The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Opinion Thu, 28 Jul 2016 04:11:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Leonard Pitts: Racism tied to misuse of power assaults blacks across the spectrum Wed, 27 Jul 2016 10:00:17 +0000 We’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about what happened.

Not that Austin Police Officer Bryan Richter’s June 2015 takedown – let’s not dignify it by calling it an “arrest” – of 26-year-old school teacher Breaion King is not worthy of discussion.

As seen in a dashcam video unearthed last week by the Austin American-Statesman, Richter, who is white, hauls King, who is African American, out of her car, twice slams her to the ground, shackles her hands behind her back and forces her down to the hood of his patrol car, her arms held high to maximize pain and compliance.

King’s sin? During a traffic stop, she gave Richter a little lip. “Could you please hurry up?” she snips. And he proceeds to lose his mind.

So what happened is certainly worth talking about. But it is what was said afterward that is ultimately more insidious. King, shackled in the back of a police cruiser, is convinced her mistreatment is related to the color of her skin. She asks another white officer, Patrick Spradlin, if he believes racism still exists.

Spradlin answers affirmatively. “But let me ask you this,” he says. “Do you believe it goes both ways?”

She says yes, but starts explaining about how whites have more power. Spradlin isn’t buying it. “Why are so many people afraid of black people?” he asks. “…Violent tendencies. … That’s why a lot of the white people are afraid, and I don’t blame them.”

Spradlin is speaking, mind you, to a slightly built woman his beefy colleague just violently assaulted for no reason other than pique. More to the point, he is speaking to a woman whose heritage includes 400 years of kidnapping, lynching, bombing, burning, rape, riot and, yes, police brutality, at the hands of people who look like him.

But it is “black people” – note that no other qualifier is necessary – who, he says, have these supposed “violent tendencies.”

And let us not ignore Spradlin’s talk of how racism “goes both ways.” Here’s what King was trying to explain when he cut her off:

The black person who doesn’t like white people can call names, maybe even physically assault some individual. But she has virtually no power to express that bigotry with impunity upon multiple victims through public institutions. If she is a cop she cannot, for example, physically assault white motorists for no reason and expect to get away with it. By contrast, do you know how Bryan Richter was “punished” for his brutality?

He had to go for counseling. Oh, and extra training.

Spradlin is not alone in embracing false equivalence, though. A 2011 study by professors Michael Norton of Harvard and Samuel Sommers of Tufts University, finds that many white Americans now identify bias against them as a bigger problem than bias against blacks.

They can point to no statistic to support this absurd idea – there is none. Unfortunately, the new American ethos, as illustrated vividly last week at the Republican National Convention, holds that the truth you “feel” is more authoritative than the truth that is actually, well … true.

Since the video of Richter’s brutality came to light, the police chief and various city officials have pronounced themselves appalled and there is talk of reform. That’s all well and good, but this is bigger than police. Police reflect the society they serve.

So, though most of them would know better than to say it out loud, Spradlin’s thinking recurs in landlords who won’t rent, bankers who won’t lend, doctors who won’t treat, executives who won’t hire.

It recurs in an ongoing daily act of battery upon African-American aspiration. And hope. And faith.

Bryan Richter assaulted Breaion King. Of that, there can be no doubt. By contrast, Spradlin only talked to her, their conversation calm and composed. But make no mistake.

He assaulted her, too.

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

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Greg Kesich: Speech promising bold change is needed if Clinton wants to win election Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The big unanswered question at the Democratic National Convention is not whether Russian hackers will sneak embarrassing text into the president’s teleprompter, or if the Bernie Sanders backers will have any voices left when it’s time to boo on Thursday night.

The real question is about Hillary Clinton: Does she know what time it is?

Sometimes she doesn’t seem to recognize that she is in the midst of a historical moment unlike anything she has ever seen.

When she appeared with her running mate, Tim Kaine, last weekend, she nodded enthusiastically as he rolled out some Spanish phrases and gently attacked Donald Trump for not releasing his tax returns.

That might be a good, tough line if you were running against a normal Republican like Mitt Romney. But not paying his fair share of taxes is about the 100th thing on the “bad stuff about Trump” list.

Then Monday I heard radio commentator Cokie Roberts report that the Clinton people liked Kaine because he’s “nice.”


Like him or not, Donald Trump has defined what this election is about, and it’s not about being nice.

In his acceptance speech last Thursday night, Trump made clear the election is a battle over what kind of country America is going to be. It’s a moment in history that requires extraordinary change.

“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” Trump said. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country. …

“I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on Jan. 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”

He diagnosed the problem (crime and terrorism), identified the enemy (criminals, terrorists and political elites) and promised a solution (I don’t know what it is, but everybody cheered).

If Clinton comes back and says crime is down, Trump will win this election, even though crime is, in fact, down.

What the fact checkers are missing is that Trump says what many people feel, and that statistics and programs matter less than a story that plausibly explains what happened and what’s going to happen next.

By Thursday, Clinton will have to tell her own story, a tall order for a politician who doesn’t usually talk about the world in such broad, emotional strokes. As she told Black Lives Matters protesters last year, she thinks that you can’t change people’s hearts, only laws and the allocation of resources.

Any hint of that message Thursday night would be a disaster for the Democrats.

So would trying to reintroduce a nicer version of herself to the country. If she had been watching Monday, Bernie Sanders did a good job summing up his view of what’s at stake. “This election is about ending the 40-year decline of our middle class. It’s about the reality that 47 million men, women and children live in poverty. It is about understanding that if we do not transform our economy, our younger generation will likely have a lower standard of living than their parents. This election is about ending the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we currently experience, the worst it has been since 1928. It is not moral, not acceptable and not sustainable.”

Or if she wanted to go even farther back, she could look at the acceptance speech by Harry S. Truman, who in 1948 was trying to succeed a charismatic president while Truman’s political coalition was splintering (sound familiar?). Democrats didn’t just boo Truman. Two third-party campaigns split off and ran against him – the anti-civil rights “Dixiecrats,” and New Deal veteran Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party.

Truman promised delegates that he would beat the Republicans “because they are wrong and we are right.” Then he had this to say:

“The battle lines of 1948 are the same as they were in 1932, when the nation lay prostrate and helpless as a result of Republican misrule and inaction. … Today, in 1948, we are now the defenders of the stronghold of democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of this land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few.”

Clinton’s challenge will be to present herself as an agent of change in a system of which she has been an important part. Will she seize the moment and match Trump’s dark vision with an optimistic one that still acknowledges the economic anxiety so many live with?

Thursday night will be the time we find out.

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


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

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Another View: Selecting U.N. leader should be open, transparent process Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The 15 members of the United Nations Security Council took their first straw poll last week to pick the U.N.’s new secretary-general. But they won’t tell the world the results, much less how any of them voted.

That’s one of many ways in which the U.N. needs to improve the way it selects its leader. The process has been basically unchanged for 70 years. With the blessing of its five permanent members, the Security Council presents one candidate to the General Assembly, which approves him (and so far they have all been men).

The U.N. now has to deal with crises that require cooperation among a much wider range of actors – not just states, but also global corporations, philanthropists and networked activists. The U.N.’s future legitimacy and effectiveness depend on giving these new players more of a voice.

The required changes to the U.N.’s rules wouldn’t necessarily trespass on the prerogatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council (the U.S., China, Russia, the U.K. and France). And let’s be realistic: Without the disproportionate influence granted to them by their veto power, the P-5 inevitably would have let the U.N. go the way of the League of Nations.

But nothing prevents the U.N. from releasing straw poll results (more will follow) without identifying how individual countries voted.

Even better would be for the General Assembly to request, and the Security Council to present, a choice of candidates – something that U.N. “elders” have proposed. Of the 12 candidates in the running, including several former prime and foreign ministers, eight have high-level U.N. experience, eight are from Eastern Europe and six are women.

Finding the ideal blend of diplomat, politician, manager and moral champion is not easy. Making the process more open can only help.

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Our View: Unlike its neighbors, Maine lacks plan as water shortage deepens Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Although this summer’s consistently dry, sunny weather has been great for outdoor recreation, the lack of rain has a significant downside for the health of the public water supply. Officials in states around the region have been speaking out about the risks of the water shortage and the need to rein in water use. Given the potential economic and environmental impact of the expanding drought, Maine should do the same.

Throughout the northeastern U.S., states are feeling the impact of a second year of below-average rainfall, compounded by a mild winter and little snow. In the hardest-hit areas – southern Maine, southern New Hampshire, western New York and Massachusetts – conditions are dryer than they’ve been in the past decade. (A lot of snow fell in the winter of 2014-15, but it wasn’t very moist.) As a result, the risk of wildfires is up, and lawns and crops, including blueberries and corn, are languishing.

Because of the ongoing lack of precipitation, a drought watch has been issued for northern New Jersey, much of Massachusetts and all of New York state. Following the state declaration, over 120 Massachusetts communities have put water usage restrictions in place. So have at least 70 municipalities and public water providers in New Hampshire.

This is the kind of response that Maine needs to launch for our state to weather the water shortage. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 611,000 people live in the Maine counties most affected by the drought, including Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, York and Sagadahoc.

But our state hasn’t taken the collaborative approach needed to tackle such a big problem. New Hampshire, for example, is prepared to call together public and private stakeholders to make recommendations based on the state’s drought management plan if there’s no relief soon. And Massachusetts’ Drought Management Task Force has already been meeting; they’re the ones who declared the drought watch there.

Maine had a Governor’s Drought Task Force in place during the state’s last drought, in 2001 and 2002, including representatives of federal, state and private-sector agencies that deal with water issues. Convened in August 2001, the task force met regularly throughout the following winter and spring and issued reports during and after the crisis. But the only evidence of the group now is a link to a page of water-saving tips on the Maine Emergency Management Agency website.

The dry, hot weather that has caused the Northeastern water shortage isn’t going away anytime soon, forecasters say. It’s past time for Maine officials to recognize this reality and step in to help keep the drought’s effects from getting any worse.

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Maine Voices: Applying for college? Approach it as a process with deeper purpose Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Each summer, future college students of all ages begin to narrow down where they might apply to college. Part of this process includes answering the typical questions on college applications.

Important as those questions are, however, it is the questions not included on the application that these future college students should be asking.

No person better raised these “other” questions than Elie Wiesel, who passed away earlier this summer. The author, essayist, human rights spokesman, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor often described himself as the “teller of the story,” the inside witness to one of the darkest moments in human history. He would spend his life posing some of the most complex and painful questions of the 20th and 21st centuries – and attempting to answer them.

These weighty questions ranged from the personal to the philosophical to the practical: Is there, and should there be, collective guilt? What role does a just person play in an unjust society? How do we honor the dead? What have I been brought here to do – why am I here? How could a God exist in the face of such cruelty? How do we effectively raise our voices against injustice? Does universal love exist? Is forgiveness possible – or even wise?

I claim no earned right to discuss Wiesel. Like most Americans, short of having read Wiesel’s “Night” (when I was a high school history teacher) and coming across occasional descriptions of his work in The New York Times, my knowledge remains light. As an educator, however, I have deeply admired the power of his inquiries and the courage of his pursuit for answers. He was a man directed and driven by the often-tortuous questions laid at his feet at an unfairly young age.

His commitment to examining the essential but unsettling challenges of our world seemingly offers us an insight into a sometimes-missing component of American education. Specifically, the college search process is often devoid of this simple but crucial self-analysis: What great questions do I seek to answer? What issues have been laid at my own feet through my own life experiences, predispositions or cultural context? What worries me, or gives me hope? Where does my curiosity take me?

Even a few minutes with these questions can shift the college search experience from a laborious game of carefully crafted applications to the vital fulfillment of a deeper purpose.

Some will argue that teenagers are simply too limited in life experience to adequately develop such questions. Research seems to indicate otherwise. Some studies suggest that curiosity is most potent at younger ages and, as experience grows, we adults tend to shut out world views and data that clash with our assumptions. In other words, youth is the perfect time to ask these questions.

Choosing a college or university ought to begin with the simple inquiry: Who can help me answer my important questions about the world? There are certainly many colleges that can and do – and the University of Southern Maine is one of them.

At USM, we take our students’ questions seriously. Our faculty facilitates a productive and often life-changing exploration of these essential inquiries. Moreover, many of these professors invite their students into their own research through community-engaged studies, internships, volunteerism and community service. It exemplifies a powerful method of answering our difficult but essential questions.

In the end, it is our duty as an institution of higher learning to not just prepare our students for careers (which USM does extremely well), but also to ensure they graduate as well-rounded critical thinkers. Students who will become global citizens with an understanding of the larger issues at play, right here in our own communities and also around the world.

Indeed, it has been decades since so many major, poignant, provocative and often-polarizing issues have been playing out on the world stage and across our country.

So to those of you who are preparing your college applications, whether you are a high school senior or an adult returning to college, I offer this advice: Wherever you may choose to study, take the time to remember your deepest curiosity and ask your most compelling questions during the college search process. A world in acute need of great questions and helpful answers awaits.


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Maine Voices: Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to our child hunger problem Tue, 26 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela

NORTH YARMOUTH — Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity out of all of the New England and mid-Atlantic states. Twenty percent of Maine kids live in poverty, and 208,000 Mainers live with food insecurity.

It is shocking to me because when growing up in southern Maine I had no idea about the existing hunger crisis. When presented with the facts and after listening to stories, I felt my education had failed me. Why are we not talking about this? It’s as if not talking about a problem equates to “it’s not really happening.”

It is easy to remain unaware of the hunger problem that exists in Maine. If one does not look for it or talk about it, then the conversation can be evaded, or even worse, the problem can be denied. Ignorance is not bliss – it is harmful.

Last week in Westbrook, Joel Berg, the CEO of Hunger Free America and a nationally recognized leader and anti-hunger advocate, delivered a message that must be used to spark this conversation in Maine.

“To be schooled, you must be well fueled. To be well read, you must be well fed,” Berg said July 18 at Westbrook Pointe, a subsidized housing development run by Spear Management Group Inc. that hosts a summer meals site through the Summer Food Service Program.

Public-private collaboration ensures the implementation and success of the Summer Food Service Program, said Berg, citing partnerships between the federal government and nonprofit groups, such as those between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Preble Street, the Westbrook School Department and Spear Management.

Programs around the state are continually threatened with losing funding, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federally funded program administered at the state level that provides food stamps to eligible citizens. Just last month, Gov. LePage said Maine would pull out of SNAP unless the state is allowed to ban the use of food stamps to buy soda and candy.

Nearly one out of seven Mainers rely on SNAP benefits. That’s almost 200,000 people, or approximately the combined population of Maine’s six largest communities: Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, South Portland, Auburn and Biddeford.

The Summer Food Service Program is also a federally funded USDA program that serves as an extension of the National School Lunch Program. Each meal served is fully reimbursed by the federal government.

I have been working at various summer meal sites around Portland, and parents at the sites have shared with me the challenges of feeding their kids during the summer months. One mother was between SNAP benefits when she first came to the summer meal site with her children. They’ve been back almost every day since.

Most Summer Food Service Program sites are “open sites,” which means they are open to the community and any child under 18 is welcome to a free meal. I have met children, sometimes as young as 10, who take care of their younger siblings during the day while their parents are at work. A summer meals site in their community provides a much-needed nutritious meal that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Berg emphasized to me that combating hunger is something that can unite us all and that our country is stronger because our tax dollars go to help feed our neighbors. “Our national motto is ‘Ending Hunger Lifts Us All.’ It lifts us all spiritually, it lifts us all economically, and it’s about time the entire country, starting with Maine, finally ends hunger,” he said.

The reality is that too many of our neighbors face hunger, and we may not even know it because of the stigma that surrounds this issue. It’s time we talk about it. It’s time to support federal assistance programs like SNAP and recognize that because it’s an entitlement program, anyone who is eligible will receive benefits, and rightfully so.

“As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” they say, and so in this political climate, it is important to remember that our ability to unite behind a cause as important as ending hunger, and feeding our children should supersede any political affiliation. Sustainable, systemic solutions to end hunger do exist, and with public-private partnerships, they are available.

Maine children are our future. As a society, we must treat our children better.

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Kathleen Parker: From Trump’s daily diatribes, disturbing echoes of a despot past Tue, 26 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Donald Trump was a man in full last Thursday night as he accepted the Republican nomination: full-throated, full of fury and full of himself. “I am your voice.” “I alone can fix it (the system).” “I am the law and order candidate.”

And the teeming throng of red-, white- and blue-bedecked patriots loved all 75 minutes of an acceptance speech in which the candidate promised to – stop me if you’ve heard this – make America great again.

Personally, I’d settle for a smile, an expression that rarely bothered Trump’s facial features, and a national day of no-yelling. All week, there was so much shouting and pointing. So much posturing and clenching of fists. So much anger as the crowd roared in unison: “Lock her up, lock her up, lock her up.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, serving as a prosecutor/provocateur, enumerated her crimes.

“Guilty or not guilty?” he shouted from the dais, at least once struggling to keep a straight face. “Guilty!” the crowd screamed with the bloodlust of Romans waiting for Nero’s thumb.

Ah, but it’s just politics, giddy commentators reminded us the day after. This is what conventions are all about, riling the ready for the final slog. Nothing to see here but faith in the promise of a better, stronger, safer America – all made possible by a ham-fisted, copper-coiffed casino broker who until very recently was a reality show celebrity who jabbed his finger toward trembling wannabes and decreed: “You’re fired!”

Heads will roll, we can presume, but whose? If I were Ted Cruz, I’d keep mine down.

The grandest of marketeers, Trump has cast a spell over a swath of America, inspiring them not with soaring rhetoric but with dark harbingers of worse to come. In the familiar way of despots, tyrants and kings, he has made the many feel better by singling out the few to fault.

It is not for nothing that many have compared Trump’s brand of rhetoric to some of humankind’s worst, including, unavoidably, Adolf Hitler.

Observing the convention, I was taken back to my uncommon childhood, when I was exposed to Hitler’s speeches. My father, a World War II Army Air Corps pilot, was also a kitchen historian who, post-war, studied Hitler in an effort to better understand him. This involved listening to his recorded speeches, which, in the dark, Before Apple era, meant we all listened to them. They made a lasting impression.

