Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:35:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.4 Dana Milbank: Leave it to U.N. to show U.S. the cruelty of ending Obamacare http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/dana-milbank-leave-it-to-u-n-to-show-u-s-the-cruelty-of-ending-obamacare/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/dana-milbank-leave-it-to-u-n-to-show-u-s-the-cruelty-of-ending-obamacare/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187314 We’ve already seen that repealing Obamacare is politically perilous. Now there’s a new complication: It may also violate international law. The United Nations has contacted the Trump administration as part of an investigation into whether repealing the Affordable Care Act without an adequate substitute for the millions who would lose health coverage would be a violation of several international conventions that bind the United States. It turns out that the notion that “health care is a right” is more than just a Democratic talking point.

A confidential, five-page “urgent appeal” from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva, sent to the Trump administration, cautions that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act could put the United States at odds with its international obligations. The Feb. 2 memo, which I obtained Tuesday, was sent to the State Department and expresses “serious concern” about the prospective loss of health coverage for almost 30 million people, which could violate “the right to social security of the people in the United States.”

The letter urges that “all necessary interim measures be taken to prevent the alleged violations” and asks that, if the “allegations” proved correct, there be “adequate measure to prevent their occurrence as well as to guarantee the accountability of any person responsible.”

OHCHR requested that copies of the letter be shared with majority and minority leadership in both chambers of Congress and proposed that “the wider public should be alerted to the potential implications of the above-mentioned allegations.”

Apparently that didn’t happen. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s office said they didn’t receive the letter, and officials in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s offices said Tuesday that they were unaware of it.

The letter did make its way to the Department of Health and Human Services, where an employee leaked it to congressional Democratic leadership. A State Department spokesman said my inquiry was “the first I’m hearing of this.”

A spokesman for the U.N.’s human rights office in Geneva confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which was sent by Dainius Puras, a Lithuanian doctor who serves the United Nations under the absurdly long title “Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

The spokesman, Xabier Celaya, said Puras cannot comment on his Obamacare inquiry until it becomes public at the next session of the Human Rights Council in June.

None of this, of course, will deter President Trump and congressional Republicans, who are again attempting to get a repeal bill through the House. They scoff at lectures from U.N. bureaucrats, particularly on domestic affairs, and the world body has no practical way to impose its will on Congress.

Though of questionable legal value, the U.N. letter is at least a bit of moral support for those defending Obamacare.

Those attempting to deny health care to tens of millions of Americans would hurt their own constituents in a way that falls short of the standards we hold for ourselves and other countries.

Specifically, Puras writes that Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “establishes everyone’s right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being, including food, medical care and necessary social services.” He notes that Article 5(e) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the United States in 1994, calls on states to “guarantee the right of everyone,” including “the rights to public health, medical care, social security and social services” without regard to race or color.

The special rapporteur also cites Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, under which states have “the core obligation to ensure the right of access to health facilities, goods and services on a non-discriminatory basis, especially for vulnerable or marginalized groups.” The agreement was signed but not ratified by the United States, which is still “obliged to refrain from acts that would defeat the covenant’s object or purpose.”

The Trump administration has shown its contempt for such considerations by failing to pass along the U.N. letter to congressional leaders.

But you don’t have to care about international law to know that the essence of the OHCHR criticism is true: Taking away health coverage from millions without an adequate replacement is abject cruelty.

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

danamilbank@washpost.com

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Commentary: Democrats must make breathing room for diverse views on abortion http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/democrats-must-make-breathing-room-for-diverse-views-on-abortion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/democrats-must-make-breathing-room-for-diverse-views-on-abortion/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187315 Democrats have made health care a moral issue, based on a compelling argument, passionately held, that everyone deserves access to care by virtue of being human.

That’s one context to keep in mind as the party’s powerful pro-choice contingent attempts to transform a morally contentious issue, abortion, into a health-care issue that – unlike the party’s approach to health care generally – is stripped of moral content.

Last week, Naral Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue condemned the Democratic National Committee’s support for Heath Mello, a candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, who, she said, would deny women’s “basic rights and freedom.” As a state legislator, Mello had previously supported strict abortion regulations.

The attack produced the desired kowtow. DNC Chairman Tom Perez said, more or less, that Mello had come around to right thinking on the issue and that all Democrats are pro-choice now: “Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”

But at least one influential pro-choice Democrat isn’t ready to shut down diversity of opinion on the topic. On Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd if her party still had room for anti-abortion members. Her answer bore no resemblance to what her party’s chairman said days earlier.

“Of course,” said Pelosi, whose roots go back to a Catholic childhood in Baltimore’s Little Italy. “I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive – my family would say aggressive – position on promoting a woman’s right to choose.”

Pelosi’s pro-choice credentials are unimpeachable. So are her math skills. Polls consistently show that plenty of Democrats, including youthful ones, do not support unrestricted abortion rights. A CBS News poll in January found that a third of Democrats supported stricter limits on abortion.

To become speaker, Pelosi needs to flip two dozen House districts from Republican to Democratic in 2018. To win some of those seats, the party will need candidates capable of strategic shows of independence from the party line. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, gets that, which is why he said on Monday that Democrats are a “pro-choice” party and a “big tent” party.

Democrats found a useful marketing tool when they settled on the phrase “pro-choice.” It embodies the principle – a woman has the right to choose – without casting anti-abortion views as illegitimate or intolerable.

The phrase gives breathing room to not only different views but the varied moral weights that Americans assign to abortion.

According to a 2016 Pew poll, one-third of Americans say abortion is not a moral issue. For them, perhaps, it’s a matter of women’s “health choices.” But most Americans, including many who identify as pro-choice, perceive abortion as an act with moral implications, requiring a political calculus that can incorporate a range of moral qualms. Roe v. Wade, the brilliantly muddled, still-enduring middle ground in the rancorous debate, is a reflection – and protector – of just such qualms.

