an assault on our oceans http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/our-view-drilling-plan-amounts-to-assault-on-our-oceans/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/our-view-drilling-plan-amounts-to-assault-on-our-oceans/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270424 Though lawmakers, Cabinet members and White House staff have gone in and out of favor with President Trump in his short time in office, he’s consistently been best buddies with Big Oil – and now that he’s pushing hard for exploration and drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, Maine’s congressional delegation should be just as intent on stopping this ruinous plan in its tracks.

Seismic tests and oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean were barred under the Obama administration, but Trump the candidate promised that things would be different if he were elected. And at the end of his first hundred days in office, he gave his fossil fuel industry allies a big gift, announcing the signing of an executive order opening millions of acres of federal waters in the Atlantic to oil and gas leasing.

Like-minded lawmakers on Capitol Hill are pursuing the same destructive agenda. Last week, House Republicans passed a budget that included a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. This week saw a committee hearing on a draft proposal, hailed by House Republicans, that would essentially hand over all of our oceans to oil companies.

The Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act is a recipe for disaster. It would allow the interior secretary to offer oil lease sales anywhere in federal waters at any time – dispensing with a five-year approval process, put in place in 1978, that requires leasing plans to receive vetting every step of the way from industry, the public and elected officials in adjacent states.

The ASTRO Act would stop residents and elected officials from expressing serious and valid concerns about the impact of oil exploration and drilling. Finding oil under the ocean floor requires seismic testing, in which towering arrays of airguns towed by ships emit blasts loud enough, according to scientists, to decrease the commercial fishing catch by an average of 50 percent over thousands of square miles.

And any marine life that managed to weather the testing would be at risk from an oil spill or an oil well blowout. Speaking of which: Such a disaster in the Atlantic would spew oil into the Gulf Stream and send it up the Eastern Seaboard, affecting tourism and fishing industries that generate an estimated $95 billion a year and support nearly 1.4 million jobs in states from Maine to Florida.

“Oh, you will like me so much,” Donald Trump told fossil fuel executives on the campaign trail. No doubt, they do. Now Maine’s members of Congress should help make sure that the people whose livelihoods would be threatened by Atlantic drilling get equal say in Washington.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/our-view-drilling-plan-amounts-to-assault-on-our-oceans/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1270424_988062_20160624_lobster1166.jpgIf the Trump administration allows Atlantic oil and gas exploration to move ahead, Maine's $735 million-a-year fishing catch could be disrupted by seismic blasts that are loud enough to be heard underwater up to 2,500 miles away.Fri, 13 Oct 2017 00:37:01 +0000
Another View: It’s past time for the United States to stand up to Turkey’s bullying http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/another-view-its-past-time-for-the-united-states-to-stand-up-to-turkeys-bullying/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/another-view-its-past-time-for-the-united-states-to-stand-up-to-turkeys-bullying/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270444 Authoritarian governments around the world have increasingly embraced the disgraceful tactic of arresting U.S. citizens and holding them as de facto hostages in an attempt to gain leverage over Washington. Iran and North Korea were pioneering practitioners – and both repeatedly extracted U.S. concessions. That probably encouraged other nations, including Egypt and Venezuela. Now comes Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, a NATO member that appears well on its way to becoming an outlaw state.

In the past year the Erdogan government has seized a dozen Americans as well as two Turks working for U.S. consulates. Erdogan recently made clear that the prisoners are little more than pawns whom he wishes to trade for Turks in the United States.

Following the latest arrest, of a consular employee in Istanbul, an understandably exasperated U.S. Embassy announced a freeze Sunday on the issuance of nonimmigrant visas to Turks – a drastic measure that was quickly reciprocated by the Turkish mission in Washington. Such a ban could hurt many innocent people, including Turkish journalists and civil society activists working to resist Erdogan’s repression. If it endures, it should be refined to target government officials, business executives and others linked to the regime.

There’s no question, however, that the Trump administration, which has persisted in describing Erdogan as a close ally, must now stand up to his bullying. The Turkish ruler appears to believe he can persecute Americans with impunity; his arrogance was encapsulated when he watched as his security detail attacked peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington in May. His demands about Turks in the United States are equally lawless.

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Bill Nemitz: South Portland honors centenarian for a life well lived http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/nemitz-south-portland-honors-a-life-well-lived/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/nemitz-south-portland-honors-a-life-well-lived/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1270447 They say you’re as old as you feel.

Eva Ledger doesn’t feel 107.

“I never give it a thought,” Eva said, leaning hard into the heating pad wedged between her and her living room rocker. “What’s the difference, yesterday or today?”

Or, in her case, 39,141 yesterdays. And counting.

Eva Ledger, with Rosemarie De Angelis. Photo courtesy Rosemarie De Angelis

Monday evening, South Portland’s City Council will take a short break from the pressing business of the day to honor a life well – and long – lived.

“I’m 65, and I wake up in the morning and feel like I need some WD-40 in my hips,” mused Rosemarie De Angelis, a former South Portland mayor and city councilor. “And I look at Eva and say, ‘What the hell am I complaining about?’ ”

They first met in 2014 when De Angelis, at the time a candidate for the Maine Legislature, knocked on Eva’s door at Landry Village to ask for her vote.

“She was a lot more spry then. Of course, that was a couple of years ago, when she was only 104,” De Angelis quipped. “And she was up and about and wanted to talk about Gov. LePage and how she couldn’t stand him and what were we going to do about this and that.”

De Angelis never made it to Augusta. But after last fall’s election, she thought about Eva and decided to check back in – she figured she’d get one of those recordings indicating that the number (and, alas, Eva) was no longer in service.

Not a chance.

“It took you two years to call me back?” answered Eva, who knew not only that De Angelis had lost the election two years prior, but also that she’d been edged out by a mere 64 votes. “What took you so long?”

De Angelis was, and still is, in awe.

When the U.S. Census Bureau last checked in 2015, just fewer than 77,000 Americans were still alive past their 100th birthday – more than double the number of centenarians in 1980.

For some, such longevity comes with a price – the longer you’re in this world, the harder it can get to comprehend its complexities, navigate its daily challenges, even remember who you are and why you’re here.

Not so for Eva.

She was born in Lyndonville, Vermont, in August of 1910, the third of 12 children. William Howard Taft was president, and the United States had yet to fight in one world war, let alone two.

Her family moved to Portland when she was 8 and, to this day, she can remember walking to Deering High School by way of a big field near her house. It’s now the Westgate Shopping Plaza.

She married Roland Ledger, a soldier, and they lived for a time at Fort McKinley, then an active Army base on Great Diamond Island.

“We were sitting in the movies one day and somebody came and tapped (Roland) on the shoulder,” she recalled. “He left and came right back and said, ‘I have to go, but you can stay here and watch the rest of the movie.’ ”

It was no routine interruption. The Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor and, before Eva knew it, they were off to Florida and a new military assignment.

After the war, Roland and Eva went their separate ways. Eva came home to South Portland, by now a single mother of three, and got to work singlehandedly raising and supporting her family.

She worked for Philco Wholesalers, where she bought her first television, and then for 16 years as a bookkeeper for Coca-Cola. Her daily commute took her past what is now picturesque Mill Creek Park – back then, it was a foul-smelling, open-pit dump.

She also changed sheets at the Merry Manor Inn in South Portland and babysat for a family with seven children in Falmouth Foreside.

She maintained each of the three homes she bought and sold over the decades, all in South Portland. She can still recite the house numbers and streets – including the one on Westbrook Street where she lived until she was 98.

“I did all the mowing of the grass on both sides of that house,” she recalled with pride. “I shoveled all the snow. My doctor kept saying, ‘You have to stop doing that.’ ”

And what did she tell him?

“I said, ‘I can still do it!’ I mean, I wasn’t crazy enough to go out and shovel and shovel until I collapsed. I would go out for a couple of hours and go in the house and sit down and watch TV – when we had real TV, not this junk we have today. Gosh, I can’t even turn that TV on and look at that one face that keeps popping up on there.”

And whose face, dare we ask, might that be?

“Donald Trump!” Eva nearly shouted, slapping her hand on the chair’s arm with each syllable.

Having watched 15 men come and go from the White House, she has a problem with the current occupant?

“Oh God, do I have problems,” she said. “You cannot imagine.”

Speaking of presidents, Eva’s favorite was Bill Clinton, followed closely by Barack Obama because he and Michelle “were the perfect couple” and because “he went in there when the country was in terrible shape after Bush and he straightened things out in a couple of years. And this idiot has been there almost a year, and what has he done? Nothing.”

Funny, but I thought her favorite president might have been someone further back. Maybe, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt?

“I didn’t care too much for him,” Eva replied. “He was too much of a ladies man.”

Wait, wasn’t Bill Clinton the quintessential ladies man?