Without understanding a word of German, it wasn’t difficult to translate Hitler’s message. The ferocious shouts of thousands of citizens, inflamed by and enamored of this strange little man, merged into a solid note – a deafening roar freighted with the fears and furies of mankind’s primeval past.

“Lock her up” sounds a lot like “To the stockades.”

We affirm that such a thing could never happen here. Our Constitution and our system of checks and balances protect against totalitarianism. I share the faith that America yet remains too good and too strong for a complete breakdown of our ordered liberty.


There are reasons for the comparisons between tyrants and Trump that transcend mere politics. There is also good reason that so many have accepted Trump as their leader. As one Republican loyalist explained to me: “He’s a tough guy. They think he’s going to punch (bad) people in the face.”

Indeed, Trump promised to end the Islamic State and to protect the LGBTQ community from “the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” just as he has promised to bring back jobs and renegotiate trade deals. The “how” of these several vows remains a mystery.

More pressing, meanwhile: What will be required of America in the process? How much freedom does law and order cost? We don’t know because Trump probably doesn’t know. What I do know is that the sound and fury I recall from my father’s records are similar to what I heard in Cleveland from decent people who would recoil at the comparison.

But imagine you’re the person about whom thousands are chanting with the cadence of a lynch mob, “Lock her up!” How frightening that would be, even to a tough pro like Hillary Clinton. How horrifying it should be to all of us that the next president of the United States could be the man who inspired it.

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

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Charles Lawton: Less dependent is the way Maine’s economic life should be Tue, 26 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For years, I have been a demographic scold. Maine needs more people. Growth is necessary for economic prosperity. But why?

“Can’t we just continue to live life the way it should be here and let the craziness of growth and change go on as it will in the rest of the world?” countless readers have appealed to me over the years. “We have a good thing going here. Let’s stay out of the rat race.”

The last five years of recovery from the Great Recession present an interesting time to explore these ideas. Between 2010 and 2015, Maine’s population was basically stable. Census estimates indicated an increase over the period of 0.3 percent, just over 2,000 people. This compares to national growth of 3.9 percent, or just over 12 million people.

Yet when we look at total personal income, Maine’s grew nearly 14 percent. That’s nearly $6.7 billion. As a result, our per-person income increased 13.4 percent, rising from $37,000 in 2010 to $42,000 in 2015.

True, this doesn’t match the 23 percent total income growth for the U.S. as a whole, or the nation’s per capita income increase of 18 percent. True, this still leaves us at only 88 percent of the national per capita level – $42,100 versus $47,700 – but who cares? Isn’t $5,600 per person a small price to pay for living “the way life should be”?

Perhaps. But these gross averages leave three major questions unanswered:

 First, where does our income come from?

Second, are these sources sustainable into the future?

Third, how is this income divvied up among the 1,329,492 of us who live here, according to Census Bureau estimates?

Regarding sources of income, there are several important differences between Maine and the United States as a whole.

First, Maine derives a far-greater share of its net earnings from employers not based in Maine than is true for the nation – 2.6 percent, compared to 0.04 percent for the U.S. as a whole. In short, Maine gets more of its income from workers commuting to work outside Maine than the national average.

To the extent that this reflects actual driving to work, too bad for those workers. To the extent that this reflects virtual workers living in Maine while telecommuting for paychecks sent by businesses located outside of Maine, hooray for the internet and “the way life should be” attracting knowledge workers.

Maine also derives a higher share of its income from “unearned” sources (i.e., not from payment from an employer) than the national average (40 percent versus 36 percent).

Transfer payments – mostly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – amounted to 23 percent of total personal income in Maine in 2015. For the nation as a whole, they amounted to 17 percent. For property income (dividends, interest and rent payments), Maine is just slightly below the national average (17 percent of total income versus 18 percent).

These facts shed a great deal of light on the future sustainability of our income sources. Maine gets an above-average share of its income from sources outside Maine – employers based outside the state; transfer payments that come largely from the federal government, and dividend and interest payments that are almost certainly earned on a globally diversified series of companies, rather than strictly Maine-based sources.

In a word, our future income security is more heavily dependent on out-of-state sources than the national average. Thus, “the way life should be” in Maine is in fact far more dependent on the rest of the world’s being “what we need it to be” than on our own virtuous qualities.

As regards the final question posed above – how we divvy up our income, regardless how much it is or where it comes from – there is some reason for distinction. According to a recently published Economic Policy Institute study, Maine ranks 46th among the 50 states in income inequality. Or, to give the results a more positive spin, Maine is the fifth most equitable state in terms of income distribution.

As its measure of inequality, the study, using 2013 data, takes the average income of the top 1 percent of families as a ratio of the average income of the bottom 99 percent of families.

For example, New York state has the highest level of income inequality: The income of the average top 1 percent of families (just over $2 million) is 45.4 times the income of the average bottom 99 percent of families (just over $44,000). In Maine, by contrast, the average income of the top 1 percent of families (just over $600,000) is 14.9 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent of families (just over $41,000).

Is this sustainable? Does it reflect some good in the Maine character? Is it a model for “the way life should be”? Or is it simply a reflection of the possibility that very, very rich families simply don’t report their incomes in Maine?

All questions for further investigation.

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

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Our View: Over-65 insurance tiff highlights other issues Tue, 26 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Progressive Corp.’s interest in raising insurance rates for Maine drivers after their 65th birthday is attracting justified criticism from senior citizens and their advocates, including the AARP. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, chairwoman of the Senate special committee on aging, wrote her own strongly worded letter, asking the company to justify its request.

The critics are right: The company should not be able to squeeze more money from Maine seniors, including many who are on low, fixed incomes and need their cars to maintain their independence.

But the insurance company has raised a valid point: As people age, driving becomes more difficult and less safe. Unfortunately, development patterns in Maine make driving a necessity in most communities.

Seniors should be protected from an unfair hike in their expenses, but the discussion should not stop there. Maine badly needs new senior housing built in walkable communities served by public transportation so that seniors will not have to choose between safety and independent living.

Most new residential development over the last half-century has been designed to accommodate automobiles. Cars let people live farther from work, schools and other services. Single-family homes with ample parking on low-traffic roads were highly valued.

But if you can’t safely get behind a steering wheel or you would just prefer not driving at all, suburban development is a great impediment. Destinations are too far apart to walk to, and public transit is impractical.

That’s why there is such demand for housing in urban neighborhoods that had been abandoned decades ago. Portland is seeing a housing shortage based in part by “empty nesters,” older couples who are trading a big house in the suburbs for an in-town apartment. This influx has stimulated growth in restaurants, shops and other small businesses to serve people who would prefer not to drive every time they want to fill a prescription or pick up a quart of milk.

Some changes to public policy are required to make this kind of living available to people of more modest means.

The AARP has been advocating for livable communities, where senior housing is mixed into historic downtowns, giving people transportation options beside driving. That thinking was incorporated in the $15 million senior housing bond, which was passed overwhelmingly by Maine voters last year.

Unfortunately, that money is sitting in Augusta, because Gov. LePage refuses to issue the bonds. That means that Maine seniors will not be able to move into a more appropriate kind of housing, which may force some of them to keep driving, even after it is no longer safe for them.

Progressive should not be able to arbitrarily boost the insurance premiums of customers just because they turn 65, but the company should get credit for raising an important issue. Car-centered development creates serious problems for Mainers as they age. Policymakers should do more than just fight to keep their insurance rates from rising.

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Another View: Affordable tech schools a better choice than debt-laden college Tue, 26 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ appeal among younger voters has hinged in no small way on his pledge to make four-year colleges tuition free.

Many Bernie supporters have echoed their candidate’s call for the nation’s so-called 1 percent to pick up the tab, while sharing their tales of being saddled with ridiculous student debt. But let’s not forget: These underwater college graduates chose their fate. They could have attended a technical school, such as Blackhawk Technical College, and greatly reduced their debt load, if not completely avoided it.

Whether pursuing an associate degree or taking credits with the intention of later transferring to a four-year school, technical colleges offer terrific value in many respects compared to their four-year counterparts.

If some of these students had pursued technical college, they might not be in such dire straits and potentially on more stable career paths.

But despite the clear financial advantages offered by technical schools, enrollment at many of these institutions has been declining for several years. The Sanders campaign highlighted how debt is hurting college graduates, and we don’t fault these graduates for feeling angry. But we need more discussions about sensible, lower-cost alternatives.

]]> 4 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 19:12:30 +0000
Our View: Gun debate should focus on everyday violence Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The aftermath of each high-profile shooting plays out the same. One side says it’s the result of a culture engorged and enamored with guns, while the other blames, well, almost anything else – terrorism, mental illness, race, poverty, a weak and divisive president. Predictably, nothing changes.

Because of how wrapped up it is in personal and political identity, the cause and effect of gun violence is parsed like no other issue, and it is paralyzing. Most people understand it is a complex interplay of factors that gives the United States an almost unprecedented number of firearm deaths each year, yet when a high-profile shooting hijacks the country’s attention, people almost instantly, reflexively run to one side or the other.

Few other issues are like this. After the number of car crash deaths peaked in the late 1960s, a series of measures were put in place to make it safer to be on the road. Yet when a safety belt fails to save a life in a single accident, we don’t say the laws are useless. When a person is ejected from a vehicle, we don’t say, “See, what good are airbags?”

Each shooting, however, becomes a referendum on a specific factor related to gun violence.

If the killer in a mass shooting pledges allegiance to the Islamic State, the sole problem must be terrorism, never mind any other personal problems and prejudices exhibited by the shooter, or the ease in which they acquired firearms meant to kill multiple targets.

If the weapon of choice among mass killers is an assault rifle, then the problem must be the proliferation of military-style firearms, nevermind that the vast majority of firearm-related homicides involve handguns.

The reason this happens has almost nothing to do with mass shootings themselves.

Proponents of gun control, justifiably upset at the daily toll of gun violence in the U.S., want to capitalize on the outsized attention that mass shootings receive, and leverage it into action. However, when gun laws are only part of the equation, opponents are happy to point that out, and use it to obstruct even the most sensible of measures.

And besides the deadly use of guns, the mass shootings that grab headlines have little in common with the unremarkable everyday violence that constitutes most deaths by firearm.

The very real need for sensible gun control, and for a public health approach to gun safety, does not hinge on shootings like those in Orlando and San Bernandino.

Instead, action should come in response to the daily killings in places like Chicago and Baltimore, or to the abused women killed disproportionately by guns, or to the children who are victims of so many accidental shootings.

Stopping the rare madman is one thing. Ending systemic, entrenched violence is quite another. The debate should reflect that.

]]> 71, 24 Jul 2016 19:37:12 +0000
Another View: Russia getting ugly with U.S. diplomats Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Recent interactions between the United States and Russia are a study in, well, incongruity. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry hastened from Moscow’s airport to the Kremlin bearing President Obama’s administration’s latest proposal for U.S.-Russian military coordination against al-Qaida-linked guerrillas battling the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. In the days leading up to this meeting, Russia had exhibited its contempt for Washington by harassing U.S. diplomats and expelling Jeff Shell, chairman of the board of a U.S. agency that oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

Shell, the Russians explained, was on a blacklist they had put together in retaliation for U.S. sanctions targeting Moscow figures culpable for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea – an attempt at moral equivalence whose falsity is underscored by the fact that Shell was visiting Vladimir Putin’s realm not on government business but in his capacity as chairman of NBCUniversal’s movie-production division.

Beyond these highly publicized events, Russia’s recent treatment of Americans has gotten arguably even uglier.

Consider the story of Jim Mulcahy, 72, the Ukraine-based pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, a 48-year-old U.S. institution founded as an alternative Christian organization for gay men and lesbians who feel excluded from traditional churches. During a July 10 gathering with about a dozen people at a gay community center in Samara, Mulcahy was suddenly accosted by police.

]]> 1 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 19:39:28 +0000
Maine Voices: Trump fails to live up to Republican Party values Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 FREEPORT — Adults spend countless hours teaching their children how to be good people and to be positive members of society. The lessons we teach are fundamental – the Golden Rule, the importance of helping others, being respectful, kind and loving and being accepting of others.

We teach them our values and encourage morality at home, in school and in church. We teach them to share, to listen and to think about consequences before speaking or acting. Just as importantly, we try to embody all of this in our own actions so that we can be good role models and to provide them a positive example to follow so that they can grow and thrive.

We could all do well to remember this when we approach the ballot box.


I am a lifelong Republican who believes in the principles and values upon which my party was founded. But recently, the rise of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee has caused me to ask myself some important questions.

Can I support the Republican nominee if that person embodies everything that I taught my children not to be?

Can I hold my nose and tolerate someone “for the good of the party” if that candidate routinely shows himself to embody behaviors and characteristics such as bigotry, intolerance, thoughtlessness, meanness, name-calling and a lack of principles that undermine what the party stands for?

Can I really cast my vote for someone just because he has an “R” after his name even if I know him to be a loose cannon, unwilling or incapable of working with others, untruthful, lacking character and largely uncaring when faced with the plight of those who are less fortunate in this world?

No matter who you are or what your political persuasion, most people agree about what makes someone a good person and what behaviors we want our kids to emulate. We do our best at home, in our schools and in our churches to teach those to generation after generation for the good of us all. But Donald Trump does not display many of them. Can that be overlooked? And, if so, what makes my choice during the 2016 presidential election – or any election, for that matter – different?

After a great deal of thought, I’ve decided to view this November’s election through the lens of a parent. If Donald Trump is not a good role model and does not demonstrate the values I have taught my children and try to express in my daily actions, he should not have my support to be the leader of our country and the Republican Party. My standards and principles are higher than that, and the promise of America deserves more. Donald Trump simply does not rise to those standards and principles.


So, what does this mean for me when I enter the voting booth? I don’t yet know.

But there are two things of which I am certain: First, I will vote for someone other than Donald Trump, in a manner that will make me (and the person for whom I vote) a positive example and role model for my kids and my country. That means that my vote will go to someone who is representative of the qualities, character and behaviors we so highly value in America but seem to have forgotten or ignored in the haze of our nation’s deserved anger and frustration with “the establishment.”

Second, I will be playing the long game when I cast my vote, caring more about the future of my party and the country than the results of any one election.

I believe in the Republican Party and that for which it stands, but it just may be that a loss at the ballot box at the top of the ticket is what is needed to begin the process of restoring the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan so that it can once again be worthy of my vote and support.


]]> 87, 25 Jul 2016 12:29:13 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Excited for Philadelphia, despite strife on all sides Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Forget Bar Harbor or Nantucket, I’m heading to sweltering Philadelphia on “vacation” for the Democratic National Convention. I’ll be in traffic for hours, traveling with hoards of strangers, eating expensive bad food, staying in a hotel near the airport and waiting in long security lines in sizzling, sweaty crowds – and I can’t wait. It’s going to be huge and it’s going to be great and it’s going to be beautiful.

Yes, I watched the Republican National Convention this week, and the bar is set pretty low. I figure as long as Bubba doesn’t plagiarize his speech, Bernie behaves and the crowd doesn’t break out in a lynch-mob chant to lock up Hillary, it should be a success.

That’s not to say there will be no idiots in the City of Brotherly Love. I am prepared for the angry scrum of Bernie Bros stomping around waving stapled sheets of tobacco-stained paper containing the “rules” and other important creeds while shouting about the injustice of superdelegates. I know they’re just mad because they lost the primary. I understand why they resent this, one more loss to toss on their lifetime’s heap.

The Democratic National Convention is expected to be more fun, more musical and more inspiring than the Republican convention, but that doesn’t mean all Democrats are blue and sparkly and nice. The politics of resentment is practiced by the liberal fringe too.

On the extreme left there is resentment of success. Anyone perceived to be “rich” or found living in a nice town or driving a new car is suspect and there is bias against them. People who appear to have it all are thought to be incapable of understanding or helping people who have nothing.

The extremists occupying the far left – let’s call them leftists – gloss over their spasms of envy with self-righteous piety. They know better than you what it’s like to be poor – they’ve been doing it for a long time. Leftists are not ashamed of their squalor; it’s a sacrifice they’ve made for others, they say with a stiff upper lip.

The politics of resentment on the extreme right is just as annoying. These people – rightists – resent their own failure. They think about a lifetime of disappointment and seethe. If only the minorities didn’t come in here and wreck everything, they mumble to themselves as they crack open another cold one.

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am,” they imagine saying on the big screen.

One thing these fringy elements on both sides of the spectrum share is their deep resentment toward elected officials who engage in the profession of governing. You know, the establishment. Leftists and rightists are cynical when any group of disparate people appears to know, like and respect each other. Leftists and rightists are wary of those inclined to cut a deal or get something accomplished without bloodshed. They think sticking to their guns is always the answer, and they always do. Then they suspect a conspiracy is the reason they’re never asked to be on a blue-ribbon committee.

The other plot of common ground in which the loons from both sides of the aisle stake their claim is the yearning to have more money. Deserving to be richer is a common denominator of those who resent the success of others and those who resent others for their failure.

The leftists don’t talk about their resentment out loud because they are ashamed of it. How can they say they want more money and clout when children are starving and the climate is heating up?

The rightists have the opposite problem. They can’t shut up about their resentment, and God knows they aren’t going to take personal responsibility for it.

So why am I excited about spending the coming week and thousands of dollars at a partisan convention with some of these bozos after watching the spectacle of others on television for the past week?

Well for starters, I can’t wait to hear Michelle Obama and Barack Obama speak. They are gifted orators who call people to their feet in service of others with amazing speeches. I can’t wait to see the beautiful first family on the stage after eight years of being in the White House. I look forward to seeing Joe Biden’s smiling face, too, and hearing Bill Clinton explain how stuff works. It gives me chills thinking about casting a vote for the nomination of Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States. I’m eager to see the news organizations and celebrity pundits competing fiercely for the best coverage of heavyweights like Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro. I’m anxious to see if I actually like the music of Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz and Snoop Dogg.

Most of all, though, I’m thrilled to be heading to Philadelphia for the convention because I love our country and I believe in democracy. Because I know most of the people I meet will have ideas about how to improve things and make the world a better place. Because a huge, diverse group of people will come together in a unified belief that problems can be solved. That we are and will remain forever the greatest country on earth. That we need not be afraid.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 46 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:22:55 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Progressive, take note: The older I get, the better I drive Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Call me old and cranky, but I’m ready to throttle Progressive Corp. and its persistent quest to raise auto insurance premiums for Maine drivers of a certain age.

