The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Opinion Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Commentary: A father’s memories of World War II reflect a fatalism about survival Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 STORRS, Conn. — When my father would declare, “It’s a good day to fly,” he meant there was cloud cover and no more than a slight breeze.

He didn’t mean that there weren’t delays at O’Hare. It was a reference to World War II, when his European tour of duty lasted from December 1943 to May 1945. A time when the weather determined whether he would be going into combat that day.

He was a waist gunner and radio operator on a B-24 Liberator bomber as part of the Army’s 15th Air Force.

I have his letters home, written from bases across the United States – Yuma, Sioux Falls, Savannah – then from places all over Europe, sent through central post offices so that their origins couldn’t be traced.

These letters, scrawled in ink on government-approved stationery, were addressed to his mother (who I don’t believe could read) and his five sisters. My father, who loathed writing even short notes, wrote to his brothers-in-law.

He was the only one out of the nine siblings to serve in World War II.

If my dad wrote letters to his brothers, they didn’t save them – or at least they didn’t give them to my brother or me; our small archive is drawn from the women in the family.

At 18, my father was drafted. He’d never been out of New York before; his parents had emigrated from Sicily and never left the neighborhood where they first settled.

Two weeks after he began basic training, his father died. He was sent home for three days and reassigned to a different group when he got back to Fort Dix; he always believed he owed his survival to that reassignment. There was no reason for this belief, and yet it remained unshakable.

Maybe it was because there was nothing about survival – or not surviving – that made any sense.

You either came back from a mission or you didn’t. And many didn’t.

Nobody was to blame but the enemy, weather or mechanical failures. And so you came up with your own rationale for why some were more fortunate than others. You thanked your dead father and your own dumb luck.

The few details that I remember of my father’s memories of the war are odd ones, or perhaps they simply reflect his unwillingness to reminisce.

I must have been 15 or so when he told me that the only meal he looked forward to when he was in the Army was chicken-fried steak. I was a kid, remember, so I replied with the haughtiness of a nutritionist: “Wasn’t that incredibly unhealthy?”

He laughed for what must have been three minutes. Finally he sputtered, “You think they worried about our cholesterol?”

When he assessed good days to fly, he was talking about heading over Axis targets to drop bombs. If the weather was too clear, the planes were too easy to spot; if the winds were too strong, the targets were harder to hit. His sole aim was to get back to the base with the plane and himself intact.

About 20 years ago, my husband, Michael, and I were flying into Munich because one of his sons was spending his junior year abroad at a university in Tubingen. When I gave my father a copy of our itinerary, he said, “Oh, Munich! I know Munich. We bombed their ball bearing factories.”

He had one other story: about how in 1945 toward the very end of the war in Europe a dreaded Messerschmitt jet followed his plane, which was already damaged and split from its formation.

The Messerschmitt was swift and agile; the beat-up B-24 was not. They figured they were done, but after a few minutes, the German pilot waved his wings in a gesture of goodbye and took off in another direction.

“I’ll never know why he let us go,” my father would repeat, especially as he got older and started remembering more, or at least revealing more about what he remembered.

For some reason, I’ve always lived under flight paths. From Brooklyn to Long Island to London to New York and now in Connecticut, I look up to see planes, large and small.

I always hope it’s a good day to fly.

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Maine Voices: Biomass plays vital role in Maine’s forestry industry Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BALDWIN — When the U.S. Senate passed an energy bill last month, most commentators praised it as an example of compromise between the major parties.

But a handful of critics have blasted the bill because of a bipartisan biomass amendment sponsored by Maine’s Susan Collins, a Republican, and co-sponsored by Maine independent Angus King and several of their colleagues. They want it deleted in the upcoming House-Senate conference committee. These critics don’t seem to understand the basics of today’s forest-based economy.

As a third-generation certified tree farmer, I’ve seen how Maine’s timber industry has changed since Pop and my grandmother started our tree farm in 1959. Back in the day, Maine had a thriving industry made up of large timber companies and small, family landowners.

Maine’s forestland was producing the timber America needed for paper and homes. More important, it also provided income for our state’s residents. This income was vital for private landowners to be able to keep managing the land, not just for timber, but also for the clean water and wildlife habitat we all count on. The industry was essential to forest conservation.

Things have certainly changed almost 60 years later. Because of a whole host of issues, Maine’s forest products industry is in decline. This, in turn, is putting pressure on landowners’ ability to manage the land.

Today, we need to leverage all the potential market opportunities for Maine wood if we are going to preserve our industry and maintain our forestland.

This is where biomass and Sens. Collins’ and King’s amendment comes in.

Maine, of course, is no stranger to biomass. Biomass produces 27 percent of our electricity and employs 1,300 people in the state. Just last month, the state appropriated $13.4 million to help keep at least two of the state’s six remaining grid-scale biomass facilities open.

While most of the biomass grown in Maine is currently used here, there are other uses of biomass that show promise. One example is the manufactured wood pellet. Users burn the pellets to generate renewable energy. The pellets have proven to be popular elsewhere in the United States and to a much greater degree in Europe.

This brings us to the amendment. The amendment requires the Environmental Protection Agency to recognize biomass as a renewable resource, thus encouraging additonal use of it.

The amendment would also send an important signal to Massachusetts and other states that have adopted policies that restrict the use of biomass. Hopefully, it will lead these states to reverse their policies. This will allow Maine’s biomass plants to start selling electricity in other states.

Herein lies the controversy.

On the one hand, there are the biomass critics, such as the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards. They argue that burning biomass – and thus releasing carbon – will have a negative impact in the short-term fight against climate change.

On the other, you have forest scientists who see something different. They look at active forest management practices and understand the larger picture.

These scientists understand that trees need to be harvested. This ensures the overall health of the forests, and their carbon-capturing benefits, today and in the future. It also guarantees that landowners have the income to keep their land in forests.

When observed over a period of decades, this has a net positive carbon impact. This doesn’t even take into account the other benefits to our air and water.

As a tree farmer, I can’t make a ruling on who is right on the science. But I do know that family landowners like myself remain focused on doing what is best for the land.

Thanks to innovation and better forestry practices, Maine’s timber industry has helped contribute to an increase in forest cover in the United States since the 1950s, even during all-time highs for the industry. And we aren’t stopping there.

We are committed to doing everything possible to protect the environment and provide jobs for Maine residents. I want to ensure that my 2,000 acres stay both productive and in the family for generations to come.

But to keep Maine’s timber industry healthy, our government must adopt policies that keep biomass viable. The biomass amendment deserves to stay in the energy bill.

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The humble Farmer: Is cooking an art or a science? It’s a ready-made topic for debate Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A firestorm of indignation broke out when I mentioned on Facebook that my wife, Marsha, boiled my asparagus for 15 minutes. You’d have thought I’d gone to Augusta and suggested a hike in the minimum wage.

In an area where quiche now infests traditional Grange Hall suppers, I was not surprised to be told by many of my younger friends that they eat their veggies “blanched,” or practically raw.

Our city friends who never pulled a carrot from the ground were probably raised on mushy canned vegetables and may be compared with the folks who think that reality is the shadows they see on the cave wall. When they break their bonds, can they be blamed for wanting a vegetable that offers up a bit of resistance, or at least some indication that it was once alive?

Because I can’t cook, unless you count spaghetti and rolled oats, I maintained on Facebook that cooking is an art that cannot be learned. Some respondents said that cooking is a science.

Perhaps you have an opinion. Is cooking an art or a science? It is a ready-made topic for discussion. Living on the coast of Maine as we do, however, you know that trotting out a preliminary anecdote to shore up the matter at hand is mandatory.

One lazy summer afternoon in 1965 I married a wonderful young woman at the Chebeague Island Inn. That was one of my more memorable weddings, and I seem to recall that Tommy Bucci played piano, I played bass and my wife’s father danced with the new bride. By the time I was 29 I had played for so many dances and private parties that standing on the bandstand, even at my own wedding, seemed like the natural thing to do.

Later in the day I noticed my philosophy professor, Jim Whitten from Gorham, conversing with my wife’s philosophy professor, Doug McGee from Vassar. I approached and asked if they were having a profitable chat.

Mr. Whitten said, “Oh, no. So far we have only been defining our terms.”

Before inaugurating a discussion on any topic, one should start by defining the terms and parameters to be permitted or anticipated.

How do you define “done,” however, when you read, “Stick your fork in the asparagus to see if they are done”? What is “done” to one is raw or overcooked to another.

Facebook friend Claire says, “If one can read, one can cook.”

Is this true? If you’ve ever tried to follow written directions to complete some simple task on your computer, you might have noticed that a couple of crucial steps are usually left out. Like his colleagues who write cookbooks, the computer guru writing the computer instructions thinks that you don’t need to be told to hold down Ctrl with your little finger as you hit F8.

When I’d ask my old neighbor Gladys in the trailer next door how long to cook mackerel, she’d say, “Until they’re done.”

“How do you know when they’re done?”

“You can tell.”

So – “Poke muffin with finger to see if it is done.” If this is the first time you’ve ever opened an oven door, you could poke the muffin all day and only learn that your finger blisters easily.

Or “Seed and dice a green pepper.” How does one seed and dice a green pepper? My brother says that when he was 12 I taught him how to drive a car. He says I’d scream, “Push on the clutch.” He says that didn’t help him much because he didn’t know what the clutch was or how to find it.

If cooking were a science, anyone who could read could cook. I can read. I can’t cook. Therefore, cooking is an art.

Facebook friend Duane disagrees. He says, “I am a very good cook. I am an engineer. Cooking is engineering. Engineering is all about taking things that exist and combining them to make something useful. Cooking is all about taking edible things that exist and combining them to make something delicious and edible. Cooking is engineering, and engineering is not correlated with artistic talent.”

I’ll bet that if I followed the same recipe as Duane, I’d fail. And then someone would gently say, “Everybody knows that you can’t cook a 300-pound pig on a turkey spit.”

Anyway, after enduring two days of ridicule on Facebook for eating overcooked food, I asked Marsha how long she boiled asparagus.

She said, “Oh, from three to five minutes. Any longer than that and it gets mushy.”

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

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Our View: Time to bring back postal banking Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It costs a lot to be poor, especially when you want to access your own money.

People without bank accounts pay outrageous fees to cash a paycheck and massive interest rates for small loans.

Banks are not interested in servicing accounts that come with small deposits, and leave the market to payday lenders, who collectively draw billions out of the pockets of the poorest Americans.

New regulations are set to go into effect this year that are designed to end the worst predatory practices, and lobbyists for the industry claim it will kill off their businesses. The hope is that big banks will step in and expand their services to areas that they have ignored in the past. But until they invest in new branch offices, millions of low-income workers would still have no place to cash a check or get credit.

A better solution might be right in front of our eyes. The U.S. Postal Service has retail offices in every community in America and it already provides financial services such as money orders and electronic transfers. It wouldn’t take much to add services like savings accounts, check cashing and debit cards.

Turning the postal service into the bank for people who don’t have banks has been kicking around Washington for a while. It’s a part of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign platform, and it’s a good issue for the fall campaign. It’s a solution to more than one problem and makes a lot of sense.

People who say that the postal service doesn’t belong in banking should take a look at history. Up until 1967, post offices operated as banks, keeping savings accounts and selling savings bonds. The program was created in the William Howard Taft administration and was meant to address the cash hoarding that was rampant in immigrant communities where people did not trust banks.

The program ended in the 1960s because bankers argued it was no longer necessary since deposits in their institutions were insured by the federal government. No one anticipated the banks’ abandonment of poor neighborhoods, and the rise of payday lenders.

The post office could fill that niche much more equitably. It already has the infrastructure and the manpower. It doesn’t need to make profit on the transactions so it can keep its fees low.

It’s time to drive out the predatory lenders and make reasonable financial services available everywhere. It’s time to bring back postal banking.

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Another View: Austrian election close shave with right-wing xenophobia Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In elections that Americans may examine closely for parallels and to understand what is going on in Europe, Austria on Sunday elected a harmless Green Party candidate president over a less-harmless far-right candidate. The margin was excruciatingly close, just 30,000 votes.

The first round of voting last month eliminated candidates of the two main parties, the center-left Social Democrats and center-right People’s Party. They have ruled the Central European country of 8.6 million off and on since the end of World War II.

The two candidates remaining were Alexander Van der Bellen, former leader of the Green Party, and Norbert Hofer of the right-wing Freedom Party. Van der Bellen won with 50.3 percent of the vote, only after mail-in ballots were counted Monday.

Voters from the defeated centrist parties spared Austria the embarrassment of electing a far-right populist as head of state (though the nation’s chancellor is the more powerful political position). Hofer’s Freedom Party is anti-Muslim, likes Russian President Vladimir Putin, opposes migration and doesn’t like the European Union, which Austria joined in 1995.

It is likely that reaction to mainly Muslim migrants from the East are what helped the Freedom Party boost its vote so drastically, though there are only 90,000 or so asylum seekers remaining in Austria. The current government first followed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy. Then, in the face of opposition, it shifted to border closures and asylum quotas. And while the Austrian economy is relatively healthy and its citizens have a comfortable life, economic inequality is on the rise. A general sense of discontent contributed to the defeat of the old-guard centrist parties.

Europe watched these elections with some apprehension. Hungary and Poland already have right-wing governments. The Austrian election was a worrisome close shave.

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Charles Krauthammer: Obama belatedly comes around to reality in dealing with China Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 How do you distinguish a foreign policy “idealist” from a “realist,” an optimist from a pessimist? Ask one question: Do you believe in the arrow of history? Or to put it another way: Are we condemned to do the same damn thing over and over – or is there hope for some enduring progress in the world order?

For realists, generally conservative, history is an endless cycle of clashing power politics. The best we can do is to defend ourselves, managing instability and avoiding catastrophe. But expect no essential alteration in the course of human affairs.

The idealists believe otherwise. They believe that the international system can eventually evolve out of its Hobbesian state of nature into something more humane and hopeful. What is usually overlooked is that this hopefulness for achieving a higher plane of global comity comes in two flavors – one liberal, one conservative.

The liberal variety (as practiced, for example, by the Bill Clinton administration) believes that the creation of a dense web of treaties, agreements, transnational institutions and international organizations (like the U.N., nongovernmental organizations, the World Trade Organization) can give substance to a cohesive community of nations that would, in time, ensure order and stability.

The conservative view (often called “neoconservative,” and dominant in the George W. Bush years) is that the better way to ensure stability is not through international institutions, which are generally powerless, but through the spread of democracy. Because, in the end, democracies are inherently more inclined to live in peace.

Liberal internationalists count on globalization, neoconservatives on democratization to achieve international harmony. But what unites them is the belief that such a state exists and is achievable. Both believe in the perfectibility of the international system. Both believe in the arrow of history.

For realists, it’s a comforting delusion that gives high purpose to international exertions where none exists. Sovereign nations remain in incessant pursuit of power and self-interest. The pursuit can be carried out more or less wisely. But nothing fundamentally changes.

Barack Obama is a classic case study in foreign policy idealism. Indeed, one of his favorite quotations is about the arrow of history: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He has spent nearly eight years trying to advance that arc of justice. Hence his initial “apology tour,” that burst of confessional soul-searching abroad about America and its sins, from slavery to the loss of our moral compass after 9/11. Friday’s trip to Hiroshima completes the arc.

Unfortunately, with “justice” did not come peace. The policies that followed – appeasing Vladimir Putin, the Iranian mullahs, the butchers of Tiananmen Square and lately the Castros – have yielded nothing but geopolitical chaos and human suffering. (See Syria.)

But while two terms as president may not have disabused Obama of his arc-of-justice idealism (see above: Hiroshima visit), they have forced upon him at least one policy of hardheaded, indeed hardhearted, realism. On his Vietnam trip this week, Obama accepted the reality of an abusive dictatorship while announcing a warming of relations and the lifting of the U.S. arms embargo, thereby enlisting Vietnam as a full partner in the containment of China.

This follows the partial return of the U.S. military to the Philippines, another element of the containment strategy. Indeed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself is less about economics than geopolitics, creating a Pacific Rim cordon around China.

Obama thus leaves a double legacy. His arc-of-justice aspirations, whatever their intention, leave behind tragic geopolitical and human wreckage. Yet this belated acquiescence to realpolitik, laying the foundations for a new containment, will be an essential asset in addressing this century’s coming central challenge, the rise of China.

I don’t know – no one knows – if history has an arrow. Which is why a dose of coldhearted realism is always welcome. Especially from Obama.

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

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M.D. Harmon: ‘Totalitolerance’ is the secular faith of the progressive reformer Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My friend Bob Knight, a Cape Elizabeth native who writes a column for The Washington Times, coined a new word this week.

It’s “totalitolerance” – and I wanted to share it because its progressive practitioners are doing their absolute best to make you shut up and obey them under the false flag of “toleration.”

On issues ranging from climate change to gun control, from abortion to wedding-cake bakers to access to addictive drugs, the secular faith of the progressive reformer is a jealous one.

And like any faith, progressivism has unquestioned assumptions and strict rules, and its own Inquisition to enforce them (using insults, threats, exclusion and, where possible, legal action).

A few examples:

North Carolina was recently threatened with the withdrawal of federal funding for the offense of not wanting fully equipped male persons to use the same public restrooms as women and little girls.

And the Obama administration wants to force the same practice on every public school bathroom and shower in the nation – although no federal law requires it.

Were we really supposed to “get the government out of our bedrooms” so it could push its way into our bathrooms instead?

“Transgender people have rights,” we are told. But do not women and little girls have rights, too – to privacy in a bathroom, for example?

Apparently not, according to The Charlotte Observer, which stated in a recent editorial: “Yes, the thought of male genitalia in girls’ locker rooms – and vice versa – might be distressing to some. But the battle for equality has always been in part about overcoming discomfort … .”

If you define “some” as “nearly everyone,” then that first sentence might make sense. But the idea is still insane.

And might not a man who is not part of the estimated 0.3 percent of the population that considers itself “transgender” (an entirely subjective self-identification, remember) use this rule for some quality Peeping Tom time – or worse?

Providing single-occupancy bathrooms would solve this problem, but that’s too easy. Instead, we are told, “You will be made to care.”