“Well, Bill was for a while, but he straightened out. I know how men are. If some young girl comes over and starts hugging and kissing you, you’re going to respond in a nice way. So, don’t tell me anything about men. I know the good ones and the bad ones. That’s why I never remarried.”

Her secrets to longevity aren’t all that secret. Or profound, for that matter.

She stays informed by reading every newspaper she can get her hands on. She also devours four books a month that the nice woman from the South Portland Public Library drops off – “The Hollywood Daughter” and “Wild Wicked Scot” are among her two most recent conquests.

Beyond that, Eva said, “Stay away from the dope. And the drinking. And now you’ve got the marijuana coming up here. It makes all the kids stupid.”

And since we’re on the topic of kids, enough with the cellphones already.

“It’s made dummies out of them!” Eva said. “Nobody knows how to spell anything. They don’t know how to talk to a person. They walk down the street, they don’t even look where they’re going. So, what are they going to be like when they get ready to go find a job? They’re not going to have enough intelligence to write a letter.”

Finally, she advised, “Work hard. That’s what I did. I worked hard all my life.”

Getting down to City Hall for Monday’s proclamation honoring South Portland’s oldest resident won’t be easy for Eva. She recently tripped in her living room and cracked three ribs on the coffee table – hence the heating pad.

But she’ll do her best to be there, with an ever-admiring De Angelis by her side.

“It’s not that I think I’m any better than anybody else,” Eva said. “But I think it’s kind of nice to be recognized because a lot of people who I see every day are amazed when I say I’m 107. Most people don’t know that. They’ll say, ‘No, you’re kidding. You can’t be 107.’ Or they say, ‘You’re in your 70s!’ ”

Far be it from Eva to correct them.

“That’s OK,” she says with a twinkle in her eye. “Keep thinking that.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/13/nemitz-south-portland-honors-a-life-well-lived/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Fri, 13 Oct 2017 14:39:24 +0000
Commentary: On NFL tax exemption, Trump might have backed into correct position http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/on-nfl-tax-exemption-trump-might-have-backed-into-correct-position/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/on-nfl-tax-exemption-trump-might-have-backed-into-correct-position/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269825 If anyone was wondering what it would take to get President Donald Trump to endorse a policy promoted by President Barack Obama, we now have our answer.

On Tuesday morning, Trump blasted the Internet with the message: “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”

As with most of the president’s two-thumbed policy directives, sussing out the exact meaning is tough.

The NFL voluntarily gave up its tax-exempt status two years ago to keep its internal financials a secret, so that’s not it. More likely, Trump was referring to the use of tax-exempt government bonds to help finance NFL stadiums, something other anthem-loving GOP elected officials have been calling attention to of late.

Whatever he meant, it got an immediate reaction from the NFL, as Commissioner Roger Goodell responded within hours with a letter stressing that “we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem” and promising that coming weeks will bring a new “in-season platform” to address the issue. (He probably can’t unilaterally declare a leaguewide policy, because that would require approval of the players union.)

If the league succeeds in restoring the routine of all players standing before the flag before each game– a practice that dates all the way to, uh, 2009 – presumably the president will back down on his threat to the league’s bottom line.

That would be a shame, because the use of tax-exempt bonds for sports stadiums is a problem that goes back to a time when Trump was still a USFL owner suing the NFL. The practice, which effectively provides sports franchises with low-interest loans at the expense of the federal treasury, has cost taxpayers an estimated $3.2 billion across all pro sports since the turn of the millennium.

For years, economists have complained that providing federal tax breaks for stadium construction is daft policy – it shouldn’t matter to the U.S. economy as a whole whether the Raiders play in Oakland or Las Vegas – and Congress even briefly held hearings on the matter in 2007. (I got to testify.)

But it wasn’t until Obama took aim at the loophole two years back that it started to get national attention, though Republicans in Congress, not willing to give him a win on anything, made sure to keep the tax breaks in place.

And that stadium tax break – if it was what Trump was getting at (even his own press secretary seemed unclear which public money he was talking about) – is only the tip of the sports-subsidy iceberg.

Even at $200 million a year, the public cost of tax-exempt bonds is dwarfed by the flood of cash flowing from state, county and city governments to sports teams.

Here are some of the NFL’s greatest stadium hits:

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank got $200 million in state money toward his team’s new $1.6 billion stadium, then snuck in a clause that will net him “close to $700 million” worth of additional tax money over the course of the next 30 years. If the team stays that long, that is: Blank abandoned his old stadium, the Georgia Dome, before it even turned 25.

When sales-tax revenue that was supposed to pay for a new Cincinnati Bengals stadium fell short, Hamilton County, Ohio, sold off a public hospital to make its payments. And taxpayers there may have more expenses in their future: A clause in the team’s lease requires the public to provide for any upgrades that half of other NFL teams have, up to and including a holographic replay system.

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson not only got Louisiana taxpayers to spend $376 million to renovate the Superdome, he arranged to be paid an additional $18 million a year for deigning to allow his team to play football there.

His team execs built a 13-foot-high statue of Benson for this, as they could well afford to do.

If the party in control of Washington really wanted to put an end to all these stadium games, it could do so in an instant by passing an excise tax on all local-level subsidies, as Rep. David Minge, D-Minn., proposed in 1999, instantly making stadium subsidies undesirable.

What’s the point of getting a wad of cash for your stadium if you just have to pay it right back out to the IRS?

Minge’s bill didn’t even make it out of committee before it was stymied by sports league lobbyists.

If there’s something to be outraged about, it’s not who chooses to protest how; it’s that Congress has the power to nip sports subsidies in the bud, but it never seems to find the backbone to do it.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/on-nfl-tax-exemption-trump-might-have-backed-into-correct-position/feed/ 0 Wed, 11 Oct 2017 20:03:21 +0000
Another View: Kurdistan region should back off its drive to independence for now http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/another-view-kurdistan-region-should-back-off-its-drive-to-independence-for-now/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/another-view-kurdistan-region-should-back-off-its-drive-to-independence-for-now/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269886 The leaders of Iraq’s Kurdistan region are suffering considerable consequences for their reckless staging of a referendum on independence late last month. The Iraqi government has teamed up with Turkey and Iran to impose tough sanctions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once a Kurdistan ally, is threatening to shut down an oil pipeline that provides the region with much of its revenue. Meanwhile, the United States, long the Kurds’ most important ally, has done little to stanch the growing backlash.

There is a strong case for self-determination by the Kurds, a distinct nation that suffered genocide at the hands of Saddam Hussein and a long history of discrimination in Turkey, Iran and Syria. For a dozen years, post-Saddam Iraqi governments have disregarded legal obligations to Kurdistan, including the distribution of oil revenues. But Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani has given even Kurdistan’s supporters reason for opposition.

The referendum was staged largely for political reasons. Barzani, whose elected term expired four years ago, was seeking a way to revive his domestic support. Though a new legislature is supposed to be elected Nov. 1, the presidential election – and Barzani’s long-promised departure from office – has been thrown into doubt by a mysterious absence of candidates.

The U.S. still depends on Kurdish forces to fight the Islamic State in tandem with the Iraqi army and Shiite militias backed by Iran. Robust U.S. intervention is now necessary to broker truces between Kurdistan and Baghdad, as well as Ankara. The Kurds should be pressed to forswear any further steps toward independence in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Barzani, meanwhile, should allow his would-be country to return to democracy and the rule of law – without which it has no chance of succeeding.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/another-view-kurdistan-region-should-back-off-its-drive-to-independence-for-now/feed/ 0 Wed, 11 Oct 2017 23:03:41 +0000
Defining down the definition of internet ‘service’ will hurt rural economy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/maine-voices-defining-down-the-definition-of-internet-service-will-hurt-rural-economy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/maine-voices-defining-down-the-definition-of-internet-service-will-hurt-rural-economy/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269703 NEW GLOUCESTER — We are writing to further the discussion and support the opinion of the Portland Press Herald Editorial Board (Oct. 2) regarding the Federal Communications Commission and that panel’s proposal to redefine the minimum internet service level. We agree that if the FCC redefines downward “adequate” service, rural Americans will lose out and be left further behind economically, educationally and in terms of quality of life.

In the late 1800s, at the dawn of the telephone industry, the larger established telephone companies couldn’t make a viable business case to serve low-density rural areas, so they didn’t. Understanding the importance of communication to their enterprises, local farmers and businessmen leveraged their personal resources to build their own rural phone networks. All of the Otelco/OTT Communications companies originated that way.

Today is no different: Instead of phone service to rural areas, it’s internet via fiber to the premises that we struggle to deliver to those rural communities. If you listen to the FCC, you might think that other technologies like mobile wireless could serve in place of fiber optics. To a degree, they can – if the definition of “served” is reduced.