Why? Because, as I prepare to turn 62 this week, I’m a better driver than I’ve ever been, that’s why.

And because when I turn 65 three years hence, the last thing I’ll be in the mood to do is feed the insurance industry’s need for greed.

More on all of that in a minute. First, a bumpy trip down Memory Lane.

Back when I was 16, less than a month after I’d secured my driver’s license, my buddy Rich and I headed up Route 128 in suburban Boston to play our guitars for a folk-singing group and, more importantly, put the moves on a couple of girl singers who had caught our eye.

Yapping away as we left the highway, I took a turn a tad wide and … Boom! … my mom’s station wagon suddenly lurched up on the right side and came crashing back down before careening across the pavement and off into a grassy median strip.

I sat there, stunned. Rich jumped out.

“Looks OK!” he called out, motioning for me to back up. “No, really! It’s fine! C’mon! You’re OK! Nice and slow, now! Easy… easy …”

That’s when the right front wheel fell off.

So much for the double date.

A couple of months later, I was back behind the same wheel (bless my merciful parents) with six friends crammed inside the car, en route to Rich’s house for an evening of fun and frolic.

Again, I had my guitar. Again, I was hopelessly in love – this time with one of my female passengers, only she didn’t know it yet. And again, trouble lurked around the next corner.

Today we call it black ice. Back then it was just a friction-free stretch of back road-turned-skating rink, with dense woods on either side.

The car slid sideways to the right. Miraculously, I managed to pull it out.

Then it slid to the left. This time, I could only holler for everyone to get down as we plowed through the snowbank and descended into the blackness.

Two mammoth trees suddenly appeared in the headlights – the distance between them about a foot narrower than the AMC Matador wagon.

I steered between them anyway – to this day I can hear the crunching sound. In stereo.

Next came a smaller tree. It was dead ahead of us. And then it wasn’t.

I remember finally coming to a stop, turning off the engine and praying to God that no one was hurt. God answered my prayers.

A police officer arrived, summoned by a nearby homeowner who heard the crash. A surprisingly sympathetic young guy who had trouble even standing upright on the slick roadway, the cop reached for his radio and immediately put in an emergency call for sand.

Then Rich showed up in his mother’s station wagon to ferry my traumatized passengers the few remaining miles to his house. Coming from the other direction, he hit the ice just like I did and nearly took out the police cruiser.

“What’s happening?” Rich exclaimed, wide-eyed, as he bounced out of his car and almost fell into the cop’s arms.

Then, after 20 or 30 agonizingly long minutes, my dad’s Toyota Corona slowly came into view.

He got out and stared at my mom’s station wagon, now being coaxed out of the woods by a tow truck with at least 100 feet of winch cable.

I tried to point out how I’d managed to steer between the two biggest trees, but the look on Dad’s face told me I might as well have been talking to the trees.

Heck, even the young police officer tried to stick up for me.

“Sir,” he told my dad, “the road’s impassable. I just called for some sand. We’ve had a number of accidents here in the last – ”

My dad shot him a glare and held up his hand.

“Thank you, officer,” he said icily. “But I’ll be the judge as to whether my son was driving safely tonight.”

The cop and I looked at each other. “Please,” I implored with my eyes, “take me with you.”

Looking back over all those decades, I know now that my father was both frightened and angry – frightened that I’d come so close to killing myself (or someone else), and angry that, thanks to his 16-year-old Mario Andretti, his insurance rates were about to skyrocket. Again.

I also know that back then, loath as I may have been to admit it, I was one dangerous driver. Not reckless, mind you, but dangerous nonetheless in my lack of experience, my willingness to be distracted, my inability to adjust to the conditions around me.

Not so these days.

These days, I’m constantly on the lookout for, well, younger versions of me. And I see them everywhere – not too long ago, one came flying around a corner toward me on Route 112 completely on my side of the road.

I swerved into what should have been his lane to avoid a head-on collision. Then he looked up at the last second (that’s right, a texter) and instinctively swerved back into his lane, forcing me to swerve back into my lane.

Our side mirrors missed by inches. I pulled over to collect myself. He never even hit his brakes.

These days, when it comes to my driving speed, the only person who complains is my dear wife.

“Um … can’t you go a little faster?” she asks patiently as the cars line up bumper-to-bumper behind us.

“No can do,” I reply with a smile. “I’m already doing 38 and the speed limit is 35. We’re flying!”

I tell you all of this to demonstrate just how regressive Progressive was when it suggested to the Maine Bureau of Insurance last month that Mainers should pay, say, 6 percent more for auto insurance simply because they go from being 64 to 65.

Citing a state law that prohibits such a thing, the bureau nixed that request. But now Progressive plans to be back in August, seeking to gouge those 65 and over who are new customers and thus technically aren’t being subjected to a premium “increase.”

“Auto insurance companies should not be able to penalize seniors simply because they are getting older,” protested state Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, who announced last week that he’ll submit legislation to clarify the existing statute and put the brakes on this insult to our intelligence.

Good for Beck, a young man clearly on the move. He just turned 30, has already served four terms in the House and is running for the Maine Senate.

I wonder if he needs a driver.


]]> 52, 25 Jul 2016 08:38:51 +0000
Another View: Caron makes grave charge against nation’s police officers Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 On July 10, columnist Alan Caron said: “We can also see that while racism has always existed in America, it now expresses itself in new ways. Gone are the days of slavery, lynchings and open segregation. In their place are white flight to the suburbs, the politics of walls and deportations and the hair-triggered application of sanctioned violence against people of color.”

I ask: Moving to the suburbs is racism?

Moreover, Caron makes an extremely serious accusation: that an unnamed organization or group of people at some undisclosed location in this country has conspired to officially approve violence against people of the black race, thereby depriving them of their basic human and constitutional rights, an offense we usually associate with totalitarian countries.

It is clear from the context of Caron’s column, and from another statement he made on July 17, the broad identity of those to whom he was referring: “For decades, the black community has sought the country’s support in the face of institutionalized racism in police forces.”

Caron has issued a blanket indictment, without a shred of evidence, against the entire edifice of law enforcement in this country, hundreds of thousands of police officers and guardians of public safety who daily risk their lives to protect us.

That incendiary condemnation of the police demands a specific answer: Who are the police and where are the police who have sanctioned violence against people of color?

Caron’s statement implies that he knows who they are and where we can find them – individuals, not anonymous entities, approve sanctions. If they exist, it is in the public’s interest to root them out and prosecute those bogus officers of the law before they do further harm.

Every person or group of people, especially the police in this time of imminent personal danger, have the right to defend themselves against accusations of wrongdoing, particularly accusations of such gravity and magnitude.

Caron has an obligation to provide the FBI and the public with factual evidence to back up his statement, or to issue a retraction for bearing false witness.

]]> 8 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:18:37 +0000
Our View: LePage keeps flouting people’s right to know Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It’s hard to know what’s going on inside the LePage administration because that’s the way Gov. LePage wants it. We are often forced to put together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces found in news releases, tightly controlled town hall meetings and appearances on friendly talk radio shows to get a picture of what our government is really up to.

Lately, the puzzle pieces are revealing a pattern of sneakiness and obfuscation, obscuring the people’s right to know about some of the most important functions of government, including education policy, public health and law enforcement.

This tendency to hide is often written off as an example of the governor’s rocky relationship with the press, but this is not about the press. The governor is directing his employees to put a lid on public information and to communicate with handwritten notes that are never archived, hiding information from everyone, not just the media.

A government without oversight is an environment where corruption gets a chance to grow. That might not be the intent, but history shows it will be the result if the governor keeps fighting to keep the sunlight out.


For instance, the governor’s aides were found to have used text messages to communicate in April when they were shutting the public out of a Blaine House meeting of a blue ribbon commission on education funding.

LePage had previously banned state officials from doing state business by text, after a former Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention employee testified that she had been instructed to use texts because they weren’t subject to the public records law.

Copies of the LePage aides’ texts were included in a court filing by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, part of a civil action against the administration for violating the state’s right to know law. The text messages made clear that the reason the meeting was going to be closed to the public was that LePage wanted it that way.

And why? The lawmakers and others on the commission who attended the session reported that nothing sensitive occurred, no confidential information was shared. They said it was a typical first session of a fact-finding group. Closing the doors had no purpose other than satisfying the governor’s desire to make his own rules and control the flow of information.

Last week, the governor’s Department of Health and Human Services asked the attorney general to review a rule change that would allow the department to keep certain data confidential: namely, the location of outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The department claims that releasing this information might inadvertently identify individuals in places like a school, where the population is small and everyone knows who’s out sick. But even if that’s true, warning people about an infectious disease outbreak would seem to be a bedrock duty of an agency that has “disease control” in its name. If that’s not a public health organization’s responsibility, what is?


The reason behind the rule change may be a 2015 settlement with this newspaper, in which the department agreed to release previously embargoed information about chicken pox outbreaks the previous school year. The paper argued that exposure to the virus could be deadly to a person with a compromised immune system, so information about where it is spreading is vitally important.

Having lost its case to keep the information secret, the administration is looking to change the rule that required officials to disclose the data.

There are many other examples, notably the six-month effort by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram to review email communications between the Maine Warden Service and a reality TV production company that filmed a raid on suspected poachers in Allagash. The warden service has slowed every effort to research whether the cameras provided any incentive for the agency to push harder in Allagash.

What are they hiding? Maybe nothing. But the fact that a law enforcement agency won’t turn over routine communications is reason enough to be concerned.

After five years in office, Gov. LePage is not getting any better when it comes to maintaining the public’s right to know. His aversion to conducting public business in public is not only a waste of resources, it’s against the law.

It’s time that a court put the pieces of the puzzle together and sanction the governor for acting as if right to know laws do not apply to him.

]]> 29, 22 Jul 2016 19:46:52 +0000
Maine Observer: Life in Maine was the way life should be Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Growing up in the ’50s in southern Maine was a source of wonder and was marked by yearly rituals that became the traditions of my life.

The last days of school in June would make our morning bus rides exciting. With the windows open, it felt like we were flying through the countryside. Warm weather brought fresh wild strawberries in fields and along the road to be searched out, picked and enjoyed. Since my best friend lived over a mile away, my full-time companion was my dog, with whom I shared many adventures in which imagination played an important part.

Warm summer evenings brought fireflies or “lightning bugs,” which we captured in jars. Very disappointing the next morning to find nondescript little brown bugs. At 71, I still enjoy going barefoot and gardening without gloves, reminiscent of my childhood. We swam in El Pond during the hot days when our parents could be persuaded to drive us there. The water was wonderful, but on exiting we always had to check for bloodsuckers.

Fall brought new clothes, shoes, and each year a new pencil box. It contained pencils, an eraser, crayons, a 6-inch ruler and something called a protractor that I never did find a use for. Each year the smell of the pencil box was the aroma of fall and the ritual of returning to school. Cooler days brought more time inside. Our first TV was a black-and-white console with no remote. We had three channels, and if President Eisenhower was making a speech he was on every channel.

Halloween was trick or treating as a group with my best friend and her older sisters. We knew every family we went to, and no one worried about being able to eat what they gave out.

My first two school years were spent in a one-room schoolhouse in the High Pine section of Wells. There were eight grades and one teacher, so the older children helped the younger ones. By third grade I was moved to the new school in Wells, where everything was brand new and the blackboards were actually green. The building still stands, weathered and boarded up. But when I drive by, I recall how large it seemed to me at first and the resulting friendships that lasted into my adult life.

Most of the activities of our growing-up years cost very little and only required an abundance of imagination. Life was simpler, more predictable and made us more self-sufficient. What will the kids of today, glued to their video games and cellphones, remember in 50 years? I wonder. I’m not against progress. I just don’t want “the way life should be” to be forgotten.


]]> 2 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:34:59 +0000
Commentary: The Maine-Turkey connection Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Here’s proof that the world is shrinking.

Followers of Fethullah Gulen, the reculsive imam who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of masterminding this month’s failed coup attempt, are being rounded up by the tens of thousands across Turkey. Erdogan, an increasingly autocratic figure, has likened the Gulenists to “a tumor” within the state and military, adding “now this tumor is being removed.”

For years, Gulen’s followers also have been engaged in sustained cultural diplomacy here in Maine, sponsoring tours of Turkey’s Gulen-affiliated institutions for state lawmakers, an awards banquet honoring Gov. Paul LePage and two applications to start taxpayer-financed charter schools here.

In the process, Gulen’s followers have built a bipartisan network of allies, with lawmakers serving on the advisory board of their local outreach organization and writing letters on behalf of their unsuccessful efforts to open charter schools in Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn. They’ve convened an annual Turkish Cultural Day at the State House’s Hall of Flags featuring Turkish delicacies, artists and keynote addresses by the governor, Senate President Justin Alfond and Public Safety Commissioner John Morris.

Why they’ve invested so much time and energy in public diplomacy directed at an obscure, sparsely populated state with a Turkish population of less than 300 has always been something of a mystery, particularly as their leaders have been evasive about their relationship to Gulen and one another. What is known is that the movement is doing many of the same things in states across the country, including New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, sometimes generating controversy not for their outreach – which focuses on fostering friendly ties with Turkey – but for their charter schools’ questionable use of visa and grant programs.

Now, with the Turkish president declaring Gulen public enemy No. 1, the imam’s relationship with the United States threatens to destroy one of our country’s most important strategic alliances. Turkey, a fellow NATO member, has long served as a bridge between the West and the Middle East, a forward base for U.S. military assets and the gate that denies Russia ice-free, year-around access to the open ocean. A cleric whose followers have invested in building ties between Maine and Turkey has, rightly or wrongly, occasioned a deep rift between Washington and Ankara.


Gulen has lived in exile in a secluded compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains since 1999, when he was facing charges of plotting to overthrow the Turkish government. A voice for moderate Islam and an opponent of terrorism, Gulen has continued to exert considerable influence in Turkey, where his followers ironically helped Erdogan take and consolidate power, in part by infiltrating the military, police and judicial systems. “Our contacts all agree they are ‘everywhere’ in Turkish society including … the military,” U.S. diplomats in Istanbul wrote in a confidential 2009 cable published by the Wikileaks site. “Many (secular officials) and academics assume the Gulen movement has already ‘captured’ the police in Turkey.”

Other leaked State Department cables show that for more than a decade, U.S. diplomats have been concerned about the movement’s activities in the U.S. consular officers in Ankara and Istanbul and in May 2006 reported that large numbers of visa applicants were “seeking to visit a number of charter schools in the U.S. with which consular officials were unfamiliar.” Further investigation revealed what diplomats said were more than 30 U.S.-based charter schools and 22 educational consultancies and foundations that were “in some way affiliated with Gulen.” Applicants seeking to visit these institutions were “generally evasive about the purpose of their travel to the United States and usually denying knowing or wanting to visit Gulen” unless exposed to “very direct questioning,” the diplomats wrote.

Indeed, Gulen’s followers have started 130 charter schools in 26 states – said to be the largest charter school network in the country – and a number have been investigated by either news organizations or law enforcement for allegedly using their taxpayer funds to contract services and equipment from other Gulen-linked entities.

According to Joshua Hendrick, assistant professor of sociology at Loyola University in Maryland and a leading scholar on Gulen’s U.S. activities, the movement’s real motivation – charter schools and all – was to accumulate political and financial resources to further the transformation of Turkey itself, even cultivating relationships in places far from the Bosporus – like Augusta.


The Gulen movement became active in Maine in 2012 via its New York-based Council of Turkic American Associations, which operates in Maine as the Turkish Cultural Center of Maine. That summer, the council organized a subsidized nine-day trip to Turkey for six Mainers: Sen. Joseph Brannigan, D-Portland, and his wife; Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade, and his wife; Rep. Jane Knapp, R-Gorham; and then-NAACP Portland chapter leader Rachel Talbot Ross.

The participants visited numerous Gulen-affiliated institutions in Turkey, including the Zaman newspaper, Fetih University, the Kimse Yok Mu anti-poverty organization and several Turkish charter schools run by his followers.

Shortly thereafter, a group of mostly Turkey-born academics and educators submitted an application to open the Queen City Academy Charter School in Bangor. The group was headed by Alper Kiziltas, the outreach coordinator for the council’s Turkish Cultural Center of Maine, and Murat Kilic, chairman of the board of a Gulen-inspired charter school in Massachusetts upon which the proposed Maine school was explicitly modeled and the founder of two other Gulen organizations in Boston. Brannigan and Keschl – impressed with what they had seen in Turkey – provided letters of support for the project, but it was ultimately rejected by the state charter school commission because of uncertainties about its financing.

In the summer of 2013, the council sent out invitations for another subsidized trip to Turkey. This time they were joined by Keschl, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, and Rep. Karen Kusiak, D-Fairfield, who subsequently became the advisory board of the council’s Turkish Cultural Center of Maine. Katz and Keschl submitted letters of support for the proposed Lewiston-Auburn Academy Charter School, also modeled on the Gulen school in Massachusetts.

Throughout the application process for both Maine charter schools, applicants argued they had no formal ties to Gulen or his institutions, although when pressed they would admit to having individuals “inspired” by the cleric.

Hendrick, who wrote his dissertation on Gulen’s network of institutions, told the Press Herald in 2013 that followers had developed “a culture of strategic ambiguity” wherein they avoided answering direct questions about how its component parts relate to one another, allowing them “flexibility to adapt and adjust to local conditions.” This evasiveness served Gulenists well during the 1970s and 1980s in Turkey, he said, where they were among the many targets of the country’s surveillance apparatus.

In November 2013, the Council of Turkic American Associations held a friendship dinner at South Portland’s Marriott at Sable Oaks hotel, where they presented LePage and Augusta Mayor William Stokes with leadership awards and screened a short film about Gulen and his ideas. “It’s time that we here in Maine appreciate and work with other countries to improve our economy,” LePage told the audience, echoing the night’s theme of fostering cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey.