Fortunately, resistance is rising. On Wednesday, 11 states, including Maine (at Gov. LePage’s behest), filed suit against the administration on this issue.

The lawsuit says: “Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”

Indeed they have – with malice aforethought.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Human Rights Commission has decreed that covered businesses and individuals must use whatever personal pronouns employees and customers desire – or face fines of $125,000, rising to $250,000 for “willful, wanton or malicious” violations. Some examples that “gender-nonconforming people” may desire include “ze,” “hir” or “xem.”

Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, says that means “People can basically force us – on pain of massive legal liability – to say what they want us to say, whether or not we want to endorse the political message associated with that term, and whether or not we think it’s a lie.”

I guess the new policy would mean that Nancy Kwan’s famous ditty in “Flower Drum Song” would have to be revised substantially if the musical were to appear on Broadway today:

“I’m strictly a zemale zemale,

And my future I hope will be,

In the home of a brave and hirmale

Who’ll enjoy being a zuy having a xirl like zeeeeee!”

As I said, insanity.

Our military, which has been reduced to pre-World-War-II levels in the face of ever-growing threats from powers such as Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, not to mention numerous international terror networks, has not escaped the totalitolerance movement.

We are actually putting women into infantry units, when we wouldn’t dare put them on the same pro football field, rugby pitch or hockey rink with men (and no, heavily protected kickers and goalies don’t count).

This has nothing to do with equality. It springs instead from the progressive assumption that sexuality is a “social construct,” not a matter of innate biological reality.

While that weakens us from the inside, former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said in July 2015 that force cutbacks left us even then without “the ability to deter (hostile nations). The reason we have a military is to deter conflict and prevent wars. And if people believe we are not big enough to respond, they miscalculate.”

But if an enemy attacks because it considers us weak, it’s only a “miscalculation” if the onslaught fails. Instead, if we lose that battle (or that war), the enemy will have made an “accurate judgment” about us – unless things turn around soon.

It’s time to pay attention, folks. The frog is boiling.

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

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Maine Voices: Doctors, hospitals working to increase access to unaffordable medications Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WEST NEWFIELD — Obtaining needed medicines remains a financial challenge for a great many Mainers. I’ll be discussing why prescription drugs are unaffordable, but my primary purpose is to emphasize the extent of the problem and then to describe how some Maine doctors and hospitals are working together to increase access to unaffordable yet often life-preserving medications.

Not only is Maine the only New England state that has not expanded its Medicaid (MaineCare) program for its very poorest residents under provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it’s actually disenrolled thousands of MaineCare beneficiaries, many with chronic diseases that are now untreated. Maine is now the only state in the nation where the percentage of people with health insurance didn’t rise between 2010, when Obamacare was approved, and 2014.

With the cost of prescription drugs doubling over the past seven years, and with the average out-of-pocket cost of many commonly used medications now surpassing $11,000 a year, the elderly or disabled with Medicare coverage or those with ACA marketplace or employer-provided insurance also often struggle to meet increasingly unaffordable policy deductibles, coinsurance and copays.

The more drugs people take and the sicker they are, the more likely they are to experience problems paying for prescription medicines – or to forgo them altogether because of cost. Because of the high price of medications, 43 percent of people in fair or poor health and 35 percent of those taking four or more drugs said they either did not fill a prescription at all, cut pills in half or skipped doses, according to recent Kaiser Family Foundation polling.

MedHelp Maine is listed with both 2-1-1 and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services as a medication access resource, so it often gets referrals from these organizations. In just one 24-hour period, MedHelp Maine heard from:

 A 90-year-old woman discharged from the hospital with an antibiotic prescription that requires a $500 copay.

 An unemployed, uninsured woman with prescriptions for rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers and post-traumatic stress medications. Without these drugs, her conditions remain untreated.

 A 55-year-old man who receives free hospital care – but it does not cover outpatient medications. He can’t afford the insulin for his diabetes.

 A 73-year-old man, now in the Medicare doughnut hole, who finds that the drug he’s been taking for a heart condition will now cost him $800 per month.

Patients such as these, believing there’s nothing that can be done anyway, seldom tell their doctors if they can’t afford their medications. And practitioners, not realizing that patients are having problems obtaining the medications they’ve prescribed, can only assume that their patients are taking them.

MedHelp Maine is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing Mainers’ access to unaffordable prescription drugs. It has provided startup guidance and funding for seven hospital-managed prescription assistance programs throughout the state.

Area physicians who find the medication access process too costly and burdensome for their practices to perform themselves may refer patients to these programs. Skilled personnel, dedicated solely to this task, then identify the most appropriate sources of free or low-cost medications and then manage the application process on behalf of both doctor and patient. In just one recent year, one program alone obtained $5.7 million worth of free medications for over 400 patients of 135 referring prescribers.

Portland-based MaineHealth has centralized its systemwide medication access work through its MedAccess program. With knowledgeable program personnel at six MaineHealth hospitals, MedAccess obtained $24 million in free medications last year.

Because prescription medicines can be obtained only with a prescription, patients must tell their practitioners if they can’t afford needed medications. Clinicians then may choose to prescribe other, less-costly drugs; they and their practice staff may opt to manage the medication access process themselves.

Or, because this work is so complex and time-consuming, they may find it more efficient to refer their patients to their local hospital’s prescription assistance program – a resource that also benefits the facility by limiting preventable and often unreimbursed ER and inpatient services required to treat patients who haven’t been taking their medications as prescribed.

Accessing unaffordable medicines begins with patient-doctor communication. Patients must tell their practitioners if they can’t afford their medications, and prescribers must help them obtain the drugs they need to stay well. Please have these conversations.

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Our View: Maine’s alarming bike, pedestrian toll demands road rules refresher Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Six people have been struck and killed this year in Maine while out walking or biking – a statistic that’s even more chilling given that the combined total of pedestrian and cyclist deaths here averages 11 a year. So as Memorial Day weekend approaches, heralding the unofficial start of summer and the annual surge of seasonal traffic, it’s critical that we all take time away from digging out the beach towels and cleaning the grill to educate ourselves about the rules of the road.

The first pedestrian fatality of 2016 occurred Jan. 1, and there have been four more since (the most recent of which is the death May 21 of a Portland man who was struck May 17), and a cyclist was killed at the end of March. This follows a year in which 19 pedestrians were struck and killed, the highest annual toll in Maine in over two decades.

And hundreds of other people on foot or bicycle are injured every year – such as Mattie Daughtry, a state legislator who was hit by a car this month while riding a bike in her hometown of Brunswick.

Car-pedestrian and car-cyclist accidents are largely preventable. But this, of course, requires knowing the regulations that allow all of us to share the road safely. Changes to state law took effect last fall that clarify cyclists’ responsibilities, making it easier for police to ticket pedalers for such offenses as running stop signs or operating against traffic.

The advocacy group that helped develop the new regulations, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, wants cyclists to follow the rules. They’re not any happier than motorists are to see scofflaws on two wheels fly through a red light.

However, drivers have to be more aware as well: They’re required to give pedestrians and cyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing. That may mean spending a few extra seconds waiting for someone who’s walking or biking in front of you, instead of blowing by them with little room to spare and risking an accident. But it’s the right – and lawful – thing to do.

When it comes to road safety awareness, many of us are probably drawing on our memories of parental lectures or driver’s education lessons. There are, however, resources that can bring those interested up to speed, such as the Maine Department of Transportation website and the guide offered by the bike coalition.

The more we all know about our rights and responsibilities as pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, the greater the chance that we’ll be able to enjoy the summer months without being injured or worse. See you on the road.

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Maine Voices: It’s not too late for Rep. Poliquin to stop being a bystander and back gay rights Thu, 26 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was one of seven House members to switch their vote at the last minute to save an amendment legalizing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers by government contractors. By caving in to the pressure from his Republican peers, Poliquin has let down all of the LGBT Mainers from his district once again.

Poliquin made it clear that he did not care about the equality of his gay constituents as soon as he was elected. He picked Matt Hutson, a former official with an anti-gay rights group, as his chief of staff. As campaign director of Protect Marriage Maine, Hutson was tasked with exploiting the prejudices of voters in an effort to deny gay Mainers the right to marry.

Hutson’s appointment was a particularly egregious affront to gay Mainers because Poliquin holds the office previously held by Maine’s first openly gay congressman, Mike Michaud. Michaud was widely praised throughout Maine for his brave decision to come out of the closet. By contrast, LGBT Mainers in the 2nd District now have to live with the knowledge that the most senior staff person on the team representing them in Washington considers them to be second-class citizens.

Poliquin is in an awkward position politically and personally when it comes to LGBT rights. I know the Poliquin family and have personally met the congressman. People he’s close to have come out of the closet to him, and he’s been supportive of them.

At the same time, he is a vulnerable candidate in one of the most tightly contested campaigns in the nation this election cycle. Many of the rural Republicans whom Poliquin will rely on this November are likely wary of LGBT rights. Indeed, when Maine voted to legalize gay marriage in 2012, a majority of voters from Poliquin’s district opposed the law. If Poliquin has long-term political ambitions, as his compliance to Republican pressure last week suggests, he also may also not want to alienate his Republican peers by abandoning the Republican platform.

Poliquin has taken the politically savvy position of avoiding the issue of gay rights as much as possible. He has conveyed soft opposition to gay rights when pressed. His position is at times absurdly discordant: He supports legislation plainly legalizing discrimination against gay people, but claims that he “abhors discrimination in any form and at any place.”

Poliquin would say that criminalizing anti-gay discrimination would deprive people of their religious freedom. This is the same tired argument used by politicians from earlier decades to justify discrimination against black people or interracial couples. Religious belief is simply not an excuse for legal discrimination.

Unfortunately for Poliquin, politicians who stand against equal rights are not remembered kindly. The good news for him is that it is not too late for him to stop being a bystander and to embrace gay rights.

House Democrats have announced plans to propose another anti-discrimination amendment this week, which Poliquin could support. I suspect, from his initial opposition to the anti-gay amendment last week and from his acceptance of gay people he knows, that Poliquin is privately sympathetic to LGBT people.

As a conservative member of Congress, Poliquin holds special power. LGBT support from brave House Republicans is the catalyst required to upend the status quo and eventually usher in a Republican Party willing to back anti-discrimination legislation. Every prominent Republican who embraces gay rights moves equality away from the realm of partisan issues and closer to that of consensus causes.

Poliquin also has a personal responsibility to demonstrate his support for LGBT people, leading as an example for other resistant conservative Mainers to accept those they know who are gay. As such, LGBT people and allies in Poliquin’s orbit must make it clear to Poliquin that his anti-gay stances are unacceptable.

Emily Cain, Poliquin’s opponent in November, should make LGBT rights a nationally targeted campaign theme to command financial and corporate support.

To make amends to the LGBT community, Poliquin must immediately fire Hutson as his chief of staff. He also needs to co-sponsor and vocally support the Equality Act, a bill before Congress that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in places of public accommodation. The Equality Act is stalled in Congress because it has almost no Republican co-sponsors.

As Poliquin and his peers ensured a victory for prejudice last week, House Democrats in the chamber chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Rep. Poliquin must have been feeling that shame most of all.

]]> 31, 26 May 2016 09:55:33 +0000
Commentary: Obama administration’s commitment to transparency quickly turned to stonewalling Thu, 26 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WASHINGTON — Some things just aren’t cool. One of those, according to our no-drama president, is ignorance.

“It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about,” President Obama said during his recent Rutgers University commencement address. It was a swipe clearly intended for he-who-didn’t-need-to-be-named: Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president.

OK, no argument there.

But the Obama administration itself has been part of a different know-nothing problem. It’s kept the news media – and, therefore, the public – in the dark far too much over the past 7½ years.

After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, this has been one of the most secretive. And in certain ways, one of the most elusive. It’s also been one of the most punitive toward whistleblowers and leakers who want to bring light to wrongdoing they have observed from inside powerful institutions.

That’s why I’m skeptical that Americans will soon know what they need to know about drone strikes – the targeted killings that have become a major part of the administration’s antiterrorism effort in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

How many of the dead were terrorists or militants? How many were civilians, killed as collateral damage? The administration’s accounting – promised three years ago – will arrive when it hardly matters anymore for holding this administration accountable. But it’s also going to be incomplete, omitting what’s happened in Pakistan, where hundreds of strikes have taken place.

Jennifer Gibson, an attorney for the international human rights organization known as Reprieve, made this pointed statement: “Excluding the vast majority of drone strikes from this assessment means that it will hardly be worth the paper it is printed on.” Reprieve and another British organization, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, have long challenged the administration’s accounting of drone deaths, using their own research to insist that there are far more fatalities, and a higher percentage of civilian deaths, than the government admits.

Meanwhile, Obama’s on-the-record interviews with hard-news, government reporters have been relatively rare – and often limited to a single subject, such as the economy.

Remarkably, Washington Post news reporters haven’t been able to interview the president since late 2009 – about 6½ years. Think about that. The Post is, after all, perhaps the leading news outlet on national government and politics, with no in-depth, on-the-record access to the president of the United States for almost all of his two terms.

I couldn’t get anyone in the White House press office to address this, despite repeated attempts by phone and email – which possibly proves my point.

But a thorough study by Martha Joynt Kumar, a retired Towson University professor, describes the administration’s press strategy. The president does plenty of interviews, she writes – far more than any other president in recent history. But these interviews are tightly controlled, targeted toward specific topics and, it seems to me, often granted to soft questioners. (All of this is a major shift from a time when press conferences and short question-and-answer sessions allowed reporters to pursue news topics aggressively and in real time.)

More interviews; less accountability. Feet kept from the fire.

Meanwhile, on press rights generally, the Obama administration hasn’t walked its talk. It has set new records for stonewalling or rejecting Freedom of Information requests. And it has used an obscure federal act to prosecute leakers. It continued the punishing treatment of a National Security Agency whistleblower, Thomas Drake (dismaying new details have emerged recently in book excerpts by John Crane, a former Pentagon investigator), and threatened to send New York Times investigative reporter James Risen to jail for his good-faith insistence on protecting his confidential source.

Promising transparency and criticizing ignorance, but delivering secrecy and opacity? That doesn’t serve the public or the democracy. And that’s deeply uncool.


]]> 1, 26 May 2016 18:20:08 +0000
Dana Milbank: Unable to pin scandal on Obama, Republicans go fishing for one Thu, 26 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Everything Rep. Darrell Issa knows about impeachment, he learned from Wikipedia.

At Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing to consider the impeachment of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, Issa, the California Republican and dogged investigator of the Obama administration, confessed that he was relying on an open-source website.

“You and I are not lawyers,” Issa told Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who was presenting the panel with the legal case for impeaching Koskinen, “so we’ll tax each other a little bit on a constitutional question. According to Wikipedia, at least, the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors constitutionally says it covers allegations of misconduct … ”

Issa then questioned Chaffetz about each of the examples cited by Wikipedia contributors.

This was a fitting close to the congressional investigations of the Obama years. Again and again, Republicans in Congress have dug into President Obama’s White House, and each time they have failed to unearth high-level scandal.

Now House Republicans are taking up the low-probability impeachment of the IRS commissioner – even though Koskinen wasn’t even working at the IRS until well after the behavior in question, the targeting of conservative political groups, had allegedly occurred.

Only three executive-branch officials have been impeached by the House in all of U.S. history, as my colleague Lisa Rein has noted: presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, and a secretary of war (in 1876). The case against Koskinen is weak: The Justice Department declined to launch a prosecution, saying its investigation found no evidence that IRS officials acted on political motives. Both Justice and an inspector general first appointed by President George W. Bush cast doubt on lawmakers’ allegations that there was a conspiracy to destroy evidence or hide it from investigators.

And so Obama’s congressional accusers defined impeachment down.

“I don’t believe you have to prove intent,” Chaffetz alleged Tuesday.

“False testimony or dereliction of duty is still impeachable whether or not the Justice Department determines it as a crime,” Issa intoned.

“The notion that you can only impeach someone that commits an actual violation of the criminal code is nonsense,” asserted Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

The Obama-hunters have been thwarted by a relatively scandal-free administration. Second-term scandals are the norm: Richard Nixon had Watergate, Ronald Reagan had Iran-contra, Bill Clinton had Monica Lewinsky, and George W. Bush had the Valerie Plame affair, which led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. But Obama?

“The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free,” David Brooks, a conservative New York Times columnist, wrote in February. Conservative critics of the administration protested that assessment by listing a variety of controversies: a gun-running sting gone bad, mistreated veterans, the botched rollout of, the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange, stimulus funds wasted, Edward Snowden’s leaks, Secret Service debauchery, the harassment of whistleblowers and journalists, the IRS targeting, Hillary Clinton’s email server and Benghazi.

There have, no doubt, been screw-ups: failures of policy, misbehavior and poor management. But Obama’s accusers have yet to document high-level malfeasance or corruption, and in the case of Benghazi, even some investigations led by Republicans have discredited the allegation.

Support for the impeachment inquisitors Tuesday was iffy: Half the seats in the room were empty when they began, and two hours later, 25 percent were filled. Koskinen blew off the panel. Republican leaders, who stalled the hearing for months, didn’t allow “impeachment” to be used in the title.

Chaffetz made the case for impeachment with a 10-minute video – part documentary, part attack ad – narrated by one of his staffers: “This was orchestrated. It was planned. … Possibility of criminal activity.”

Chaffetz rationalized his use of the nuclear option of impeachment this way: “Rather than Congress continuing to whine and complain about … the executive branch, the founders gave us tools.”

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, asked if this tool might connect the scandal to the White House.

Chaffetz acknowledged that “I’ve seen no evidence of that.”

But who cares about evidence? By the impeachment standard House Republicans set, the punishment needn’t fit the crime – or any crime.

“There are lots of ways to screw up in your job that don’t rise to the level of meeting the U.S. criminal code,” Gowdy argued. “The failure to perform the duties of your office could be an impeachable offense.”

If so, half the members of Congress would be out of work.

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

]]> 1, 25 May 2016 19:05:20 +0000
Another View: Acquittal in Freddie Gray case is no vindication of Baltimore police Thu, 26 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The acquittal Monday of Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero on charges relating to Freddie Gray’s death should not be seen as a vindication of the police department, its policies, its training or its oversight of officers.