As long as those qualms exist, efforts to enforce a rigid party dogma will be corrosive and self-defeating. Partisan polarization has sorted the parties into opposing camps on abortion. But there is still room in both parties for individual conscience to express itself. Efforts to extinguish that are bad politics. And maybe bad morality.

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Our View: Maine needs vision more than a new state agency http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/our-view-maine-needs-vision-more-than-new-state-agency/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/our-view-maine-needs-vision-more-than-new-state-agency/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187330 Housing, health care, industry and transportation all have one thing in common: they are sectors of the economy sensitive to energy prices.

But unlike all of those other areas of interest, energy planning is not under the guidance of a department of state government.

That seems like a mistake, considering it represented $7.6 billion in 2015, and impacted virtually every other form of economic activity.

There is a bill before the Legislature that would create a new state Department of Energy, complete with a commissioner and staff, that would be funded with energy efficiency funds, adding resources and capacity to the work that’s now done by two members of the governor’s staff.

But while it makes sense to give such an important subject more attention, it points to a larger problem in the state – lack of long-term planning in general.

In 2012, Gov. Paul LePage phased out the State Planning Office, which used to provide independent economic analysis to the Legislature and governor. Until the governor’s energy office was created under the Baldacci administration, the State Planning office also looked at energy issues.

State government is missing that kind of comprehensive view. Interrelated issues involving electrical prices, new home construction and roads and bridges are being considered in multiple departments at the same time. What’s missing is study of the entire state’s needs and opportunities. It’s well known that Maine’s high cost of energy is a drag on our economy, but the growth of the state’s renewable power sector is also a valuable export. These are issues that should not be studied with only a single lens.

The proposal to fund a new energy agency with money from the Efficiency Maine Trust is another problem. That is money taken from electric rate payers to support energy efficiency projects, reducing electric bills. None of that money should go anywhere else than to rate payers to reduce their demand for power.

Adding to electric rates to study why rates are so high doesn’t make sense, and neither does creating a new agency with such a limited focus that would not address the underlying problem of a lack of planning and long-term vision.

It would be better for Maine to bring back the State Planning Office with more resources for energy study than it would be to add a new state agency that would look at only one piece of the puzzle.

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Another View: Chechnya persecutes gay men with Russia’s blessing http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/another-view-chechnya-persecutes-gay-men-with-russias-blessing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/another-view-chechnya-persecutes-gay-men-with-russias-blessing/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187331 Chechnya’s strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, hardly skipped a beat when it was revealed that his security forces were kidnapping and torturing gay men in the republic. Instead of investigating and punishing those who inflicted the horrors, Kadyrov, a violent provincial boss who enjoys the blessings of Russian President Vladimir Putin, immediately went after the Moscow newspaper that brought the situation to light. Reporters have been threatened and denounced, and forced to flee Russia.

On April 1, Novaya Gazeta, known for digging into sensitive topics, published an exposé showing that Kadyrov’s security services were detaining and executing gay men, holding them in squalid conditions and outing them to families for suggested “honor killing.” Three are known to have died, and more than 100 are believed to have been seized.

Since the story broke, further corroboration has come from gay men who escaped captivity and reported they were tortured, harassed and threatened. The purge has been confirmed by Human Rights Watch, which quoted one victim as saying, “They treated us like animals.”

Russia put down secessionist rebels in Chechnya in two wars that wreaked havoc on the republic. Today, Kadyrov rules by brute force and with Kremlin backing. Chechen society is traditionally conservative, and homosexuality is viewed as taboo.

On April 3, at a gathering of Chechnya’s religious and political leaders in the capital Grozny, an adviser to Kadyrov accused the newspaper of defamation and called its journalists “enemies of our faith and our motherland.” There was talk of retribution.

In an open and free society, this chain of events would be cause for alarm: secret torture chambers, runaway authority, intimidation of the press. But Russia is not free, and Putin hardly seems perturbed.

He tolerates brutality and coercion as instruments of state power, deaf to the cries of anguish from its victims.

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Internet integrity has to be bound by protection of privacy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/maine-voices-internet-integrity-has-to-be-bound-by-protection-of-privacy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/maine-voices-internet-integrity-has-to-be-bound-by-protection-of-privacy/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187332 BIDDEFORD — Congress recently passed a bill blocking internet service provider privacy-protection rules. The rules would have required internet service providers that gather private subscriber data to ask the subscriber for permission before selling the data and require the internet service providers to put security in place to stop hackers from stealing the data.

This bill caused widespread outrage, prompting U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to say: “Nobody’s got to use the internet.” The notion is that if you don’t want all your private data exposed, the remedy is not to use the internet – this is not a practical way to build a functioning economy and society.

This statement prompted me think of an Alfred selectman I worked with a few years ago. He didn’t use the internet himself – he would have the town office print out his emails so he could read them – but he understood how important the internet was to the future of his town and was pushing hard to get Alfred the best internet possible.

If any elected official in Maine doubts the necessity of internet access, they should canvass their constituents and pay particular attention to educators, health care professionals, businesspeople and the young people Maine is trying to attract and retain.

It isn’t possible to get the best education and the best health care, run most businesses or participate fully in our democracy without internet access. For most people, using the internet is no longer optional, particularly now that mobile access (cellphones) is internet access.

Under the new law, privacy may no longer be an option, as your internet service provider can gather an extraordinary amount of private information about you: Not just your browsing history, but also the videos you view, your messages, your phone calls and the games you play. All of these traverse the internet now.

Your internet service provider also knows your physical location via a technique called “geolocation.” An illustration of the problems this raises is the recent move by a Massachusetts advertising company to track the location of women and then send them targeted anti-abortion ads when the women were near abortion clinics. The same tactics could be used to track who visited a particular store, gun show, house of worship, political rally or other site or event.