The current FCC standard is a download speed of 25 megabits per second and an upload speed of 3 Mbps. Mobile signals can theoretically reach those speeds – assuming there’s a mobile carrier that has infrastructure in these rural areas capable of delivering high-speed service – and therein lies the problem. As the Press Herald editorial noted, Verizon is abandoning thousands of rural customers around the country, including hundreds in Maine, because they claim it is too costly to provide service in rural areas.

If legacy phone companies like ours – or, for that matter, the FCC – were allowed to arbitrarily reduce the standard of service we deliver, where might those costly-to-serve rural residents be today? From our perspective, the combination of our dedication to the communities we serve, FCC oversight and the Universal Service Fund (which was created to ensure that all Americans have access to a basic phone line) has kept rural America from falling behind in communications.

Today, communication equates to internet connectivity. Where we’re concerned, the best way to provide connectivity is through fiber optics. It’s reliable, it’s scalable and it exceeds the current FCC definition of served – making it futureproof. Even if the FCC reduces the definition of “served,” we’ll continue to deploy fiber to the degree that finances permit; it’s simply the right way to do business in the best interest of our customers.

The problem is that with a reduction in internet speed requirements, others may choose to deploy technologies that will need to be replaced in the near future as the demand for internet speed increases – and it increases daily.

With a limited Universal Service Fund available to assist in the costly deployment of high-speed internet infrastructure, reducing the minimum requirements for internet delivery would allow the allocation of funds for technology that is barely serviceable now, and will sure to be outdated in the next few years.

According to the FCC website, the mission of the commission is to regulate interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, and its work is guided by the following strategic goals:

Promoting economic growth and national leadership.

Protecting public interest goals.

Making networks work for everyone.

• Promoting operational excellence.

In our opinion, by reducing the standard for adequate internet speeds, the commission would be in direct conflict with all of these guiding principles.

As the Press Herald editorial points out, “True high-speed internet is a necessity for an economy driven by the latest technology. The areas that lack it are already in trouble and are falling further behind, and that won’t stop unless the government does something more than change a definition.” Otelco couldn’t agree more.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/maine-voices-defining-down-the-definition-of-internet-service-will-hurt-rural-economy/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1186872_3ringbinder_1215-e1493178292936.jpgThe fiber-optic cable project to bring high-speed internet to remote parts of Maine is likely to add to the volume of personal data on the web.Thu, 12 Oct 2017 11:49:19 +0000
Dana Milbank: A guy walks into the Oval Office to give the president an IQ test http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/a-guy-walks-into-the-oval-office-to-give-the-president-an-iq-test/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/a-guy-walks-into-the-oval-office-to-give-the-president-an-iq-test/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269797 “If he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”

— President Trump, in Forbes magazine, on the widely confirmed report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the president a “moron.”

The setting: The Oval Office

The date: Later this week

CIA officer: Mr. President, I’m here from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Trump: Mike Pence is down the hall. I don’t like intelligence briefings.

CIA officer: No, sir, this isn’t an intelligence briefing. I’m here to administer an intelligence test.

Trump: Don’t waste your time. I get an A-plus grade on all tests, and I will on this test, too, unless it’s rigged.

CIA officer: Well, sir, I don’t want to make you nervous, but Secretary Tillerson was found to have an extremely high IQ when we tested him.

Trump: Tillerson intelligent? You are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

CIA officer: Very funny, sir. First, I’m going to test your pattern recognition. I will show you five shapes and you tell me which one doesn’t belong.

Trump: Bob Corker.

CIA officer: But sir, I haven’t shown you the shapes yet.

Trump: I don’t care. Corker doesn’t belong. Everybody knows it’s true, except the fake-news media.

CIA officer: [Exhales.] Let’s try this a different way. I will show you four sets of four numbers, and you will tell me which is the odd one out.

Trump: Tom Price.

CIA officer: But sir …

Trump: Good guy. But very odd. He’s out. [Trump clicks remote, Fox News plays on screen.]

CIA officer: [Taps foot.] Let’s try completing verbal analogies. Isobar is to pressure as …

Trump: Hurricane.

CIA officer: That’s not one of the …

Trump: We did a great job. And we weren’t treated fairly by the media. I sometimes ask myself, how did I ever get here with the horrible unfair publicity? There was love in Puerto Rico for the fact that I went there.

CIA officer: [Perspiring.] Maybe we should try the math portion of the test. If a rocket is traveling to the east at five miles per second, and a second rocket …

Trump: It won’t happen. I will rain fire and fury on Rocket Man the likes of which the world has never seen.

CIA officer: Let’s put this in terms you’re more familiar with. If 500 people can build a building in 160 days, how long will it take 200 people to build the same building?

Trump: I can do it in one-third of the time for half the budget and it will be the most beautiful building you ever saw.

CIA officer: [Checks watch.] There are four seats together at a football game. John sits next to Joe but not next to Bob. If Bob doesn’t sit next to Mike, who is sitting next to Mike?

Trump: Nobody, because I told him to leave after the national anthem.

CIA officer: A man has 63 socks in his drawer. How many …

Trump: I have more. I have the best socks. [Trump picks up phone and begins scanning Breitbart.com.]

CIA officer: [Rolls eyes.] Mr. President, please look at this diagram. If in each turn the red diamond moves two places counterclockwise and the black spade moves three places clockwise, after how many turns will both shapes be together?

Trump: [Stares dumbfounded at diagram.]

CIA officer: Maybe a letter puzzle would be easier? In this drawing, Mr. President, which letter is directly above the letter that is three letters to the right of the letter that is directly underneath the letter M?

Trump: [Presses button on desk.] Ivanka, can you come in here? Right now?

CIA officer: [Pulling out clumps of his hair.] Moving on to anagrams. The letters found in the words “towering stud” can be rearranged into what common phrase found on U.S. currency?

Trump: President Trump?

CIA officer: Actually, we were looking for “In God We Trust.” I think you’ll like this next one, though. Steve usually beats George at golf but loses to Donald. Tom wins most of the time against George, and sometimes against Steve, but cannot beat Donald. Who is the worst player?

Trump: Hillary? No, wait! Jeff Sessions? No! Jemele Hill? No! Mitch McConnell? No, wait!

CIA officer: Thank you, Mr. President. We’ll give the results to Vice President Pence at tomorrow’s intelligence briefing.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/a-guy-walks-into-the-oval-office-to-give-the-president-an-iq-test/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Milbank.jpgThu, 12 Oct 2017 17:48:06 +0000
Our View: Maine court records should be digital, and public http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/our-view-maine-court-records-should-be-digital-and-public/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/our-view-maine-court-records-should-be-digital-and-public/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269818 Leave it to the lawyers to argue that public records aren’t really public.

A task force formed by the Maine Judicial Branch to digitize state court records is recommending not to make available online – as they are through the federal courts’ Pacer system – records that the public has every right to see.

Instead, the task force wants those records available online only to lawyers and clients of each particular case; anyone else would have to go to the relevant courthouse and request the documents in person.

Forcing people to travel to obtain these records up to now has been a matter of technology – the records were available only in paper form, and only at the courthouse. The court system has maintained what legal advocates call “practical obscurity,” which means that while the information is technically public, logistics keep it hidden from all but the most tenacious researcher, or at least those able to physically get to the courthouse and navigate the records counter.

In making the recommendation – which was favored by all of the task force’s 21 members except longtime Maine political journalist Mal Leary – the task force said maintaining practical obscurity is important. People won’t seek justice through the courts, they argue, if they fear their personal information will become too public. The anonymity provided by accessing these records at home, they also said, would encourage people to misuse the information.


The guardians of public information always overstate how the public would abuse that information if it were in their hands, and this is yet another example. In this case, the lawyers and other legal advocates on the task force, even if well intended, are putting the feelings of their clients ahead of the rights of the public.

Twelve states and the federal government place their court records online, and there are no reports of problems. It’s not even clear what those problems might be.

More importantly, what goes on in a courtroom is not private, nor are the documents produced by those actions. They are public, and should be available to the public in the most convenient way possible. If the records are digitized – and they should be – then they should be available in the way that most everything is now available – online.

That was the argument made by Leigh Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, when she lobbied the Legislature for the money – taxpayer money – to fund the digitization project, saying, “The public deserves electronic access to its government.”

With very few exceptions already written out in law, that is true regardless of what information the government produces, how it’s used or who is using it. It doesn’t matter how that information makes someone look or how embarrassed it makes someone feel.

Those records are public, and they must be public as much as technology allows.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/12/our-view-maine-court-records-should-be-digital-and-public/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1269818_shutterstock_70582666.jpgThe guardians of public information always overstate how the public would abuse that information if it were in their hands, and proposed limits on access to digitized Maine court records are yet another example.Wed, 11 Oct 2017 19:52:35 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Two Republicans say Trump is unfit. When will the rest show the same patriotism? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/leonard-pitts-two-republicans-say-trump-is-unfit-when-will-the-rest-show-the-same-patriotism/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/leonard-pitts-two-republicans-say-trump-is-unfit-when-will-the-rest-show-the-same-patriotism/#respond Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:00:04 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269215 Yes, he’s childish and incompetent. Is that really news by now?