Criminal trials are pending for five other officers in the April 12, 2015, death of Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury after he was arrested, shackled and loaded into a police van without a safety restraint. But those verdicts likewise will serve neither to uphold current police practices nor brand the entire department as criminal.

In Baltimore and elsewhere, stories are told of “rough rides” in police vans that officers intentionally mete out to suspects as a brazen and certainly unlawful display of power. Surely there is criminal culpability to be found if that’s what fatally injured Gray.

But what if Gray’s treatment was the result of inadequate leadership, unprepared officers and a series of basic failures in procedure, all exacerbated by lax oversight and discipline? There might be no crime – and yet the city might still have been providing policing that is so inadequate as to be what can only be deemed criminally deficient.

Gray’s death has led to an examination of police practices in Baltimore and other cities. Both Nero’s trial and one earlier this year that resulted in a mistrial have produced testimony about the Baltimore Police Department’s inconsistent application of standards and nonrigorous training.

The mayor and police commissioner have taken some first steps to improve oversight. The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the department’s civil rights record. Acquittals do not obviate the need for such scrutiny and reform. Convictions cannot substitute for it.

]]> 0 Wed, 25 May 2016 19:58:18 +0000
Our View: As addiction soars, Maine officials drag feet on response Thu, 26 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There is little disagreement on the severity of the heroin problem gripping Maine and much of the rest of the United States. However, the response remains slow, fractured and underwhelming, and the size of the epidemic continues to dwarf the resources being spent to end it.

So it’s disappointing to learn that some of the initiatives able to pass the divided Legislature have seemingly been left to collect dust by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. At least three programs, including two approved and funded a year ago, have not yet been put in place, with no explanation from the department.

With drug overdose deaths at an all-time high, Mainers deserve better answers, and faster movement.

Lying in limbo are a detoxification facility planned for eastern or northern Maine, passed as part of an emergency drug bill in January, as well as an eight-bed treatment facility for women and a new drug court program, both approved a year ago. A DHHS spokeswoman gave no reason for the delay and said that requests for proposals for the drug court program and the detox facility would be issued soon.

An RFP issued last year for the women’s treatment facility – a particularly urgent need – drew two applicants, neither of which the DHHS found suitable. The department turned down one applicant, Scarborough-based Crossroads, apparently because their bid was too high. The claim was met with confusion by Crossroads’ CEO, given the organization’s experience with residential care and its costs.

That’s not the only disconnect between the department and treatment providers. Many say they are confused over what the LePage administration, which has questioned the effectiveness of drug treatment programs, wants from them as they help address the unprecedented number of Mainers seeking help for addiction.

And this is not the first time that such a disconnect has surfaced.

Last year, as a way to counter claims that he was not adequately addressing the heroin crisis, Gov. LePage used a radio address to say that state funds earmarked for treatment were going unspent. DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew later said that providers were telling the department that treatment needs were being met.

Both statements were met with disbelief by providers: Across the state, they were struggling to find the resources to help people seeking treatment, whose numbers more than tripled between 2010 and 2014.

If the money was there, why wasn’t the department doing more to get it to providers? And why couldn’t the administration see what dire straits the providers, and their patients, were in?

Those questions were never adequately answered.

And now we can add another: At a time when addiction is working around the clock to kill Mainers, why is the department so slow in implementing programs that might save lives?

]]> 16, 25 May 2016 23:27:08 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Here’s a slightly shocking idea for ending Gov. LePage’s lies Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Dear U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch:

First, our heartfelt apology. If you haven’t already, you’re about to receive a request from our governor, Paul LePage, that you’ll probably dismiss at first glance as some kind of poorly executed high school prank.

It isn’t. You see, Madame AG, our governor is crazy as a loon.

What’s worse, he’s a compulsive liar.

And now he wants you, of all people, to bail him out of his latest whopper.

I know. You’re a busy woman. But please, hear me out. I think you can actually be of assistance here.

The story, in a nutshell, goes like this:

Three weeks ago, at one of his tell-it-like-it-isn’t town hall meetings, LePage regaled the crowd with the tale of a junior at Deering High School in Portland who overdosed on heroin three times in one week and was revived with the lifesaving drug Narcan all three times.

“And the third one, he got up and went to class,” LePage claimed. “He didn’t go to the hospital. He didn’t get checked out. He was so used to it he just came out of it and went to class.”

It never happened. The governor made it up.

This week, under pressure from Portland legislators to man up and apologize for maligning the state’s largest city and one of its high schools, LePage went on public radio and instead dug himself in deeper.

“It turns out it was one shot in the school and two shots outside,” he said, saying he got the story from a school resource officer. “And now they’re denying that. So what we’re going to do is, I’m thinking of calling this afternoon, trying to get ahold of the Attorney General Lynch and ask for her investigative arm to come up and look at the school systems in Maine. … I think it’s time maybe we start investigating our schools.”

Geez, Madame AG, do you really have an “investigative arm” that you can actually detach and dispatch, just like that, to faraway Maine?

Or was LePage referring to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which last time I checked already has offices in Portland and Bangor?

Either way, as Maine Public Radio moderator Jennifer Rooks asked the governor, “What would be the federal issue that they would be looking at?”

“Well, it’s a law enforcement issue,” LePage replied. “I think it’s … it’s not being transparent. I can’t be told … I’m suspect now that I’ve been told there were some drugs in the school and now they’re saying, ‘No, that’s fabricated.’ It’s not fabricated. This is an actual conversation I had. The police chief was even in the room.”

Sounds a little rattled, doesn’t he? It’s what happens when a lie starts to unravel and the compulsive liar, rather than simply fess up, starts to backpedal … and backpedal … until finally he trips over himself and lands in a pile of sentence fragments and sharply conflicting assertions. Not pretty.

But back to LePage’s request that you loan Maine your investigative arm. Honestly, Madame AG, there’s no need for it.

Portland’s acting school superintendent, its police chief, a high school principal and a school resource officer all say Gov. LePage took an anecdote set in a local park – no school, no student – and twisted it into something not rooted in reality.

Trust us, Madame AG, it’s not the first time he’s turned the truth into a pretzel.

As documented by reporter Eric Russell in Tuesday’s Portland Press Herald, LePage once claimed that Maine students had to take a special placement exam before they could apply to The College of William & Mary.

Not true.

He once insisted that a wind turbine at the University of Maine at Presque Isle ran on a “little electric motor that turns the blades.”

Wrong again.

He even alleged that Bangor-based author Stephen King, whose love for this state puts LePage to shame, spends most of his time in Florida to avoid paying Maine income taxes.

Lie about Stephen King? Who does that?

So what’s wrong with this guy?

I think he has a textbook case of “pseudologia fantastica,” which is a fancy name for pathological lying.

I came across an article about it in the The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, which describes the core characteristics of pseudologia fantastica, or PF, thusly:

“While the theme of lies can be stereotyped or varied in nature, they are almost always dazzling or fantastical, and often develop into a complicated system of deception. The imaginative fluency of the lies tends to capture public attention, at least in the short term. The lies must keep a certain reference to reality, and though they are often unlikely, they are not beyond the realm of possibility (e.g., ‘I communicate with aliens’). Under close scrutiny the lies can often be easily discredited, and for this reason the lying in PF is frequently noted to be destructive to the liar.”

Now, I’m sure, Madame AG, that you come across pathological liars all the time in your line of work. First as a federal prosecutor and now as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, you can probably spot one of these bozos a mile – or even 600 miles – away.

So rather than investigate Maine’s high schools for surreptitious (not to mention totally fictitious) Narcan resurrections, you could truly help us out here by sending us two simple items from your surplus equipment stockpile:

A portable polygraph machine and an ankle bracelet.

Deering High School, you see, is home to a ton of bright, innovative young minds.

The way I figure it, their top science class could easily retrofit the polygraph for easy attachment to Gov. LePage every time he goes out to speak in public.

At the same time, the kids could run a small electrical current from the polygraph to the ankle bracelet so that every time LePage tells a tall one, he gets zapped. Nothing painful, mind you – just enough to make him reflexively hop off the ground, a silent signal to his audience that he just wandered off into fantasy land.

In a perfect world, Madame AG, Gov. LePage eventually would modify his behavior (like the lab rats do), stick to the truth and stop having to borrow your investigative arm.

But as you and I both know, this is anything but a perfect world.

So we might as well be entertained.


]]> 200, 25 May 2016 10:03:26 +0000
Greg Kesich: Here on Earth, Maine suffers with LePage in a world of his own Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 How would you like to live in Paul LePage’s world?

You would live in a country in which the president hated white people – 72 percent of the population. Hated ’em.

The same president would oversee a tax collection agency that would be about as bad as Hitler’s Gestapo, killing people by rationing their health care.

And it’s not like things would be better at home.

The whole southern half of your very own state would be corrupt. The rich would be stealing from the poor with nice-sounding programs like “land conservation” and “senior housing.”

The poor would be stealing from the middle class by using welfare benefits to buy tattoos and lottery tickets. Immigrants would be lying their way across the border, so they could get welfare and spread disease.

And to top it off, children would be overdosing on opiates right in the schools, and the school nurses would do nothing but restart their hearts with a little Narcan and send them back to class. Then the school officials would cover it all up, hiding the truth as they step over the bodies.

What a nightmare!

Thankfully, we don’t live in that world, because it only exists in one guy’s head. Unfortunately he’s a very powerful guy.

By now, everyone should have heard the Deering High School anecdote that was part of the governor’s set remarks on his recent road show in Lewiston.

Explaining why he vetoed a bill to make the overdose antidote Narcan available without a prescription, LePage told a tale about a Deering High School junior who was revived from overdose three times in a single week.

“And the third one, he got up and went to class,” LePage said.”He didn’t go to the hospital. He didn’t get checked out. He was so used to it he just came out of it and went to class.”

While we can all admire the young man’s commitment to his education, we should not overlook a significant problem with the governor’s story. It never happened.

It’s not that LePage made a mistake on an unimportant detail. It’s not that the kid was a sophomore, not a junior, or that it was Portland High School, not Deering.

It’s just that the incident that the governor described never actually happened in a way that other humans would consider to be an actual thing.

At least not according to Portland’s acting superintendent of schools, or the principal of Deering High School, or Portland’s chief of police, or the school resource officer, who LePage says told him the story. They all say that the governor misunderstood something said by Officer Steven Black, who works at Deering during the school year and on patrol during vacations.

The person that Black said had been revived and walked away without any treatment was in Deering Oaks Park, not Deering High School. OK, so the governor made a mistake.

No. Not in his world. Where he lives, he’s right and all those other people are a bunch of liars. These overdoses happened, he said, and the problem is much bigger than what he claims occurred at Deering (but didn’t).

He said he knows about cases in two other schools, apparently including a middle school because one of the overdose victims he cited was an eighth grader. There are probably even more, he said.

“I’m thinking of calling (U.S.) Attorney General (Loretta) Lynch and asking for her investigative arm to come up and look at the school systems in Maine,” LePage said on the MPBN show “Maine Calling” on Monday. “I think it’s serious enough. I believe it happened.”

(Note to Attorney General Lynch: Please understand the local terminology. In Paul LePage’s world, “I believe it happened” is considered to be enough evidence for a conviction. In the places you’re used to, a little more might be required.)

It’s not like our world is perfect. People here are overdosing on opioids at an alarming rate. School-age kids are abusing dangerous drugs (mostly alcohol), sometimes with tragic results. Some people who get what should be the ultimate wake-up call – being revived after what would have been a fatal overdose – go back to using rather than seeking treatment.

Those things really do happen. They just didn’t happen all at once to the same person at Deering High School, except in Paul LePage’s world, a dark and dangerous place.

It’s a good thing we don’t live in it. It’s bad enough that he has to be such a big shot in ours.


]]> 51, 25 May 2016 10:07:46 +0000
Leonard Pitts: By sustaining futile campaign, Sanders looms as Trump’s useful idiot Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “You can’t always get what you want.”

— The Rolling Stones

A few words in defense of pragmatism.

That ideal has taken quite a beating lately, mostly at the hands of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. The Vermont senator faces a virtually impossible deficit in his battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Pragmatism would seem to suggest it’s time for him to pack it in.

But pragmatism don’t know Bernie. Or Bernie Nation.

If this weren’t clear before, it has been made abundantly so in the last two weeks, beginning with Sanders supporters in Las Vegas tearing open the Nevada Democratic convention in a protest so angrily chaotic it was shut down by security, fearing violence. But Sanders supporters weren’t done yet; they also sent death threats to party officials.

The proximate cause of this Trumpish behavior was a dispute over rules, a claim that, as Sanders’ campaign manager put it, the convention had been “hijacked” to award more delegates to Hillary Clinton. Politico rated that false.

Not that this has made much difference to Sanders, now locked in a battle with the party he ostensibly seeks to lead. His denunciation of the convention chaos was as tepid and belated as Donald Trump at his worst. He has blasted the party for being, as he sees it, in the pocket of the rich, and specifically denounced Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a Monday interview, Sanders told the Associated Press that this summer’s convention could be “messy,” though he later insisted that was not a tacit suggestion of violence.

Given the intensity of the emotions at play and the behavior of his supporters in Vegas, it’s hard to see how it could have been anything but. Which is disappointing. A few days ago, Sanders’ campaign seemed headed for an honorable legacy. But he has apparently decided instead upon a legacy of peevishness and sore losing, which is, as Frank Bruni noted a few weeks back in The New York Times, a hallmark of this political epoch.

Look: There is something to be said, under certain circumstances, for fighting to the last breath. Under certain circumstances, it is noble to stand one’s ground, come what may. Under certain circumstances, it might even be heroic to soldier on past the point of defeat.

These are not those circumstances. Trump awaits. And every second the left spends arguing with itself is a gift to the presumptive Republican nominee.

Let’s not get it twisted. For all that some people now seek to normalize him and his campaign, for all that they fool themselves into thinking he wouldn’t be so bad, for all that a party once appalled to find him its leader now coalesces behind him, Trump is still what he’s always been: a tire fire in an expensive suit.

Yes, Clinton is, putting it mildly, a flawed candidate, stiff at the lectern, shameless in her pandering and disliked for reasons both substantive (she sometimes seems to have only a nodding relationship with truth) and not. (Since when is it a sin – or a surprise – for a politician to be ambitious?) But she’s also intelligent and experienced. And compared to Trump, she’s a plate of Lincoln with a side of FDR.

As such, she might make a good president, might be a middling president, might even be a bad president, but at a minimum, she would be a president unlikely to hand out nuclear weapons like party favors or require customs agents to ask would-be visitors, “Are you now or have you ever been a Muslim?”

Clinton is, in other words, a good, pragmatic choice. And no, that’s not an inspiring battle cry.

But a reality show buffoon unburdened by knowledge, decency or dignity is closing in on the White House. We should probably take a little inspiration from that.

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

]]> 52, 24 May 2016 19:32:37 +0000
Our View: Price hike could undercut effectiveness of expanding naloxone access Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As an opioid addiction epidemic continues to ravage lives across Maine, it came as a rare piece of good news last month when L.D. 1547, a bill making the overdose antidote naloxone available over the pharmacy counter, survived a veto by Gov. LePage. But the cost of naloxone is soaring, and while there are short-term steps the state can take to hold down the cost of this lifesaving drug, the inexcusable price spike – as much as 17-fold for some versions – warrants federal intervention.

Legislators’ support this session for over-the-counter naloxone sales is the latest step taken to counter the surge in deadly overdoses in Maine. Laws were already in place allowing police, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs to administer the drug. It’s also legal for relatives of those at risk to get prescriptions for naloxone and give it to the person who’s overdosed.

First responders and family members, however, are running into another barrier to naloxone access: its price. As recently as the late 1990s, the cost was as little as $1 a dose for the generic version of naloxone, which was approved to reverse overdoses in 1971. But although there are now five versions of naloxone on the market, the price continues to soar.

In two years, according to Politico magazine, Kaleo Pharma’s auto-inject version of naloxone (approved specifically for people without medical training, like relatives, to give to a loved one) went from $575 to $3,750. Two vials of Hospira’s generic version, administered in hospitals, skyrocketed from $1.84 in 2006 to $31.66 by 2014.

As demand for naloxone continues to escalate, Maine should take a cue from its New England neighbor, Massachusetts, the first state to negotiate lower prices for the antidote. First responders in Massachusetts were paying $33 to $66 per dose until that state’s attorney general, Maura Healey, threatened to sue Amphastar, the only company that makes an easy-to-use form of naloxone that’s given as a nasal spray.

Last August, Healey reached a $325,000 settlement with Amphastar; combined with $150,000 from state coffers, the deal created a bulk purchase fund for naloxone. Now the antidote costs city and town emergency crews $20 per dose. Since then, five other states have reached similar deals.

Maine’s congressional delegation is also taking notice. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network this week that naloxone access is so critical that Congress should consider negotiating purchase of the drug itself. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who’s seeking an explanation of the increase in cost, noted that it will undercut the effectiveness of a recent boost in federal funding for naloxone purchases by first responders.

Expanding access to naloxone won’t do much good if those who need it – for themselves or others – can’t afford it. Our state should push the makers of naloxone for a better deal, and our U.S. representatives and senators should press for action on a national level. Mainers’ lives depend on it.

]]> 2, 25 May 2016 11:06:42 +0000
Another View: Humans can help wild creatures by staying away from them Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Those shaggy-haired, shoulder-humped bison roaming Yellowstone National Park have lived in the area since prehistoric times, surviving predators, disease, development.

But can they survive tourists? Despite signs in the park and fliers handed out to visitors warning them about being gored by the horned bison, tourists just can’t seem to stay the officially required 25 yards away. They get out of cars and snap selfies with bison, scurrying back only when the animal takes off after them. (Bison are significantly faster sprinters than humans.) Last year, five people were seriously injured by bison at Yellowstone.