Because the law both allows your internet service provider to sell this data without your permission and weakens security requirements, it is highly likely that your private data will be available to criminals and governments. U.S. businesses have repeatedly shown themselves to be unable to guard customer data from hackers and government cyber agents.

I am a part of the internet service provider industry and I don’t like government regulation, particularly when it regulates my actions. Competition should be our protection against bad behavior like privacy breaches. Unfortunately, there is little competition among internet service providers, and most people effectively have only one choice. Therefore, the potential violation of privacy allowed by our current regulatory regime is so great that something must be done. If for every citizen, massive amounts of private data are available, then the rest of our constitutional protections become meaningless.

We sell internet access, and I know that if people can’t trust the internet, then the value of the internet is significantly lessened, as it will be used less for sensitive applications. Even if government regulation blocks us from making money selling customer data (something we would never do), I still benefit because a trusted internet is more valuable to my customers.

The big internet service providers tell us that we can trust them to regulate themselves, but a search on “Verizon super cookie FCC fine,” “Comcast network neutrality violation” and “ISP deep packet inspection” shows otherwise. Public companies are optimized to maximize shareholder value and public company employees are rewarded for doing so.

Your private information is of great value to advertisers, criminals and governments. It is unreasonable to expect for-profit corporations to do anything less than constantly test the limits of what they can get away with when it comes to collecting and selling your private information. We will all benefit if there is the proper and measured government regulation of network privacy.

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Bill Nemitz: In debate over school tax, LePage’s latest gaffe makes a big difference http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/nemitz-add-tax-talk-to-list-of-lepages-falsehoods/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/nemitz-add-tax-talk-to-list-of-lepages-falsehoods/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187383 It will be, over the next two months, the mother of all debates:

Should the powers that be in Augusta accept the will of voters, who decided in November to boost education spending via a 3 percent surcharge on taxable income over $200,000?

Or should they ignore the electorate and simply repeal it?

In this corner, we have those who say the people have spoken and, well, enough said.

In that corner, we have folks who argue that the poor voters knew not what they were doing, that the income-tax add-on will spell ruin for a state already on the economic ropes.

Then, way out there, we have Gov. Paul LePage. He just makes stuff up.

Monday evening, after a whirlwind day of bashing the education surcharge in Augusta, LePage headed all the way up to Fort Kent for a town hall meeting.

Among those waiting for him there was Chris Hallweaver of Van Buren, a smart guy with a smart question.

Now that Maine has a healthy surplus after years of whacking away at state government, Hall asked, why is LePage handing it over to the wealthy? Why squander the surplus on yet another proposed income-tax cut and repeal of the 3 percent surcharge, rather than invest back into the state’s economy?

Break out the number crunchers, folks. We’re going into the weeds.

LePage responded to Hallweaver that, thanks to last fall’s referendum, “anybody who makes $200,000 family income, in the state of Maine, pays 10.15 percent, the highest income tax.”

Countered Hallweaver, “No, that’s not correct, because 3 percent of that is only on the incremental revenue above 200,000.”

Advantage Hallweaver: Under the new law, the 3 percent surcharge applies only to taxable income over $200,000. Anything under that is subject to Maine’s pre-existing marginal tax rates, which top out at 7.15 percent.

Now, if we’ve learned one thing about LePage these past seven years, it’s that he’s never found himself in a hole he can’t dig deeper.

“It’s for the full $200,000. It’s 10 percent of the full amount, sir,” the governor retorted. “It’s not incremental, it’s the top dollar. Once you hit $200,000, you are paying 10. If you’re paid $200,001, you are paying 10.15 percent after your deductions. Sorry, that’s the way it works. That is the way it works.”

Sorry, Governor, but that’s not the way it works. And you either know that and are deliberately spreading falsehoods to further your political agenda or you have no business talking tax rates without a certified public accountant whispering in your ear.

LePage’s gaffe makes a huge difference:

The way he spun it on Monday, a Mainer with taxable income of $200,001 would pay 10.15 percent in state income tax on the entire amount. That translates into a whopping $20,300 tax bill.

In reality, however, that person would pay Maine’s marginal tax rates, up to 7.15 percent, on the first $200,000 – along with 10.15 percent on that extra dollar. That’s an estimated $13,192 in state income tax – plus a dime for that extra buck.

Meaning in this case, LePage overstates the surcharge’s impact by more than $7,000.

Hallweaver, in an interview Tuesday, also expressed dismay at LePage’s repeated claims that doctors, lawyers, scientists and other highly paid professionals are fleeing Maine in droves to avoid the 3 percent surcharge.

“In my office this morning, we had hundreds of letters that we gave to the press from the people that had left,” LePage told the crowd.

Hundreds of letters?

Try 37 – including 22 that were actually directed to the governor’s office and another 15 that were submitted to the Legislature as written testimony back in February.

And what exactly do these letters say?

Not one came from someone who actually has left Maine.

Six were from people who said they’re either planning to leave or at least thinking about it.

Eight more said they knew of someone either leaving or considering it. (One writer, for example, was told this by a stranger he met on a plane.)

Some of the remaining letters, while not announcing any moving plans, were nevertheless telling.

“I am tired of people who do nothing to improve their situation, dipping into the pockets of those that do,” complained a veterinarian in Scarborough. “It may be a small amount of luck that gets you ahead, but I’m sure you know that it is more about sacrifice. … I pay more taxes just by earning more money. FLAT TAX!”

A woman from Cape Elizabeth suggested that indentured servitude might balance the scales: “If we have to bear this burden, what are others’ forced contributions? Janitorial services? Volunteer time, maintenance? Nothing. The proverbial finger has been pointed at us while everyone else is clear of obligation. This is infuriating.”

(The proverbial finger? How about the actual finger that LePage & Co. have pointed at Maine’s poor for the past seven years?)

Then there was the widow from Wales who apparently thinks society’s obligation to public schools should fall primarily on those with school-age children.