But of course, it wasn’t that assessment of Failed President Trump that made jaws drop over the weekend as much as it was the person making it. Meaning Sen. Bob Corker, who unleashed an extraordinary barrage of contempt on Twitter and in a New York Times interview.

The Tennessee Republican referred to the White House as an “adult day care center,” accused the failed president of treating his office like “a reality show” and fretted that he was steering the nation into “World War III” with his reckless behavior. Significantly, Corker, who is a lame duck, said that every Republican in the Senate realizes this, although they won’t say it openly.

And this was only one of two recent headlines about Trump being blasted by friendly fire. The Corker story broke just days after NBC News reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him “a moron” after a meeting in July. For the record, a spokeswoman belatedly denied Tillerson used that word, but NBC is standing by its report and CNN later verified the quote independently.

Once again, the opinion is less striking than the person offering it. But whatever satisfaction one might derive from hearing Trump hammered by his own troops is insufficient to blunt the anger that rises close behind.

It’s all well and good to hear these men acknowledge Trump’s unfitness, but here’s the thing: He did not suddenly become unfit overnight. He didn’t morph into an overgrown toddler with his finger on the nuclear trigger over the weekend. Moronity did not blindside him when Tillerson had that meeting in July.

To the contrary, his defectiveness was obvious the moment he rode that golden escalator down to the microphone and pronounced Mexican immigrants rapists.

It went from obvious to glaring over the course of the most bizarre political campaign in history, a filthy slog through menstruation jokes, bragging about penis size, boasting about sexual assault, calls for violence, 24/7 lies and breathtaking ignorance about well … pretty much everything.

Yet none of that stopped Tillerson from agreeing to be his secretary of state or Corker, during the campaign, from proffering his support. None of it has since stopped their party from insisting, with straight faces and admirable imitations of sincerity, that Trump knows what he’s doing, has it all under control.

None of it has stopped them from rationalizing and excusing his awfulness.

Nine months in, we live in a state of enveloping chaos – nuclear tensions on the rise; social tensions tearing at the thin fabric of national unity; Puerto Rico drowned, in the dark and ignored; American kids facing mass deportation; and all of it presided over by a Twitter-holic ignoramus who has more beefs than a cattle rancher. This is not a presidency – it is a national emergency.

So one cannot help but be angry at this revelation removing all doubt – not that there was much left – that Republicans do, indeed, know how bad their guy is, how dangerous he is.

They know, they’ve always known, but they went along with it, prioritizing their party over our country – an act of craven partisanship that would have been foreign to the brave and principled Republicans who stopped Richard Nixon in 1974.

Until and unless it evolves that sort of moral backbone, that sort of patriotism, the Republican Party’s tardy willingness to “kinda, sorta” admit the obvious is just so much useless, self-serving noise.

Donald Trump is a lousy excuse for a president?

Gee, tell me something I don’t know.

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


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/leonard-pitts-two-republicans-say-trump-is-unfit-when-will-the-rest-show-the-same-patriotism/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 10 Oct 2017 20:54:59 +0000
Maine Voices: It’s not a contradiction to own guns and also want sensible regulations http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/maine-voices-its-not-a-contradiction-to-own-guns-and-also-want-sensible-regulations/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/maine-voices-its-not-a-contradiction-to-own-guns-and-also-want-sensible-regulations/#respond Wed, 11 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269156 MILBRIDGE — I am a gun owner. I live alone on 17 acres in the middle of the woods with lots of wildlife around. My dogs have had altercations with porcupines and coyotes, and sometimes Mama has to get involved.

When I lived in cities, I had no desire to own a gun. I saw them as a risk more likely to be used against the person who owned them than against an aggressor. As a physician, I all too often saw the end results of their use throughout my training. Then I moved to rural Maine.

I was shocked at how easy it was to purchase firearms. I walked into my local hardware store and explained that I was looking for a gun for trail running. The woods are full of various-sized critters, and since I run with my dogs, who are stupid enough to engage, I wanted something powerful enough to take down whatever we might encounter while we get to safety.

The recommendation was a .38 special revolver, as they tend to not jam, are large enough caliber to get the job done and have few enough parts to not get caught on anything. I showed my driver’s license, and the gun and ammunition were mine. At the same time, I purchased my first long gun. Thinking I might get into the sport of biathlon, I purchased a rifle with a scope (a .22-caliber) along with ammunition (sporting and plinking). I felt strange walking out to my car, two guns and ammo in hand. It seemed surreal.

A year later, at the same store, I purchased a 12-gauge and a 20-gauge shotgun and two more handguns: the Glock that sits next to my bed and the Ruger my son prefers for shooting targets and vermin on our property. They were purchased all at once, along with ammunition. I purchased much more ammunition online at cheaper prices. No questions asked. I could not believe the ease with which I could buy bullets and shells – no limits. Yet in order to buy Sudafed cold medicine, I have to show my driver’s license, I can only purchase one box and the sales are tracked.

My firearms are kept in a safe and the ammunition in a separate safe when others are at the house. Right now, since I hear the coyotes howling, and one dog recently was maimed by a pack of coyotes, my 20-gauge sits loaded by the door at the ready. This is rural living.

With that background, I do not understand why we do not have sensible gun control. Why do we not have a national, central gun registry? Why do we not track ammunition sales? Why do we not have mandatory waiting periods? Why are bump stocks sold at all? I took a hunter safety course (as required by the state of Maine to get a hunter’s license) – why are gun safety courses not required for all gun owners?

I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, as they do not represent me as a gun owner. I am horrified that time after time, after mass shootings and children shooting others, nothing is done – under the pretext of the Second Amendment.

I have no problem with militias keeping their armament of high-capacity killing machines locked away at firing ranges, but no individual needs that type of weaponry. If the government were to attack its populace, there will be time to get to those weapons. They do not need to be stored at home.

While the Trump administration makes me nervous and a bit of a disaster “prepper,” no laws that would be proposed would interfere with that process. Yet the excuse of the Second Amendment is given as to why high-capacity magazines and assault weapons are needed for every citizen.

It is unbelievable that it is easier to purchase a gun than to purchase Sudafed. There are more regulations on a woman’s uterus than on guns. I find that offensive. Enough. We the people elected this Congress. We the people need to hold them to the job of representing us, not just their campaign donors. We the people need to demand sensible gun laws.

It is not a contradiction to own guns and to want sensible regulations. These types of regulations do not infringe upon the right to own arms. I am a gun owner, and I want sensible gun control laws.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/maine-voices-its-not-a-contradiction-to-own-guns-and-also-want-sensible-regulations/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/06/949148_AP_163059604305.jpgEven as overall gun ownership dipped, studies suggest those owning guns now buy more, with an average of eight, double that of the 1990s.Wed, 11 Oct 2017 13:40:01 +0000
Greg Kesich: A slightly educated guess on whether Susan Collins runs for governor: No http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/greg-kesich-a-slightly-educated-guess-on-whether-susan-collins-runs-for-governor-no/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/greg-kesich-a-slightly-educated-guess-on-whether-susan-collins-runs-for-governor-no/#respond Wed, 11 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269178 Let me just say right off the bat – I have no insight into whether or not Sen. Susan Collins plans to run for governor in 2018.

No “for your eyes only” memos have been slipped under my door late at night. I didn’t find the senator’s diary in a trash can. I never overheard her team arguing strategy at the next table in a restaurant.

I come by my opinion honestly, innocent of any facts that might confuse me.

That said, I predict that she’s staying in the Senate and will not run for governor.

It’s been a fun few months, though. I’ve had hours of conversations with people who are just as ignorant as I am about what the senator is thinking, but are much smarter than me when it comes to the way politics works.

I’ve talked to Republicans, Democrats and independents, and I’ve changed my own mind enough to argue everything both ways.

During this deliberation, I’ve noted wide agreement on two points:

Collins can’t lose an election in November.

She’d have a tough time winning one in June.

That’s when the Republican primary is held, and the kind of voters who show up for primaries would probably not include the moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats who mark the arrow next to Collins’ name when it’s on the ballot in her Senate campaigns.

If she were the Republican nominee for governor, Election Day would be a formality. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap could call it off and save the state some money, which could be used for the coronation … err, I mean inauguration.

But she couldn’t get on the ballot for the general election without slogging through a Republican primary, and that would mean spending the next year or so getting lambasted for everything done by government since she started opening the mail in then-Congressman Bill Cohen’s office during the Nixon era.