Recently, an interaction cost a bison its life. When tourists spotted a newborn bison calf seemingly shivering from cold, they plucked it from the roadside, put it in the back of their SUV and took it to a ranger facility “because of their misplaced concern for the animal’s welfare,” said a Park Service official. Human interference can cause a mother to reject a calf, and in this case, park rangers were unsuccessful in getting the bison herd to take the calf back in. Ultimately, it had to be euthanized.

Those people were trying to help. Others like the thrill of recklessness – how close can you get to a dangerous animal and live to upload the selfie? For many of us, it’s that we’re urban creatures starved for interaction with animals more exotic than our pets.

But wild creatures need to be left alone – if not for our survival, then certainly for theirs.

]]> 1 Tue, 24 May 2016 19:35:55 +0000
Maine Voices: Our politically correct culture reaches too far to protect transgender rights Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SCARBOROUGH — “Dear Colleague”: This is the salutation used by two Obama administration officials who followed up a federal appellate ruling siding with G.G., a teenage Virginia girl who identifies as male, by sending a “guidance” letter May 13 that cites Title IX and calls on all public colleges and schools that get federal funding to make single-sex restrooms, locker rooms, showers, housing and sports teams available to “transgender students consistent with their gender identity.”

Enacted in 1972, Title IX is a one-sentence federal statute prohibiting sexual discrimination at a public or private institution that gets federal funding.

The intention of this law was to ensure that women had the access and opportunity to participate in what traditionally had been male-only sports programs and athletic activities. There is nothing in Title IX that empowers anyone to individually decide to expand that statute.

Making significant changes to existing laws – after open hearings to a properly notified public for comment – is the constitutional prerogative of Congress. Although the “guidance” letter does not have the force of law, it employs the word “must” in threatening loss of federal funding for noncompliance. This is an executive edict, not a legislative act, from two federal functionaries with a political agenda – a classic example of the law of unintended consequences as well as bullying.

If schools that receive federal funding must make single-sex bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, housing and sports teams available to “transgender students consistent with their gender identity,” consider these possible scenarios: a 19-year-old male who self-identifies as female must be offered a dormitory room with females regardless of their discomfort; a 6-foot-2, 250-pound male must be allowed to compete for women’s sports teams if he self-identifies as female. And high school boys can use the girls’ locker rooms and showers consistent with their “gender identity.” No medical diagnosis required.

Tenured professors of gender studies at our overpriced colleges and universities teach our fragile students that gender (now a synonym for sex) is merely a “social construct,” while equally certain gay activists proclaim that sex is hard-wired in our DNA. So, on the one hand gender is nothing, and on the other hand gender is all. And both sides ignore science and empirical evidence for their hare-brained theories – the sex-obsessed, politically correct culture of our time run amok.

I quote from a May 23 National Review blog post by Edward Whelan: “A person discriminates on the basis of a trait when it makes that trait relevant to how a person is treated, and doesn’t discriminate when it treats that trait as irrelevant. A baker (my example) discriminates on the basis of homosexuality when he factors that trait into his decision whether to bake a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding, but doesn’t discriminate when he disregards their sexual orientation. In this context, a school is non-discriminatory on the basis of a student’s gender identity when it disregards that trait and assigns the student to the bathroom or facilities that correspond with his or her biological sex.”

And I paraphrase from a piece in the online magazine Slate by Michael Goldberg: There is no coherent ideology in which transgender students have a right to be shielded from facilities that may upset them, but non-transgender students do not have the same right. If we’ve decided that certain people have the right to feel safe, then what’s the standard for refusing that right to gender-stable people who may feel unsafe? Is it simply that we don’t believe them when they describe their trauma? Aren’t we supposed to believe all victims – no matter what?

I think a better case can be made for one to feel a different age than a birth certificate would show if all this means is that you’re only as old as you feel. I have no major ailments, low blood pressure and take only one medication for a hiatal hernia I’ve had since my 40s.

By affixing a rug to my bald head, substituting contact lenses for my eyeglasses, getting a face-lift and a shot of testosterone (without plumbing alterations), I could self-identify as as a member of the baby boom generation rather than the generation that came of age during World War II. Like Popeye the Sailor, I might say: “I am what I feel I am, and that’s who I am.” But I wouldn’t expect preferential treatment.


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Kathleen Parker: Given the candidates, American voters are facing an unpalatable choice Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 On rare occasions, Americans coalesce around a common cause, usually following some calamity – a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or, say, during a presidential election.

Take today. Or rather, take the past several months during which Americans have begun to face the likely probability that they’ll elect a president they don’t much like. Polls suggest as much, as do my own conversations with strangers, family and friends, from which I’ve deduced the following: When it comes to whom they’ll select for their next president, most Americans are stranded in a political no man’s land. There’s no one to vote for.

“What are we going to do?” people keep asking me.

Obviously, the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump bases are as un-confounded as ever. Hillary Clinton has her usual camp, including half of women voters. But a vaster number of people who identify as independent or moderate – or have become so thanks to the past year’s cannibalizing circus – are dissatisfied with both presumptive nominees.

The adage that our presidential election is a nose-pinching exercise – or a choice between lesser evils – doesn’t approach the rising level of ennui flooding the American street.

I would characterize this larger constituency as also including people who, though they may lean left or right, suffer a greater repulsion to the political moment than to a single candidate, though there’s plenty of revulsion to go around. To the extent that the remaining candidates are central to the current environment of anger, paranoia and, in some cases, violence, all are equally unappealing.

There is only one candidate for whom this middle bloc of voters could reasonably stomach voting. Given that Trump is such an unpleasant character and, by virtue of his own statements, unqualified to lead the most powerful nation on earth; and given that Sanders wants to create a nation that most Americans wouldn’t recognize; be it resolved that the saner choice is Clinton (notwithstanding everything you hate about her).

Hence the malaise that passeth all understanding.

If only by default, Clinton holds the higher ground. That even many Democrats find her unappealing – and others wouldn’t like her if she saved every beast and bog from extinction and cured cancer with a single pill – is understood. As lightning rods go, she has no peer.

Add to the well-known list of public concerns about her – a lack of transparency, perceived deceptions, those emails, Benghazi and the current FBI investigation – a potentially more damning development: Her pivot to the left.

This was made necessary, of course, by Sanders’ anthem of class warfare, but as Clinton pirouetted stage left, she added another layer of doubt to the disenfranchised middle, gave progressives another reason to question her loyalty to their goals and made it more difficult for Trump-repelled conservatives to consider her as acceptable alternative.

One might wish that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s quip about a contest between her and Trump were correct. More or less, he said that corrupt beats crazy every time. But even Graham has surrendered, locking arms in the Trump parade. “Party before Clinton” has prevailed as well among most of the stop-Trump crowd, a fleeting movement among a handful of Republican “formers.”

For Clinton to prevail over Trump, she’ll need to win over Sanders’ supporters, a dimming prospect at the moment, as well as the vast middle where mortals roam in wounded unity. But support among the latter depends on the answer to a tricky question: Is she really as liberal as she’s promising to be, or is she faking? Trump-leaning voters face the same challenge: Is he really as awful as he seems, or has he just been bluffing?

Given the high stakes, a contest between a scheming fake and a dangerous bluffer inspires little confidence and possibly little interest in voting. To the plea – what are we going to do? – the correct answer is, of course, vote. The high ground may be more molehill than mountain, but it still beats the gutter.

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

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Maine Voices: At Hiroshima, Obama should begin leading world back from the brink Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When President Obama speaks at ground zero in Hiroshima on Friday, he must do more than recall the horrific consequences of the first atomic bombing.

Seven years ago, on April 5, 2009, President Obama declared to the world: “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

His record of progress toward that goal is mixed. It is true that this administration negotiated the New START agreement with Russia and soon both sides will have reduced deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each. Yet this is still vastly more than enough to destroy all that we cherish in our fragile world.

Shockingly, more than half of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert on submarines and in missile silos. Whether as a consequence of miscalculation or accident, they are ready to be launched in less than 15 minutes and able to destroy their targets across the globe 30 minutes later.

In 1986, the New England Journal of Medicine devoted an entire issue to the health consequences from any use of nuclear weapons. Dr. Arnold Relman, then editor of the journal, wrote: “What we physicians urgently need to be telling our government and our fellow citizens is that even 1 percent (or less) of the total destructive power now in possession of the superpowers is enough to doom our two countries and inflict untold damage on the rest of the world. … That is why most physicians … agree that our government ought to be exploring every possible initiative to achieve an agreement on the early reduction of nuclear stockpiles.”

Our nuclear arsenals have been reduced significantly over the past 30 years. Yet in a nuclear war with Russia involving just a fraction of current arsenals, millions of Americans would still be killed and our entire economic, medical and public health infrastructure would be destroyed.

Equally frightening, we have learned that detonation of a small number of warheads anywhere in the world (for example, in a war between India and Pakistan) would result in catastrophic consequences for all of us. In a series of professional journal articles, Rutgers environmental scientist Alan Robock, University of Colorado atmospheric and oceanic scientist Owen Brian Toon and others document that the likely impact of a so-called “limited nuclear war” on climate and global food production would put the world’s population at grave risk of mass starvation.

Certainly, there are many urgent national security threats that must be dealt with. However, these doomsday weapons are simply unusable in addressing any of them.

Without public debate and with our leaders ignoring the reality of the threats nuclear weapons pose to us all, we are now on the verge of an unnecessary, expensive and terribly dangerous new nuclear arms race.

President Obama has proposed and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are supporting spending a trillion dollars over the next 30 years on a nuclear weapons spending binge, including new land-based missiles, bomber aircraft, ballistic missile submarines and cruise missiles. This ill-conceived plan is leading the world in exactly the wrong direction.

President Obama will soon be in the perfect location to announce his intention to lead the world back from this brink. The Humanitarian Pledge, supporting legally prohibiting nuclear weapons, has been signed by 127 countries. This month in Geneva, preliminary steps are being taken to begin negotiations on such a treaty. On Friday in Hiroshima, President Obama should announce that the United States will join these negotiations.

While these negotiations move forward, President Obama should demonstrate that the United States is prepared to do more than talk. He should announce that he is ordering our nuclear weapons be taken off hair-trigger alert and challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin to do the same.

With just eight months left in Obama’s presidency, we’re about to find out if his legacy will include real progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons or the beginning of a dangerous new nuclear arms race putting our survival at risk.

When it comes to nuclear weapons policy, we and our elected leaders face a fundamental choice. We choose life.

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Charles Lawton: Without initiation rituals, how do we pass along wisdom? Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The first lesson of initiation is to teach the young man not to try to get rid of his pain until he has first learned whatever it has to teach him. – Richard Rohr

Theologian Richard Rohr has been writing recently about the absence of initiation rites in modern societies, rituals that he says took place “in every age and every continent for most of human history” and “were considered central to the survival of most cultures.” The demise of such rites and rituals, therefore, has dire consequences. A society without initiation rites is a society in which whatever wisdom it may have accumulated is lost to younger generations.

The driving force in our public life today is the overwhelming urge to avoid pain, or even anything vaguely unpleasant. In fact, the growing fascination with the differences among the baby boom generation, Generation X and the millennials has generally turned the concept of wise elders on its head.

From baby boomers struggling to set up a PowerPoint presentation to venture capitalists struggling to avoid missing the “next big thing” among the billion-dollar gazelles that seem to emerge weekly, anyone trying to understand the changes flowing from the most disruptive trend of the past 30 years – the digital communication revolution – does the same thing: look to the youngest person in the room for the answer.

If wisdom comes from accumulated experience, the older generations seem to be admitting that it is experience unavailable to them and thus something to be sought in youth.

Such abdication of responsibility for cultural continuity is as much a problem for the older generation as it is for the younger. Our civic discourse has increasingly descended to the adolescent shouts of “I want this, and I want it now.”

On one side, we hear would-be executive leaders who are little more than archetypes of banana republic strongmen inflating themselves by expressing the pain their supporters undoubtedly feel, while offering no meaningful explanation for what the pain means and how we can learn from it. On the other hand, we have romantic, fairy-dust socialists channeling the same pain into promises of a revolution in which someone else will provide the healing salve.

Nowhere, it seems, are there grown-ups who have suffered reversals, experienced pain, survived and stayed around, able and willing to share the lessons they have learned. When I was a young policy analyst in the 1970s and ’80s, I was blessed to be able to work with and learn from men like Allen Pease, Maine State Planning Office director, and Dick Barrringer, founding director of the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, and to see and respect the leadership of legislators such as Joe Brennan, Joe Sewall, Harrison Richardson and Neal Rolde.

On commissions established to address significant state and municipal problems, I was fortunate to serve, observe and work for months at a time with political and civic leaders such as Ed Muskie, then-Bates College President Hedley Reynolds, Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Sidney Wernick, banker Bob Masterson, educators Linda Abromson and Marcella Violette and multi-faceted Portland leader John Menario.

While all these women and men rarely agreed on any given issue, to a person they were gracious, engaging and above all eager to learn and committed to finding feasible (though rarely ideal) ways to address major state issues from education reform to river protection to civic leadership. In many ways, service on such commissions served as rites of initiation for people such as David Flanagan, Charlie Colgan, Alec Giffen, John Dorrer and many other young idealists who have spent their lives working to find useful solutions to the public policy issues that Maine has faced over the past 30 years.

The structure of state leadership has changed significantly over that period. Where once there were many major Maine-based businesses whose leaders lived in the communities where they built their careers, we now see branch managers cycling through their corporate bureaucracies. Where once we had long-serving legislators who carried with them extensive institutional memories, we now have term-limited officeholders increasingly dependent on a professional staff and lobbyists. Where once we had governors who brought substantial legislative experience and existing relationships with those in the legislative branch, we now have news-cycle celebrities speaking largely to their political bases.

But a new generation of leaders, often with business, administrative or philanthropic rather than political backgrounds, is now coming to the fore – at the Maine Development Foundation, the Maine Technology Institute, the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, the private colleges and the ever-richer and increasingly important Maine-based foundations. It is now incumbent on those of us who enjoyed the initiation rituals now 30 years past to find ways to transmit whatever lessons we have learned to this new generation of Maine leaders.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions, Inc. He can be contacted at:

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Another View: Background check question would be reasonable regulation Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A column in Saturday’s Press Herald by David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, uses a contrived example of a friend borrowing a small-caliber gun so his son can shoot a turkey in an effort to brand the background check referendum this fall as “overregulation of the purest kind.”

To be sure, if a person wants to loan a gun to a non-relative to use outside his presence, a background check would be required, just as with a private sale. And for good reason. A gun in the hands of a person who should not have it is just as dangerous, be it bought or borrowed.

The idea is to close the existing loopholes for private, Internet, classified ad and gun show sales (and lending) of firearms and to make sure that buyers and borrowers are legally permitted to possess guns.

That being said, the law does contain common-sense exceptions for sales and loans among extended family members and for loaning a firearm to another member of a hunting party. These exceptions will cover the great majority of situations in which there is little danger of a gun ending up in the wrong hands and where background checks would be unduly burdensome or not feasible.

By now it is clear that a majority of Maine people, and a majority of Maine gun owners, want our state to join the 14 states (including all of the other New England states) that require background checks on most transactions that place guns in the possession of persons not within the owner’s family. We hope that between now and November, the current leadership of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine will see the wisdom in this reform and will urge its members to vote “yes” on the background check referendum.

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Our View: Civil rights vote switch heaps shame on Poliquin Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The forces of fear and prejudice won a victory in Congress last week, and Maine U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was there to lend them a hand.

The 2nd District congressman was one of seven Republicans who changed their votes at the last minute in the face of ferocious whipping by Republican leadership, allowing a bipartisan nondiscrimination amendment to fail by a single vote.

Poliquin did not distinguish himself or Maine with that vote, and the chant of “shame, shame, shame” that rang out in the House chamber Thursday was the right verdict.

The amendment sponsored by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., would have prohibited contractors who receive public money under a new National Defense Authorization Act from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That has been federal practice for the last two years, since President Obama issued an executive order, and an identical amendment was part of the highway bill that passed the House last year.

But the defense spending bill was altered with an amendment that created a broad exemption from the civil rights requirements for corporations and associations that have religious objections.

Without Maloney’s amendment, defense contractors would be able to fire or refuse to hire people just for being gay or transgender, and still profit from doing business with the government. Poliquin issued a statement saying that he was outraged that his vote could be interpreted to mean that he would promote discrimination or that he had succumbed to political pressure. He claimed that the religious exemption was narrowly tailored for religious institutions – as if churches bid for contracts from the Department of Defense.

He should know better. Maine voters passed civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity a decade ago, and Poliquin should have been able to reassure his Republican colleagues that it has not prevented Mainers from practicing their religion. In the years before the referendum passed, Maine went through the same kind of angry debate that is now roiling places like North Carolina. But after nondiscrimination became the legal standard, our state did not fall apart. The only change was that people had the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you can’t be mistreated based on the fact that you are different from the majority.

In his news release, Poliquin said that he “abhor(s) discrimination in any form and at any place,” but that was not how he acted when he had a chance to do something about it in the House last week. Instead of speaking out in favor of equal treatment under the law and standing firm on an important vote, Poliquin caved.

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Maine Voices: Wealth – or lack of it – needn’t be major factor in determining lifespan Mon, 23 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The amount of money you make may determine how long you’ll live. This according to new research published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, which analyzed demographic information from the tax records of all Americans between 2001 and 2014, found that the rich in America are living significantly longer than the poor, and that this difference in life expectancy is increasing over time.

As a whole, the top 25 percent of earners (those in households making more than $85,000 per year) live seven years longer than those in the bottom 25 percent ($25,000 or less per year). Moreover, between 2001 and 2014 the longevity of the richest Americans increased by 2.5 years while those at the bottom of the income distribution gained only a few months of life. In some places, the poorest Americans even had shortened lifespans!

Maine, specifically, leads the country with some of the longest lifespans among its wealthiest citizens. A 40-year-old man in Portland, making more than $85,000 annually, can expect to live up to 87 years, and a woman in the same income bracket to 89. But the state’s longevity gap is larger than average, with men and women in the bottom 25 percent of income living only to 79 and 81 years, respectively.