“Many of us don’t even have children in this system and many have many children and get plenty of welfare,” she wrote. “Enough is enough for this small state.”

What makes LePage’s latest public relations blitz so unfortunate is that there is a legitimate debate to be had here over the 3 percent surcharge.

It was passed, after all, by voters who for more than a decade have watched the state renege on his statutory obligation to fund 55 percent of the cost of education statewide.

Were they hoodwinked, as critics now claim? Or were they simply fed up with a system that always seems to favor those lucky Mainers who live in the land of six (or more) figures?

At the same time, a smattering of the letters in LePage’s paltry pile, while not from professionals bidding Maine bye-bye, are from corporate executives who warn that the surcharge will make it tougher to attract highly paid employees and keep them here.

To be sure, these execs speak out of self-interest – assuming their taxable income falls somewhere north of $200,000. But they nevertheless deserve to be heard.

LePage could encourage this debate. Heck, in a perfect world, he could enhance it with real facts, real figures, maybe even real people.

Instead, he once again undermines it with claims that are blatantly untrue.

And he tops that off with an alleged mass exodus from Maine that’s heavy on fear and light on fact.

Mused Chris Hallweaver after the governor’s latest performance, “Very powerful stuff, fake news.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Leonard Pitts: UC Berkeley embarrasses itself in defending Coulter speech cancellation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/leonard-pitts-uc-berkeley-embarrasses-itself-in-defending-coulter-speech-cancellation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/leonard-pitts-uc-berkeley-embarrasses-itself-in-defending-coulter-speech-cancellation/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186879 So here is where things stand at this writing.

Ann Coulter says she will be at UC Berkeley on Thursday as originally contracted to give a speech. The university says it will not provide a venue.

In canceling a speaking engagement by the right-wing flame thrower, the famously liberal school has embarrassed, betrayed and besmirched its proud legacy as the birthplace of the free-speech movement of the 1960s. It has also more than earned the lawsuit filed against it Monday by the Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation, the two groups sponsoring Coulter’s appearance.

The school says free speech is not the issue here, security is. You may recall the chaos that attended a February speaking engagement by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart editor and professional ass who is arguably best known for directing a racist troll army that briefly drove “Saturday Night Live” star Leslie Jones off Twitter last year.

His speech had to be canceled after the university was, in the words of spokesman Dan Mogulof, “invaded by more than 100 individuals clad in ninja-like uniforms who were armed and engaged in paramilitary tactics.” They threw objects, set fires and left about $100,000 in damage in their wake. The area has seen other recent violent political clashes as well.

So UCB, citing what it says is a credible threat of similar upheavals, initially demanded Coulter end her speech by midafternoon. She agreed, but the school then canceled outright. An offer of a different date was rejected. Coulter says she is otherwise engaged and also complains that the new date falls during a week when classes are canceled and students are busy studying for finals.

Even taken at face value, UCB’s reasoning does not persuade. It strains credulity to believe campus police and the Berkeley Police Department, with its 170 sworn officers, could not secure the school sufficiently to allow Coulter to speak and protesters to protest while keeping 100 would-be rioters in line. Oakland’s 753 officers and San Francisco’s 2,293 are just down the road and across the bay, respectively, and could, one presumes, provide any needed reinforcement. Heck, if it’s that bad, call out the National Guard.

Even that would be better than this act of spineless capitulation, a public university ceding veto power over free speech to a bunch of terrorists. In so doing, it emboldens these left-wing punks – or some future army of right-wing thugs – to believe they can shut down any opinion they dislike just by threatening to misbehave. It is hard to imagine a worse message – or a more disheartening messenger.

There are few legitimate reasons for abridging free speech. If the speaker speaks slander, exhorts violence, or creates an abusive work environment, you might have a case. But the First Amendment carves out no exception for “hate speech.” Shame on Howard Dean for a recent silly tweet that claimed otherwise.

And shame on anyone else on the left who is willing to look the other way because this particular abridgment involves the vile – and reviled – Coulter. Freedom of speech is not the sole property of liberals, nor of conservatives. It is the heritage of Americans.

Fifty-three years ago, an earlier generation of Berkeley students protested and suffered arrest to vindicate that heritage after they were barred from handing out flyers about the Civil Rights Movement. Berkeley didn’t understand free speech in 1964 and, apparently, not enough has changed five decades later.

Sorry, UCB, but this one is not even close. Ann Coulter is coming to town Thursday.

Let her speak.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: State should repeat its history of refusing to join a federal hue and cry http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/maine-voices-maine-legislature-has-history-of-refusing-to-join-a-federal-hue-and-cry/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/maine-voices-maine-legislature-has-history-of-refusing-to-join-a-federal-hue-and-cry/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186897 As Mainers, we’ve inherited an honorable tradition of leadership on issues of great weight in American history, and our proudest moments of discernment and courage were our actions as a state in the face of slavery.

With pride we recall the heroism of the 20th Maine Regiment at Gettysburg. In proportion to its population, Maine provided more soldiers and sailors than any other Union state in the fight to end slavery.

Although not as well known, the good people of Maine formed a key link in the Underground Railroad, hiding and transporting hundreds of escaped slaves to Canada and freedom.

In this struggle to acknowledge the basic human rights of all, the Maine Legislature, too, became involved.

In 1850, Congress had passed the Fugitive Slave Law, which threatened state and local law enforcement officials who did not arrest alleged runaway slaves with fines and imprisonment; citizens aiding runaway slaves could be fined or imprisoned as well. In fact, all law enforcement officials were required to arrest a person suspected of being a runaway slave on as little as a claimant’s sworn testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf.

Maine’s Legislature responded in 1852 by enacting “An Act to further protect personal liberty,” which prohibited judges of any court in the state from ruling in cases arising under the Fugitive Slave Law. It also said that “[n]o sheriff, deputy sheriff, coroner, constable, jailor, or other officer of this state, in his official capacity, shall hereafter arrest or detain, or aid in arresting or detaining … any person by reason of his being claimed a fugitive slave.” The penalties for violating this law were fines and imprisonment.