By then, however, Gulen’s own relationship with Turkey’s ruler, Erdogan, had come apart. Once allies against Turkey’s previous (and autocratic) secular regime, their relationship had grown strained over Erdogan’s increasingly activist foreign policy in the Middle East. Gulen and his followers, the New York Times reported a few weeks after the Sable Oaks dinner, opposed Erdogan’s support of Syrian rebels and, especially, his attempts to send aid to Palestinians in Gaza, which caused a rift in Turkey’s relations with Israel after Israeli troops boarded a Gaza-bound Turkish relief vessel and killed nine people on board. Gulen preferred the country to stay focused on the West and obtaining European Union membership.

Erdogan accused Gulen’s followers – which he called a “criminal gang” – of being behind an embarrassing corruption probe of his government and responded by purging Istanbul’s police chief and others involved in the investigation. In the years since, the increasingly autocratic president has tried to change the constitution to give himself more powers, jailed the editor and forcibly seized control of Gulen-linked Zaman, the country’s largest newspaper, and built himself a $600 million palace.


This month’s coup attempt – which Gulen denies involvement in – has prompted Erdogan to purge tens of thousands of teachers, school headmasters, military officers, judges, police leaders and other officials he believes to be members of Gulen’s network. The president has demanded that the U.S. extradite Gulen himself, and some officials in his administration have accused the U.S. of secretly supporting the coup attempt. Gulen and the U.S. government have denied involvement and condemned the coup.

As its relationship with Turkey soured, the movement continued to host an annual Turkish Cultural Day at Maine’s State House. This year’s event – with 200 guests and a keynote from Alfond, D-Portland – was held April 6. The host committee had expanded to eight sitting legislators: Sens. Katz, Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, and Anne Haskell, D-Portland, and Reps. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, Matt Pouilot, R-Augusta, Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, and Joan Welsh, D-Rockport.

But the future of Maine-Turkey public diplomacy looks dim. Erdogan is rounding up suspected Gulensits by the thousands and wants to reinstate the death penalty to punish some of them. This week his government banned all foreign travel by academics to prevent coup plotters from escaping and urged academics abroad to return home “within the shortest period of time.” Gulen-affiliated tours of the country look to be a thing of the past.

Colin Woodard, a frequent visitor to Turkey in the 1990s, is the Telegram’s State and National Affairs Writer.

]]> 3, 22 Jul 2016 18:41:01 +0000
Maine Voices: Create a Government Oversight Committee and OPEGA archive Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 LIVERMORE — For almost three years I have been observing the workings of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee and the Maine Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability and have yet to be disappointed in the substance of their studies or the procedures they follow.

OPEGA, under the leadership of its director, Beth Ashcroft, is practicing best methods and makes me wish that other agencies were as data driven and focused on delivering actionable results. OPEGA and the Government Oversight Committee make me feel good about paying taxes.

What is more important is that the interactions of the different members of the oversight committee – half state senators and half state representatives, half Democrats and half Republicans – are always positive.

Watching the committee grapple with formulating and accurately defining problems, then improving the formulation based on new data from OPEGA, shows the creativity and wisdom of those who designed and established the committee and OPEGA.

The mile-deep strength of our system of open discussion with fair and realistic compromises needs to be studied by scholars – and to be communicated to those who, unable to attend the meetings, must base their opinions on thin media coverage, and consequently believe our legislators are “do-nothing” and are unable to accomplish simple tasks, to the detriment of those who rely on the government.

The fact is that I have difficulty keeping up with the actionable, reliable and valid information produced by the oversight committee and OPEGA – material that is so word- and number-dense that the House chair of the committee, Chuck Kruger of Thomaston, calls it “sleepy-eyed stuff.”

I’m not surprised that the traditional media do not cover most of these constructive sessions and products, because the traditional media are rarely present and do not have the time to plow through the mounds of sleepy-eyed details. I’d like to make a respectful suggestion: Have Government Oversight Committee and OPEGA meetings videotaped and archived.

What the oversight committee and OPEGA are doing is truly rare, and their accomplishments are not just a few studies of high quality. The accomplishments are many and deep and have direct positive impact on our entire system of governance and the people who elect our leaders.

Having an archive, possibly in the legislative library, would not take up much space – memory is continuing to drop in price while increasing in storage density.

For the life of me, I’m stunned that no one has yet used the normal, routine workings of the oversight committee and OPEGA as the core component of a real-life course in dynamic, practical governance.

For over a year now, Martha Spiess has been videotaping the Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission meetings for the public access Community Television Network, and we might be able to convince her to videotape the Government Oversight Committee and OPEGA proceedings as well.

I’ve been in countries where the oversight committee and OPEGA could not exist, much less function. Guatemala, Cuba, East Germany, Bahamas, Mexico and more – it’s a long list. The sad truth is that the oversight committee and OPEGA could not have existed in many Southern states in the U.S. during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and into the ’80s.

An archive would be a genuine resource for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as for independent researchers and interested citizens.

The archive will increase in value over time and should be used to show terrorists how absurd is the belief that either actions or thoughts can destroy the Government Oversight Committee and OPEGA, and the other components of representative government – because, as the oversight committee and OPEGA continue to prove, our system is in each of us.

Used to factually, logically and practically counter and negate terrorist recruiting programs, a Government Oversight Committee and OPEGA archive would thus contribute to the preservation and perpetuation of our imperfect system – a system that is, hands down, the best that has ever existed.


]]> 0, 22 Jul 2016 19:13:16 +0000
Alan Caron: Donald Trump’s politics of anger Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My wife and I did our civic duty this past Thursday, staying up until way past our bedtime to hear Donald Trump’s Republican National Convention speech. It made us wonder if we live in the same country as the people in that convention hall, and how it is that they developed such a hostile view of their fellow Americans.

The speech was the darkest and most angry representation of America that I’ve seen since the last time a presidential candidate appealed to America’s fears by promising “law and order.” But even that candidate, Richard Nixon, tempered his speech with some appreciation for America’s strengths, history and future.

Trump’s world seemed full of villains, corruption, evil politicians, cheaters, enemies and scapegoats, a place where people rage to the point of reddened faces. In that world, the economy hasn’t been improving, it’s been declining. We’re beset by demons. People who don’t look like us are scheming, untrustworthy and evil.

And the only thing that matters in the world is us.

At many moments in Trump’s speech, we couldn’t recognize the country that he was describing. We appreciate the problems in Maine and around the country: a changing economy, immigration, racial and cultural integration and the environment. But as any student of American history knows, our problems today are molehills against the mountains we’ve faced in the past.

Industrial revolution. Disease and war. Slavery. The Civil War. Robber barons. The Great Depression. The threat to our existence from World War II. Air and water pollution. And even ideological enemies determined to destroy us.

The speech raised, for me, the question of whether or not a majority of American voters are really angry enough for Trump. It also raised the question of whether or not we’re becoming a place where celebrity is more important than content and character – where we’re coming to idolize the greed and excess showcased in magazine racks at the checkout counters.

Where is our pride in a country of high ideals and tolerance, a melting pot of many into one and a place where dreams are born? When did we stop being a problem-solving and optimistic place where we struggle through challenges and change, constantly moving toward a better future? Where, despite our disagreements, reasonable people and doers find ways to work together to improve our lives, our communities and the nation.

So far, through all of the challenges in this nation’s life, we’ve mostly managed to avoid losing our minds to fear and anger. And we’ve avoided the periodic temptation to install a “strongman” with dictatorial inclinations that would undermine the foundations of our democratic constitution.

Trump’s premise is that the majority of Americans are ready for the kind of angry revolution he represents. If he’s right, America is in for one of its most divisive convulsions since 1861. His case wasn’t proved by the primary elections, where he faced a multitude of relatively weak candidates who dutifully split up the disgruntled-but-not-enraged vote, giving him a clear path to the nomination. And it wasn’t proved in the recent convention, which had multiple undercurrents of division.

National polling offers mixed signals. There’s no question that most Americans are doing better, economically, than they were in the depths of the Great Recession. We have fewer men and women in combat. The stock market is way up. Consumer confidence and purchasing has returned to pre-recession levels. And we’re slowly rebuilding manufacturing in America.

On the flip side, barely a quarter of Americans feel the country is moving in the right direction, even while slightly more than half give President Obama positive grades. Faith in the future to produce a better life for the next generation is as low as it has ever been, and that’s particularly so among younger Americans who make up that generation.

There is clearly some real anger in the country, which was picked up by both Trump and Bernie Sanders. Young people are saddled with debt, dead-end jobs and a warming planet. Working-class men, in particular, have enjoyed a half century of middle class life without a college education. It’s a world that is now disappearing before their eyes. And Trump was busy, in his speech, trying to unite those two segments of America into a winning coalition.

The November election will define who we are, as a nation, and where we’re headed. But it won’t remove the challenges and stresses we’re experiencing. That’s something we’ll all need to keep working on together. No amount of angry politics can change that.

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

]]> 4 Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:27:25 +0000
The humble Farmer: A rough draft of a Wyeth work shows its humble beginnings Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You and I have had memorable days. I remember the day I cut off my right shinbone with an ax. I remember posing for Andy Wyeth, and I remember playing for a dance at Rockland High School the same December day I rolled over in my Model T Ford.

I remember the first time I used a telephone, and I remember the day I went to Waldoboro so Sam Pennington could show me the internet. I remember feeling sorry for myself on my 21st and 40th birthdays. I remember the day Roosevelt died and the organ music that pre-empted my “Tom Mix” radio program, and I remember two of my more recent weddings.

Of course there are those other never-to-be-forgotten days that you and I will prudently keep to ourselves.

Although Saturday started out like any day here at the farm, it ended up with an unforgettable surprise and we should talk about it.

At 8 a.m., there were six guests wolfing fresh blueberry cake and eggs made to order at Marsha’s bed-and-breakfast table. George, John, Denise and Ann are regulars who come to the St. George book sale every year. An astrophysicist, also named John, and Beth Ann were here for Paul Dalrymple’s Antarctican Society reunion.

John said that Admiral Byrd’s grandson spoke, and there is talk of retrieving a plane the admiral left behind on one of his expeditions.

From this it is obvious that my neighbor, Dr. Dalrymple, is a unique person, and for that alone he warrants space here: A week ago I found myself seated next to him at the monthly St. George Grange supper, where we had a nice conversation over Sally’s beans and Carol’s homemade bread. Because of the din in the hall, neither one of us heard a word the other one said.

Earlier this summer, Dr. Dalrymple, who is 92 or so and runs around with a fathom of pot warp holding up his pants, told me he wore the rope because he got tired of taking off his suspenders to get through security at airports. I don’t know about you, but I have a great deal of admiration for anyone who can outwit Cerberus.

Our six guests weren’t out of the house before two of Marsha’s old friends dropped by and invited us to help them squander their children’s inheritance down on the Continent.

I was trying to assimilate this good news while cleaning up the breakfast dishes and washing the sheets from five beds when two new friends from Weeks Mills drove in the yard. They claim to be addicted to my TV show, they are my doctor’s parents, and they wanted to see our Grange Hall. One program shows a foolish old man on the Grange porch roof, putting a 20-foot wooden sign on the front of the Grange Hall. One slip and he would have broken his neck.

They’d no sooner left when two young women came by. I recently saw an article one of them wrote about Andy Wyeth. When I sent her a piece I wrote about Andy the day he died, she asked if she could visit.

In my essay, which you can read online, I mentioned that in 1951, Andy arranged to boat across the river and have me pick him up down at Lou’s shore in my ’32 Ford. We drove up to our church, where I stood on the belfry steps while he did sketches for a painting called “Toll Rope.”

I explained that he had left me out of the final draft, but that 50 or so years later he had written beside that picture, in a book of his prints, that I had posed for the picture, and that I had been left out of the final draft. Andy said the sketches were lost.

Reading this, one of these wonderful women dug around until she found those sketches and brought me a copy of one that shows me on the steps. The original is in a museum in Detroit.

In comparing the sketch with the final painting, one sees that the rope that gives the painting its name comes through the middle of my face. I hope that is why I was left out.

The picture is copyrighted, and my friend said that although I can hang it on the wall, I can’t post a picture of it on the internet.

Saturday was an unforgettable day. It is not often that someone gives you a picture Andy Wyeth did of you, even if it is only a copy. The last time I saw the original to that sketch was in 1951. When we finished up, I remember thinking that the guy in the drawing didn’t look like me.

Unfortunately, photographs do.

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

]]> 1 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:29:21 +0000
Commentary: Can’t give Melania Trump any credit for Republican convention speech Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 STORRS, Conn. — Didn’t it seem odd to you that Melania Trump started to talk about the difficulties she faced as a black woman at Princeton? That’s when I started to feel a little weird about her speech.

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.

You might recognize “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny” as a line from Larry The Cable Guy because the comic has made it a part of his shtick. The words are widely circulated but still identifiable as Larry’s and Larry’s alone.

What you might not have recognized, however, is that my opening line making fun of the apparent plagiarism in Melania Trump’s speech Monday at the Republican convention, the bit about being a black woman at Princeton, is lifted from a tweet by journalist Michael Crowley.

I stole it, Crowley’s funny comment.

I mean, I could have thought of that idea; I might have thought of that idea. The wee fact that I didn’t think of that idea is surely just a dumb detail, one only the most pedantic and persnickety, jealous and backbiting critic would notice.

Besides, a woman like Trump wouldn’t steal an idea. She would buy it, keep the tags on it and return it if it didn’t work.

Michael Crowley posted his quip on Twitter a few hours after Trump’s speech was being dissected – perhaps the word “vivisected” is more accurate – in the media.

Within minutes of the revelation of the significant and undeniable overlap between Trump’s speech and one delivered by Michelle Obama in 2008, folks were tweeting gleefully.

Improvisational comedian Bob Fisher channeled Donald Trump’s wife, “Melania: ‘These accusations about my speech hurt not only me, but also hurt my children Sasha and Malia,’ ” and comedy writer Emma Kennedy followed with “I’m looking forward to Melania’s next speech. ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman.’ ”

I could have said I invented those funny comments, too, but in addition to respecting the intelligence of my audience, I’m aware that you are savvy enough to look stuff up.

It’s not hard to discover if material is plagiarized. As a professor, I’m forced to do it on occasion, and I suggest to the junior colleagues I mentor (whose students understand less about the implications of the theft of intellectual property) that they do it regularly, or at least until both they and their students are fluent in what constitutes original work.

As one of my former students, Chad Stanley, now a professor at Wilkes College in Pennsylvania, declared, “All subsequent campaign communications must be submitted to Turnitin.”

Turnitin is one of several websites where teachers – or anyone – can submit passages and papers to have them reviewed for examples of plagiarism. Such sites go beyond literary theft, and can help everyone learn to identify the 10 types of plagiarism. (I stole that description from their website.)

There are hundreds of other websites offering similar services. Every educator I asked, from junior high school teachers to university administrators, agreed that a student who swiped as much text as Melania Trump would be expelled or, at the very least, put on double secret probation.

Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care. I suppose plagiarism doesn’t matter at Trump University (which is where I assume Melania Trump’s son Barron will be educated, since she wants only the best for the next generation). Donald Trump tweeted that his wife’s “speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible.”

Of course he said that. When NBC’s Matt Lauer interviewed the Trumps, Melania said she wrote the speech herself with very little help.

Several friends believe it was either an act of sabotage or a publicity stunt. Both these scenarios distance Melania Trump from personal responsibility for the words coming out of her mouth. Here’s what my friends said: “The poor thing only does what she’s told”; “They want to keep the media focused on Melania and it’s been effective”; “Donald hired somebody who deliberately undermined him.”

Does it matter? The practice of taking something that is not your own and passing it off as yours should not be rewarded with anything except shame. That’s a lesson worth copying out. (I plagiarized that from an article I wrote a few years back. You can look it up.)


]]> 11 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:36:26 +0000
Maine Voices: Zika virus tops list of reasons to postpone Olympics Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Several months ago, information about the Zika virus began to appear in the Western media. Zika had circulated in Asia and Africa for decades, but its symptoms were usually mild compared to other mosquito-borne infections. Then last year, Brazilian physicians noticed an alarming increase in newborn microcephaly: babies with small heads and an expected lifetime of severe neurological problems.

Now, with over 1,400 cases of microcephaly confirmed in Brazil among babies whose mothers were infected by Zika during pregnancy, and with intensive study by the worldwide scientific community, it is clear that a pandemic is spreading throughout the world. Now is not the time for an estimated half-million athletes and visitors to flock to Brazil for the Summer Olympics, set to kick off Aug. 5. The Games should be canceled while the public health calamity is addressed.

A Zika emergency is developing, and clearly, this is no simple matter. It’s becoming evident that the virus can be transmitted sexually as well as by mosquitoes. Additionally, global warming makes it inevitable that summer will bring hordes of such unwanted biting insect visitors further north, intensifying this catastrophe.

Zika-linked neurological conditions are surfacing in children born with normal-sized heads, as well as in newborns whose mothers didn’t have the rash characteristic of Zika during pregnancy. This development has been named “Zika congenital syndrome” by scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other global health experts.

The CDC and the World Health Organization have advised that women living in areas where Zika is being transmitted delay pregnancy; however, one wonders what the practical and societal results of such advice will be as time passes. Abortion demand is already soaring in Latin America. Huge expenditures requested in Washington to address this problem have been disappointingly delayed because of political squabbling.

On top of this developing disaster, we now have the Summer Olympics just weeks away. Over 10,000 young athletes from over 200 countries, accompanied by armies of support staff, will be on fumes to get to Rio de Janeiro, pumped to the max and unfazed by any bug.

But although young people trained for competition and craving their opportunity to compete at world-class events will be reluctant to cancel, the red flags are too numerous. Yes, airlines and hotels will be unhappy; however, the health of attendees should weigh much more heavily.

Already, golfers, pro basketball players and others are opting out: LeBron James, for example, will be wisely watching from Cleveland. Gary Player has admonished golfers who are declining to go to the Games, raising the question of where he attended medical school.

The Games draw together the young athletes of the world in a dramatic spectacle. However, this close contact must be identified as an obvious environment in which proximity will become a worldwide enemy of the countries involved, as it will set up conduits for the spread of Zika back to their homelands. A more dire public health scenario cannot even be imagined.