This study didn’t explore the specific causes of this disparity, but previous research has shown that one’s level of income is correlated to a number of healthy behaviors. For instance, those who earn less money tend to exhibit higher rates of obesity and tobacco use, report increased levels of stress and are less likely to participate in health maintenance programs – factors that, put together, can lead to poorer health. This study did uncover another surprising factor, though: For the poor, where you live has a dramatic effect on your health.

Across the country, wealthy individuals enjoy similarly long lifespans. However, there is wide variation among the poorest Americans, with expected longevity ranging anywhere between 77 and 82 years.

This data is discouraging, but the study provided a glimmer of hope. While it’s clear that some cities and counties are providing only meager health care for their poorest citizens, others are excelling. Putting it another way: Many municipalities have found innovative ways to improve the health of their richest and poorest citizens alike, and should serve as models for the rest of the country.

Maine, it turns out, provides some leadership.

In 2011, a survey identified several counties nationwide that achieved significantly better health outcomes than would be expected by their socioeconomic status. Franklin County, one of Maine’s poorest, topped the list.

To explore why, researchers from Maine published a study last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association that analyzed health trends in Franklin County between 1970 and 2010.

Franklin County, they reported, received a federal grant as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty in the late 1960s. This money was used to hire primary care physicians, build clinics and fund the Franklin Area Health Plan, an organization that provided coordinated health care to 3,200 of the county’s poorest residents at little or no cost.

These initiatives dramatically expanded access to health care, but medical providers pushed even further. Physicians and nurses identified cardiovascular disease as the county’s most pressing health concern, and teamed up with community members to implement several public health initiatives. Together, they screened people at churches, schools and workplaces, and intervened to reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, tobacco use and diabetes.

These interventions had a dramatic impact. Hospital admissions in the county declined, and by 1979, Franklin County achieved the lowest mortality rate in the entire state!

Since then, spurred on by societal health trends and high-priced medical technology, mortality rates have fallen to record lows statewide, and have, on the whole, caught up to Franklin County. However, as last month’s study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows, these gains have been appreciated predominantly by those at the top of the income distribution.

The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) contains several provisions aimed at reducing health disparities across the country. It provides expanded health care access for low-income individuals and calls for funding to support public health interventions similar to those in Franklin County.

The historical experience of Franklin County suggests that this ground-up approach can work, but that it requires the concerted effort of health care providers, payers and community members alike. Though it may take years for the benefits of novel public health interventions to pay off, Maine should, once again, take the lead.

— Special to the Press Herald

]]> 10 Sun, 22 May 2016 19:23:10 +0000
Our View: Public comment critical part of local government Mon, 23 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The advantages of local government come from its proximity to the people it is governing, and its ability to hear their concerns directly and answer them immediately.

It’s too bad, then, that residents of School Administrative District 6 are not allowed to speak at board meetings on the topic of their choosing, taking away their best opportunity to hold board members and school officials accountable in a public forum.

SAD 6 is not the only public organization that does this. A Portland Press Herald survey of 20 southern Maine school districts found two others – Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth – that do not allow public comment on matters not on the meeting agenda, and other districts around the state also have imposed this policy, or others like it that restrict public input.

Public comment periods, when allowed, do not draw a lot of traffic – most come and go with only a quick comment from an audience member, if someone is there at all. Most of the time, people are satisfied that their local elected and appointed officials are doing their job.

But when they become convinced that they are not – such as when then-SAD 6 Superintendent Frank Sherburne violated a district policy and board members went silent – residents show up, and they want to be heard.

When something so upsets residents that they attend a meeting and they are not allowed to speak, they understandably grow frustrated. Often, it is the first meeting for these residents. They are unfamiliar with how the meetings are conducted, and can’t believe a taxpayer and parent doesn’t have the right to ask for answers, or at least vent a little. It creates an antagonistic atmosphere, and trust recedes between residents and the people who run their schools.

“They’re sitting there real arrogant, like, ‘We don’t have to listen to the things we don’t want to, because we’re the school board,’ ” one parent said following a SAD 6 meeting.

Of course, some limits should apply. School board members have a tremendous amount of work to get through each meeting. They are volunteers who take on a difficult job for a small stipend, and their time deserves consideration. An open public comment period is not an invitation for residents to harass board members or distract from the duties at hand.

But disruptions can be contained and even eliminated by instituting time limits, and through the good-faith efforts of board members to hear and respond to constituent complaints.

When their questions and concerns are treated with respect, most residents will respond in kind. In order to get the most out of local government, school board policies should speak to those well-meaning residents, not shut them out because a very few act poorly.

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Another View: EgyptAir mystery grim reminder of airport security flaws Mon, 23 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Plane crashes always stir up some deep human anxieties. But Thursday’s downing of EgyptAir Flight 804 – which killed 66 people – may be more unnerving than most.

The plane was relatively new, and it had no known maintenance issues. It was flying at cruising altitude in mild weather. Both pilots were experienced, and neither indicated anything amiss. In the end, the plane made two sharp turns before a quick, awful descent.

All of which points to the grim possibility of a terrorist attack, and more specifically a bomb on board. But as the inquiry gets underway, three larger points are worth bearing in mind.

Airport personnel increasingly represent a weak point in the global security cordon. Airport staff likely helped an Islamic State affiliate bring down a flight over Egypt in October. Two workers at Mogadishu’s airport helped get a laptop bomb aboard a plane in February. Intelligence officials have worried for years about radicalization among staff at Charles de Gaulle Airport, where Flight 804 originated. Addressing these worries will require better background checks, more intensive monitoring and an awful lot of vigilance. It won’t be easy.

Too many airports still lack sophisticated security technology and properly trained staff. Terrorists are getting better at making explosives. Yet it’s extraordinarily difficult to smuggle them onto planes when airports use advanced bomb-detecting equipment and a layered approach to security. Rich-world governments should offer more help to countries that are making an effort in this regard, and make clear that there will be consequences for those that aren’t.

 Last year was the safest on record for air travel. Much of the point of airborne terrorism is to stoke irrational fear in the flying public, and provoke governments into costly overreaction.

Refusing to acquiesce in this dark cycle is, in the end, the best repudiation to terrorists. And putting better defenses in place is the best way to ensure that their terrible schemes don’t pay off.

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Alan Caron: Northern Maine deserves better Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Over a thousand Mainers converged on two northern Maine public gatherings last week to argue over a proposal to set aside 87,500 acres of the North Woods as a so-called national monument.

Opposition arguments were familiar to anyone who’s been in Maine for more than a few decades. Protecting the land, say opponents, will destroy Maine’s traditional forest industries and lead to the eventual collapse of the northern economy. Proponents argue that a protected natural forest area will attract a new stream of national and international tourists that will help expand the economy.

These arguments are echoes of ones we’ve had many times through the years, as we cleaned up our rivers and imposed limits on bad practices in the forests. Ironically, they repeat similar arguments that were made long ago, when the state debated setting aside land in the Great North Woods to create the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

In each of those cases, opponents argued that the proposed change would undercut the traditional natural resource economy and that forestry is incompatible with any other activity. Supporters argued that we can have a strong forest economy and be a good, attractive place for visitors, and that the two should be allies rather than enemies.

Rural Maine is at an unmistakable crossroads, grappling with what kind of future it wants and what it can have. After a long and slow decline in farming and now papermaking, there are too few road signs pointing to a brighter future.

Many Mainers are anxious and angry about how the world around us is changing and how our opportunities are dwindling. They’re worried about losing even more of what little they have. But instead of pulling together to promote the region positively, they spend too much time stuck on the idea that they can keep doing exactly what they’ve been doing but have it now produce a better result.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people hard at work in northern and rural Maine, trying against all odds to guide the area toward a new prosperity. They are getting almost no help from their elected leaders, who seem to spend most of their time driving wedges between people and exploiting anger and regional jealousy for political gain.

I give you, as a case in point, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. While U.S. Sen. Angus King engineered two hearings that were open to all views, as part of a healthy and spirited debate, Poliquin immediately invited the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee to come to Maine and lash out against the proposed project.

King was looking for information and understanding. Poliquin isn’t looking for any of those things. All he wants, and all he’ll get, is to inflame people further to help his campaign along.

Northern Maine deserves better. It deserves a full and open conversation about its future, free of partisan politics, trumped-up divisions and scapegoating. It deserves leaders who understand the pain that rural Maine is experiencing but don’t rush to exploit that pain. Angry speeches may feel good, for some, but they do nothing to help northern Maine find the kind of common ground it needs to compete with others for tomorrow’s jobs.

Northern Maine, like the rest of the state, needs leaders who love Maine’s heritage and people, but who also understand that we must change in order to grow.

The first step in that change is a hard one. It requires us to accept the reality that yesterday’s jobs are not coming back. In northern Maine, that means that there can be no real prosperity if the only game in town is the traditional forest industry. One-industry economies are notorious for their instability and failure rate. The remedy – as hard as it is – is to diversify the economy.

That means moving from simply protecting what you have now to becoming open to new ideas. One of them, after all, may be the ticket to a brighter future.

None of that can happen if politics continues to get in the way. Politics, especially now, is enormously skilled at division and miserable at addition. It divides people but rarely unites them. It too often fans fears and prejudices, punishes conversations and collaboration with “the enemy,” and rarely produces anything but short-term victories and long-term morass.

I submit, as exhibits A and B, the U.S. Congress over the last decade and the gubernatorial administration of Paul LePage over the last five. Both produce copious amounts of loud and angry speeches and almost no tangible results.

Northern Maine, and for that matter all of Maine, deserves better and needs more. And we have no time to lose. While we’re debating, the rest of New England is slowly leaving us behind.

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

]]> 42, 20 May 2016 17:26:27 +0000
Another View: Dill, Amnesty International ignore downside of decriminalizing prostitution Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In her May 8 column, Cynthia Dill posed the question: Should prostitution be legalized? Her answer implicitly endorses the full decriminalization policy proposed by Amnesty International and other watchdog organizations. This policy would decriminalize everyone involved from the marginalized (mostly) women and girls who are the merchandise, to the buyers and middlemen who exploit them.

Instead, Dill should be asking why this supposedly well-paying and attractive trade must rely on victims of poverty, prior abuse and coercion to meet men’s demand for paid sex.

Contrast Amnesty International’s acceptance of prostitution with the recommendations made by attendees at the Carter Center’s World Summit to End Sexual Exploitation, held in May 2015 in Atlanta.

They state: “Commercial sexual exploitation is gender-based violence and a public health crisis made possible by unethical and ungrounded male entitlement, which disproportionately affects the most vulnerable among us. We oppose language and law that allows for the dehumanization of people who have been commercially exploited.”

They endorse the Nordic model, first implemented in Sweden and since adopted by several other countries, which works to discourage the demand for commercial sex by penalizing the buyer, while decriminalizing prostituted individuals and providing them with support services, including pathways for those who want to exit prostitution.

In her memoir, “Paid For,” Rachel Moran describes her life in prostitution as well as why the policies in line with the Nordic model are an effective way to end a global trade that reduces countless women to disposable objects and undermines the humanity of all women.

Like Ms. Dill, I would like to know where the presidential candidates stand on this basic human rights issue. I do know that I will not be supporting Amnesty International while it continues to advocate a misogynist full decriminalization policy that legitimizes the selling and buying of people.

]]> 5 Wed, 25 May 2016 11:15:37 +0000
Maine Voices: Portland has a hero working in Haiti Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WATERVILLE — During our lives, we cross paths with various individuals. Some linger in our minds, prompting questions that need answers, and the desire to share their stories tugs at our heartstrings, not allowing us to disengage. I have one of those stories, crying out to be told.

What moves a legally blind, nearly deaf, 97-year-old man with prostate cancer to travel to Haiti to ease the suffering of the poor?

I first had the pleasure of meeting Coleman “Coley” and Anna Gorham of Portland as their foot care nurse. I learned about their work in Haiti, and I went there with Coley in January.

The Gorhams’ kindness and generosity have touched the lives of people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Believing that everything happens for a reason, I feel that I’ve been chosen to be their storyteller.


It began 18 years ago. After watching a video about Haiti, Coley was compelled to fly there. He visited orphanages, schools, churches and the slums of Cité Soleil.

Standing behind a chain link fence, with fingers clutching the wires, stood several barefoot children wearing soiled T-shirts, their eyes focused on the school Coley was visiting.

With sadness in his voice, Coley said he knew what they were thinking: “Why can’t I go to that school?” (Almost all schools in Haiti are privately run; they usually require tuition fees, putting education out of reach for hundreds of thousands of children.) That was when he knew his work in Haiti had just begun. “I could not turn my back on those children,” he said.

As a retired educator and builder, Coley had the desire, know-how and funds to do projects in Haiti. He began at St. Joseph’s orphanage in Port-au-Prince, where he constructed a computer lab. In Jacmel, he completed a partially built orphanage and bought an adjacent lot for recreation. Following the earthquake of 2010, he made major repairs to 108 homes; all received concrete floors and tin roofs.

He went on to Charlier, on the outskirts of Petite Rivière de Nippes, and built a church on a high promontory overlooking the Caribbean. In Ti Rivière, as it’s known, he purchased some land and built 33 homes for the homeless. Each family received a water purification kit and the deed to their new home.

It was also in Ti Rivière that Coley built a free public eight-room school known as St. Patrick Youth Center, with six classrooms, an apartment for the director and a dormitory to house eight guests.


With no access to electricity or running water, he had to install solar panels and devise a system that traps rainwater off the roof and channels it to gutters and downspouts, then to a large underground cistern. The water is pumped to a storage tank on the roof, from which it flows to meet the needs of the school.

The school has 30 computers used to teach students the English language with Rosetta Stone software. The goal is to have them become fluent, allowing them to pursue further education through sources like Khan Academy, which offers free high school and college-level courses online.

Though over 40 young adults have completed the English program at St. Patrick, Coley has expressed concern about the school’s future. He’d hoped that a Haitian university would take it over, but that has not happened. Now he envisions a Peace Corps-type system, run by a U.S. nonprofit, in which motivated college graduates teach at St. Patrick alongside local educators.

During our stay at the school in January, I met many students. I couldn’t help but notice the love they felt toward Coley. They came by daily to pay him a visit. He was always quick to give them a short educational lesson. With great respect, they would gather around, listening to the man they refer to as their “father” and “friend.”

Coley says that we in the U.S. have little awareness of the poverty in countries like Haiti. Without seeing it, one can never fully comprehend the magnitude of their desperation. He says if more people would watch videos of daily life on the streets of Haiti, it would have a profound effect on how they see the world.


Through his journey, Coley has been hospitalized with malaria, heat prostration, intestinal infection and cellulitis, but that has not deterred him. Coley’s work began in 1998 and continues today. When asked how he could give so freely, he said, “I don’t see it as my money. I am only a steward.”

The Gorhams laughed when asked how their mission had personally affected them. “We have a tiger by the tail,” said Coley, “and for fear that it might devour us, we have not dared to let it go.”

By the time this column is published, Coley will be 98 years old, still hanging on to the tiger’s tail, and still hoping that an outside group will partner with the St. Patrick school and set it on firm ground for the future.

— Special to the Telegram

]]> 0, 22 May 2016 09:13:47 +0000
Commentary: President Trump? Mon Dieu! Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BRUSSELS — Here’s the word from Europe: A lot of diplomats, elected officials, intellectuals and European Union officials are pretty freaked out about Donald Trump.

After nearly a year of being told by their U.S. counterparts that the bombastic billionaire had no chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination, here he is, defying conventional wisdom and even that oracle of oracles, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight fame, who assured the world last August that Trump had only a 2 percent chance of wining the primaries.

What, many ask, is going on?

That was the question on nearly everyone’s lips when I was in Brussels, Paris and Belgrade, Serbia, at the end of last month with co-presenter Sewell Chan, London-based international editor at The New York Times, to help explain the U.S. political scene to our worried trans-Atlantic partners. It was a cultural exchange trip hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, with some events convened by the U.S. Mission to the European Parliament and others by EU40 (a group of young European Parliament members) or the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Political Science.

How could this man – so obviously unprepared and unqualified for the office he seeks – be on the verge of winning the nomination of what was once the Party of Lincoln, asked the parliamentarians and economists, bureaucrats and journalists, attorneys and businesspeople who came to the events? Could he win the general election? If he did, what would his foreign policy look like?

The concern was palpable. The United States, though diminished since 2001, is still the world’s only superpower, a vital EU trading partner and the presumed guarantor of European security against the renewed territorial ambitions of Russia. Americans might feel they can safely ignore political developments in Paris, London or Berlin, but Europeans don’t have that luxury when it comes to us.

Their worries centered on two things: the potential effect on world economic growth if Trump were to scale back free trade agreements, and whether he has the maturity and self-control to be entrusted with the launch codes of a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the world.

Here, for what it’s worth, is what I told them.

Of the 17 people who ran for the Republican nomination, Trump was the only one who failed to voice the laissez-faire mantra, that lower taxes, less government and less regulation will, axiomatically, bring more freedom. Trump hasn’t promised to cut capital gains, introduce a flat tax, cut government programs or roll back regulations. On the contrary, he says he’s against global trade agreements, the free-ish movement of labor into the country and “hedge fund guys” who are “getting away with murder” in the tax code.

Instead, he’s championed a group of people who’ve seen their standard of living decline in the face of globalization: the white working class, whose economic interests haven’t been represented by either party in two generations. He claims he’ll bring back manufacturing and make their America great again. They’ve responded enthusiastically, although Trump is about as far from conservative Christian family values and Republican free market orthodoxy as one can get. They’re the warm water fueling the Trump hurricane.

The downside is that Trump is seeking to protect these “good Americans” in a fashion familiar to Europeans: by threatening to withdraw normal legal and constitutional protections for those seen as “traitorous others.” For European far-right nationalists like those in Hungary’s Jobbik, the British National Party or the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, this class usually includes some combination of Jews, Roma (also known as Gypsies), Muslim immigrants or foreigners from countries they dislike. For Trump, it’s Mexicans, Muslim-Americans, the journalists in the press pen or the black protester at his rally who maybe should be beaten up; he’s promised, in one such instance, to pay the legal bills of someone who tried to do just that.