Maine simply forbade any state resources to be used in the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law.

We now find ourselves in times in which an assault on human dignity, eerily similar to that which our forebears confronted, is occurring in our land. We have people among us without documents who are not citizens and have no path to citizenship, like the slaves of earlier times. They cannot ask for a jury trial or testify on their own behalf, like the slaves of earlier times. They can be arrested and detained without a warrant like the slaves of earlier times.

And like the slaves of earlier times, they can be returned to the land they fled with no consideration of what awaits them there. They are every bit as human as the slaves our forebears fought to free.

Joshua Chamberlain calls out to us from the past to remind us that “the power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.”

So how will our Legislature respond to the current challenge?

Soon, the Legislature will vote on LD 366, “An Act to Ensure Compliance with Federal Immigration Laws by State and Local Government Entities.” This bill would remove all restrictions concerning the sharing and use of immigration and citizenship information and prohibit restricting of the enforcement of federal immigration laws. It would require full cooperation between state and federal law enforcement officials and require state officials to comply with an immigration detainer. This bill would require state officials to turn over any detained person thought to be an undocumented immigrant to federal law enforcement without requiring a proper warrant. The state’s law enforcement community would become mere appendages of federal immigration law.

This is a far cry from the response of the people of Maine and its Legislature to past affronts to human dignity, and it is repugnant to the memory of the noble deeds our forefathers sought to preserve and pass to the future.

And as the Fugitive Slave Law sought to fine and imprison law enforcement officers who would not enforce it, so too, today, the Department of Homeland Security seeks to coerce compliance by threatening to withhold funds from communities and states who refuse to comply with its detainer requests. Courage to do the right thing will be required.

Rather than listen to the voices of fear and nativism, let’s propose a compassionate and honorable solution to our current situation with undocumented noncitizens in the spirit of timeless Maine values. Let’s honor the sacrifice of our forebears and strive for the dignity of all men. And listen to the better angels of our nature.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/maine-voices-maine-legislature-has-history-of-refusing-to-join-a-federal-hue-and-cry/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/09/1054206_853848-StateHouse-e1493229452725.jpgIntent on marginalizing the governor in his last two years in office, Democrats hope to increase their majority in the House and recapture control of the Senate; Republicans, meanwhile, say Maine people like what Gov. Paul LePage has done for the state.Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:14:08 +0000
Greg Kesich: Protesters in fighting mood foiled by fighter in an alternate reality http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/greg-kesich-protesters-in-fighting-mood-foiled-by-fighter-in-an-alternate-reality/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/greg-kesich-protesters-in-fighting-mood-foiled-by-fighter-in-an-alternate-reality/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186902 I went to two meetings last week. Conveniently, both were at the same time and in the same place.

One was a town hall session with Gov. LePage, where he sat on stage at USM in front of a couple of charts and grumbled to 50 or so people about some of his favorite topics: taxes, education and the high cost of energy.

The other meeting involved about two dozen protesters who came out to oppose the governor, not so much for what he was saying, but for who he is and what he represents.

It wasn’t exactly a meeting of the minds. LePage would rattle off a few talking points, then one of the protesters would stand up and yell at him, sometimes using salty language – including the three-syllable epithet that the governor left on Rep. Drew Gattine’s voicemail last summer (and I don’t mean “socialist”).

Then, as the protester was escorted from the room, LePage would get back to why we need lower taxes for “job creators” or how much nicer the world would be if we could get discount hydropower from Quebec.

The two meetings were taking place in the same hall but in alternate universes: one where Democrats, unions and the media were stopping the governor from turning Maine into an economic powerhouse; the other where The People were ready to overthrow the system – not by replacing conservative politicians with liberal ones – but by rejecting centuries of white supremacy and corporate greed.

This wasn’t a debate, it was a battle over reality.

And it was one that the governor appeared to be winning.

It’s hard to know what the protesters thought they were going to get from this exercise, but if they wanted to see LePage lose his temper and howl like Rumpelstiltskin, they had to be disappointed.

Just two years ago, LePage stomped off a stage at UMaine-Farmington because a couple of very polite students in the back row held up a sign that called him “Maine’s shame.”

But last week, he sat calmly while he was called “transphobic” and accused of “making war on black and brown people.”

If you were new to the scene you might have been impressed with his patience. He was the reasonable one (talk about an alternate universe!).

He even sounded like an indulgent dad, saying, “It’s one thing to scream and holler and be disrespectful, but you should have your facts straight.”

Then somebody laughed. OK, it was me.

I couldn’t believe that a governor who’s never met a fact he couldn’t mangle would try to get away with saying something like that in public. But LePage and the people who attended his meeting nodded their heads in approval.

So for the record: The governor did not have his facts straight at USM last week. He said too many not-straight-facts to list here, but here are a few that he has said before, been corrected, and continues to repeat.

Asylum seekers are all illegal immigrants. (No, most are legally present, waiting for a court date.)

Fifty-four percent of Maine high school graduates have to take remedial work when they go to college. (At UMaine the real number is 12 percent, which is lower than students who need extra help in the rest of the country.)

Maine would not be eligible for the enhanced federal match if it expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Yes it would for the vast majority of new enrollees. This claim is so exaggerated it qualifies as a bold-faced lie.)

And in addition to these well-known non-facts, LePage threw in a couple of new ones, like:

The homestead tax exemption is anti-business. (Huh?)

Maine’s population is declining because people are moving away. (Maine has no natural population growth. One hundred percent of what anemic growth we do have comes from people moving here.)

Anyone with access to Google can quickly fact-check these statements, but that’s not really the point, is it?

The governor is not trying to be a “Jeopardy” champion. LePage’s appeal has always been that he is a fighter, and a fighter needs someone to fight against.