Amid the concern over Zika, other calamities are playing out in Brazil. The country’s president has been ousted and is facing impeachment proceedings. The Brazilian tourism minister just resigned over corruption allegations, despite reassurances by the mayor of Rio de Janeiro that the Olympics will not be affected by the spreading national scandal.

It does not seem that matters in Brazil could be much worse, but they are. Huge sums have allegedly been passed around among Rio officials to gain favors in all the business transactions taking place in association with the Olympics there. (The International Olympic Committee itself has long been suspected in graft and kickback schemes, especially during the selection of future Games sites.)

To add another layer of trouble, Russia stands accused of state-sponsored doping during the 2014 Sochi Olympics; its track and field team has been banned from Rio, and it’s possible that no Russian will be allowed to compete in Brazil. And, finally, the terrorism threat is just so enormous as to be unthinkable.

Listing the problems is easy. Now what? Let’s consider this: Postpone the Rio Olympics and join with participating nations to help Brazil correct its problems, then showcase what it is like to do the right thing, bringing friends and neighbors together, hoping good will may lead to another kind of epidemic: one of respect, honesty, fun and games. Everyone would love it, given the events we usually endure. Meanwhile, we should develop vaccines and treatment for Zika.

]]> 0 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:25:32 +0000
Another View: Turkish leader responds to coup with a political coup of his own Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has responded to a failed military coup with what amounts to a political coup of his own. Since last weekend, tens of thousands of Turks have been arrested or fired from their jobs: not just military officers involved in the rebellion but also teachers, university professors, judges and thousands of other civil servants.

A state of emergency has been declared; hundreds of schools have been closed; dozens of journalists have had their credentials revoked. According to Turks monitoring the purge, those targeted include not just supporters of the exiled Islamic leader Erdogan blames for the coup, but also anyone suspected of not supporting his government, including members of minority groups and secular liberals.

Erdogan, who called the failed putsch a “gift from God,” is not just moving to further consolidate what already had become an authoritarian regime. He is also trying to force the United States, Turkey’s NATO ally, to aid his crackdown – in particular by handing over the alleged mastermind of the coup, Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. President Obama’s administration is rightly resisting –- and it must continue to do so even if it means a breach in cooperating with Turkey against the Islamic State.

Gulen leads a peaceful, if secretive, Islamic movement that operates schools in Turkey, the United States and other parts of the world. For years, his followers in the Turkish police and judiciary were allied with Erdogan’s own Islamist party – ironically, the two combined to purge the Turkish military of officers suspected of coup-plotting. But the two leaders fell out in late 2013, when the government moved to close some Gulenist schools and prosecutors suspected of Gulenist sympathies brought major corruption cases against the government.

Erdogan needs to understand that the United States cannot be bullied into abetting his consolidation of a dictatorship.

]]> 1 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 19:41:30 +0000
Our View: Democrats must find counter to Trump’s rage Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 After this week’s Republican convention, Democrats face a risky choice: Do they dare to play it safe?

The nomination of Donald J. Trump did not go smoothly. The candidate’s wife read a plagiarized speech. Sen. Ted Cruz told Republicans from the rostrum that they did not need to vote for Trump, and was booed off the stage. Electronics malfunctioned, major figures in the party stayed away and most nights the delegates left early.

But when it came to stirring up anger and fear, everything worked fine.

Trump yelled from the rostrum for 75 minutes, booming out phony statistics and half-baked policy ideas, blaming scapegoats for all the country’s ills, which in his telling are huge.

For four days they attacked Democrat Hillary Clinton, and now millions of Americans believe that she is one step away from the jailhouse, not the White House.

Trump was especially effective making her look like a tool of big business and media elites – quite a trick, considering what he does for a living.

Most of the charges were exaggerated or outright lies, but the blows landed, and Clinton goes into her convention with millions of Americans convinced that she is a criminal.

The premise of Trump’s convention was that the country is being torn apart by enemies that only he can destroy.

He might be wrong on the facts but he’s hitting an emotional truth.

If the Democrats counter with programs and proposals for incremental change, they could lose this election. The anxiety people feel about the future in places like rural Maine is real and it demands a response that speaks to the desire for fundamental change.

The kind of enthusiasm that propelled the Bernie Sanders campaign should show Clinton where the voters want to go.

This election will be won by the most motivated party, and judging from Thursday night, that party is the Republicans.

Clinton does not seem like the natural candidate to deliver that kind of message. She has been cautious her entire career, and caution has made her very successful.

But in this cycle, caution is risky. Democrats underestimate the people’s impatience with the pace of progress at their peril.

]]> 60, 22 Jul 2016 19:42:49 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Trump could win because Americans are tired of condescension Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When I think of the presidential campaign, I keep recalling those old Westerns where the bad guys blow up a railroad trestle and the train crashes into a deep gorge.

The only question is, who’s the engineer?

Despite what I hear from progressives, the job is still up for grabs. That Hillary Clinton will be picked in November to put her hands on the controls is not assured.

Many people think Donald Trump (the last person I would have picked as the Republican nominee, as if that mattered) may end up holding the keys to the Oval Office. As it happens, they make an interesting case.

What about Clinton? Well, the delegates at the Republican convention may have been chanting “Guilty!” and “Lock her up!” during Chris Christie’s rousing “indictment” speech Tuesday, but that’s not gonna happen.

But keeping her a private citizen could, so let’s look at Trump’s chances as things stand now. First, some polls:

The Real Clear Politics poll average this week has Clinton up by just 2.7 points, well within the margin of error of any major poll.

On Tuesday, analyst Nate Silver said on his FiveThirtyEight blog (there are 538 votes in the Electoral College), “Trump’s odds have improved. He has a 36 percent chance of winning the election,” according to one model, “and a 38 percent chance,” according to another.

This has led to “a lot of consternation among Clinton voters: Why isn’t her position safer? There’s really about a 35 or 40 percent chance that Trump will become president? Based on the polls, we think the model is setting those odds about right. The race is a long way from being a toss-up, but a 3 or 4 percentage point lead heading into the conventions isn’t all that reliable, either. While Obama won twice with pre-convention leads of about that margin, John Kerry went into his convention with a lead of about 3 percentage points in 2004, but lost to George W. Bush.”

Silver says polls over the next few weeks should show “convention bounces” for both candidates, but if Clinton doesn’t end up 3 to 5 points ahead in September, that’s a bad sign for her.

Then add this from The Washington Post: On Monday, reporter Aaron Blake wrote, “It’s hard to overstate just how bad Clinton’s (disapproval) numbers are.” But “while Clinton is hitting a new low,” Trump’s negatives, which are only slightly worse than hers, seem “to have leveled off and maybe even improved a bit in recent months.”

John Brabender, a Republican strategist, wrote Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal that Trump needs to win all the states Mitt Romney won in 2012, but of course that’s not enough.

However, he said, “the best news for Trump” is that “with the right nominee,” Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which all have Republican senators and two have Republican governors, “aren’t afraid to vote Republican.” And he adds Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire to the list.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson, a top-ranked conservative social critic, Tuesday listed “Ten Reasons Why Trump Could Win” on National Review Online.

The whole thing’s worth reading, but his top three in my view are these: 1) While both are “elitists,” Trump speaks in a popular idiom while Clinton “talks down” to the average person; 2) Trump is not as disliked by minorities as liberals and the media think he is, because many Americans in all groups see unrestricted illegal immigration as a threat; and 3) As with the Brexit vote on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, many Trump backers are likely to keep their views to themselves, making polls (which misread the EU outcome) unreliable here, too.

Regarding Brexit, columnist Anne Applebaum wrote June 24 in The Washington Post, “Identity politics trumped economics; arguments about ‘independence’ and ‘sovereignty’ defeated arguments about British influence and importance. The advice of once-trusted institutions was ignored. Elected leaders were swept aside. If that kind of transformation can take place in the U.K., then it can happen in the United States, too. We have been warned.”

And echoing Hanson and Applebaum, Republican strategist Steve Schmidt nailed it down Wednesday in a Real Clear Politics interview: “Don’t underestimate the power of the cultural condescension that millions of Americans feel from the elites in this country. From the Beltway, to New York City, to Hollywood, millions of Americans feel condescended to culturally.”

Of course, they feel that way because they really are condescended to, and more than just “culturally.”

If they support Trump, this race may become a very unpleasant surprise for some of our most arrogant elitists.

I’m not sure we all deserve Donald Trump, but from Hillary Clinton on down, these people could use the ice-water hose-down his election would represent.

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

]]> 94, 22 Jul 2016 11:07:55 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Ted Cruz delivers longest suicide note in American political history Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The main purpose of the modern political convention is to produce four days of televised propaganda. The subsidiary function, now that nominees are invariably chosen in advance, is structural: Unify the party before the final battle. In Cleveland, the Republicans achieved not unity, but only a rough facsimile.

The internal opposition consisted of two factions. The more flamboyant was led by Ted Cruz. Its first operation – an undermanned, underplanned, mini-rebellion over convention rules – was ruthlessly steamrolled on Day One. Its other operation was Cruz’s Wednesday night convention speech in which, against all expectation, he refused to endorse Donald Trump.

It’s one thing to do this off-site. It’s another thing to do it as a guest at a celebration of the man you are rebuking.

Cruz left the stage to a cascade of boos, having delivered the longest suicide note in American political history. If Cruz fancied himself following Ronald Reagan in 1976, the runner-up who overshadowed the party nominee in a rousing convention speech that propelled him four years later to the nomination, he might reflect on the fact that Reagan endorsed Gerald Ford.

Cruz’s rebellion would have a stronger claim to conscience had he not obsequiously accommodated himself to Trump during the first six months of the campaign. Cruz reinforced that impression of political calculation when, addressing the Texas delegation Thursday morning, he said that “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.” That he should feel so is not surprising. What is surprising is that he said this publicly, thus further undermining his claim to acting on high principle.

The other faction of the anti-Trump opposition was far more subtle. These are the leaders of the party’s congressional wing who’ve offered public allegiance to Trump while remaining privately unreconciled. You could feel the reluctance of these latter-day Marranos in the speeches of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

McConnell’s pitch, as always, was practical and direct. We’ve got things to achieve in the Senate. Obama won’t sign. Clinton won’t sign. Trump will.

Very specific, very instrumental. Trump will be our enabler, an instrument of the governing (or if you prefer, establishment) wing of the party. This is mostly fantasy and rationalization, of course. And good manners by a party leader obliged to maintain a common front. The problem is that Trump will not allow himself to be the instrument of anyone else’s agenda.

Ryan was a bit more philosophical. He presented the reformicon agenda, dubbed the Better Way, for which he too needs a Republican in the White House.

Moreover, in defending his conservative philosophy, he noted that at its heart lies “respect and empathy” for “all neighbors and countrymen” because “everyone is equal, everyone has a place” and “no one is written off.” Not exactly Trump’s Manichaean universe of winners and losers, natives and foreigners (including judges born and bred in Indiana).

The loyalist (i.e., Trumpian) case had its own stars. It was most brilliantly presented by the ever-fluent Newt Gingrich, the best natural orator in either party, whose presentation of Trumpism had a coherence and economy of which Trump is incapable.

Vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence gave an affecting, self-deprecating address that managed to bridge his traditional conservatism with Trump’s insurgent populism. He managed to make the merger look smooth, even natural.

Rudy Giuliani gave the most energetic loyalist address, a rousing law-and-order manifesto, albeit at an excitement level that surely alarmed his cardiologist.

And Chris Christie’s prosecutorial indictment of Hillary Clinton for crimes of competence and character was doing just fine until he went to the audience after each charge for a call-and-response of “guilty or not guilty.” The frenzied response was a reminder as to why trials are conducted in a courtroom and not a coliseum.

On a cheerier note, there were the charming preambles at the roll call vote, where each state vies to out-boast the other. Connecticut declared itself home to “Pez, nuclear submarines and … WWE.” God bless the United States.

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

]]> 5 Thu, 21 Jul 2016 18:47:41 +0000
Maine Voices: Government, media have part to play in reviving public’s trust in nonprofits Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — In the process of my winding down a four-decade career in the nonprofit sector, multiple thoughts about nonprofits, and the environment they operate in, have bubbled to the surface. Most reflect an admiration and appreciation for the inspiring organizations and individuals that contribute selflessly to enhancing community life, but concerns about external and internal factors affecting the sector have also crept in.

These concerns center on issues that are steadily eroding public trust in the nonprofit sector and its effectiveness, since a high level of trust in both the mission focus and transparency of operations of nonprofits is critically important to their success. My hope is that these issues can begin to be addressed in order to help nonprofits reclaim the ground that reflects the highest ideals of the sector’s work.

My first hope is that government leaders stop attacking a sector that they’ve long had a mutually beneficial partnership with to provide important services to vulnerable populations. Caring about the less fortunate is a Maine value we all want to uphold, and positioning nonprofits as “takers” or unnecessary burdens on the taxpayer to score cheap political points is both unfair and untrue.

In reality, nonprofits save taxpayer dollars by assuming a burden government would ordinarily have to take on, and nonprofits enhance public investment by leveraging private resources and bringing money into the state.

The media also play a role in this diminishing public trust, as cases of mismanagement in nonprofits tend to be highlighted more often than those in other sectors. This leads the public to believe that the sector is unprofessional, which is also not true. More reporting on the nonprofit sector’s business acumen and economic impact would give the public a much more accurate reflection of its work.

Nonprofits also face internal challenges that compromise their effectiveness and sustainability. Disengaged boards can threaten a nonprofit’s ability to achieve its goals, and I would encourage current and future board members to recognize the honor it is to serve a nonprofit’s mission, and commit to being passionate and tireless workers for their causes. Committing to board service for the right reasons and bringing one’s skills and passions to bear to move community organizations forward should be one of the most rewarding things citizens can do in a democracy.

Also, while foundations often refer to grantees as their partners, much work remains to be done in lessening the power dynamic and programmatic funding focus that currently exists. I would encourage the foundation community to genuinely engage in conversations with their grantees to better understand the kind of funding nonprofits really need, which will help to lessen the power imbalance and will also enhance their return on investment.

And, however well intended, consistently creating new language and themes that nonprofits need to adopt in order to receive funding has not proven to be helpful in addressing nonprofits’ core needs.

The business sector benefits significantly from the impact of nonprofits on their communities, so my hope is that businesses encourage their employees to get involved with nonprofits, and that the primary focus of corporate philanthropy be to enhance communities, not generate business. The good will engendered by a genuine commitment to bettering one’s community is more than repaid.

Nonprofit staff members can also do their part in reversing the trend in declining trust, and we all can recommit our energy and purpose in productive directions. The challenges facing nonprofits are significant and it can be easy to get disillusioned, but there are also creative opportunities to explore in a transitioning environment, including expanding collaboration, and re-engineering business and program models.

Most importantly, recommitting to bringing a mission-driven, problem-solving mindset to our work will go a long way toward re-energizing us to overcome the challenges we face.

It’s essential that the general public not take the nonprofit sector for granted, as it sits on fragile ground and needs the continuing investment of resources and time. Reject the political rhetoric, be proud that your taxes fund programs and services that mirror our values, support the organizations whose work you value and recognize that a large percentage of nonprofits add value to our communities with no public funding.

It’s been an honor to spend a career in a sector that strives to mirror our highest ideals. While the nonprofit sector is certainly not perfect, I’m confident that we can reclaim the moral high ground and rebuild the public’s trust if everyone who appreciates its value recommits to those ideals.

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Our View: Maine CDC should share, not squelch, disease data Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When an infectious disease is spreading through a community, the public needs to know. So the fact that the state wants to put a lid on the release of that information is both puzzling and troubling.

At issue is a rule change that would give the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention greater discretion to refuse to name the locations of outbreaks of diseases such as measles, chicken pox and whooping cough.

The proposal comes a year after the Portland Press Herald sued over the state’s refusal during the 2014-15 school year to identify the site of four chicken pox outbreaks – the highest number since the chicken pox vaccine became mandatory for school attendance in 2003. (There were 84 total cases of the illness, at three schools and a day care center; the newspaper published the facilities’ names after settling with the state last fall.)

Though schools send notices home to parents during outbreaks, public notification could make it easier to publicly identify specific patients, the CDC argued when denying the newspaper’s request last year.

How that could happen is unclear. What’s more, this rationale apparently didn’t apply in 2006, when the agency identified the Brunswick school where over 30 cases of chicken pox had broken out. The state also named the locations of a 2004 whooping cough outbreak and a 2008 spate of hepatitis cases.

And that was the right thing for the state to do. Without a public announcement, people without school-age children wouldn’t know about an outbreak. Contagious diseases can make unvaccinated adults seriously ill. The same is true for the elderly, pregnant women, babies too young to be immunized and people with weakened immune systems, like those with cancer and AIDS. Public notification gives these vulnerable people a heads-up on the need to avoid certain settings and time, if possible, to stave off illness by getting vaccinated.

Making the public aware of outbreak sites also spotlights areas where parents are forgoing recommended vaccinations for their children, serving as another check on how the state’s public health policies are working to protect residents from contagion.

The proposed CDC rule change is just one in a series of events that point to the LePage administration’s disregard for the benefits of transparency. Those who truly want to protect the health of the Maine public will speak up early and often for disclosure and against obfuscation.

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Another View: Don’t ground airplane deal between Boeing and Iran Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In the wake of the Iran nuclear nonproliferation treaty agreed to last year, Boeing has reached a historic deal to provide passenger airplanes to Iranian national carrier Iran Air to update its aging commercial fleet, but many in Congress – mostly Republicans – are trying to scuttle the transaction. This would represent a large setback for a major U.S. business, and all the jobs it would create here, but it would be even more damaging to long-term foreign relations and the prospect of peace.

In exchange for Iran’s adherence to reductions and limitations on its nuclear activities and infrastructure under a deal, some economic sanctions have been eased. This opened the door – if only a crack – to increased economic ties between the two countries, though trade with the U.S. is still generally prohibited and Iran is still banned from using the dollar and accessing the U.S. financial system.

The Boeing deal, worth up to $25 billion, would include the sale of 80 passenger airplanes of various models for $17.6 billion, plus the lease of an additional 29 Boeing 737s. But the House Financial Services Committee recently passed three measures designed to block it. European rival Airbus has already reached a $27 billion deal with Iran for 118 aircraft. Should the Boeing deal be scuttled, that business would presumably be given to Airbus or other international businesses.