She might still win, but she would first have to defend a long career of public service as if it were something to be ashamed of. That leaves scars. Ask Libby Mitchell.

The fact that so many people believe that a lifelong Republican with nearly 70 percent approval ratings would have a hard time getting her party’s nomination tells you something important about that party.

It’s gotten angrier. It’s gotten meaner. It’s gotten more like Paul LePage.

Republicans like to point out that John Baldacci is the only Democrat to win a statewide election in 30 years, and the last Democrat to win more than 50 percent of the vote in a statewide race was George Mitchell in 1988.

But they don’t like to talk about how many Republican statewide winners of the past could be nominated by their party today.

If Collins can’t win a primary these days, could her old boss Cohen, who also is a former secretary of defense?

What about Olympia Snowe, a three-term U.S. senator?

Or John McKernan, a two-term governor? All four were pro-choice, favored environmental protection and broke with the party’s right wing at times. Could any of them get through the Republican ideological gantlet today?

If you eliminate Cohen, Snowe, McKernan and Collins, Republican dominance in statewide elections is less impressive. The only Republican left standing would be Paul LePage.

The party has moved to the right, and some will argue that the Democrats have moved to the left, too. While that’s partly true, the move has been nowhere near as dramatic. This isn’t a pox-on-both-your-houses situation: What’s going on in the Maine Republican Party is different.

Here’s a test: If George Mitchell were to decide to come out of retirement today and run for his old seat in the Senate, does anyone doubt that he could win a Democratic primary?

The anti-government blood-lust in Republican politics just gets stronger, even as the Republicans run the government.

Collins’ sin is that she’s a moderate problem-solver. That’s apparently not what the party is looking for these days.

Collins and the Republicans could still make me look foolish (it’s not that hard). She could announce her candidacy Friday and then win an easy primary victory next spring.

This is one where I wouldn’t mind being wrong, because that would mean people are not as angry and divided as they look from where I sit.

But I still think she stays put in Washington, and that Paul LePage Republicans will dominate Maine politics for a long time.

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


Twitter: gregkesich

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/greg-kesich-a-slightly-educated-guess-on-whether-susan-collins-runs-for-governor-no/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:42:04 +0000
Another View: Film mogul Weinstein’s firing should be corporate wake-up call on sexual harassment http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/another-view-film-mogul-weinsteins-firing-should-be-corporate-wake-up-call-on-sexual-harassment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/another-view-film-mogul-weinsteins-firing-should-be-corporate-wake-up-call-on-sexual-harassment/#respond Wed, 11 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269191 When a guy named Harvey Weinstein is suddenly fired from a company called the Weinstein Co. – the successful film studio he co-founded – it should serve as a blaring alert to every powerful person in America who has preyed on less powerful people: Don’t think you can avoid the consequences.

Weinstein’s reputation was no secret in the business. In a 2012 episode of the NBC comedy series “30 Rock,” a female character boasted, “I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions … out of five.” But until some of his accusers went public in a New York Times exposé last week, he was untouchable. Well, except by lawyers: The Weinstein Co. had paid settlements to at least eight women in response to accusations against him.

Will this be the scandal that finally forces abusers and their employers to realize they have to change? Maybe so. But plenty of other cases should have put them all on notice.

Roger Ailes, who built Fox News into a colossus, was fired last year after some two dozen women came forward to accuse him of using his position to try to extract sexual favors. He was followed out the door by Fox News megastar Bill O’Reilly, ruined by credible allegations of similar conduct.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick was forced out as CEO for allegedly tolerating a company culture of sexual harassment. CEO Mike Cagney got the boot from the personal finance startup SoFi amid multiple claims that he and some of his managers engaged in sexual harassment.

Another obvious question: Where on Earth was the Weinstein Co. board of directors? The settlements paid to buy silence go back decades.

Directors at this company and others who have ignored such conduct should stop assuming that sexual harassment can be covered up. And the episode should deliver a strong message to executives who think they are entitled to take advantage of those beneath them for sexual pleasure: Clean up your act or clean out your desk.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/another-view-film-mogul-weinsteins-firing-should-be-corporate-wake-up-call-on-sexual-harassment/feed/ 0 Tue, 10 Oct 2017 21:01:24 +0000
Our View: Rollback of ACA birth control mandate puts women’s needs last http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/our-view-rollback-of-aca-birth-control-mandate-puts-womens-needs-last/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/our-view-rollback-of-aca-birth-control-mandate-puts-womens-needs-last/#respond Wed, 11 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1269196 ‘We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions intoned during Friday’s announcement of a new rule that takes effect immediately and enables all employers – for-profit or nonprofit – to refuse to cover the cost of contraception by invoking religious or moral objections.

He’s quoting his boss, using the very words that President Trump did in May when he signed an executive order announcing his plans to offer employers “regulatory relief” from the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.

But the Trump administration is catering to one group of Americans at the expense of another. Whether or not women employees share their bosses’ religious beliefs, they’re being forced to accommodate them. Their needs don’t count. Neither does their constitutional right to access reproductive health care without the impediment of religiously motivated discrimination.

Under the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule, any employer with a “sincerely held” religious or moral objection to contraception can stop covering the cost of birth control. The federal government doesn’t have to vet those objections for sincerity; companies can halt coverage just because they don’t feel like paying for it.

What’s more, companies that have opted out are no longer required to allow workers to access co-pay-free birth control coverage directly from insurance companies. So millions of American women who get employer-sponsored insurance may lose all coverage of contraception – forcing them to either pay out of pocket or forgo the well-known benefits to their health and financial stability they get from being able to plan their pregnancies.

What’s particularly maddening is that the ACA has never brushed off religious objections to the birth control mandate. Religious nonprofits have long been allowed to opt out. They had to notify the federal DHHS of their objection to the mandate, and the government would arrange for their insurer to provide coverage directly, without a co-pay and without the employers’ involvement.

Aside from the religious objections, the Trump DHHS – which is packed full of believers in misinformation about birth control – also presents a weak health-based case, saying that the rollback will help keep access to contraception from encouraging “risky sexual activity” among teens and young adults. (The fact that far fewer teens are having sex or giving birth today than in the 1980s would seem to lead to the opposite conclusion.)

But it’s obvious that this isn’t about the facts. It’s about (again) catering to the president’s base. And it would be almost laughable if the implications for women’s lives and health weren’t so serious.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/11/our-view-rollback-of-aca-birth-control-mandate-puts-womens-needs-last/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1269196_health_care_birth_control_61.jpgDemonstrators rally in Washington in 2014 in support of the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers cover contraception in their health insurance plans. Under a new federal rule, any "sincerely held" religious or moral objection to the mandate is now valid grounds for an employer to end birth control coverage.Wed, 11 Oct 2017 00:04:45 +0000
Opinion podcast: Maine used to be a blue state. What happened? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/opinion-podcast-maine-used-blue-state-happened/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/opinion-podcast-maine-used-blue-state-happened/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 18:46:02 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1268986 Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich and columnist Bill Nemitz sit down with Roy Lenardson, a longtime Republican strategist. He has worked with conservative candidates and causes for more than two decades, and is currently sharpening the message for gubernatorial candidate Mary Mayhew and the anti-casino Vote No on 1 campaign. Lenardson explains his theories about why elections in Maine have become less predictable and pulls back the curtain on how he frames the issues that that will resonate with voters.

Related stories:

Sen. Collins to reveal her political plans Friday

Casino referendum battle intensifies with website attacking ‘Shady Shawn’

LePage alleges $1 million in welfare fraud, and prosecutors ask for more help

Podcast links:

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Stream on Stitcher

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Charles Lawton: With elections looming, ignore the noise and read these two essays http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/charles-lawton-with-elections-looming-do-your-homework-with-these-two-essays/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/charles-lawton-with-elections-looming-do-your-homework-with-these-two-essays/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1268603 In less than a month, state and local elections will be upon us. This is an off-year, so the most controversial items before us will be a confusing array of citizen initiatives – table games or slot machines in York County, expansion of Medicaid eligibility across Maine and establishing rent controls and broadening resident participation in proposed zoning changes in Portland, as well as numerous proposals in other municipalities. On top of the collective guilt or simple frustration with the dead weight of politics these days, it’s enough to give the conscientious citizen a bad case of voting fatigue.

My suggestion? Forget the controversies in the daily newspapers. Forget the growing blight of street signs and the coming flood of TV ads that promise to be both indignantly angry and deceptively innocent. Forget the sage ruminations of the know-it-alls in your coffee klatches. For my money, the best preparation for our coming deluge of civic responsibilities is a close reading of two brief, coherent and entirely contradictory essays.

The first is an essay published in The Washington Post on Sept. 22 by liberal Post columnist E.J. Dionne and Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, adapted from their new book, “One Nation After Trump.”