The protesters needed someone to fight against, too, and LePage fit the bill, but they couldn’t find a way to mix it up with him.

You can’t blame them. In the seventh year of the LePage administration, no one has really figured out how to lay a glove on the guy.

So the result was two meetings instead of one, involving people who shared the same time and space, but not much else.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at www.pressherald.com/podcast.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter @gregkesich

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/greg-kesich-protesters-in-fighting-mood-foiled-by-fighter-in-an-alternate-reality/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:29:08 +0000
Our View: States handed big role in protecting personal data gathered by companies online http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/our-view-states-handed-big-role-in-protecting-personal-data-gathered-by-companies-online/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/our-view-states-handed-big-role-in-protecting-personal-data-gathered-by-companies-online/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186872 Whether the nullification of Obama-era rules regarding internet service providers is an unconscionable blow to privacy or merely a leveling of the playing field with web-based companies, one thing is for certain – when it comes to protecting your personal information online, you are on your own.

With an ever-increasing amount of our lives being lived online, that’s not good enough, and if the federal government isn’t going to do it, then it is up to the states to hand some of the responsibility to the companies now awash in so much of our personal data.

Last month, the Republican-led Congress voted largely along party lines to repeal the rules, which would have required internet service providers like Verizon and Time Warner to get express consent before selling customer data.

Opponents of the rules, which had yet to go into effect, say they put ISPs at a disadvantage against web-based companies like Facebook and Google, which have no such restrictions on selling user data, and that the rules would have given customers the false sense that all data put online was safe from third-party use.

EXPECT MORE MINING OF PERSONAL DATA

Whatever the case, the immediate impact of the repeal is small; the major ISPs have all pledged to refrain from selling customer data.

But that can change. The ISPs have been operating under the assumption that the rules would be in place, and must now shift gears. Once they figure out how to monetize the data without losing customers, it’s hard to imagine they won’t capitalize on the multibillion-dollar-a-year online advertising industry, putting your browsing history, geo-location data and app usage up for sale in some way.

That alone shouldn’t alarm anyone familiar with how the internet works – it’s basically what Facebook and Google do all the time.

But the mining of personal data will only get more sophisticated from here. It is far easier for a billion-dollar company to exploit that data than it is for the average person to stop sharing it.

And when companies decide to exploit your data, they will find little legal resistance.

Because of the way Congress repealed the rules, the Federal Communications Commission cannot propose them again. There is some talk of moving oversight back to the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees web-based companies, but no action so far.

“There are no rules here now,” lawyer Peter Guffin, who heads Pierce Atwood’s privacy and data security practice, told the Press Herald. “There’s a complete vacuum in terms of when an ISP can see into the contents of our communications, what it can do with those contents, and even whether it has to tell us if this data has been hacked.”

INDIVIDUAL STATES NEED TO STEP UP

If anything’s going to be done, it will have to be at the state level. Multiple states are considering bills that mirror the repealed rules. A bill in Massachusetts, for instance, would bar ISPs from collecting, using or disclosing customer information without written consent, and prevent them from charging more or refusing service to customers who refuse to consent. Maine should consider similar legislation.

States should also consider a broader internet user “bill of rights” that would provide universal protection of private information, regardless of the company or industry.

The federal action also highlights the need for competition among service providers. The industry is increasingly ruled by a few huge companies that have little or no obligation to individual customers.

Smaller, local companies – even municipal-based service providers – won’t find it so easy to put shareholders above customer rights.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/our-view-states-handed-big-role-in-protecting-personal-data-gathered-by-companies-online/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1186872_3ringbinder_1215-e1493178292936.jpgThe fiber-optic cable project to bring high-speed internet to remote parts of Maine is likely to add to the volume of personal data on the web.Tue, 25 Apr 2017 23:45:02 +0000
Another View: ‘Buy American’ standard doesn’t help starving people http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/another-view-buy-american-standard-doesnt-help-starving-people/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/another-view-buy-american-standard-doesnt-help-starving-people/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186297 As many as 20 million people around the world currently face starvation or the risk of it, because of the first United Nations-declared famine since 2011 – in South Sudan – plus the prospect for other famines later this year in northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

This preventable tragedy challenges the United States to act according to its proudest humanitarian traditions, not the selfish slogan of “America First.” And it’s an occasion to reconsider the government’s longstanding approach to international food aid, which caters to domestic special-interest groups at the expense of hungry people abroad and taxpayers at home.

Title II of the Food for Peace Act, the main source of emergency food aid, requires the United States to supply international famine-relief programs with American-grown products and to ship at least half of the materiel on U.S.-flagged vessels.

Meanwhile, at least 15 percent of the goods must be “monetized” once they arrive at their destination – that is, resold on local markets by nongovernmental organizations, to fund development projects. Obviously, this is good for American farmers, food processors, maritime unions, ship-owning companies and ports. Equally obviously, it makes the program less efficient than it might be: The set-aside for U.S.-flagged vessels inflates transportation costs; the buy-American rule for commodities prevents purchases from cheaper producers closer to the famine zones, whose productive efforts are also undercut by “monetization.”

Food-aid reform has been a bipartisan cause backed by each of the past two presidents and many members of Congress. However, the powerful lobbies that benefit from the status quo have prevented it. If he’s really interested in improving the cost-effectiveness of aid, President Trump would spend some of his political capital on the cause. Of course, that would also require him to depart from the simplistic “buy American” mind-set he has repeatedly expressed.

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Kathleen Parker: In our social media culture, Facebook video of a homicide was inevitable http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/kathleen-parker-in-our-social-media-culture-facebook-video-of-a-homicide-was-inevitable/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/kathleen-parker-in-our-social-media-culture-facebook-video-of-a-homicide-was-inevitable/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186324 The Facebook video of a homicide was surely inevitable.