Iran has upheld its end of the bargain so far, having gotten rid of two-thirds of its installed centrifuge capacity and reduced its stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98 percent.

In the spirit of breeding trust, it is time for the U.S. to uphold its end of the deal. It is time to live up to the noble ideal of free trade – especially with nations such as Iran with which tensions are high and we have strong disagreements. The voluntary cooperation and shared prosperity through increased jobs and economic growth that will develop will enrich the lives of people in both nations, while making armed conflict between their governments more costly.

]]> 1 Thu, 21 Jul 2016 19:59:21 +0000
Dana Milbank: At Trump-soaked convention, self-worship upstages sound judgment Thu, 21 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CLEVELAND — The Trump campaign has lately alternated between disaster and farce: the awkward rollout of Mike Pence, parliamentary disputes on the convention floor, a muddled message, a plagiarized speech by the candidate’s wife.

But in one respect, the Republican National Convention of 2016 has been a “yuge” success. It is the triumph of narcissism.

Addressing the convention Monday night, after an entrance lit in silhouette: Donald Trump.

Addressing the convention Tuesday night via video from Trump Tower: Donald Trump.

Promising to address the convention Wednesday night: Donald Trump. Accepting the nomination Thursday: Donald Trump.

Midway through the 8 p.m. hour of Monday’s programming at the convention, Patricia Smith, whose son was killed in the Benghazi terrorist attack, spoke emotionally about how “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.”

But her speech was pre-empted. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, citing a “breaking-news situation,” cut off convention coverage to interview the candidate. Trump’s “breaking news” turned out to be little more than a denunciation of Ohio Gov. John Kasich for skipping the convention.

Upstaging his own convention speakers? Classic Trump: Self-worship over good judgment.

For weeks, Republican leaders pleaded with Trump to build a professional operation, but his campaign resisted, saying he didn’t need to act like other politicians. Now we see the consequences: a convention rally of conspiracy theorists, co-hosted by Trump’s longtime political adviser; a needless floor fight over convention rules in which the hapless presiding officer, a back-bench congressman, walked off the stage; and plagiarized phrases in a speech by the would-be first lady that went unvetted by Trump’s thin staff.

Trump allies variously said there was no plagiarism, that only 7 percent of the speech was plagiarized, and that a part of the Michelle Obama speech that Melania Trump lifted from was itself purloined from radical leftist Saul Alinsky.

Trump packed the week’s prime-time speakers list with low-wattage names unlikely to upstage him – celebrities along the lines of Scott Baio – Chachi of “Happy Days” fame. The top-billed speakers: Melania Trump (Monday), Tiffany Trump and Donald Trump Jr. (Tuesday), Eric Trump (Wednesday), Ivanka Trump (Thursday) and, of course, Donald Trump (always).

The shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge gave Republicans an opening to try to establish themselves as the party that will keep Americans safe. Monday night’s program was, shrewdly, packed with law enforcement and military types, numerous “victims of illegal immigrants” and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who fired up the delegates.

But then the sound system blasted Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” and Trump made his entrance. “Oh, we’re going to win, we’re going to win so big,” he said. “We’re going to win so big. … We’re going to win so big.”

Melania Trump made only one passing reference to the night’s theme of security. She spoke, rather, about her husband’s manifest greatness: “He will do this better than anyone else can, and it won’t even be close.”

His children attested Tuesday that “his desire for excellence is contagious” (Tiffany Trump) and that “we’re the only children of billionaires as comfortable in a D10 Caterpillar as we are in our own cars” (Donald Jr.).

Trump’s personal greatness was, likewise, the theme of his Pence rollout Saturday, when he went on, mostly about himself, for 4,000 words before yielding to his vice-presidential nominee: “I’ve been a very, very, very successful businessperson. … I won in landslides. … I dominated with the evangelicals.”

The situation was much the same Sunday on “60 Minutes.” When Lesley Stahl called him “brash,” Trump countered that he’s “religious.” How’s that? “I won the evangelicals.”

Stahl observed that “you’re not known to be a humble man.”

Volleyed Trump: “I’m much more humble than you would understand.” Seconds later, he said that people tell him “you’re going to go down in the history books.”

There are signs of delegates’ misgivings about their narcissistic nominee: The convention floor is quieter than usual, the roll call lethargic, the Trump merchandise booths uncrowded.

Perhaps some of them can remember, eight years ago, when their nominee, a war hero, spoke of serving a “cause greater than self.” For Trump, this is impossible. There is no cause greater than himself.

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

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Our View: Court ruling on Harpswell beach access shows need for public land Thu, 21 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A defeat for a small group of Harpswell residents should sound an alarm for anyone in the state who assumes that private property owners will always welcome public access to their land.

In a unanimous opinion issued Tuesday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court struck down a lower court ruling that had given the public the right to walk down a private road on Bailey Island to access two beaches. The court found that the public can still use the beaches, but only if they get there by boat.

The case was decided on a technical legal issues based on the review of a long history and a complicated set of facts. But there is nothing opaque about the result: Even though generations of neighbors have been able to reach the beaches by walking down the road, the current owners have the right to change the rules.

That should send a message to critics of land conservation programs, especially Land for Maine’s Future, which has been securing public access to special natural places that are currently in private hands for three decades. It should also prompt opponents of the possible declaration of a national monument in the Katahdin region to think twice.

What this court case shows is that unless access is secured, the right to use treasured spots can disappear in a blink of an eye.

According to court records, Eugene McCarty owned Cedar Beach Road from 1927 to 1956, and allowed the public to use the road to get to the beach. After McCarty’s death, the land passed through several owners, and there were times when they tried to block or limit public use of the land. In 2011, the owners blocked the road completely. Now the court has upheld that move, making a trespasser out of anyone who used the same road that their parents and grandparents had used to get to the water.

Maine is 90 percent forested, but the vast majority of it is privately owned. Residents and visitors have been able to count on access to private property to hunt, fish, camp, hike, ski and snowmobile. But as large tracts of land have been subdivided, new owners have exercised the right to post their property and keep the public out.

Gov. LePage has repeatedly argued that land conservation is something that benefits only the wealthy, but the Harpswell situation shows how wrong he is.

The people who could afford to buy the land haven’t been denied access to the beach, and neither have the people who have boats. The people who used to walk down the road to get to the beach have been closed out, and the same thing could happen at other cherished spots all over the state.

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Commentary: Republican indifference puts sacred Native American land in Utah at risk Thu, 21 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SANTA FE, N.M. — A desert landscape not far from here called Bears Ears could be the most historically significant site in the United States that most Americans have never heard of. Spread out over 1.9 million acres in southeastern Utah are tens of thousands of cliff dwellings, ceremonial “kivas,” pit houses, granaries, towers and rock art panels, along with countless artifacts of the first Americans going back more than 10,000 years.

Bears Ears represents the most important and intact array of unprotected cultural resources on federal land. And those resources are increasingly at risk – from looting, vandalism, off-road vehicles, grave robbing and visitors’ occasional carelessness. Assigned to protect this huge area are two full-time rangers.

Named for two buttes rising dramatically from the desert landscape, Bears Ears is especially important to the Indian tribes and pueblos that trace their ancestry to the area and the ancient sites it contains. Twenty-six tribes support protecting lands within Bears Ears, and some of them – led by the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Utes, the Zuni Pueblo, the Navajo Nation and the Ute Tribe of Unitah and Ouray – have formed an unprecedented Inter-Tribal Coalition to advocate the permanent protection of their homeland.

The coalition emphasizes its deep spiritual connection with Bears Ears, “where tribal leaders and medicine people go to conduct ceremonies, collect herbs for medicinal purposes, and practice healing rituals stemming from time immemorial. … Our relationship and visits to Bears Ears are essential for healing, and ruining the integrity of those lands forever compromises our ability to heal.”

There is virtually unanimous agreement on the unique cultural significance of Bears Ears, yet there is no agreement on the need to protect it.

Despite active local support for protection among both Indians and non-Indians, Utah’s congressional delegation has persistently tried to deny President Obama the right to make Bears Ears a national monument under the Antiquities Act, which was signed into law and used by President Theodore Roosevelt more than 100 years ago for exactly this purpose.

Republican Utah U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop (who also opposes a proposed national monument in Maine’s Katahdin region) have been telling interested constituents for three years that they’ve been drafting legislation to protect Bears Ears, but they failed to introduce legislation containing specific boundaries and provisions.

It became increasingly clear that the congressmen, who hold key committee chairmanships, aimed to run out the clock on the Obama administration’s ability to use the Antiquities Act to create a national monument.

Apparently convinced that such an action was under serious consideration, however, Bishop and Chaffetz finally introduced their bill last week, just two days before Interior Secretary Sally Jewell held a public hearing on Bears Ears in Bluff, Utah, that was attended by some 2,000 people, a clear majority of whom supported a monument, according to officials from the Conservation Lands Foundation. Several provisions of the bill would eviscerate any serious concept of protection. Among them:

The bill would split Bears Ears in two, leaving many important cultural areas unprotected, and give the tribes too little voice in managing sites sacred to their heritage.

The bill would mandate that grazing be permitted in fragile archaeological areas and give land managers no discretion to reduce it even when resources were being damaged.

The “National Conservation Areas” in the bill include loopholes that confuse the meaning of “conservation” and keep managers from prohibiting some uses that have been historically damaging to cultural resources.

With the obvious intention of weakening standards for wilderness areas, the bill includes provisions in direct conflict with the federal Wilderness Act that could affect areas besides Bears Ears.

If these and other provisions remain in the bill, it should be clear to all that the Utah congressional delegation has no intention of supporting serious legislation to protect the most significant and at-risk cultural landscape in the United States.

This is precisely the kind of situation that Congress had in mind when it gave the president the authority to create national monuments, and why nearly every president of both parties has used the act, particularly when Congress failed in its duty to act responsibly on its own. Obama has previously showed vision and courage in using this authority, and creating a Bears Ears National Monument would be very much in that tradition and fully justified by the facts.

]]> 7 Wed, 20 Jul 2016 19:38:58 +0000
Another View: Bar all Russian athletes from competing in Olympic Games Thu, 21 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 At the Winter Olympics in Sochi in early 2014, no Russian athletes tested positive for doping, and to much celebration they took home 33 medals, more than any other nation. But behind the scenes, a system was in place that concealed the use of performance-enhancing drugs by the Russian athletes. Moreover, doping and cover-ups have been carried out by Russia across a range of international competitions from late 2011 to 2015, according to the report made public Monday by the World Anti-Doping Agency and led by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren. The International Olympic Committee said Tuesday it is studying the legal options for collectively banning Russia from the 2016 Rio Games and taking other measures. In fact, the cheating exposed by McLaren more than justifies barring Russia from the Games.

The probe by McLaren established Russian doping and coverups before and after Sochi and “beyond a reasonable doubt.” McLaren concluded it was the Russian government that oversaw and directed the “entirety” of the falsification of test results.

Throwing Russia out of the Olympics may sound harsh, but so is the fact that Russia’s government has been cheating with drugs for years and covering it up. At one point in late 2014, some 8,000 urine samples were destroyed to prevent detection of forbidden drugs. President Vladimir Putin, who promoted Sochi as a symbol of Russia’s revival, was in fact boss of a rule-breaking machine. Putin, the onetime KGB officer and later FSB director, shows little respect for a rules-based international order; the drugged athletes and falsified test results are just the latest examples of his subterfuge and corrosive behavior. The world’s response ought to be unwavering: This is not acceptable.

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Maine Voices: Let’s think big about Maine Center for Graduate and Professional Studies Thu, 21 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies, proposed for the University of Southern Maine, could put Portland (and Maine) on the map for innovation and creativity. The center would house graduate programs in business, law, health and public policy. But it could be so much more, if we’re willing to think big.

Imagine this: The center’s entrance would feature a “STEM & Sustainability” art gallery, with exhibits drawing on science, technology, engineering and math and inspired by themes of environmental sustainability and Maine’s natural resources.

The center would be abuzz with the energy of its on-site innovation incubator – a workspace for entrepreneurs, designers, artists and “techies” in southern Maine’s growing technology and innovation sectors.

Why not also recruit the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce to have a presence? The Greater Portland Council of Governments? The Maine Association of Nonprofits? The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development? Having them all together with each other, the professional studies programs, and the innovation incubator would make for incredible productivity, collaboration, cross-fertilization, and inspiration.

But it’s not just who and what’s in the center that matters – it’s also the building itself.

First, the building should feature state-of-the art environmental sustainability methods: net-zero (producing more energy than it consumes), rooftops with solar panels or garden space and zero-waste, both in the construction and the building’s operation.

Second, the center should be “Made in Maine,” using Maine-made materials, focusing on high-tech, recycled and re-used products. Why not build Maine’s first “plyscraper” with cross-laminated timber, a high-tech material being used in structures as tall as 30 stories in Europe and Canada?

Products like cross-laminated timber – already being researched at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center in Orono – could play a role in Maine’s new forest economy, as global market forces transition us away from paper. What’s more, cross-laminated timber can play a role in battling climate change by actually locking up carbon, rather than producing it – unlike concrete, which produces as much as 8 percent of all human-derived carbon dioxide.

Third, the building’s design should be creative, iconic and beautiful. Think Sydney Opera House – but with a Maine flair. A design contest and crowd-sourcing of design ideas should be used.

Lastly is the challenge of bringing the center to fruition. Major real estate developments face big hurdles and many questions await. Which programs should the center include? Where should it be located? Could it provide an opportunity to create housing for students, visiting professors and speakers, entrepreneurs or artists in residence? How quickly should it be developed? Is there a role for a public-private partnership?

Answering these difficult questions provides a great opportunity to showcase a world-class process of consensus-building, community engagement and team-building. The university should draw on its own expertise in these areas at the Muskie School of Public Service and other programs, and would be wise to bring in the highest level of outside neutral expertise to help guide these efforts.

The issue of location – on the Portland campus versus downtown – shouldn’t be addressed in a vacuum; it should consider the long-term visions for the Portland campus and for Portland’s downtown. At a glance, however, win-win solutions are possible.

For instance, the Portland campus provides easy highway access, ample parking, integration with other USM programs and available land. And a high-frequency shuttle service could make access to downtown businesses and law firms as convenient, or even more so, than locating the center downtown. Given the short distance, shuttle vans could leave from each point every five to 10 minutes. This would meet a need that has gone unmet for quite some time.

My main point is this: We shouldn’t be afraid to think big about what the center could be. If done right, it could be one of the most important new developments in the Portland area in a generation, to the benefit of both our region and the state as a whole.

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Leonard Pitts: Violence makes itself the focus and robs the cause of forward progress Wed, 20 Jul 2016 10:00:07 +0000 How can anyone ever explain this to Mason?

He’s only 4 months old, so that moment still lies years in the future. Still, at some point, too soon, he will ask the inevitable questions, and someone will have to tell him how his dad was shot to death for being a police officer in Baton Rouge.

Montrell Jackson was neither the only cop killed Sunday, nor the only one who left a child behind. Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafolo also had kids. And it’s likely that in killing five police officers earlier this month, a sniper in Dallas robbed multiple children of their fathers, too.

So there are a lot of people having painful discussions with a lot of kids just now. But Mason’s father was the only one of these eight dead cops with the maddening and paradoxical distinction of being an African-American man killed in protest of police violence against African-American people. He left a Facebook post that gave a glimpse into how frustrating it was, living on both sides of that line – being both black and a cop and therefore, doubly distrusted.

“I swear to God,” he wrote, “I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

“Please,” he pleaded, “don’t let hate infect your heart.”

Nine days later, he was dead.

Counting two New York City policemen murdered in 2014, this makes at least 10 cops randomly killed in the last two years by people ostensibly fighting police brutality.

But those madmen could hardly be bigger traitors to that cause.

One is reminded of something Martin Luther King said the night before his assassination, when he explained “the problem with a little violence.”

Namely, it changes the discussion, makes itself the focus. King had been protesting on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis when unruly young people turned his march into a riot.

“Now … we’ve got to march again,” he said, “in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be.”

These cop killers leave us a similar dilemma. Instead of discussing the violence of police, we are now required to discuss violence against police and to say the obvious: These killers serve no cause, nor does any cause justify what they did. They are just punk cowards with guns who have changed the subject, thereby giving aid and comfort to those who’d rather not confront the issue in the first place.

But if we don’t, then what? One often hears men like Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly express contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement of protest and civil disobedience; one is less likely to hear either of them specify what other means of protest they would suggest for people whose concerns about racially biased and extralegal policing have been otherwise ignored for decades by government and media. If not Black Lives Matter, then what? Patient silence? Acceptance of the status quo?

That isn’t going to happen, and the sooner the nation understands this, the sooner it moves forward. Sadly, that move, whenever it comes, will be too late for Mason and dozens of others left newly fatherless, sonless, brotherless, husbandless and bereft. Still, we have to move. The alternative is to remain stuck in this place of incoherence, fear, racial resentment … and rage. Always rage.

But rage doesn’t think, rage doesn’t love, rage doesn’t build, rage doesn’t care. Rage only rends and destroys.

We have to be better than that. We have no choice but to be better than that. We owe it to Mason to be better than that. He deserves a country better than this mad one in which his father died, and life is poured out like water.

Jocelyn Jackson, Montrell’s sister, put it best in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s getting to the point where no lives matter,” she said.

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

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Maine Voices: FairPoint clarifies ‘provider of last resort’ regulation, investment in landlines Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A lot of incorrect information has been floating around regarding “provider of last resort” regulation in Maine. I am writing today to dispel the myths and to provide greater clarity on the issue in order to better inform the citizens of Maine.

Before getting into the details of the issue, my message is twofold, simple and direct:

1. FairPoint is not eliminating or taking away basic landline service anywhere in Maine.

2. FairPoint will continue to provide basic, affordable landline service throughout Maine.

Let me explain the issue that has been at the center of this storm of misinformation. It stems from what is called “provider of last resort” service, or POLR service, which is the most basic phone service available. It is important to point out that all telecommunications services in Maine have been deregulated since 2012 – except for POLR.