Their thesis is that “the election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy.” They say this not because they agree with what the president is doing – in fact, they believe that “he has done enormous damage to our country” – but rather because “he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy.”

The authors assert that Trump “has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast him” and “could be the occasion for an era of democratic renewal.”

In short, if you believe that more voter involvement will cure what ails us, go read all the policy papers behind the voter initiatives, make up your mind and get out and vote. Then sit back and wait for our current political malaise to fade away.

The second essay is by Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes of the Center for Public Management at the Brookings Institution, and it’s titled “More professionalism, less populism: How voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it.”

Their review of the scientific literature in political science is crystal clear: “Voter ignorance is one of the oldest, best established, and most dismaying (facts) in all of political science.” The authors go on to say that “neither theory nor practice supports the idea that more participation will produce better policy outcomes.”

Rauch and Wittes make this claim not because they disapprove of public participation in governance, but because they believe that such participation is effective “only when supplemented by intermediation, the work done by institutions (such as political parties) and substantive professionals (such as career politicians and experts) to organize, interpret, and buffer popular sentiment.” While sympathetic to many of the goals of what they call the “populist model,” Rauch and Wittes simply assert – based on hundreds of analyses of hundreds of issues – that its fundamental cornerstones are simply not true:

That voters can become more informed, more rational and more engaged than they ever in the past have been.

That such informed voters can replace non-elected professional and specialist decision makers (the elites) in all of the multitude of issues that face our (or any other democratic) country.

These two beliefs are naïve, according to Rauch and Wittes, and they amount to condemning the nation to its continuing slide into populist anger, divisiveness, violence and social collapse.

Instead, they argue for strengthening the interest intermediators, including political parties, group associations and career politicians. These, they believe, are the institutions interested in delving into the details, finding the facts, recognizing the reality that some groups win and some lose on any particular issue, but that all groups have to work together to get anything done. Rauch and Wittes are unapologetic supporters of James Madison and the critical importance of representative democracy in comparison to direct democracy. “Unmediated democracy,” they say, “is often less representative and less democratic – that is the paradox of populism.”

So, reflect on these alternative views of what ails our body politic before deciding how to cast your vote next month … that is, if you bother to vote.

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


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/charles-lawton-with-elections-looming-do-your-homework-with-these-two-essays/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1186726_letters_0227-e1498253472859.jpgVoters make their way in and out of voting booths at Kennebunk Town Hall on Election Day in 2002.Mon, 09 Oct 2017 21:21:59 +0000
Maine Voices: Amazon-Whole Foods deal helps to make the case for co-ops http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/maine-voices-amazon-whole-foods-deal-helps-to-make-the-case-for-co-ops/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/maine-voices-amazon-whole-foods-deal-helps-to-make-the-case-for-co-ops/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1268479 I remember when a Whole Foods Market opened up in my neighborhood in Atlanta. I was 17 or 18 and beginning to contemplate the impact of our food systems on the environment and our health. I couldn’t believe that there was a whole store dedicated to clean, humane, environmentally sound foods and products. It was my first glimpse of what Whole Foods CEO John Mackey eventually called “conscious capitalism.”

Years later, I became a member of the marketing team at Whole Foods and saw first-hand what it meant to be a part of a mission-driven, values-oriented retail business. I am now the community engagement coordinator at Portland Food Co-op, a company with similar values and a completely different business model.

In the wake of the Amazon buyout, I have been reflecting on what this will mean to the people on the value chain of Whole Foods – from farmers to vendors to employees to shoppers to communities. We don’t know all the changes that are afoot, but here are a few:

1. Prices are dropping.

2. Most decisions about product mix will now be made at the national Austin, Texas, headquarters instead of on the store and regional levels.

3. Vendors will no longer be allowed to directly promote their products to stores or regions or check to see if their products are being stocked and merchandised appropriately.

When I think about this short list, many questions come to mind:

While customers enjoy lower prices, will producers and workers be paid fairly?

Will local producers get the exposure they need to sell their products and connect with the community?

Will store employees get product education that they can share in a meaningful way with customers?

Will the current company culture be missed?

Will Whole Foods retain its core values, or has the brand been reduced to a feel-good facade?

Is this merger what people really want?

If not, could a cooperative business model have prevented it from happening?

Until the story unfolds, I can only speculate on answers to these questions – except for one. Could a cooperative business model have stopped the Amazon buyout? Absolutely. In fact, the reason Portland Food Co-op was formed by the community was that Whole Foods bought out Portland’s only locally owned natural foods retailer, the Whole Grocer.

Cooperatives are owned and controlled by the people who use them, not distant investors. All members have equal voting power. It is patronage that determines return on investment, not number of shares. In other words, serving the needs of the community is written into the DNA of a co-op.

For some time, Whole Foods had the lion’s share of the organic industry. Because of its tremendous success educating the public on the importance of cleaner food, household products and body care, consumers caught on, demand grew, and with it Whole Foods. This growth ultimately inspired lookalikes. Larger retailers began to carry the same products for less, and Whole Foods lost its monopoly. Now, the largest organic retailer in North America is Wal-Mart.

Amazon is no different from Wal-Mart. Its mission is not to bolster local economies, divest from child labor, improve workplace conditions or protect communities. Its mission is simply to spread into as many markets as possible, now including the brick-and-mortar grocery business. Although plenty of consumers love Wal-Mart’s massive selection and low prices, communities all over the country have fought, often successfully, to keep it and other big-box stores out of their sacred sites, landmarks, mountain views, forests and neighborhoods. With co-ops, this is a non-issue. When a community owns a business together, care for treasured spaces is built into the business plan.

If Portland Food Co-op didn’t exist, and if Amazon hadn’t taken over, I would still be a core Whole Foods customer. I jibe with the mission, I love the knowledgeable, attentive staff and grocery shopping there feels more like an outing than a chore. It’s not perfect, but up until this acquisition, Whole Foods has generally opted for quality over price slashing. I can get behind that. It is unclear the extent to which things will change with the buyout. Too bad I don’t have a vote.


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/maine-voices-amazon-whole-foods-deal-helps-to-make-the-case-for-co-ops/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1212483_Amazon_Whole_Foods_80649.jp_.jpgThe retail giant Amazon is buying Whole Foods in a stunning move that gives it hundreds of stores across the U.S., a laboratory for radical retail experiments that could revolutionize the way people buy groceries.Mon, 09 Oct 2017 20:22:33 +0000
Kathleen Parker: If now is not the time to talk about gun control, then when? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/kathleen-parker-if-now-is-not-the-time-to-talk-about-gun-control-then-when/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/kathleen-parker-if-now-is-not-the-time-to-talk-about-gun-control-then-when/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1268487 When President Trump said a few days ago that now isn’t the time for a debate about gun control, presumably he meant that we should respect a decent interval of time for mourning after the Las Vegas shooting before launching into a political discussion that historically has led nowhere.

If that’s how he felt, it would have been easy enough (and sane) to say. But he didn’t.

More likely, Trump doesn’t want any distraction from (a) his brilliant PR idea to toss paper-towel rolls to thirsty, hurricane-sogged Puerto Ricans (cake to follow); (b) his photo op Thursday evening with leaders of the armed forces and their spouses during which he teased the “fake news” media he had summoned that the dinner gathering with military brass could be “the calm before the storm.”

“What storm, Mr. President?” an intrepid reporter queried.

“You’ll find out.”

Whoa. Mr. Mystery Man has our attention now. Oh, so clever. Are we going to war? Will it be with the Islamic State? North Korea? Iran?

Just you wait, fake newsies, just you wait.

Or perhaps he wants to keep the spotlight on (c) his request that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate the media, without which his military charade would have merely been the world’s widest-angle selfie.

No, actually, his absurd (unconstitutional) request was, likely, a smokescreen itself, as was the paper-towel toss, one hopes (surely no one’s mind is that inert), and the photo op. Trump has mastered the Art of Distraction, lately to keep our eyes off the firefight within the White House and the ever-obvious fact this administration is staring at an eclipse without glasses and this president couldn’t lead a starving dog to a tenderloin buffet.

The revolving door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is like Saks’ at Christmastime. Latest to the lineup is Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Others have included FBI Director James Comey, chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer and national security adviser Mike Flynn, to name a few.

Next up, most likely, is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, not only because the president routinely undermines and contradicts the nation’s top diplomat but also because Tillerson clearly holds Trump in contempt. Most important, Tillerson recently told the truth.

Trump reportedly was furious upon returning from his “diplomatic coup” in Puerto Rico, which he seemed to have thought was a Spanish colony, only to see the face of his secretary of state on all his favorite TV channels.

According to NBC News, Tillerson had said the president is a “moron,” which caused most sentient humans to shrug and roll their eyes as if to say, “No, really?” But this slight likely bothered Trump less than the fact that Tillerson’s face, and not his, was on all the cable shows.