This isn’t the same as saying that video murders soon will become all the rage, but it was more likely to happen eventually than not.

Forget the suspected killer Steve Stephens, who took his own life Tuesday after a brief police pursuit. If not he, then someone else would have become “that guy who killed an old man while filming himself doing it.”

Shooting 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. was apparently a random act. Acquaintances described Stephens as a “creep” who, as a teenager, used a pet python to try to woo women. Ah, yes, the old python trick.

Nuance, one notes, was not his forte.

But – wait for it – he had a good personality. And, finally, he worked in children’s mental health.

Let’s create a monster, shall we?

The alleged killer walks around seducing girls with a giant snake that gives lethal hugs, once slapped to death his pet parakeet (according to an erstwhile neighbor), and likes to video himself committing at least one murder, though he claimed to a friend in a telephone conversation (also filmed) that he had killed 13.

As the Cleveland police chief put it, “he’s got deep, deep issues.”

We don’t know whether Stephens was interested in taking lives for the thrill of the kill, or whether he was primarily interested in capturing himself in the act. But it seems obvious that the video was essential to the murder.

This is the modern take on the tree falling in the forest. If no one were to see Stephens’ murderous act, would the experience have mattered as much? Or at all?

The randomness of the victim suggests a lack of intent beyond the placement of a bullet in some unsuspecting person’s head. Imagine.

Stephens aimed the barrel of his weapon at Godwin’s forehead, watched as Godwin held up his hands, while looking at Stephens – who was taking moving pictures.

Inconceivable, yet it was posted for all to see.

The banality of the act – random, ruthless and meaningless – underscored the truly hideous purpose of Stephens’ brief moment on the world stage. Not 15 minutes of fame, but eternity in the viral universe.

Murdering a stranger was simply the worst thing he could do to ensure that everyone would know his name.

Which is why Godwin’s sad and terrible death was perhaps fateful. He was the man stepping off the curb just as the bus swerved too close, the fisherman on the lake when lightning found his fishing rod.

Godwin was simply there when a roving human eye found him, when the camera lens shuttered into focus, and his 74 years on Earth suddenly became the locus in the crosshairs of an ultimate exhibitionist.

I’ve seen only still shots of the murder taken from the film and wouldn’t watch the tape if I could. Morbid curiosity has its limits – or should.

But for much of the world these days, watching other people performing all manner of activities has become routine, which is to say, ordinary.

Indeed, people will film themselves doing just about anything and everything. Younger folks who’ve been documented since birth, as well as during, and have never known a mobile-phone-free moment, perhaps can’t fathom why they shouldn’t “share” their every whim, appetite and mood.

I’d like to think it’s because no one else is that interested, but apparently lots of other people are. For every exhibitionist, there are a million voyeurs.

We’re all so riveted to our screens that a moment not captured and telegraphed to our thousands of social media “friends” may as well not have happened.

Would Godwin still be alive if Stephens’ battery had died?

The temptations are great, no doubt, and I’m no high priestess of moral will, though I do hate myself every time I share.

And of course I was put on this planet to worry, which I also do publicly. I worry that the underlying imperative in our see-and-be-seen culture – one increasingly without even the expectation of privacy – soon leads to the expectation that one shouldn’t have any privacy.

Some slippery slopes really are slippery.

Whatever secrets Stephens took to his Maker when he took his own life, we’ll never know. But someone else’s secret urges or desires are always on the verge of display – and one-upmanship is the coin of the Facebook realm.

Would that the next worst thing were not inevitable.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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Maine Voices: We should protect our children’s health, not polluters’ profits http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/maine-voices-we-should-protect-our-childrens-health-not-polluters-profits/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/maine-voices-we-should-protect-our-childrens-health-not-polluters-profits/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186327 As a resident of Maine, the mom of a daughter with asthma and a soil scientist by training, I know that clean air cannot be taken for granted. The tremendous progress we have made cleaning up our state’s air in the last half-century shows that strong environmental safeguards against pollution are effective. They help protect the health of children like my daughter, for whom air pollution can trigger an asthma flare-up.

Now, even with decades of science to support the importance of regulations, President Trump wants to decimate funding for federal environmental protections. Trump has proposed slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency – the agency tasked with protecting Americans’ health from pollution – by nearly a third.

If enacted, the EPA would be severely crippled. Its budget would drop to its lowest point since 1976 (adjusting for inflation), and more than 50 entire programs would be eliminated. It would hinder states’ abilities to address polluted air and water by slashing funds that support local efforts to monitor drinking water, clean up toxic waste and reduce smog. Polluting companies would be free to line their pockets at the expense of our kids’ health.

Dirty air does not stop at state lines. In Maine, these budget cuts will harm our children. Mainers have the EPA to thank for ensuring that our state is protected from other states’ unsafe air pollution. In fact, smog-forming pollution from fossil-fueled power plants west of Maine drifts into our state. Our children then breathe in the powerful lung irritant, which interferes with normal lung development and triggers asthma attacks. By setting and enforcing limits on smog and other dangerous air pollutants, the EPA is preventing asthma attacks, birth defects, respiratory and cardiovascular disease and cancer. To add insult to injury, Trump’s proposed budget includes a 24 percent cut to enforcement, eliminating funding to pursue cases when power plants violate laws that reduce dangerous emissions in Maine’s communities. Preventing pollution from drifting across state lines requires enforcement, plain and simple.

Maine has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country. This past year, the American Lung Association gave my home county of Cumberland a “D” grade for harmful ozone, better known as smog. I can recall two “code orange” days within the last year. On these days, it is recommended that children like my daughter, who have asthma, should remain inside. The EPA is providing benefits to the 24,800 children in Maine diagnosed with asthma like my daughter. In combating air pollution, the EPA is a life-saving force whose contributions are all too easy to take for granted.