The theory behind POLR was that a provider would be designated to ensure that basic telephone service was available and was often reimbursed for allowable associated costs from the Federal Communications Commission’s universal service fund.

FairPoint is that designated provider in most of Maine, but it no longer gets reimbursed for the cost of providing POLR service, because the universal service fund has been discontinued and the FCC’s mandate has evolved to explicitly support broadband service.

Over the past several years, as the competitive and regulatory landscape changed, the Maine Legislature has tried to find a balance between protecting consumers while ensuring a robust telecommunications market.

This spring, the Legislature passed the amended version of L.D. 466, which does just that: protecting consumers while ensuring Maine has a robust telecommunications market. While the legislation may seem complicated, it advances a single, simple concept: providing a level playing field in competitive telecommunications markets while ensuring that all Mainers continue to have a landline option available regardless of where they live.

The Legislature did just that by providing a path to deregulation in competitive markets (22 municipalities) while ensuring consumers in less competitive markets have access to basic, regulated landline service. It was important to the Legislature that no Mainer is left without landline service. To that end, L.D. 466 requires FairPoint to continue to provide landline service throughout the state. I cannot stress enough that FairPoint is not discontinuing landline telephone service. In fact, just the opposite: L.D. 466 ensures there is a landline service option throughout the state.

The following 22 cities and towns were chosen for initial deregulation because of the robust level of competition that exists in those municipalities: Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Bath, Biddeford, Brewer, Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Freeport, Gorham, Kennebunk, Kittery, Lewiston, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Sanford, Scarborough, South Portland, Waterville, Westbrook, Windham and Yarmouth.

The law provides for a transition of these 22 communities over the next two years. The initial seven communities that will be deregulated in late August are Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, South Portland, Auburn, Biddeford and Sanford, while the other 15 municipalities will become deregulated on a rolling schedule over the next two years. Each of these 22 communities will have a one-year rate moratorium following the date of deregulation.

And what about the ongoing cost of basic landline service in these communities? L.D. 466 also requires price caps.

For customers who currently receive POLR services in communities with robust competition – for example, the initial seven communities listed above – FairPoint will continue to provide basic telephone service at the same rates, terms and conditions for one year, commencing Aug. 28. After the year, prices will be constrained by the competitive market.

For the communities with less competition – the approximately 470 towns and cities not affected by this legislation – the price for basic landline service may not exceed $20 for the next year. After that, the rate in those communities is limited to an annual increase of 5 percent – or approximately $1.

In closing, FairPoint continues to invest in its landline network, adding more fiber optic cable, and more high-speed broadband, positioning FairPoint to offer our customers the latest technological services. That investment – over $900 million in northern New England since 2008 – benefits all our customers, those who order both broadband service and telephone service. Our employees, who live and work here in Maine, are on the job every day maintaining, expanding and upgrading our network across the region.

]]> 0 Tue, 19 Jul 2016 18:11:32 +0000
Letter to the editor: Clinton’s shady tricks should face consequences Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The main difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama is that Trump entered into hundreds or thousands of private contracts (good or bad) where both or all parties agreed to the terms.

In the public sector, with this presidential administration, there are never any consequences for bad decisions such as Benghazi, Obamacare, placing extremists in positions of power, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on “shovel-ready jobs,” providing kickbacks for cronies, taking foreign money for disastrous future favors, etc., etc.

Trump is not above the law, so why are Clinton and Obama allowed to make millions for themselves and their cronies on very shady deals? These facts are discoverable with minimal research.

I can’t wait to see Dinesh D’Souza’s political documentary “Hillary’s America” this week. The problem is that few Democrats will bother to see it.

Frank Thiboutot


]]> 15 Tue, 19 Jul 2016 19:22:28 +0000
Letter to the editor: Airbnb: So good for Portland in so many ways Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The rise of Airbnb rentals in Portland and the U.S. has received a lot of negative press (“Portland man appeals city order to cease Airbnb rental listing,” July 16; “Another View: Homeowners should be allowed to profit from short-term rentals,” July 12).

As an occasional Airbnb renter and multifamily property owner in Portland, I’d like to point out how Airbnb is actually a good thing for small-scale landlord-owners and the city:

n Fire code compliance: Many, if not most, of Portland’s rental properties are facing stricter fire safety codes. In my three-unit building, for example, I’ve been told to add six metal fire doors before September. Without seasonal Airbnb income, this $3,000-plus expense would force me to raise my normal monthly rents, or go into debt.

n Efficiency upgrades: The vast majority of Portland multifamily properties lack insulation, quality windows, modern heating systems and so on. Airbnb income allows me to improve my building performance without raising long-term rents. Maine Hardware loves me. So do my full-time tenants.

n Historic renovation: Maintaining and restoring buildings in Portland’s historic areas can be very costly, so most maintenance gets deferred. Airbnb allows for costly beautification without rent gouging.

n Spenders, not gawkers: Airbnb visitors, unlike most cruise ship visitors, come here and spend lots of money on restaurants, markets, rental cars, museums and so on. Air-bnb brings significant income to local businesses.

n Tax bonanza: Portland automatically collects a 16 percent tax on every Airbnb rental. That’s money paid on top of my annual property taxes. For that money, I get no special services and use no extra city resources. What’s (for them) not to like?

Before Portland enacts new measures restricting and blaming Airbnb for the much larger issue of outrageous rental incomes (driven by consolidation, remote ownership and gentrification of affordable units), it’s important to weigh all the facts.

Matt Power


]]> 8 Tue, 19 Jul 2016 19:22:51 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Burned by plagiarism? Let Gov. LePage be your fixer Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Where is Gov. Paul LePage when Donald Trump needs him most?

Halfway through the four-day Republican National Convention, the newly minted presidential nominee finds himself embroiled in, of all things, a plagiarism scandal.

Trump’s wife, Melania, had no sooner wowed the convention Monday night with words of praise for her spouse when the Twitterverse exploded with incontrovertible evidence that some of those same phrases were first uttered eight years ago by Michelle Obama to describe her husband.

That’s right, the person who Trump & Co. now most love to hate, in addition to Hillary Clinton. Go figure.

Did Melania do it on her own? Doubtful.

Did her speechwriters, referred to by Republican pundit Mike Murphy as “the campaign speechwriting team of Xerox and Konica,” get a little lazy? Bet on it.

More importantly, with his own wife now getting scorched by his latest campaign conflagration, what’s The Donald going to do about it?

Enter Paul LePage. He’s got experience at this kind of thing.

Remember back in 2014, when the LePage administration had its hopes for major Medicaid reform pinned squarely on a contract, valued at just under $1 million, with The Alexander Group?

Conservatives at the time lauded Gary Alexander, the firm’s founder, as a guru at slashing states’ health-care costs by amazing – seriously, folks, we’re talking amazing here – amounts of money without hurting anyone. Except, of course, all those freeloaders who had no business getting government help in the first place.

Then came one of Alexander’s long-awaited reports and, not long after that, the discovery by a plagiarism expert at Dalhousie University that significant chunks of the report had been lifted verbatim from a variety of other sources.

So what did LePage do about it?

Well, he stopped payment on roughly half of the $925,000 yet to be collected by Alexander and his cronies, although he let them keep the half they’d already pocketed.

His administration kept using some of Alexander’s discredited projections, which later proved (no surprise) to be spectacularly off target.

But hey, at least LePage admitted the obvious: He canceled the remainder of the Alexander Group contract and declared, “I am not happy about this.”

(This after Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew earlier chastised Democrats and the media for choosing “to politicize punctuation over policy.”)

Which brings us back to Mrs. Trump, who we can only assume is either mortified that she got caught cribbing or ready to behead the genius who thought her national rollout might be an opportune time for her to channel Michelle Obama.

After several early-Tuesday-morning stumbles, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stepped up to the microphones in Cleveland and essentially denied reality.

“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Manafort declared. He then went on (a la Mary Mayhew) to falsely blame the media and Hillary Clinton for going after poor Melania because, get this, Mrs. Trump apparently is the kind of woman who “threatens” the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Trump, meanwhile, refused to even acknowledge a problem in his early morning Tweet: “It was truly an honor to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud!”

At least he got the “incredible” part right.

Back to LePage, who had planned to go to Cleveland as a Trump supporter but backed out two weeks ago.

“If I felt that he needed me there, I’d have gone,” LePage told WVOM radio hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler at the time.

Little did LePage know.

Had he been there this week, the governor could have gone knocking urgently on the door to Trump’s inner circle. Check that – he could have worked through his buddy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, rather than risk hearing someone from Team Trump respond, “LePage? LePage who?”

His message: Denial is not an option here. Lop off a head or two and move on – you’d be amazed how quickly modern-day Republicans forget anything that clashes with their perception of the way life should be.

Of course, that strategy was easy for LePage. He simply had to give the heave-ho to Alexander, who has since repackaged himself as one of two partners atop Velum Health, which, according to its website, “works with commercial and government entities to significantly lower health care costs without sacrificing services for the consumers and beneficiaries.”

Trump, on the other hand, finds his own wife at the middle of this completely avoidable maelstrom.

A wife who hasn’t exactly been jumping at the chance to speak on her husband’s behalf in the first place.

A wife whose plagiarism was matched only by her prescience when she also said Monday evening, “There will be good times and hard times and unexpected turns – it would not be a Trump contest without excitement and drama.”


So why not nip this blossoming drama in the bud? Why not announce that some previously unknown flunky just received his walking papers for embarrassing the one person in Trump’s universe, beyond The Donald himself, you least want to offend?

Why not – and I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this right now – pull a page from the LePage playbook, admit the error and move on?

Back when he announced his endorsement of Trump on Howie Carr’s radio show in February, LePage noted that he and Trump are “cut from the same cloth” and that with his buddy Christie recently out of the presidential race, it only made sense to line up behind the one presidential hopeful who can’t seem to walk across a room without stepping in it.

“I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump,” LePage boasted.

He can say that again.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

]]> 99, 20 Jul 2016 11:12:41 +0000
Greg Kesich: Portland police chief sets the right tone; now let’s back him up Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For me, the most important speaker at the “make a commitment to peace” service last week at Green Memorial AME Zion Church was not a member of the clergy.

As people gathered on a hot night to mourn two African American men who had been shot to death by police and five police officers in Dallas who had been gunned down by a sniper, the speaker who seemed to best capture the spirit of the moment was a cop, Portland Police Chief Mike Sauschuck.

“We’ve got a long way to go as a society,” Sauschuck said. “As a department, I pledge to you that we’re going to continue to work forward. We need to do better. … We can’t do anything by ourselves. I truly need you to work with us in partnership, hand in hand, as we move forward as a community. It takes two to tango and I’m here to dance.”

At a time when people are screaming to be heard, Sauschuck’s calm, quiet voice rang out. His invitation to dialogue was exactly the right response to people standing on opposite sides of a gulf of anger and fear.

And his willingness to accept even a small part of the responsibility for the horrendous situation facing the country should be a challenge to the rest of us: How much of the blame will we accept, and what are we going to do about it?

Because the problem is not – as protesters chanted last Friday – “racist police.” That would be easy to fix. Just identify the bad cops and get them off the street.

The real problem is the unconscious bias that is baked into all of our institutions and bubbles up wherever decisions are made.

Until the leaders in business, politics, education, religion and the media are ready to show the kind of leadership that Sauschuck is showing, how can we ever expect to make any progress?

Since Sauschuck’s remarks last week, things have gotten even worse. Another deranged loner with a rifle has killed three more officers, this time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

That can only add to the stress that complicates every interaction between a police officer and a stranger.

On Monday, Sauschuck said he wants his officers to protect themselves, but he reminds them not to let potential danger force them into a defensive crouch. He wants them to connect with the people they meet as individuals and not to treat them as members of a group.

Unlike some defenders of the police, Sauschuck won’t try to use statistics to prove that there is no difference between the way whites and minorities are treated. “When you look at the disproportionate minority contacts with the criminal justice system, those numbers speak for themselves,” Sauschuck said.

As to what causes that discrepancy, he said he has more questions than answers.

“My questions come from what we see on the street. The people we are arresting are suffering from substance use. They are suffering from mental illness. They are suffering from poverty. I do believe that bias plays some role, but we are not arresting hundreds of thousands of people a year based on racial bias (alone).”

Those are problems that policing can’t fix. They are social ills that demand political remedies. Citizens have to make them priorities and hold their elected officials accountable if they don’t act.

That would take some new thinking, but Sauschuck says, he’s seen attitudes change quickly. The “War on Drugs” approach is now seen as a “complete and utter failure,” he said, and police are working with treatment providers in ways that they never would have imagined even a few years ago. People who until recently were considered prostitutes and guilty of a crime are now seen as victims of sex trafficking, and can help the police make cases.

“We have to collaborate – if people don’t call us, we can’t do anything,” he said.

None of this should suggest that everything is perfect in Portland or even that it’s good enough.

The protesters who shut down Commercial Street last Friday make a legitimate claim that people of color do not feel like full members of the community – that their lives don’t matter.

But blaming cops on the street for racism is like blaming the grunts in Vietnam for America’s Asia policy in the Cold War. The ultimate responsibility belongs to us all.

It can give you hope to see a community leader like Sauschuck willing to stand up and commit his organization to do better. Let’s hope he’s not left out on the dance floor all by himself.

]]> 10, 20 Jul 2016 16:04:34 +0000
Our View: Partisanship stalls fight against Zika virus Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Congress left for vacation last week without crossing off a critical item on its agenda: resolving a stalemate over how to fund efforts to combat the Zika virus. A compromise proposal stalled over Republican stipulations that none of the Zika-prevention funding go to family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood. Given that the biggest threat posed by Zika is to pregnant women and their newborn children, Republicans made a serious mistake by shortchanging a major provider of care to women in their childbearing years.

Four out of five of those affected by Zika suffer no symptoms at all. But if pregnant women become infected, especially during the first trimester, the consequences can include miscarriages, stillbirth and microcephaly, a grave birth defect marked by abnormally small heads and lack of brain development. And although developing fetuses are at greatest risk, children and adults can become seriously ill as well. The first Zika death in the continental U.S., which occurred late last month, was that of an elderly man.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,306 people in the U.S. have already been infected with the virus – including 346 pregnant women – and there have been nine births involving Zika-related defects.

Preventing unintended pregnancies will prevent these tragic outcomes. That’s why, in order to fight Zika, which is transmitted both by infected mosquitoes and sexual contact, the CDC and the World Health Organization are urging women to delay getting pregnant.

And that’s why the $1.9 billion Zika emergency spending proposal presented by President Obama in February included funds to promote increased access to contraception.

But Republicans came back with a $1.1 billion compromise that would block any Zika-related funds from going to Planned Parenthood (or similar groups) for birth control. Democrats rejected the plan, resulting in a stalemate that will likely outlast the seven-week congressional recess.

The bill that stalled in Congress targeted the groups that serve the women who are most likely to get pregnant unintentionally: the young and the poor. Many of those women live in states like Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, where access to birth control has been decimated by budget cuts, politically motivated attacks on Planned Parenthood and the rejection of Medicaid expansion. This is also the region of the U.S. that’s expected to be hardest hit by Zika.

Some in Congress argue that women have an option to Planned Parenthood: local clinics that provide family planning services with federal Title X funds. But the House Appropriations Committee recently approved a Republican proposal to defund Title X programs (though Title X is barred by law from covering abortion services).

Thousands of women and children could be devastated by the lack of resources to fight Zika – but that’s what happens when politicians fail to put their constituents’ best interests first, and allow partisanship to take precedence over public health.

]]> 2, 19 Jul 2016 23:27:58 +0000
Another View: Desperate Venezuela must get beyond military control, abuses Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 President Nicolas Maduro’s decision last week to put Venezuela’s armed forces in charge of food and other basic goods won’t ease the average Venezuelan’s growing hunger pangs. He must be shown that there are consequences to this frightening expansion of military control by the government of the country with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Venezuela’s abuses disqualify it from heading Mercosur, the region’s trade group – or even belonging to it. Venezuela’s neighbors, as well as the European Union and the Vatican, must step up the scrutiny and pressure.

The U.S., meanwhile, can beef up its forensic accounting and quietly make clear to Venezuela’s military how easily targeted sanctions for corruption and human rights abuses can be expanded. These measures should also be accompanied by offers of immediate humanitarian assistance.

In the last year, crippling shortages of food and medicine have only gotten worse. Yet those with access to dollars at the gwovernment’s preferential exchange rate – roughly 1/100 of the black market rate – are doing mostly fine. Maduro’s willingness to tolerate a 1,000 percent inflation rate shows his contempt for the middle class. He seems intent on following in the bootsteps of the Castros’ Cuba, where the military owns well over half the economy.

Stopping this power grab will require an end to the toxic impasse between Maduro’s government and the legislature controlled by the opposition: the freeing of political prisoners, judiciary and electoral reforms, and tolerance for free expression and dissent.

From peace in Colombia to new governments in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, the arc of history in the Americas is bending in a brighter direction. It would be a shame if Venezuela were the exception.

]]> 5 Tue, 19 Jul 2016 21:28:26 +0000
Charles Lawton: We can’t separate our well-being from that of our fellow citizens Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The humble hero of “A Strangeness in My Mind,” Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk’s epic account of the explosive growth of Istanbul over the past half-century, is a street vendor who wanders the city’s maze of ever-expanding squatter neighborhoods selling a traditional Turkish drink called Boza.

Passing through back alleys and past abandoned cemeteries, Mevlut is often threatened by packs of dogs who – like the flood of villagers streaming into the city – simply occupy whatever spots on the urbanizing hillsides they can claim.

Alone in each new, strange and dark place, he faces his fear head-on and lets loose a long, mournful yet confident cry of “Boozaaa!” And invariably a new customer emerges from the upper window of some tenement – “Boza seller, over here!” – and he establishes himself as a known and accepted quantity to both the human and canine residents of the quarter.

I was reminded of this story by former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s recent Brookings Institution commentary on the perplexing disconnect between people’s feelings about their personal economic situation and prospects and their feelings about the overall national situation and prospects.

Using 100 as a baseline measure of neutral economic “feeling” (meaning half the people think things are getting better, and half think they are getting worse), it is possible to follow changes in economic feelings over time.