Trump’s fan base, of course, was unfazed by Tillerson’s reported insult, knowing that this term could not possibly apply to a president who recently had scolded Puerto Ricans for messing up the U.S. budget and implied that they were a shiftless lot who “want everything to be done for them.” No siree. That person would be a genius.

As Americans gnaw their nails wondering which war this way comes – or when Tillerson will be replaced – Trump is focused on decertifying the nuclear deal with Iran, continuing to taunt North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and trying to convince the rest of the world that he’s got everything under control.

Thus, the very last thing Trump needs right now is a political shootout over guns.

Now’s not the time, he says. Apparently, however, many if not most Americans – about 90 percent of whom would support expanding background checks – beg to differ. If not now, when?

The pessimist notes that if the murder of 20 6- and 7-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School resulted in no sensible restrictions to gun ownership, then the slaughter of 58 country music fans isn’t likely to, either.

But wait, we have a headline: Even the National Rifle Association has called for regulating (not banning or confiscating) “bump stocks” – the attachment used by the Las Vegas gunman to essentially convert a semi-automatic into an automatic weapon, the better to kill the most. And Republicans are expressing a willingness to consider restrictions.

You’d think by the reactions – this is really, really huge, according to editorialists – that the NRA decided to support banning from private ownership all semi-automatic weapons, which were created solely for the purpose of killing human beings.

But, no. Like Coco Chanel, who always removed one bauble before leaving home, the NRA is offering to eliminate one accessory from a warehouse of gaudy, bloodletting fashions.

Talk about distractions. Or was this the artifice of a deal?

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


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/kathleen-parker-if-now-is-not-the-time-to-talk-about-gun-control-then-when/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/AP17275249403200.jpgA wounded person is walked in on a wheelbarrow as Las Vegas police respond during an active shooter situation on the Las Vegas Stirp in Las Vegas Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)Mon, 09 Oct 2017 20:16:57 +0000
Another View: New foreign surveillance law should shut investigatory back door http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/another-view-new-fisa-law-should-shut-investigatory-back-door/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/another-view-new-fisa-law-should-shut-investigatory-back-door/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1268491 Congress must consider it a priority to pass legislation in the next few months reauthorizing the U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop without a court warrant on communications of foreigners who are located overseas, including at times their exchanges with Americans. The legislation, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is of bedrock importance to the National Security Agency. Still, while giving the law a new lease, Congress ought to insist on additional protections for Americans in the use of the Section 702 database.

Under existing law, the FBI can query Section 702 information for emails and phone-call transcripts of Americans suspected of a crime, without obtaining a warrant. This is a loophole allowing the FBI to go after information that, if sought from other sources, would require a warrant. A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Vice Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., have proposed a reauthorization for six years that would effectively close this back door. They would allow the FBI to make such queries only when a warrant was in hand.

Privacy advocates want even tighter restrictions in the law, and we trust Congress will examine these ideas. But the goal should be to put this entire matter on a sustainable, bipartisan foundation so that the intelligence agencies can pursue their vital tasks knowing the rules.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/another-view-new-fisa-law-should-shut-investigatory-back-door/feed/ 0 Mon, 09 Oct 2017 20:17:18 +0000
Our View: Maine will suffer from EPA chief’s pro-coal stand http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/our-view-maine-will-suffer-from-pruitts-pro-coal-stand/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/our-view-maine-will-suffer-from-pruitts-pro-coal-stand/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1268496 Heat-trapping greenhouse gases and toxic particles spew from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants all through the Rust Belt.

We don’t have those kinds of plants here in Maine, but we have plenty of evidence that they exist.

Our winters are wetter and shorter than they used to be, thanks to climate change. Lobstermen report that their quarry is moving north and east to find colder water.

And Maine children have some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation, partly as a result of our position downwind from the power plants in the Midwest and Great Lakes states, putting young lungs at the end of the nation’s tailpipe.

So Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt’s boast Monday that “The war on coal is over!” probably sounded like great news to a few hundred people in Kentucky and West Virginia who might get work as a result of his upending the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan rules, but it should be clear why he didn’t make that announcement here.

Maine will be a big loser both environmentally and economically if Pruitt is successful, and Maine’s leaders should fight to make sure that he doesn’t succeed.

One-third of the greenhouse gases emitted in this country come from fossil fuel-burning power plants, mostly coal and natural gas. The Clean Power Plan created a financial incentive to produce less pollution over time. Since coal plants are the dirtiest, logic would dictate that they would be the first to go.

That might be bad news in the short term for people who own mining companies or utility stock, but it would speed the transition to other sources of power that do not have the same negative effects. The number of jobs in the solar power industry has already outstripped the number of jobs in coal mining, and it’s reasonable to assume that the trend will continue, as solar collector and battery technology get less expensive and more effective.

The Clean Power Plan would also level the economic playing field for Maine, which has to compete with parts of the country where electricity produced at dirty power plants is cheap. Not only do we have to pay more for our power than consumers in the coal belt, but we have to live with the consequences of the pollution that they produce.

And more importantly, there is no safe amount of pollution. Research by the American Lung Association has confirmed that every reduction of toxic chemicals in the air we breathe correlates to a reduction in illness and death. Children are especially sensitive to diseases caused by exposure to the airborne particles that are blown here on prevailing winds.

Pruitt claims that he is protecting the American people from government, but this is a time when we need the government to protect us from those who would value cheap electricity and quarterly profits above the public well-being.

By announcing an end to “the war on coal,” Pruitt and the administration are ramping up the war on clean air and a healthy environment. At this end of the tailpipe, that’s nothing to celebrate.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/10/our-view-maine-will-suffer-from-pruitts-pro-coal-stand/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1268496_dirtiest_power_plant_jpeg_0.jpgThe Clean Power Plan would level the economic playing field for Maine, which has to compete with parts of the country where electricity produced at dirty power plants, like the Homer City Generating Station in Homer City, Pa., above, is inexpensive.Mon, 09 Oct 2017 23:14:26 +0000
Another View: World can’t tolerate crackdown on Muslims by Myanmar’s army http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/another-view-world-cant-tolerate-crackdown-on-muslims-by-myanmars-army/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/another-view-world-cant-tolerate-crackdown-on-muslims-by-myanmars-army/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1267882 In little more than a month, a half-million Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been forced into a terrified exodus to Bangladesh. They fled the Myanmar military, which burned villages and reportedly shot men, women and children in retaliation for an attack on 30 police posts by a Rohingya militant group.

The scorched-earth campaign against the Rohingya has been called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. An urgent, stern and unmistakable response is necessary.

The de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been justifiably criticized for failing to find her voice, the eloquence of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, during this brutal crackdown. But the chief perpetrators are in the military, with whom she shares power.

The army was undoubtedly furious over the militant attacks on police posts Aug. 25, but the subsequent response was entirely disproportionate, another chapter in the long and painful persecution of the Rohingya in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Any response must now make clear to military leaders that inflicting such misery is intolerable.

More Rohingya are now in Bangladesh than in Myanmar. Failing to respond to their plight and persecution would compound the crime of their expulsion.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/another-view-world-cant-tolerate-crackdown-on-muslims-by-myanmars-army/feed/ 0 Sun, 08 Oct 2017 18:03:37 +0000
Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on statewide Question 4 to support pension change http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/our-view-vote-yes-on-statewide-question-4-to-support-pension-change/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/our-view-vote-yes-on-statewide-question-4-to-support-pension-change/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1267898 You probably haven’t heard much about Question 4 on next month’s state ballot, and when you read it, you’ll see why:

“Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to reduce volatility in state pension funding requirements caused by the financial markets by increasing the length of time over which experience losses are amortized from 10 years to 20 years, in line with pension industry standards?”

This is a question for actuaries, not the general public, and it’s not a controversial one at that, which is why it has had such a low profile. There doesn’t even appear to be a partisan divide on this one. The backers – the Maine Public Employees Retirement System – have no funds to run a campaign, and no organized opposition has shown itself.

But just because it’s not a hot-button issue doesn’t mean it’s not worth your attention or your vote. We support this change and urge you to vote “yes” on Nov. 7.

How this question got on the ballot is a long story.

In the mid-1980s, the system to support retired state employees and teachers was the subject of a lot of argument. The amount of money invested equaled only 22 percent of what the state had promised to pay during the lifetimes of all of the plan’s members. That created a huge liability for the taxpayers and much concern for lawmakers.

Since the pension plan is in the state’s constitution, it takes a constitutional amendment to change it. In 1995, voters approved an amendment that committed the retirement system to cover the entire unfunded liability by 2028, prohibited lawmakers from raiding the pension fund for other programs and gave the state 10 years to pay off any additional unfunded liability that was created by investment losses.