Some will say Trump doesn’t believe any of this, and maybe he doesn’t. The point is that there’s a pretty big bloc of voters who are willing to endorse these views, and the moderate Republican Bob Doles and Susan Collinses of the world are willing to endorse a man who professes them. Far-right nationalism has, for the first time in at least a century, reached the presidential finals.

By any conventional analysis, Trump can’t win the general election, I told the European audiences. Polling and demographic data argue for an Electoral College landslide for Hillary Clinton in November, and a possible capture of at least one house of Congress. (Trump had won less than 40 percent of Republican primary votes at the end of last month, before his rivals dropped out.) But, I cautioned, by conventional analysis, Trump couldn’t have ended up poised to secure the Republican nomination either, so there’s that.

Trump’s foreign policy is anyone’s guess, in large part because the candidate appears to know very little about the outside world and is his own chief foreign policy adviser. Americans aren’t focused on foreign policy issues in this election, save for ones that affect them directly, like illegal immigration across the Mexican border, the threat of a terrorist attack or possible free trade deals. As for the policy choices in the Western Balkans, I told Serbs, few Americans know or care where that is on the map.

But our system grants a great deal of power to a president in their role as commander in chief, including control over a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying life on Earth. On the campaign trail, Trump has shown himself to be impulsive, thin-skinned and eager to respond to criticism with insult.

How would that play out in brinkmanship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, always eager to use insults, artillery fire or missile tests to try to provoke his adversaries? Let’s hope it’s all just another act, I suggested, just in case there really is a President Trump in the White House this time next year.


]]> 148, 22 May 2016 08:32:21 +0000
Maine Observer: Maine has something hard to describe Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The seed was planted in 2007 when I visited Maine with my mother, sister and niece from the prairie lands of Kansas. Maine, tucked way up there in the hinterlands, just seemed like an exotic location.

Despite only one day of sunshine and an abundance of drizzle on our vacation, I tucked away happy memories that stuck like Super Glue, and I vowed to return.

In fact, I did more than that. In 2014, I actually moved to South Portland with my willing partner, Andy, who actually found employment! At the age of 60 I no longer wanted to dabble in dreams; I wanted to dive headlong into them.

Maine, after all, has something – charm, charisma, mystery, magic … something for which the perfect word hasn’t been invented. That “thing” just seems to grab hold and flow into your soul. All of a sudden you’re a goner – in a good way. And I know I’m not the only one to succumb.

I still need to pinch myself as I cross the Casco Bay Bridge or visit my waterfront grocery store. Hiking trails abound – trailheads are often unexpectedly discovered or divulged by savvy locals who seem to know the best secrets (like where to get the perfect lobster roll at the cheapest price, or where to find a great parking spot in downtown Portland).

There are little jewels of beaches, clear lakes big and small and people who will gladly loan you their kayak or canoe for a couple of hours. And we no longer have to drive nine hours to see the mountains! Colorado, of course, has some lovely Papa Bear-sized peaks, but Maine’s Mama Bear-sized mountains are not nearly as intimidating – though I have yet to visit Katahdin. And I do mean visit – not climb. I feel the pride of climbing up lovely and somewhat challenging Tumbledown, and that will do just fine.

But it’s more than this beautiful piece of earth. It’s the people and that magical network that create such an inviting community. Literally! Near strangers have invited Andy and me to dinners, events, book clubs, tango classes and community fairs. I’m even part of a Spanish conversation group that meets Wednesday mornings at a coffee shop. Someone from yoga invited me to that.

It seems here that if you make one friend, you end up with five. People take time to chat, give advice (like where I would most likely spot a moose or a loon), and they spontaneously invite you to coffee after an aerobics class at the community center. Crazy!

That tiny seed planted nearly 10 years ago has grown to a lovely white pine, and I’m basking in its shade, with my DeLorme atlas, ready for my next Maine adventure. Thank you, Maine, for welcoming me home!


]]> 0 Fri, 20 May 2016 18:43:12 +0000
Our View: Green power companies helped kill solar bill Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We have commented before about the unusual coalition that came together behind the solar bill, which fell only two votes short of becoming law over a gubernatorial veto.

You could have predicted that solar installers and environmental groups would have been on board, but it was a surprise to see Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, two power transmission utilities that have been critical of the way solar customers are compensated for the excess power they produce. The coalition also included the public advocate, the state official charged with representing all ratepayers at the Public Utilities Commission, and lawmakers from both parties.

But there were surprises on the other side as well. Of course, there was Gov. LePage, who is against any renewable electricity that isn’t generated from biomass boilers or hydro dams, and enough Republican stalwarts in the House to sustain a veto.


Alongside the solar skeptics, however, were some of its biggest believers – the national solar installers Sunrun Inc. and SolarCity, which hired lobbyists and made political donations to make sure Maine did not succeed in instituting a way of compensating solar consumers without making them free riders when it comes time to pay for upkeep on the grid.

The reason Big Solar was opposed to the bill isn’t that modernizing Maine’s market for solar energy would have been a bad thing for the state – it wouldn’t have. The new system would have dramatically expanded both the capacity and the type of solar facilities in Maine. It would also have generated an estimated 650 jobs while maintaining around 300 existing jobs and provided the catalyst for millions of dollars in private investment.

But Big Solar didn’t like the bill because it would have protected non-solar customers from cost shifts – thus making the deal for new solar customers a little less sweet. If the bill had worked here, it could have provided an alternative for other states that are also struggling with finding the fairest way to compensate small generators for the renewable power they sell to the grid.

Now the solar question in Maine will leave the Legislature and go to the PUC, whose three members are all appointees of Gov. LePage.

They could decide to eliminate the 20-year-old practice of compensating solar customers for the power they produce, or they could set the price paid to those customers so low that most homeowners and businesses wouldn’t be able to justify investing in solar panels. Then the only people in the market would be people who would install solar for other than economic reasons.


In fact, some solar development is going ahead in Maine. Bowdoin and Colby colleges have invested in systems; Madison Electric is building a large project to provide power to its customers, and an installation at the Sanford airport will sell electricity to private clients. But none of these projects relies on credits or excess power revenue to be workable.

Meanwhile, the failure of the effort to reform Maine’s solar regulations has several communities reconsidering plans for large-scale solar projects or shelving them altogether. By installing photoelectric panels on top of capped landfills to provide renewable power to municipal buildings, schools and streetlights, Falmouth, Portland, South Portland and Rockland were hoping to cut municipal electric costs and put to use open space that otherwise has no purpose.

The provisions in the vetoed bill that changed the way solar producers are compensated for excess power they generate and allowed larger projects to offset construction costs would have made the communities’ plans more financially viable. Now town and city officials are waiting and watching for the rules to be clarified.

The collapse of the solar industry in Maine would not make much of a dent in Big Solar’s business. They are more interested in protecting their interests in bigger states.

But their interests and Maine’s are not the same. And hundreds of people who could have gotten good-paying jobs over the next few years will have to wonder why so many local leaders sided with Big Solar and not with them.

]]> 5, 20 May 2016 17:10:28 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Sanders is losing fair and square Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As Maine goes, so goes the nation, Bernie? Because we know what happens when a stubborn, left-leaning candidate stands on principle complaining about persnickety party politics, and it isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s insane by definition: We do it over and over again and expect different results.

“I am not standing down … and neither should those voters whose consciences compel them to cast a vote for me,” Eliot Cutler said defiantly, with zero chance of winning – and then Maine re-elected the man Politico magazine called “America’s craziest governor” with 48 percent of the vote, the majority of votes split between two far-superior candidates.

It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out the math had Cutler urged his team to put on the blue jerseys in 2014. And it’s pretty simple math that says Bernie Sanders can’t win the Democratic nomination in 2016, but his ego and the affluenza of his advisers insist on fighting until the end – one that looks to become increasingly more bitter by the day.

The arc of Sanders’ campaign has gone from extremely inspiring to incredibly annoying, and the latest temper tantrum in Nevada is inexcusable. Whining about “unfair” rules that have been on the books since 2008. Outrage that delegates not registered as Democrats were refused a seat at the official convention of Democrats to select the Democratic nominee. Indignation that the higher number of Clinton delegates trumped the higher volume of Sanders delegates. Astonishment that “Bernie Bros” rushing the dais, throwing chairs, cursing and shouting caused security to shut down the convention four hours after the designated end time. Accusations of another conspiracy by establishment.

Hillary Clinton is winning the Democratic primary fair and square by the same rules by which she lost to Barack Obama in 2008. She won the recent contest in Nevada for the same simple reason she’s winning overall: She got more votes. That’s not “establishment” – that’s democracy.

The reaction of the Sanders people – trashing the place and threatening the state party chairwoman – was immature at best, and if it weren’t for the fact that their antics increase the probability of a Trump presidency, we could gently close the door and let them cry it out.

But that’s what Maine did in 2014, and who’s crying now?

What’s sold as a “political revolution” looks more and more like just another power trip. Bernie and Jane Sanders are high on crowds and crowdfunding, and through the haze it’s crystal clear why virtually none of Sanders’ colleagues in the capital support him. It’s not because he’s “anti-establishment.” It’s because he’s an angry, unreasonable man with a chip on his shoulder as big as the state of Maine.

America’s economic system might be rigged to favor the rich and powerful, and maybe the nominating process is, too, but hello? Sanders’ campaign is pretty darn rich and powerful.

A Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission reports found that “by the end of March, the self-described democratic socialist senator from Vermont had spent nearly $166 million on his campaign – more than any other 2016 presidential contender, including rival Hillary Clinton. More than $91 million went to a small group of admakers and media buyers who produced a swarm of commercials and placed them on television, radio and online.”

Sanders is losing fair and square in the voting contest, so why must he torch every bridge along the way? Why must he incite volatile people and provoke useless rage? Sanders has been in Washington for decades, and he still can’t manage to disagree with people without being disagreeable.

There’s a word for somebody with these characteristics, and it’s not “leader.”

Clinton has won 2.9 million more votes than Sanders and has won 1,768 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1,494. The so-called superdelegates are not to blame for these numbers. Sanders is not going to be the nominee because he hasn’t won enough votes or delegates, and his latest stunt – an anti-democratic pitch suggesting that polls point to him as the best nominee – is ridiculous. Elections are rigged, so we should use polls to determine who gets to be president of the free world? Is that what socialism looks like: Polls determine a future that we must believe in? The same polls that Sanders himself was against before the polls were for him?

Elections, rules and math are as American as hot dogs and apple pie, and we love an underdog who accepts defeat with grace after a rigorous contest, but none of us – even bleeding-heart liberals – likes sore losers.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 156, 23 May 2016 11:23:52 +0000
Commentary: Sportsman’s chief says gun law would be overregulation of the purest kind Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — Earlier this year, one of the writers for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine newsletter wanted to take his two young sons turkey hunting. All his firearms were too big for the boys, so I offered my friend one of my youth model 20-gauge shotguns as a loaner and he accepted. Months later his 9-year-old son harvested his first tom turkey, and a few days later my friend returned my firearm without incident.

In our interpretation of the proposed law, the innocent scenario above – and countless others, including temporarily loaning a firearm to a friend for self-protection – will become illegal in almost all cases, unless the parties first undergo a potentially difficult and expensive background check, if Maine people pass the initiative to expand background checks for private sales, loans, gifts and other kinds of “transfers” of guns.

Under the language of the initiative, backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a new firearm “transfer” law (which resembles a forced sale) will look like this.

In order to temporarily loan my gun to my friend, we would first have to find a dealer with a federal firearms license who would take my gun into his stock and treat it as if it were part of his inventory.

The federally licensed dealer then records our personal information on a federal document called a “form 4473,” which contains a lengthy list of personal questions including mental and legal history, immigration status, firearm details, etc.

Once the federally licensed dealer calls the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and provides them with the information on the 4473 form and my friend passes the background check, the dealer will hand the gun to my friend and charge him a fee ($25 to $50).

The dealer will retain a copy of the form 4473 and make it available to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on a case-by-case basis. By law, the federal government cannot retain 4473 information, but does have a right to access it through the dealer’s records if there is suspicion of a crime involving a specific firearm.

When my friend returns my loaner shotgun, we have to repeat the process again, to conduct another background check of me as the transferee (even though I’m the gun owner) and pay another fee.

What is ridiculous about this scenario is that as the owner of the shotgun, I had to pass a background check when I bought it, my friend had to pass a background check to borrow it, and I had to have another check just to get my gun back: government red tape, extra fees and overregulation of the purest kind.

Are you worried about the creation of a national registry of firearm owners?

A partial state registry already exists, and would be complete if this law passes. This is a component of the initiative that has far-reaching policy implications, and which is virtually unknown.

Maine has a unique state law (15 MRSA, Section 455) that requires federally licensed firearms dealers who “sell, let or loan” a firearm to a person to retain and make a second copy of the form 4473, marked as “state copy.” These dealers cannot “refuse to show or refuse to allow the inspection of a copy of the form by a sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, constable, game warden or prosecuting attorney.” It is unclear what rights federally licensed firearms dealers and gun owners have during encounters with state law enforcement, as opposed to ATF officials.

Why is this a problem?

It is well known that the wish list of gun control advocates like Bloomberg and his supporters includes bans on guns such as certain semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, and eventually their registration and confiscation.

It is widely accepted that this type of gun control cannot occur without a complete database of firearm ownership. There is no escaping the simple fact that if this law passes, the government will eventually know where all the guns are and the practical obstacles to effectively implement the wish-list of gun control advocates will be eliminated.

There is a deep-rooted mistrust of our government and the motives of those pushing gun control, including the organizations pushing this initiative. The fears of gun rights groups and individuals are only escalated when presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton and her followers say there are too many guns in America.

Although expanding background checks to private “sales” appears sensible, in reality this law would apply to much more than just sales, and will open a wide path for the most extreme gun control policies of the future.

There are good reasons why Congress has repeatedly rejected this policy. It is cumbersome, expensive and nearly impossible to enforce.

In the coming months, Bloomberg’s supporters will spend millions in their campaign, claiming they just want “common-sense” gun regulation.

In fact, this debate will be a poll on whether Maine people trust their government with the power and information to one day take away our constitutional right to own firearms, one new law at a time.


]]> 14 Fri, 20 May 2016 21:43:12 +0000
Commentary: Bad Moon rising: Beer companies pull fast one on consumers Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 MIAMI — I was a beer-drinking revolutionary, defying the mighty corporate machine by sucking down all those damn Blue Moons.

What I didn’t notice, as I stormed the ramparts – supposed microbrew in hand – was that the Blue Moon Brewing Co. actually belongs to MillerCoors, which was sold to Molson Coors by SABMiller last year so the Justice Department would look kindly on SABMiller’s giant merger with Anheuser-Busch InBev. And all that.

Not that the label on a bottle of Blue Moon suggested anything other than that I was gulping down an authentic craft beer. I’ve been an unwitting consumer of America’s leading anti-craft beer, taken in by an international conglomerate’s ploy to fend off these upstart microbreweries.

So Big Beer has been hawking faux craft beers, with crafty-sounding names like Blue Moon, Shock Top, Landshark, Wild Blue. In 2014, The Beer Advocate published internal advertising documents from Labatt’s, another subsidiary of AB InBev, happily noting that 75 percent of consumers wrongly assumed that Shock Top was bottled by a “small/unknown brewer.”

Meanwhile, the big boys have been snatching up sure-enough craft brewers. AB InBev purchased iconic brands like California’s Golden Road, Oregon-based 10 Barrel, Long Island’s Blue Point (which has been distributed in cans in Maine), Virginia’s Devils Backbone, Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery and Chicago’s Goose Island. One wonders, now that AB InBev has purchased Elysian Brewing Co. in Seattle, whether Elysian’s Loser Pale Ale will keep its famous motto, “Corporate beer sucks.”

You’ve got to worry. How about our authentic, home-brewed crafts down there in South Florida? “Due South has been approached in the past by parties interested in purchasing our business. The answer is always the same – Due South is not for sale,” Mike Halker, of Due South Brewing in Boynton Beach, assured me via email.

Florida’s pioneer craft brewer, Cigar City in Tampa, rejected an offer from AB InBev last year but then accepted a deal for less money with Fireman Capital, a Boston-based private equity firm, that reportedly will allow founder Joey Redner to maintain control of the operation.

Luis Brignoni said the giant multinationals haven’t made a play for his Wynwood Brewing in Miami. Not yet.

Both Halker and Brignoni were bothered by the faux crafts peddled by Big Beer. Along with the Brewers Association, a national trade association of craft brewers, which has issued a statement saying, “The large, multinational brewers appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers.”

“Overall beer consumption is flat at best,” Brignoni said, also via email. “However, craft sales continue to increase by double digits. So something is giving way, and that’s the major multinational breweries.

“The faux brands are a way for them to stay competitive and an attempt to attract the young millennial consumer who is looking for something with flavor and doesn’t mind paying a little more for it,” Brignoni said.

He noted that the true provenance of some conglomerate faux crafts “are impossible to find out by the label.” Halker was similarly bothered. “It’s unfortunate the macros are trying to sell big beer disguised as craft, but it makes sense if their market share is declining and ours is increasing.”

The weird thing is that even as AB InBev has been buying up craft brewers, its flagship brand, Budweiser, has been running an ad campaign mocking craft beer drinkers. “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”

Except America is clearly losing its taste for the light, watery lager that once dominated the domestic beer market. Budweiser’s latest marketing ploy has been to temporarily rename the beer “America.” Which prompted Peter Sagal of NPR’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” to mock the un-American company (AB InBev is a Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate): “So as a marketing gimmick, why not change its name to America? That was the No. 2 solution they came up with to help with sales after they rejected No. 1: Make it taste good.”


]]> 2 Fri, 20 May 2016 19:44:33 +0000
Maine Voices: Government of, by and for the people? Now it’s just big government Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 FREEPORT — What will be President Obama’s most significant legacy? The Affordable Care Act? Dodd-Frank’s regulation of financial markets? The withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan? The Iranian nuclear deal?

All of these will be recalled as key components of Obama’s efforts to fundamentally alter American society, the economy and the country’s role in the world. But the most significant legacy, and the one hardest to reverse, will be the dramatic expansion in the size and power of the administrative-regulatory state that the president has aided and abetted. This has been an expansion that rivals Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and arguably exceeds that of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Call this one the “Great Transformation.”