At the deepest trough of the Great Recession (2010), the score for the question “Are you personally better off than you were last year?” in University of Michigan and Gallup polls stood at 60: i.e., 40 points below neutral. By the end of 2015, that score stood at 118, clearly indicating a jump in personal optimism.

Moving to the question, “Do you expect to be better off in a year?,” the score went from 102 to 122 over the same period. The score to a somewhat less personal query – “What are your expectations for business conditions in five years?” – went from 75 to 100 over the same period.

In short, with regard to personal and overall business conditions, people are feeling substantially better now than they did five or six years ago. And while there have been monthly ups and downs, the overall trend has clearly and steadily been one of rising optimism.

Interestingly, this pattern holds true across age groups and income levels. Young people (age 18 to 34) feel more optimistic about the next five years than do older people (age 55 and older), but all groups have grown more optimistic over the past five years. The top third of the income distribution feels more optimistic about the next five years than the bottom third, but all income groups have grown more optimistic over the past five years.

But when we move to the less personal, more public question, “Are you satisfied with the way things are going?” a far different pattern emerges. At the depth of the financial crisis in 2008, the score for that question stood at 30, fully 70 points below neutral. By the end of 2010, it had risen to nearly 60. But since then, it has bounced around between 40 and 60, ending 2015 with a drop to about 55.

In short, people don’t feel as satisfied – whatever that may mean – with their country’s overall direction as they feel confident about their own economic prospects.

Why? Bernanke’s guess is polarization. “To an increasing extent,” he says, “Americans are self-selecting into non-overlapping communities (real and virtual) of differing demographics and ideologies served by a fragmented and partisan media.”

My guess is that the wild dogs of fear in our imaginations become stronger the more we isolate ourselves from the on-the-ground realities of our entire community. Our Turkish hero Mevlut was poor, and suffered enormous difficulties and great setbacks throughout his life in Istanbul. But as long as he embraced the entire city – rich and poor, bright and dark, Islamic and secular – in his heart and expressed it in his work, “the people of Istanbul felt the very same emotion in their hearts, and that was why they asked him upstairs and bought his boza.”

It was also why the stray dogs never sensed fear in him and left him alone, acknowledging him as a legitimate member of the community.

It was only after Mevlut took a job as an electric meter inspector – putting himself in the position to accept bribes by threatening to turn off the power over bills that may (or may not) have been paid – that the dogs sensed his fear and attacked him, ending his days as a boza vendor.

However rich we each may be, however secure in our own self-selected community, we are increasingly at risk as citizens of a constitutional democracy encompassing 330 million souls if we continue to separate our individual well-being so completely from that of our fellow citizens.

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

]]> 3 Mon, 18 Jul 2016 19:26:16 +0000
Our View: Poor students are a low priority for higher education Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Malcolm Gladwell has built a career on making cute, thought-provoking, sometimes specious connections between the seemingly unconnected. By analyzing, say, the heights of Fortune 500 CEOs or the birthdates of professional hockey players, the author tries to reveal our unspoken preferences and prejudices, and to highlight in a new way where we are going wrong.

And he was too cute by half last week when, on his new podcast, he criticized Bowdoin College in Brunswick for offering high-quality food in its cafeterias, supposedly at the expense of offering aid to low-income students.

In doing so, Gladwell pointed to what is certainly an escalating problem in higher education – the relative dearth of low-income students. However, that problem isn’t caused by the menu at Bowdoin.


In the podcast, Gladwell compares Bowdoin with Vassar College, a similar liberal arts school in Poughkeepsie, New York. Twenty-two percent of the students at Vassar qualify for need-based Pell grants, compared to only 14 percent at Bowdoin. The difference, according to Gladwell, is that Bowdoin has a top-flight food service program, while Vassar, apparently, serves barely edible scraps, using the savings to reach out to low-income students.

Gladwell doesn’t mention – or never knew – that food service at Bowdoin is self-supporting, paid for by the students who use it, and that by one expert’s estimation, the total funding for food service, if shifted, would help only about 11 students a year.

He also doesn’t note that Bowdoin is one of the few colleges remaining that uses need-blind admissions, ensuring that admission decisions aren’t based on which students can pay, and that it doesn’t require loans as part of aid packages.

Bowdoin’s PR staff made those points in the school’s blistering response to Gladwell.

But they didn’t make this one – Bowdoin’s share of Pell-eligible students is right around average for similar schools, part of a worsening trend that threatens to exacerbate the stark inequality already at play in the United States. Almost across the board, the country’s top institutions of higher education are failing to attract students from poor families.


According to a recent Jack Kent Cooke Foundation study, 72 percent of the students at America’s most competitive institutions of higher learning come from the wealthiest 25 percent of the population, while only 3 percent come from the poorest 25 percent.

Part of the problem is informational. Only about 23 percent of high-performing low-income students even apply to a selective school.

Better outreach would help – simply putting an admissions packet in a student’s hand increases the likelihood they will apply.

But the problem is also institutional. Low-income students often cannot afford to take test preparation classes, participate in extracurricular activities, or even visit the schools in question, all making them lesser candidates for admission.

What’s more, colleges and universities, particularly public schools that have seen their funding cut, need to attract students who can afford to pay full tuition.

This need is only made more dire by the “amenities arms race,” in which colleges build larger and more opulent living and recreational facilities in order to attract students, driving up debt.

Something is needed to counteract those perverse incentives. Increased funding for public colleges and universities would help, as would a requirement for schools to disclose the income breakdown of their student body.

Perhaps then they would be shamed into admitting more low-income students, by implementing, like Bowdoin, need-blind admissions, or by giving preference to poor students, just as preference is already given to athletes and the children of alumni.

Those are real solutions, unlike making Bowdoin switch from pesto chicken pizza to Salisbury steak.

]]> 8, 19 Jul 2016 00:09:47 +0000
Commentary: Democrats should focus on SNAP reform, not attacking LePage, Rep. Sanderson urges Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CHELSEA — The nonsensical backlash aimed at Gov. LePage following his attempt to ban junk food purchases with food stamps puts on full display just how out of touch the Democratic establishment is when it comes to welfare programs.

Democrats continue to say they don’t want Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, benefits being used to buy junk food, but they oppose the governor’s effort to get the federal government to allow Maine to prohibit the purchase of those items with Maine food stamp benefits. There are countless items in any given supermarket that cannot be purchased with food stamps. It would be equally as easy for the food stamp system to reject the purchase of candy, soda and other foods of no nutritional value.

Democrats, including those who serve with me on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, know this. Any observer of the issue would recognize that simply prohibiting the purchase of junk food with food stamps is the quickest, easiest, most effective and obvious way to prevent junk food from being purchased with food stamps.

Instead, the liberal defenders of the welfare status quo want to continue to rely on the tangled web of government programs and bureaucracies that “educate” food stamp recipients about healthy eating choices.

In reality, we wouldn’t need all of those government programs if we simply said “no” to buying Mars bars and Mountain Dew with a welfare benefit that has “nutrition” in its name.

Democrats have unsuccessfully argued that healthy food is unaffordable and that needs to be our focus instead of stopping our tax dollars from going toward the purchase of unhealthy foods. But one look at the Hannaford weekly flier shows boneless chicken breast at $2.49 per pound, pork chops for $1.99, and apples and pears for 99 cents per pound. In contrast, Doritos are $3.99 and a 24-pack of Coke is $7.99.

Though Democrats love to regurgitate statistics about child poverty in Maine, they ignore that when some of Maine’s most significant welfare reforms were enacted, the number of children living in poverty actually decreased, from 54,000 in 2012 to 45,000 in 2013.

Furthermore, there were more Maine children living in extreme poverty in 2004, when our cash welfare caseload was 150 percent greater, than there were in 2014. The left’s “war on poverty” has failed miserably, and their weapon of choice – unchecked welfare spending – has proven its ineffectiveness. As it turns out, work, not welfare, is the greatest anti-poverty tool in our arsenal.

Liberal hyperbole about Gov. LePage “attacking” and “punishing” the poor is especially disingenuous. Gov. LePage has actually experienced extreme poverty firsthand. That’s why he believes benefits should only go to those who truly need them and not squandered on non-essential items.

Liberal politicians who pretend to stand with the poor against welfare reform should think about the homeless teenager in Lewiston who escaped domestic violence and eventually became governor of his state. Gov. LePage was lifted out of poverty by mentorship, education and hard work, not by a SNAP-funded bag of potato chips.

Mainers are tired of checking out at the grocery store, struggling to provide their family with nutritious meals out of their overtaxed paychecks, only to see the person in front of them use taxpayer-funded welfare benefits to buy cases of energy drinks and bags full of Cheetos.

Mainers are generous and willing to help their neighbors in need with life essentials on a temporary basis, but they’re not suckers, and they are tired of witnessing the abuse of a broken welfare system that was created by well-intentioned liberal politicians.

Critics of the governor constantly employ a misleading scare tactic, asserting that he is trying to end the food stamps program. Gov. LePage took a hard line against the federal government by telling them that if they refuse to let Maine reform the broken food stamps program, then he will examine options to return the federally funded, state-administered program to the feds and let them administer it here in Maine.

Democrats in the Maine Legislature say they want food stamps to fund nutritious food, not junk food. But instead of supporting the governor’s call for food stamps to stop paying for junk food by writing op-eds and letters to our broken federal government, they attack Gov. LePage for pushing a reform that we should all be able to agree upon.

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Maine Voices: Improve the VA health system by supporting a key rule change Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BANGOR — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants to improve our military veterans’ access to needed health care by fully utilizing certified registered nurse anesthetists and other advanced practice registered nurses already practicing in the VA health system. The proposed rule, published in the May 25 Federal Register, would reduce long wait times for veterans to receive care – a dangerous situation that sadly has cost some vets their lives.

So far in the comment period for the proposed rule, the issue has generated nearly 70,000 letters to the VA, by far the highest number of comments for a VA rule since the agency instituted online comment submission in 2006. Beyond a doubt, this is a topic of keen interest to veterans, their families and the American public.

This important new policy is supported by veterans groups such as AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America and the Air Force Sergeants Association, AARP, numerous health care professional organizations – including the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and other advanced practice registered nurse associations – and 80 Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

Even more significantly, the proposed rule is supported by:

Research evidence from no fewer than nine scientific studies on anesthesia safety published since 2000.

The results of an independent assessment of the Veterans Health Administration ordered by Congress in 2015.

The recommendations of the independent federal Commission on Care, issued this month.

A recommendation by the National Academies of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) that certified registered nurse anesthetists be allowed to practice to the full extent of their education, training and abilities.

While there is plenty of evidence to support the VA’s proposed rule, there is no evidence to support arguments raised in opposition to it.

The rule makes clear that the VA continues to support team-based patient care, with all providers – surgeons, anesthesiologists, certified registered nurse anesthetists and other health care professionals – working to their full capacity to provide the best quality of care possible to our veterans.

CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses who have completed seven to eight years of education and clinical training. They receive a master’s degree or a doctorate upon graduation and are eligible to sit for a national certifying examination. They must maintain certification through continuing education and recertification examinations.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia care in the United States since the Civil War. Many are veterans and have been the primary providers of anesthesia care at the front lines of war.

Fifty thousand CRNAs are practicing nationwide today. In Maine, there are 300 certified registered nurse anesthetists and students throughout the state. If you have had anesthesia for a procedure, it is most likely that a CRNA was at your side.

What the VA proposes is taking full advantage of the VA’s existing anesthesia workforce, both CRNAs and anesthesiologists alike. Independent research on anesthesia safety has confirmed time and again that patient outcomes are not influenced when a CRNA, an anesthesiologist or the two are working together to provide the service.

The VA’s proposal is to make better use of VA-certified registered nurse anesthetists by allowing them to practice to the full scope of their education, training and abilities without supervision. It would also make better use of VA anesthesiologists by having them actually provide anesthesia or pain care rather than needlessly supervising other qualified providers. Imagine how much of a dent could be made in veterans’ wait times for care if all anesthesia professionals within the system were being fully utilized.

The VA’s proposal stands to improve health care for veterans and to reduce wait times for the care they deserve and have earned. Public comments on the rule will be taken until July 25.

It is critically important that veterans and those who care about them support the VA’s plan to allow full practice authority for certified registered nurse anesthetists and other advanced practice registered nurses to the benefit of all veterans. At, you can make your voice heard today.

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Maine Voices: A no-tip, living wage for servers will anchor the restaurant industry Mon, 18 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It’s time for a new approach. The pay structure in today’s restaurant industry is unfair in so many ways. As owners of small and large restaurants, as consumers and as a community, we need to consciously make decisions that will better not only ourselves, but also our industry.

One crucial aspect to this change is paying our restaurant industry employees a living wage and slowly getting rid of the antiquated notion of tipping. The Maine referendum that will slowly raise the statewide minimum wage and tipped minimum wage is a step in the right direction.

Let’s begin with some background. I starting working in this industry at 16. At 17, I was living in Philadelphia, where I was working a 10-hour shift at $9 an hour and was expected to work two of those 10 hours for free. This was at a four-star restaurant with an owner who is one of the biggest restaurateurs in the United States.

The servers there were paid $2 and change an hour, plus tips – which, from one table alone, could exceed $300. They arrived after the kitchen staff and left before we finished. As a cook, I was enraged at the wage discrepancy between the front of the house and the back of the house. Cooks today are making not much more than I was then, and the gap between the front of the house and the back of the house is getting larger.

Currently, the American consumer largely determines the pay of their servers through tips. This system is fraught with inequities, since whether or not someone gets tipped often has little to do with service.

At one extreme, you have a patron who leaves a generous tip because the food was delicious (note that neither the kitchen nor the restaurant ever sees any of that tip). At the other extreme, you have someone who does not leave any tip because they didn’t like some item on the menu. The first patron effectively decided that the server deserved $50 an hour, and the second patron effectively decided that the server deserved $3.75 an hour.

Maine has a huge food service-based economy, from source to table. Whether or not a restaurant is successful depends on all of its employees working as a team. The current pay system for restaurants does not encourage this. Something is fundamentally wrong with the way we perceive how we should pay for the services provided by the restaurant industry. I’m frustrated by this reality, and though I’m nervous about the change, I deeply feel that something needs to happen.

Over the past couple of months at both of my restaurants, Bao Bao Dumpling House and Tao Yuan Restaurant, my mother and business partner, Cecile, my director of operations, Chris Peterman, and my chef de cuisine at Tao Yuan, Saskia Poulos, have been discussing the approach to switching current and future endeavors to a no-tip system, where service is included in the cost of the meal.

Although this may cost us more money initially, we believe that it will come back to us tenfold in employee retention – the benefits of being able to pay everyone a living wage, providing access to paid vacation and health insurance and offering varied job roles and more opportunities for full-time employment so people can have a steady and stable income year round. Those people will then be able to live in the city they work in, spend money in the city they live in and become part of the community they serve.

I may be wrong. Maybe we will make the switch and what everyone says will be true. People will think we are too expensive because the service charge is included in the price. Good servers won’t want to work for us because their pay structure will change. Customers will be upset that they don’t get to decide if their servers deserved to be tipped.

But I believe we can do right by our employees and customers with this new structure, and still make a little money. Maybe it won’t be as much as before, but at least everyone will know not only that we care where our food comes from, but also that the people who make and serve it can live sustainable lives. That is why I am in support of raising the minimum wage, as I think it is a step in the right direction for the future success of our industry.

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Our View: LePage’s views on addiction compound Maine’s overdose crisis Mon, 18 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We mostly see people with addiction at their worst, when bad choices and altered impulses lead to public consequences, and often a mug shot on the evening news. But to solve the opiate epidemic, we need to see them as the people they were before addiction hijacked their brain circuitry, and as the people they can be again.

More and more, the public is getting there, pushed by a drug crisis that more than any before it has hit suburban, middle-class America. Political leaders, historically too quick to ask law enforcement to solve what is a public health problem, are coming around, too, as evidenced by the pact signed last week by 46 state governors that focuses on saving lives, not prosecuting addicts.

Unfortunately, Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, is still stuck in the past. LePage refused to sign the agreement, calling it, through a spokesman, a “feel-good measure” that fails to address the full scope of the problem.

It’s hard to see what is wrong with an agreement that calls for reducing inappropriate prescribing of opioids, improving the country’s understanding of addiction, and ensuring that people with addiction have a pathway to recovery. Yet the governor found plenty.

According to the governor’s office, LePage was most upset that the pact did not call for beefing up law enforcement. That’s been the default response to drugs in Washington and state capitals across the country for decades.

Plus, the country has thrown billions of dollars in law enforcement efforts at the drug problem, and has only ruined innocent lives and brought cheaper, stronger, more plentiful drugs to our neighborhoods.

No, it’s better for governors to focus on stopping the overflow of addictive pain medications – an area where LePage has been a leader – and changing the views of Americans who see addicts as criminals and addiction as a moral failing that should be punished, not a disease to be treated.

On the latter point, LePage’s actions and rhetoric have been harmful, and concerning for their lack of depth and knowledge.

Just last week, during a radio appearance, the governor disparaged the use of methadone – shown to be among the best courses of treatment for heroin addiction – while in the next breath saying his administration endeavors to use “the best science” to formulate policy.

Worse, in response to the governors’ pact, LePage restated his absurd objection to the overdose antidote naloxone, saying through his spokesman that the medication “has not been proven to get drug addicts off deadly opiates.”

Thankfully, that illogical line of thinking has been rejected by advocates, police and a majority of Maine legislators. Naloxone was never meant to treat addiction, just as a heart stent doesn’t lower your cholesterol. It simply revives a person near death from overdose. Making it less available won’t get more people into treatment; it will only ensure that more people die.

Also last week, LePage said again that only 10 percent of people with addiction to heroin recover, a claim that has no basis in reality and which along with his statements on naloxone make us wonder just where he is getting his information.

LePage is the most visible speaker in the state on this important and deadly matter, and his uninformed views are poisoning attempts at progress. By essentially, and incorrectly, saying that addicts are a lost cause, he is playing to the worst impulses and prejudices of the public, and giving up on thousands of Mainers who are struggling with a disease.

It’s that attitude that all but guarantees we haven’t seen the peak of the pain and suffering caused by opioid abuse.

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