This regime was a tremendous success, and gave Maine one of the most solid state pension funds in the country. The fund went from 33 percent funded in 1992 to 80 percent funded in 2016. The value of the fund went from $2.5 billion in 1991 to more than $12 billion last year.

But the road has not always been smooth. When the stock market crashed in 2008, pension investments lost value, increasing the unfunded liability as well as the portion of it that had to be raised from taxes in the next budget. At the same time, the state’s income and sales tax revenues were in free fall because of the recession. In order to balance the budget, the Legislature approved some reforms proposed by Gov. LePage that temporarily froze cost-of-living increases to current retirees and capped future adjustments.

The system was a victim of its own success: When it’s 74 percent funded, as it was in 2008, a 20 percent loss in market value requires a much bigger state appropriation than it would if only 22 percent of what had been promised to employees had been at risk. While no one thinks Maine would be better off with a bigger unfunded liability, the state needs to protect itself from inevitable shifts in the economy.

Which is what Question 4 is all about. Instead of covering the impact of losses over 10 years, the state could spread the payments out over 20 years. That would lessen the shock to the state budget, and make it less likely that a future Legislature would have to renege on promises made to retired public-sector workers.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/our-view-vote-yes-on-statewide-question-4-to-support-pension-change/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1267898_shutterstock_537341083.jpgWhile no one thinks Maine would be better off with a bigger unfunded pension liability, the state needs to protect itself from inevitable shifts in the economy.Sun, 08 Oct 2017 17:58:40 +0000
Maine Voices: There are many ways for adults to stand up against bullying http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/maine-voices-there-are-many-ways-for-adults-to-stand-up-against-bullying/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/maine-voices-there-are-many-ways-for-adults-to-stand-up-against-bullying/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1267921 SCARBOROUGH — The first month or so of a new school year is a perfect time to talk about bullying. Parents and schools should take bullying seriously because it is harmful and has long-term effects. It is not a joke or “kids being kids.” It is a violation of the law.

Bullies may target anyone for any reason – perhaps a quiet child or one with low self-esteem. They might target a child of a different race or ethnicity.

Many children who are bullied keep it to themselves until it gets so bad they feel they must tell. Others keep it inside forever. Either way, bullying can leave lifelong emotional scars.

In my counseling job, I often asked parents to think of a childhood situation when they were bullied. Almost always, adults could remember a time when they were excluded or made fun of and how much it hurt. Most of them could recall exactly what was said or done and how badly they felt about it. Adults should keep that in mind when helping a child victim.

For parents, teachers and schools to take action, they must first know what is going on. Encourage your children to tell you what is happening at school. Ask them about their day, not only in the classroom but also about lunchtime, recess and the bus. Know who their friends are and find out what’s going on both in and out of school.

If your child is getting bullied, let the school know right away. Do not encourage your child to retaliate. This usually makes matters worse and may lead to your own child getting into trouble.

Make sure your children know they are victims and not to blame. Sometimes kids feel there is something wrong with them and they deserve it. Unfortunately, some adults think that if a child is bullied, they must have brought it on themselves.

Some children might be bystanders in a bullying situation. A bystander is a person who sees what is happening. Interventions from bystanders can be an effective way to reduce incidents of bullying.

There are some reasons why students who observe bullying might not want to intervene. Children think that if they say something, they themselves will become a target, they may get into trouble, it won’t work or others will tease them for getting involved.

School personnel and parents can teach children to be effective bystanders. When children know what to do, they feel stronger and in control. Of course, bystanders must always keep safety in mind and not insert themselves into dangerous situations when adult help is needed.

The first thing to do is find someone to tell. Telling should always be the first line of defense. Another helpful response is when a group befriends the victim. By taking an action such as saying, “Come play with us,” the group empowers the victim and isolates the bully. When the bully watches their victim leave to play with others, the bullying didn’t work.

There are many ways adults can stand up against bullying.

Never ignore the situation. Children count on us to protect them.

 Do not blame a child for being bullied.

 Listen carefully and ask calm questions. Don’t jump to conclusions.

 Help the child figure out some ways to respond, like telling an adult or being a friend to someone who is bullied.

 Let the school know if you have any concerns about what is going on.

 Encourage your child to find friends and activities that are safe and fulfilling for them where they can be successful.

 Help your child find someone to play with who appreciates his or her friendship.

 Tell them not to hang around with kids who are mean and hurtful to others.

 Do not encourage striking back at a bully. Your child might get hurt or even be blamed for being a bully.

 Be a good role model for children. Don’t be a bully in your own interactions with others. Children learn more from observing what you do than from what you say.

All schools should have a zero tolerance and zero indifference policy against bullying. If you make a report and nothing is done, keep following up until someone listens. No child deserves to be a victim of bullying.


http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/09/maine-voices-there-are-many-ways-for-adults-to-stand-up-against-bullying/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/11/1110849_477718-20151110_schoolbus_2.jpgAs part of a lawsuit settlement, the Brunswick School District has committed to an anti-bullying regime that includes staff training, student assemblies and creation of a junior high school Gay Straight Alliance.Mon, 09 Oct 2017 14:12:59 +0000
Our View: LePage blocks path forward for Riverview http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/08/our-view-lepage-blocks-path-forward-for-riverview/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/08/our-view-lepage-blocks-path-forward-for-riverview/#respond Sun, 08 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1267319 The problems at Riverview Psychiatric Center will outlast the LePage administration, and Gov. Le-Page has no one to blame but himself.

While significant strides have been made on the staffing, care and safety issues that cost Riverview its federal accreditation in 2013, a final hurdle remains to be cleared, one LePage continues to trip over, taking no lessons from his repeated failures.

The governor’s plan to build a separate facility for patients who are not ready to be released but do not require the level of care provided at Riverview has now been questioned by both Republican and Democratic legislators and by municipal officials in both Bangor and Augusta.

It’s not that anyone disagrees that such a facility should be built – it is widely accepted that a new building is necessary to free up beds at Riverview, so that people in crisis now waiting days for a room, often in a hospital emergency department, can get help in a more timely manner. It’s just that the governor feels he is under no obligation to explain what is a major shift in how some patients now at Riverview will be handled.

Each time he’s been rebuffed, LePage has blamed the other party for playing politics and not caring enough about Mainers with mental illness. Never once has he considered that his plan may not be complete, or that others in Maine have a role to play in making sure the facility is a success.


The governor first proposed placing the new 21-bed facility in Augusta late last year, after previous proposals for dealing with that population were dismissed for being poorly conceived and underdeveloped when put before the Legislature.

The plan cleared the relatively low bar of the Augusta Planning Board, but only after the matter was delayed because the administration failed to answer basic questions about the facility’s operation.

The administration then refused to brief the Legislature about its plan, despite valid questions from Democratic leaders and Republican Sen. Roger Katz, whose district includes Riverview.

Ultimately, when no answers came, the Democrats blocked construction of the new building.

During that fight with the legislators, the administration said Augusta was the best place to house the facility. Having it next door to Riverview would result in efficiencies and better care, they said. Moving it to another community could add $1 million to the cost, they said.

However, after Democrats blocked the plan, LePage said he would build the facility in Bangor. Gone were any mention of the efficiencies lost or costs added by building away from Riverview. As he had throughout the process, the governor stressed the urgency to get it built as soon as possible.

Then, more than four months went by before the administration announced its plan for the Bangor facility.

When city officials there raised the same questions that have gone unanswered for months now, LePage refused to comply. He went so far as to say that “participation from the City of Bangor and its services will not be necessary,” a funny thing to say about the people who will police the facility, and who will deal with problems with neighbors when and if they arise.


Now, the Bangor City Council has placed a six-month moratorium on the project while it seeks answers. LePage says he may sue the city, and that perhaps his administration will keep looking for a community that won’t ask questions.

But rather than walk from town to town with a set of incomplete plans and a bad attitude, the governor should go back to square one.

A new facility in Augusta, next to Riverview, has always made the most sense, and it has wide support from the Legislature as long as LePage agrees to a brief hearing and comes prepared to answer questions about his plan.

Why should it be privately run? Who will decide on admissions?

What kind of therapy will be employed? What methods will be used to deal with out-of-control patients? Where is the money coming from, and what other programs are losing out?

That hearing could have been held at the very beginning of 2017, back when the administration was still talking about breaking ground in the near future. Now, according to a court master report, the facility won’t open until March 2019.

That delay falls squarely on LePage, who has heard the same criticisms of his plan from people up and down the state, yet still refuses to listen.

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/10/08/our-view-lepage-blocks-path-forward-for-riverview/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/10/1267319_LePage_3.jpgA proposed secure psychiatric facility for patients found not responsible for crimes they have committed or who are unfit to stand trial won't open until 2019 because Gov. LePage, above, won't address valid questions about the project.Fri, 06 Oct 2017 19:33:09 +0000