In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln spoke of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But Lincoln’s vision of proper government is now little more than an eloquent memory, if it is remembered at all.

Article 1 of the Constitution is clear about who makes the laws: “All legislative powers shall be vested in a Congress.” That’s what the Constitution says, but the reality is that today a multitude of largely unaccountable executive and independent agencies, the “fourth branch” of government, make most of our laws in the form of thousands of rules and regulations that increasingly affect every aspect of our lives.

In many cases the same agencies adjudicate challenges to their edicts and enforce the regulations with often draconian punishments. An ostensibly democratic governing system couldn’t possibly be more rigged in favor of government power and against individuals and smaller business who do not have the means to engage in prolonged and expensive litigation with uncertain outcomes.

The administrative state is the natural and inevitable outgrowth of the guiding principle of progressivism, which is that society and the economy can improve, but only with the guidance of experts who know better than the rest of us how we should lead our lives and operate our businesses. The Donald Trump phenomenon is the natural and inevitable reaction to the implementation of this principle.

Examples of federal agency impositions and oppressions – ranging from uncompromising environmental policy that has cost thousands of jobs, to micromanagement of labor markets and financial institutions, to rules that repress free speech and due process on college campuses – are all too abundant. And more occur with depressing frequency. The question about government-by-bureaucracy is not whether the results are sometimes desirable, but whether this process of governance has any constitutional validity. If the answer is “no,” as many conservative and libertarian legal scholars contend, then the question is whether anyone will do anything about it.

Not Congress, which has allowed administrative agencies to usurp its legislative authority. Its progressive members are happy to have agencies bypass the majority consensus required for constitutional rule-making as long as they agree with the results, and Republicans, members of the party of Lincoln and theoretical defenders of the concept of limited government, fulminate about too many regulations and executive orders, but are too divided and dysfunctional to do anything about them, even when the Republican Party controls the House and Senate.

That leaves the third official branch, the courts. But the courts have abdicated their responsibility to check administrative power in favor of the doctrine that holds that the judiciary should defer to the expertise of agencies in statutory interpretation unless the interpretation and agency actions are so blatantly unconstitutional that even accommodating courts can’t ignore them.

Courts are starting to push back against regulatory overreach, but the resistance is still spotty and inadequate. Serial abusers of their authority, like the Environmental Protection Agency, take full advantage of judicial deference.

At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, someone asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Whether or not we can is now in some doubt. The possibility that the country can escape a growing soft tyranny that is the result of a dangerous imbalance between the power of the administrative state and the people is not zero, but the outlook is bleak.

The country’s founders would be profoundly dismayed at what has happened to their great experiment in representative democracy based on a separation and balance of powers. The anti-federalists, who feared that a strong central government would become too powerful and oppressive, could say “we told you so,” but would do so with more regret than satisfaction.


]]> 50 Fri, 20 May 2016 19:42:06 +0000
Another View: Satellites could be key tool in ensuring emissions compliance Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris late last year to work together to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, one crucial detail was left hanging: verification.

Under the accord, the nations backed a set of principles and goals designed to stop global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the point beyond which many scientists believe catastrophic climate change will occur. Some experts questioned whether even the pact’s aspirational target of 1.5 degrees Celsius would be low enough to avoid the worst effects.


Now it turns out that the world is warming even faster than previously anticipated. NASA announced recently that last month was the warmest April on record and said it marked the seventh month in a row of global temperature records – and the third straight month that the old record was smashed by the largest margin ever. Climate experts say that 2016 will likely be the hottest year on record, by the widest margin on record. Those changes reinforce the broad scientific agreement that drastic reductions in carbon production are crucial.

The Paris accord was supposed to start us down that path, and it was an important, if late and insufficient, step forward. Yet it is an agreement based on little more than good intentions. The pact is voluntary, with international shaming of transgressors the only truncheon available. Each country is responsible for measuring and attesting to its own emissions. It is, in effect, an honor system for saving the planet.

That is a significant weakness. Beyond the obvious problem that nations can simply lie about their emissions, there’s the secondary problem of false reporting by private actors – think Volkswagen, which rigged its emissions tests for diesel engines. And there’s the possibility of simple error. Under the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, industrial nations are supposed to issue annual reports on emissions, with developing countries issuing reports less frequently. But the reporting varies in reliability from country to country.


A plan by a coalition of national space agencies, including NASA, could offer the kind of monitoring and verification needed to ensure that the signatory countries are living up to their word. The agencies are putting together a network of six to eight satellites that will, among other things, be able to map carbon dioxide emissions, the biggest contributor to global warming, and methane, which has more significant but shorter-term effects, from individual nations.

The monitoring idea grew out of an effort to understand “climate feedback,” such as how changes in ocean temperatures influence air temperatures, which in turn affect ocean temperatures. But scientists realized the collected data also could be mined to verify emissions.

NASA already has one satellite in place, and it will be joined in two years by a second. Japan also has put up a satellite, and others are planned by France, China and the European Space Agency. A NASA official said it was difficult to estimate what the total cost would be, but others suggest it could be in the billions of dollars.

And the science is still being developed. One trick is figuring out how to separate readings of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions from naturally occurring, uncontrollable emissions – forest fires, volcanoes and rotting vegetation, for instance. But the scientists are confident they can make it work.

And they should. Of course, such a system is contingent on government funding. Here in the United States, with climate-denying politicians both in Congress and running for president, continued support is not guaranteed. Which is yet another indicator of how crucial this fall’s election will be.

]]> 1, 20 May 2016 23:19:56 +0000
Portland Press Herald’s MaineVoices Live event with Lily King Fri, 20 May 2016 15:11:40 +0000

The Tuesday, September 27 MaineVoices Live event will feature Lily King, the author of critically-acclaimed works, including “The English Teacher” and her latest “Euphoria.” The 7 p.m. conversation at One Longfellow Square in Portland will be led by a Press Herald reporter.

Get to know Maine voices like never before. The Maine Voices Live event is a one-on-one conversation between Portland Press Herald writers and notable Maine voices. Audience members can expect a memorable night and a chance for Q&A’s at the end.

Tickets can be purchased through the One Longfellow Square website.

$10 Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Subscribers
$15 for the public

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Event  7 – 8 p.m.

]]> 0, 20 May 2016 17:34:45 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Both Trump, Clinton have to take Sanders factor into account Fri, 20 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Among the abundant ironies of this election cycle, there is this: We are now in the eighth year of the most liberal administration since Lyndon Johnson’s. The primary elections reveal a national mood of anxiety, apprehension and anger, in turn reflecting stagnation at home and failure abroad. Two-thirds of Americans think the U.S. is on the wrong track. Yet after nearly two terms of Barack Obama’s corrosively unsuccessful liberalism – both parties have decisively moved left.

A heretofore marginal, self-declared socialist has forced Hillary Clinton into leftward genuflections on everything from trade to national health care. At the same time, Bernie Sanders has created a remarkably resilient insurgency calling for – after Obama, mind you – a political revolution of the left.

The Republicans’ ideological about-face is even more pronounced. They’ve chosen as their leader a nationalist populist who hardly pretends any allegiance to conservatism. Indeed, Donald Trump is, like Sanders, running to Clinton’s left on a host of major issues, including trade, Wall Street, NATO and interventionism.

It turns out that the ultimate general election question is not where Ted Cruz’s or Marco Rubio’s or John Kasich’s supporters are going – almost all seem to be making their tortuous way to Trump – but where do Bernie Sanders’ supporters go?

Most will, of course, go to Clinton. Some will stay home. But Trump is making a not-so-subtle pitch to those Democrats and independents who gave Sanders his victories in the industrial Midwest.

The Trump and Sanders constituencies are both overwhelmingly white. In the Rust Belt, the appeal is to middle- and working-class voters who have suffered economic and social dislocation. The question is whether Trump can win enough of those voters, erstwhile Reagan Democrats, to flip just a few states that, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, have gone Democratic for the last six elections.

Which is why Clinton is treating Sanders so (relatively) gently. She wants to be rid of him but cannot alienate his constituency – especially after the ruckus made by his supporters at the Nevada state convention and his string of recent victories in West Virginia, Indiana and Oregon and the virtual draw in Kentucky. She needs him.

The Sanders constituency is substantial and very loyal. And rather angry now as they can see the Clinton machine winning the nomination through superdelegates.

She needs his blessing and active support in the general election. If not cultivated and appeased, say, on the party platform and/or vice-presidential choice, Sanders could very well disappear after the Philadelphia convention and leave her to her own devices – which are much lacking, as demonstrated in her recent primary losses.

At the very least, she needs him to warn his followers away from a Trump temptation. That, after all, is Trump’s path to victory: Add a few industrial blue states to the traditional must-win swing states – Ohio and Florida, most obviously – and pull off an Electoral College win.

The Clinton counterstrategy is based on the global demographics. Trump’s unfavorable numbers are impressive: 79 percent among Hispanics, 73 percent among nonwhites, 72 percent among young people, 64 percent among women, 57 percent in the general population.

Which is the more compelling scenario? Right now, Clinton has the distinct advantage. Flipping reliably Democratic states is very difficult. So is lowering Trump’s high negatives.

But we are highly unlikely to go the next six months without a significant crisis. In September 2008, the financial collapse cemented Obama’s victory when he, the novice, reacted far more calmly and steadily than did John McCain, the veteran.

This time around, Trump reacted to the San Bernardino terror attack with a nativist, demagogic, yet politically shrewd call for (temporarily, allegedly) banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. Roundly denounced by Democrats and leading Republicans alike, Trump watched his poll numbers go through the roof. Turns out that Republican voters supported the ban, 2-to-1.

A candidate with the tactical acuity to successfully deploy such breathtaking, bigotry-tinged cynicism is not to be trifled with. Under normal circumstances, Clinton wins. But if the fire alarm goes off between now and Election Day, all bets are off. Clinton had better be ready. Trump has shown that he will be.

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

]]> 7, 20 May 2016 11:06:14 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Nation’s voters are looking for an outsider this year Fri, 20 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Last week, I discussed in some detail Maine voters’ history of re-electing top-level political figures, a trend that has applied for many decades to senators, members of Congress and governors.

When defeat does happen, it most often occurs at the end of an official’s first term, when voters can actually remember that the post wasn’t held by its current occupant in perpetuity.

Which is why the case of Sen. Angus King is intriguing.

King’s term as an independent governor wasn’t particularly outstanding – the Democrats who ran things back then weren’t always willing to accept his priorities when they differed, as they occasionally did, from their own.

But it also met the typical voter’s minimum requirements for the job, and King had no trouble moving on to the Senate, again as an independent, once Olympia Snowe’s retirement (see “guaranteed to win re-election as long as she wanted the job,” above) produced an open seat.

And that brings us again to Gov. LePage, and the coincidence that the Republican’s second term expires along with King’s first one.

Speculation that the governor would run against King in 2018 is met with a number of objections, one being that current polls show the senator with substantially higher ratings than LePage, and another that King is Mr. Smooth on the hustings, while LePage is, well, not.

But so what? Recall that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is as rough as a buzz saw, and it hasn’t kept him from driving many more-polished candidates from the race.

Where polls are concerned, they showed his prospective opponent well in the lead all along – until suddenly she wasn’t. One poll this week had Donald Trump actually ahead of Hillary Clinton in a nationwide sample. Who knows where things will stand six months from now?

As an aside, wasn’t it fun to watch the Nevada Democratic delegate selection process descend into a booing session (targeting California Sen. Barbara Boxer, certainly a boo-worthy figure) and then become an altercation where the police had to restore order? (The headline on the Real Clear Politics website’s story was “Chaos at Nevada Democratic convention; state party chair flees building as Sanders supporters demand recount.”)

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters aren’t exactly going gently into that good night, a fact that led the state party’s lawyer to caution that they threatened the Democratic convention this summer.

“Having seen up close the lack of conscience or concern for the ramifications of their actions – indeed, the glee with which they engaged in such destructive behavior – we expect similar tactics at the National Convention in July,” wrote Bradley Schrager in a letter dated Monday.

Makes you wonder how many Sandernistas are going to support Clinton in November. Assuming she makes it that far, of course.

On May 11, FBI Director James Comey reinforced that his agency was conducting “an investigation – that’s what we do” – not, as Clinton has often claimed, a mere “security inquiry” into her private-server emails as secretary of state.

Thus, if you believe that Vice President Joe Biden was merely speaking off the cuff by saying that “if” he had run, he would have picked Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, you might want to adjust the sensitivity setting on your Democratic Duplicity Detector.

Here’s hoping that Sanders, who has been a Democrat about as long as Trump has been a Republican (and actually does better than Clinton against him in the polls), keeps fighting all the way to the Philadelphia convention.

Would Clinton make him her running mate? If not, wouldn’t a third-party socialist-themed campaign be really exciting? Run, Bernie, run!

Back to LePage: If the conventional wisdom about the extremely unconventional Trump is right, voters – potentially including many Mainers – are looking for an outsider this year. Might they be of the same opinion (or even more so) two years from now?

LePage does the outsider shtick better than almost anyone else – because he actually is one.

If voters want someone to protect them from what is widely believed to be a conspiracy of the elites to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Americans (who have seen abundant evidence that “crony capitalism” is a Washington way of life), then LePage may be just what the downtrodden-feeling masses ordered.

And the slicker and smoother any insider opponent appears to be, the greater the contrast will become between them.

Still, LePage, who is highly unlikely to make a decision to run any time soon, also seems to believe that if Trump wins the presidency, he might find a place in his administration for Maine’s governor, who is his most prominent state supporter.

I must admit there is a Trump administration job I would love to see Paul LePage accept.

Why, press secretary, of course.

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

]]> 35, 20 May 2016 11:10:59 +0000
Our View: New DHHS rules unfairly exclude new arrivals from getting General Assistance Fri, 20 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 According to the LePage administration, the small number of asylum seekers in Maine are such a drain on state finances that they should be turned away for aid at city hall, and forced to use shelters and soup kitchens while they work their way through the long and complicated asylum process.

It’s simply not right to cut off aid to asylum seekers, often skilled and educated immigrants who have endured much and have a lot to give their new home. And after the Legislature passed a bill last year ensuring that immigrants here legally may receive General Assistance, it doesn’t follow the law, either.

The law, L.D. 369, was written broadly but clearly to cover two groups of asylum seekers, those “lawfully present in the United States,” which under the widely accepted federal definition means those who have been granted asylum as well as those who have filed an application for asylum, and those “pursuing a lawful process to apply for immigration relief.”

However, the rules conceived by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services rewrite the definitions of the two categories, placing people whose eligibility for aid was never in question – such as refugees – in the first category, while contorting the definition of the latter category to exclude those who are taking good-faith, active steps toward asylum.

In essence, the DHHS wants to cut off some asylum seekers from this vital aid – not cash but vouchers, which pay mainly for housing – because they are not moving quickly enough toward asylum status, something that is hardly their fault.

Non-citizens are given one year to apply for asylum after their arrival in the United States. Most come on short-term visas, so they have from the time the visa expires until their first year runs out before they are subject to deportation.

However, if they take out an application for asylum, they are considered – by everyone but the DHHS – to be here legally, even if they have not finished and submitted the application by the time their first year in the country ends.

That is often the case. Filling out the application requires dozens of hours of work, overseen by a lawyer, if it is to be successful. The stakes are high, too; a small mistake can be fatal to prospects for asylum.

But under the DHHS rules, people struggling through this process, who under federal law already cannot work, would not get any aid, either, until their application is formally accepted, creating a huge gap during which asylum seekers would have few options for obtaining basic necessities.

The U.S. immigration process is too slow and cumbersome, particularly considering the language and cultural barriers in play. It is unfair to both asylum seekers who want to start a new life and the states that have to support them while they are unable to work.

But the new DHHS rules won’t solve that problem. They’ll just shift it somewhere else, and make it harder for asylum seekers to get to a place where they can really contribute.

]]> 53, 19 May 2016 18:47:40 +0000
Another View: Kepler’s discovery promises to expand boundaries of space Fri, 20 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope continues to expand the boundary of mankind’s understanding of space.

Last week, NASA announced that it has confirmed Kepler’s discovery of 1,284 new planets orbiting distant stars. Of this cornucopia of exo-planets, NASA believes nine are potentially habitable for life as we understand it. An estimated 550 are rocky planets with 100 of those clocking in at around Earth-size or slightly smaller. Planets that are solid and rocky as opposed to gaseous are more likely to harbor the conditions that will be conducive to life.

Two Earth-size alien worlds look especially promising: Kepler-1638b and Kepler-1229b. One is in the sweet spot of a “Goldilocks zone” of a nearby star; the other is on the inner edge of that zone circling its star. There’s a lot of excitement about such worlds because they indicate that Earth-like planets may be more common than once believed. The known number of planets has effectively doubled, thanks to the probe’s relentless scanning of nearby stars in our Milky Way.

While ground-based telescopes have yet to confirm Kepler’s discoveries, there is little doubt that it will happen. The science is solid and based upon meticulous observation of light fluctuations by stars as the planets transit past them. In capturing these fluctuations, Kepler has been an invaluable window into our cosmic neighborhood.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 May 2016 18:56:13 +0000
Maine Voices: If students take a gap year, they should find a way to make it count Fri, 20 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ROCKPORT — Everyone is dismayed, but at the same time everyone has seemed to accept this fact: A college degree today can often cost as much as buying a home.

What is surprising is that too few parents and students really ask the tough questions about how to wisely invest in this undertaking. It is about much more than reputation and rankings. The real question is: What are you going to do with higher education, and when will you be prepared to do it?

Would you purchase a home in a town you’ve never lived in and where you don’t have a job? Should you invest in even one of four precious (and outrageously expensive) years of higher education if you don’t know what you want to do with that education and where it may take you? Neither is advisable, unless you have a lot of extra cash and are a compulsive risk-taker.

I won’t argue the old adage that “youth is wasted on the young” (who better to enjoy it?), but as someone who has taught and worked with hundreds of young college students over the years, I can say at least that higher education is often squandered on the too young.

Gaining experience to help make decisions about what to do with college before college can save both time and money in the long run. I am, therefore, an ardent supporter of the gap year experience, as profiled in the recent Press Herald article “More graduates push pause, see benefits of pre-college ‘gap year’ “ (May 2).

The type of programmatic “gap year” highlighted there, however, which often is a packaged commodity with prohibitive fees, is but one variety. The reality is that the majority of students at Maine schools may not have access, financially or otherwise, to these types of typical and typically expensive gap year programs. There are other – and, frankly, sometimes better – alternatives.

My advice to a Maine high school graduate: If your mother or your father is truly well-connected enough to get you a fabulous internship with an employer in London, or Buenos Aires, or Seoul, by all means go for it. And if so, chances are that may also mean that your family has the wherewithal to help you finance such an undertaking.

But if not, perhaps you should save a big and potentially expensive adventure like this for later in your college career, when your higher level of experience may help you secure a better opportunity. If you can get academic credit for it, you also may find that financial aid will help to pay for it then.

In the meantime, take a year (or two, or three) to explore your own world a little more and gain experience and maturity. Get a job at a local lumber yard, intern with a human service agency or work the cash register at your town’s Hannaford while taking a class at your local community college or University of Maine satellite campus.

It may not look as “sexy” on your resume, but don’t assume that a college admissions officer will discount its value. You may not learn the correct way to order wine at a sidewalk cafe in Florence, but chances are you will learn a good deal more about the hard work of real life.

In other words, you may be much better prepared to take full advantage of the opportunities offered to you by higher education (and what comes after) and much less likely to misspend your prime learning years on a social life fueled by the high costs of college tuition.

If you’re determined to travel and see the world, save your money for a self-planned and self-arranged sojourn abroad. Use your time there (even if measured in weeks instead of months) to pursue and learn more about a particular interest or to offer your service through an agency, church or volunteer group that may give you some basic accommodation in return for your sweat and sore muscles.

Or enroll in a program at a language school in another country; these can often provide a productive, very cost-effective way to have a learning adventure overseas and may offer some extra academic credits when you do get to college. It takes work to identify and set up such opportunities, but it can be done and at a fraction of the cost of a packaged program.

Gap year(s)? Absolutely! But make it count, and don’t imagine that its value is defined by its cost or even its distance from home.


]]> 2, 20 May 2016 11:07:30 +0000
In a year marked by tragedies, Waynflete seniors host ‘play day’ for mental health Fri, 20 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Every high school class is remembered for something – a state championship, a school play, a prank for the ages. But as next month’s graduation approached, the Waynflete School Class of 2016’s legacy loomed large and burdensome.

“We’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives,” said senior Willy Burdick of Scarborough. “And we should end the year not being the senior class with two suicides that happened in the year, but the senior class that did something about it.”

He sat at a picnic table Monday at Waynflete’s Fore River Fields with fellow senior athletes Nina Moore and Christian Rowe. The wind blew hard across the freshly cut grass, the promise of summer held back by the lingering chill of a cold season that can’t end soon enough.

It happened first on Oct. 31 and again on March 13. Two female students at Waynflete – one a sophomore, the other a junior – took their own lives, the first time in anyone’s memory that suicide has cast its tragic shadow over the private school on Portland’s West End.

By all accounts, the school’s handling of the tragedies has been exemplary. Upon learning of the deaths, and with each family’s permission, administrators posted remarkably open and insightful messages to the student body on the school’s website.

Beyond that, the school consulted with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Maine to help students channel their grief. For some, that meant sticking as closely as possible to their daily routine; for others, a quiet session away from class with a trusted teacher or counselor to try and navigate the unfathomable.

But kids are kids. And away from the adults, they still talked among themselves. And it was there that these students, especially the seniors, felt the need to do something, anything, to counteract the cloud that threatened to hang over them right up to graduation day and beyond.

So Burdick, brave young man, logged on to the senior class Facebook page.

“I know that I personally have been incredibly affected by these incidents and I want to do something about it,” he wrote back in March. “We have a lot of free time coming up during senior projects and I think that would be a perfect time to research and educate people about suicide and how to prevent it.”

Moore, from Freeport, and Rowe, from South Portland, had been talking to each other about the same thing. Like Burdick, they’re lacrosse players (as was one of the suicide victims).

“There’s a whole stigma around mental health,” said Rowe. “Nina and I were having conversations all the time. I think a lot of students were. But it was really good for Willy to come out and say it. That’s where Nina and I came up with the idea of a lacrosse play day.”

It’s scheduled for Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fore River Fields, 283 Osgood St., in Portland. And it’s about a lot more than lacrosse or, for that matter, Waynflete.

Suicide has cast its pall over two other local high schools – Falmouth High School and Greely High School in Cumberland – since the beginning of this school year.

Since Moore set up a Facebook page titled “Mental Health Awareness Play Day and Fundraiser,” players from those schools have promised they’ll be there – not for a day of competition, but rather for one of community.

“For me, a lot of it is about bringing mental health out into the light from wherever it is right now,” said Moore. “It’s really important to make it OK to talk about mental illness – just as it is OK to talk about your broken leg or cancer or something like that. It’s an illness and people can’t help that about themselves.”

Sunday’s event aims, if only for a day, to turn the spotlight away from all the pressure of college acceptances and, perish the thought, rejections. Away from the need to be the best, to score the highest, to hit all those marks that adolescents too often silently mistake as measures of their self-worth – until one day they find themselves in a hole too deep to escape.

“I feel like kids are afraid of admitting that they’re struggling,” said Rowe. “Because all that you want to do is look perfect. All society wants to hear is that you’re a success and all they are pushing for is for you to succeed. They’re not willing to accept that you may be having trouble.”

If you’re a teenager reading this right now and nodding your head in agreement, then perhaps there’s a place for you out there on Sunday.

You don’t have to be a lacrosse player. They’ll have Frisbees, Wiffle balls and bats, and other activities to get your heart pumping.

They’ll also have plenty of food and maybe a speaker or two from mental health programs like Family Hope in Scarborough, which helps families and friends help those with mental illness get the help they need.

They’ll even have T-shirts for sale to raise money for suicide prevention – printed on the back are the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and five tips to help suicide prevention. (The most poignant: “Love yourself before loving others.”)

What they won’t have is a memorial service. The time for that has passed. This is about looking forward and, as the outgoing leaders of their school, doing everything they can to ensure that what happened during their senior year never happens again.

As of Thursday, the play day’s Facebook page showed that 91 people plan to show up Sunday. Another 49 are listed as “interested.”

“This is one approach to filling in that blank for people who don’t know what to talk about, don’t know what to say, don’t know how to respond,” said Moore. “Here’s one way.”

It’s easy. Just come out and play.


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Our View: Competition among insurers cuts care costs, yields better results Thu, 19 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The Affordable Care Act was designed with two major objectives: It was supposed to extend health insurance to people who had been uninsured, and it was supposed to create a competitive marketplace that would lower costs over time.

Maine has fallen short on the first goal, but don’t blame Obamacare. Gov. LePage and Republican allies in the Legislature have blocked Medicaid expansion, refusing the federal funds that would have been used to cover 60,000 people. As a result, Maine was the only state in the country that failed to lower the rate of people without health insurance between 2010 and 2014.

That’s an embarrassment, but we can be more hopeful about progress on the second objective.

Aetna announced that it wants to sell individual plans on the Maine insurance exchange. In nine counties (including Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc), Aetna would join Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim and Community Health Options to serve residents who buy their insurance in the Obamacare marketplace.

Four companies competing for business will have a strong incentive to keep rate increases to a minimum by controlling costs. Under the market reforms of Obamacare, companies can’t do that the old way, which was to deny service to people with pre-existing conditions, or dump patients when they got too sick.

The companies that win in this competition will be the ones that offer the lowest rates because they have policies that promote the long-term health of their plan members, and the best customer service that keeps their healthy customers loyal. As long as there is that kind of competition in the marketplace, there will be pressure on insurance companies to keep people healthier and happier.

Maine has a long way to go to reduce the number of people without insurance. Especially troubling is the percentage of children who are uninsured, which increased from 4 percent in 2010 to 6.3 percent in 2014 as a result of Gov. LePage’s cuts to social services.

But it’s encouraging to see private-sector businesses competing to serve the expanded pool of people who can now afford insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. It’s good to see progress toward at least one of Obamacare’s main objectives.

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Maine Voices: Pull plug on cyberabuse by connecting with children face to face Thu, 19 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Parents and educators want to create a community for students that is safe and free from violence, but it can often feel like we’re fighting the tide to do so. One issue we often hear about relates to the negative aspects of technology: cyberharassment, online conflicts and inappropriate use of technology.

The sheer number of ways people interact that are not face to face makes it daunting and frustrating for parents and educators to know how to manage issues that arise. While technology does create opportunity, it comes with a responsibility that young people and adults are still sorting out. However, a healthy relationship with technology, media and the Internet is possible – and the solution doesn’t even require you to be a tech know-it-all.

We see this issue not only through our professional eyes as a middle school principal and a violence prevention specialist, but also as parents. As our children grow, we too are sorting out the balance of how technology can positively and negatively influence the lives of our kids. In our view, the most important steps we can take are not so much revolutionary but realistic. We offer these as ideas for anyone who interacts with young people as they navigate virtual reality:

Talk about technology: Talk to your students and kids about what media they interact with and learn about it from them. Doing your own research about what is out there can be empowering, but do not be overwhelmed if you have never heard of Snapchat or Burn Note.

Your energy is best invested in direct conversation with your children/students about the technology they are using. When doing so, it is important to remember to have these conversations without judgment (which can be especially hard for adults!).

Here are some conversation starters: What technology is used at school? What games do you play and what do you like about them? What apps are you using? What do you like/not like about them? How do people talk to each other in this app/game/forum? If someone says something inappropriate on one of these platforms, how is it handled?

Lead by example: Role modeling is an extremely powerful tool, so let young people both observe and hear from you about the choices you make related to technology and virtual life. Tell them why you still use Facebook (even if it’s not cool anymore). Share your concerns about how easily online communication can become negative and even become unsafe. Talk with them about ways to protect privacy online and why that is an essential safety rule.

Children and youth are watching how we interact with each other all of the time – from a much earlier age than we might like to admit – and they are learning a great deal directly from these observations. Modeling respectful communication and conflict resolution in real life and online shows them it is possible.

Commit to the long term: Avoid the temptation to make talking about media and technology a one-time conversation. A healthy relationship with technology and media requires us to communicate honestly with young people on an ongoing basis. Your commitment to this dialogue will help foster their internal sense of what is and is not acceptable to them – which they will need when you are not around.

Building decision-making skills they will need throughout life to determine what is or isn’t acceptable behavior will outlast any of the expensive technology at their fingertips. Providing a comfortable place for them to talk about issues relating to technology will help them see you as an ally, not an adversary, if something bad or scary happens and they need your help.

Seek assistance: If at any point you have significant concerns about what your child/student may have been exposed to, reach out to support networks, other parents, teachers, school administrators or behavioral health providers to help you in supporting the young person.

We join you in trying to find the best possible ways to support children and youth and find ways to prevent conflict. By working together through a grant led by the city of Portland’s Public Health Division and Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Portland Defending Childhood has partnered with schools like Lincoln Middle School to support training for educators to understand, and help prevent, issues of violence and trauma.

We feel strongly that collaboration and honest conversations can help young people develop the skills necessary to make good decisions, avoid risk and positively contribute to their communities, both on- and off-line.

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Dana Milbank: Sanders ought to know better than try winning by intimidation Thu, 19 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Let’s examine what Bernie Sanders supporters did in his name this past weekend.

As the Nevada Democratic convention voted to award a majority of delegates to Hillary Clinton – an accurate reflection of her victory in the state’s February caucuses – Sanders backers charged the stage, threw chairs and shouted vulgar epithets at speakers. Security agents had to protect the dais and ultimately clear the room.

Sanders supporters publicized the cellphone number of the party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, resulting in thousands of abusive text messages and threats:

“Praying to God someone shoots you in the FACE and blows your democracy-stealing head off!”

“We know where you live. Where you work. Where you eat. Where your kids go to school/grandkids… Prepare for hell.”

Veteran Nevada reporter Jon Ralston transcribed some of the choice voicemail messages for the chairwoman, some with vulgar labels for women and their anatomy:

“I think people like you should be hung in a public execution.”

“You … stupid bitch! What the hell are you doing? You’re a … corrupt bitch!”

The day after the convention, Sanders supporters vandalized party headquarters with messages saying, among other things, “you are scum.”

And the candidate’s response to the violent and misogynistic behavior of his backers? Mostly defiance. Asked by reporters Tuesday about the convention chaos – in which operatives from his national campaign participated – Sanders walked away in the middle of the question.

Finally, mid-afternoon Tuesday, Sanders released a statement saying, “I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.” But he blamed the Nevada party for preventing a “fair and transparent process,” and he threatened Democrats: “If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned.”

It is no longer accurate to say Sanders is campaigning against Clinton, who has essentially locked up the nomination. The Vermont socialist is now running against the Democratic Party. And that’s excellent news for one Donald J. Trump.

“The Sanders Campaign spent its time either ignoring or profiting from the chaos it did much to create,” the Nevada Democratic Party wrote in a formal complaint to the Democratic National Committee. “Part of the approach by the Sanders campaign was to employ these easily incensed delegates as shock troops.”

The Nevada Democrats, warning of similar disruptions at the national convention in July, accused the Sanders campaign of “inciting disruption – and, yes, violence.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I wasn’t concerned about Sanders remaining in the race until the very end, because he doesn’t wish to see a President Trump and will ultimately throw his full support to Clinton. Sanders has, indeed, lightened up on Clinton and is instead trying to shape the Democrats’ platform and direction. But his attacks on the party have released something just as damaging to the causes he professes to represent. Coupled with his refusal to raise money for the party, his increasingly harsh rhetoric could hurt Democrats up and down the ballot in November and beyond.

“We are taking on virtually the entire Democratic establishment,” Sanders proclaims.

“The Democratic Party has to reach a fundamental conclusion: Are we on the side of working people or big-money interests?” he asks.

“The Democratic Party up to now has not been clear about which side they are on on the major issues facing this country,” he announces.

This was Ralph Nader’s argument in 2000: There isn’t much difference between the two parties. It produced President George W. Bush. Sanders said at the start of his campaign that he wouldn’t do what Nader did, because there is a difference between the parties.

Yet now his supporters, the Nevada Democratic Party says, are behind “physical threats and intimidation,” “scuffles, screams from bullhorns, and profane insults” and “numerous medical emergencies among delegates pressed up against the dais.”

This, even though they were wrong on the merits. Ralston writes that “the Sanders folks disregarded rules, then when shown the truth, attacked organizers and party officials as tools of a conspiracy to defraud the senator of what was never rightfully his in the first place.”

And this, despite only two additional delegates being at stake, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out – not enough to make a difference in the race.

More to the point, no grievance justifies what happened in Nevada. Yet Sanders, recklessly, is fueling the fire.

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

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Commentary: Pot issue entails uncertainties aplenty on legalization’s public health effects Thu, 19 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SANTA MONICA, Calif. — In six months, California will join Maine, Nevada and probably a few other states in deciding whether to legalize the large-scale commercial production of marijuana. Residents will be inundated with wild claims about the promises and pitfalls of these initiatives.

You will hear debates about government revenue, criminal justice benefits, the environment and the effect of legalization on Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. Public health conversations may prove especially contentious. Some will claim that legalization will constitute a net gain for health. Others will say the exact opposite.

Although you shouldn’t believe either extreme, one fairly safe bet is that if we legalize and allow profit-maximizing firms to produce, sell and advertise recreational marijuana, use will increase.

The data from Colorado and Washington state, where voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, are still preliminary. We do know, however, that the number of Coloradans who reported using marijuana in the past month increased from about 10.5 percent in 2011-12 to nearly 15 percent in 2013-14. In Washington, reported use increased from just above 10 percent to almost 13 percent.

Given that both states’ pre-existing medical systems already provided quasi-legal availability, it is hard to imagine that commercial legalization did not account for at least some of these increases. (That said, other factors could influence marijuana use, and it will be some time before researchers have enough data to conduct rigorous analyses. Some of the increase could also come from respondents being more honest now that marijuana is legal in their states).

But is an increase in marijuana consumption a bad thing from a public health standpoint? Not necessarily.

Much will depend on the types of users who account for the increase – adults or children? Heavy users or light users? No one wants kids to get stoned at school or to become regular users while their brains are still developing. And no one wants adults to be impaired at work or behind the wheel. Some heavy marijuana users, moreover, struggle to control their consumption and this can create challenges for them and their families. But there are real benefits associated with marijuana use, such as medical relief or simply pleasure.

Exactly how people consume marijuana will also help determine public health consequences. In addition to vaporizing marijuana plant material (which reduces inhalation of carcinogens and other substances), people can and do eat, drink, vape hash-oil and “dab” waxes that are high in the intoxicating chemical THC. The negative effects of overconsuming edibles are well-documented, but much less is known about the pros and cons of these other forms.

Perhaps the most important consideration is how increased marijuana consumption may influence the use of other substances.

Although the social costs of heavy alcohol use are much larger than the social costs attributable to heavy marijuana use, we do not know if legalization will lead to more or less drinking. The research on the relationship between alcohol and marijuana use is split down the middle.

This connection is especially important in terms of traffic safety. The bulk of the research suggests that driving drunk is more dangerous than driving stoned, and driving stoned is worse than driving sober. Research also suggests that driving under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana is worse than either by itself.

It would be a real blow to public health if an increase in marijuana use led to increased tobacco use. Even though the bulk of the research suggests this is a possibility, one cannot assume that the relationship would remain the same under a different legal regime. Besides, most of the relevant studies were conducted before e-cigarettes and marijuana vape pens became popular, so researchers and voters alike have to be careful about making projections.

There is also a new and much smaller body of research suggesting that increasing the availability of marijuana reduces problems with opioid painkillers. Some of these studies, however, are working papers that have not yet been subject to rigorous peer review.

When you vote on whether to legalize marijuana, public health consequences may not be at the top of your list. If they are, I’m here to tell you the experts have more questions than answers. That won’t change before November.

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