Let us not forget that Americans did not vote for an agenda that gives breaks to polluters and dismantles lifesaving protections for clean air, healthy water and safe food. Americans are not happy about the Trump administration and the unprecedented assault on important public health protections by Congress. In fact, three out of five American voters disapprove of how the Trump administration is handling environmental issues. And nearly three out of four voters say it would be a “bad idea” to cut funding for climate change research and education. But that’s exactly what this administration has proposed doing. Instead of working diligently to protect American families, President Trump is putting polluters’ profits over the interests of people.

When we devalue clean air and good health, every American gets a raw deal.

Everyone deserves clean air to breathe and water to drink, no matter who they voted for last November. That is why I am urging our elected officials to oppose President Trump’s unconscionable budget cuts to the EPA. You, too – as a constituent in Maine – can push them to stand up for public health and for the EPA. We should do so as if our children’s health depends on it – because it does.

 

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Charles Lawton: Hosting company headquarters is more than just good for Maine’s reputation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/charles-lawton-hosting-company-headquarters-is-more-than-just-good-for-maines-reputation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/charles-lawton-hosting-company-headquarters-is-more-than-just-good-for-maines-reputation/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186350 I have been asked several times recently about the significance of milestones reached by Maine companies this year. One was the announcement that South Portland-based Wex Inc. had crossed the $1 billion in annual sales plateau. The others were the announcements that the stock of Westbrook-based Idexx Laboratories has been added to both the S&P 500 stock index and to the Nasdaq-100 stock index. “What, if anything” I was asked, “did these facts mean for Maine?”

My initial thought was that the effect was mostly reputational. Broad national and international recognition that two companies started in Maine had succeeded in growing to be world leaders in their fields would be good for the state. Maine could, I thought, gain positive exposure from some of the reflected glow generated by these achievements.

On closer reflection, however, I thought that perhaps there were more concrete benefits to the state. Obviously, the goods and services that these – and other Maine-based companies – sell all over the world bring money here that provides jobs, pays taxes and supports local upstream vendors.

But to the extent that these companies and others like L.L. Bean and Hannaford are headquartered in Maine, their employees don’t just make stuff and ship it out to the world. They also provide support for other company employees located outside the state. Management, strategic planning, companywide financial services, investor relations, research and development, human resource management – all of these activities exist in Maine because Maine is where these companies’ headquarters are located. Clearly such activities provide benefits to the state that are more than reputational. Is there any way to document these “headquarters” effects, I wondered?

As a first cut at answering this question, I looked at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment Survey for the Portland Metropolitan Area for 2010 and 2016. I picked three occupational groupings – management, business and financial operations, and computer and mathematical operations – as those most likely to be associated with headquarter operations. In looking at these three occupational groupings over the 2010 to 2016 time period, three facts emerged:

 They commanded annual wages well above the all-occupation average – $73,200 versus $42,700 in 2010, and $84,600 versus $47,800 in 2016.

Their rate of job growth over the period was nearly triple that of total growth of all occupations – 17 percent versus 5 percent.

Their rate of salary growth over the period (16 percent) far exceeded the overall wage growth for all occupations (12 percent).

It would, of course, be incorrect to claim that all of this differential can be attributed to corporate headquarters. Virtually all companies have at least some managers, some business and financial operators, some people doing computer and mathematical operations, even if they involve only the owner/operators of small companies and new startups wearing different hats at different times of the day. In many companies, it would be impossible to categorize all employees by one and only one occupational category. Indeed, cross-training and collaboration are increasingly the watchword for today’s desirable new hires.

To try to tease out the “headquarters effect” a bit more, I compared the Portland numbers for the three selected occupational groupings with those of the Bangor Metro Area, on the grounds that fewer of the state’s larger “headquarters companies” are located in that area. The results revealed a similar but generally less exaggerated pattern. Average pay for the three “management type” occupational groupings in the Bangor area was above the Bangor all-occupation average, but below the Portland “management” average.

The rate of job growth in these “management” occupations in the Bangor area exceeded total area job growth and even exceeded the Portland growth rate (21 percent versus 17 percent). However, even after this growth, the share of total jobs in these three occupational categories in the Bangor area (10 percent) was still far below the 15 percent share that held for the Portland area.

Thus, pending a more direct and more detailed survey of Maine’s “headquarters” companies, my educated guess is that such companies do have an above-average share of total employment in these high-growth, high-pay occupations, and thus, that they do contribute more to Maine than simply the reflected glow of individual company accomplishments. They represent a source of additional job growth for Maine, and, most importantly, the sort of job growth that requires high skill and commands high wages.

These are exactly the sorts of jobs we need to attract accomplished Mainers longing to come home and talented non-residents. These are exactly the jobs we so desperately need to offset the demographic imbalance in our current labor market. They are thus a reason to keep and, hopefully, to expand our crop of Maine-headquartered companies.

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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Our View: State Senate should clap handcuffs on bill about hindering arrest http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/our-view-state-senate-should-put-hindering-arrest-bill-in-handcuffs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/our-view-state-senate-should-put-hindering-arrest-bill-in-handcuffs/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186361 They say a watched pot never boils, but you don’t hear so much about the corollary: An unwatched pot can boil over before you know it if you’re not paying attention.

Both things are true for the legislative process, which can look like a system designed to keep things from getting done if you closely follow some bills. That masks the fact that hundreds of pieces of legislation fly through the State House every year, and when there’s not sufficient opposition, they end up as state law before all their consequences are fully understood.

That could be the case with L.D. 251, a well-intentioned bill designed to give law enforcement a tool to handle unruly suspects but which could also blast an overly broad hole in civil liberties protections. The bill has already passed without debate (or “under the hammer”) in the House of Representatives, and could be on its way to the governor’s desk if the Maine Senate does not take action and slow it down.

The bill sounds innocuous enough. “An Act Regarding Refusing to Submit to Arrest or Detention” would, among other things, make it a Class D crime, punishable by up to one year in jail, to take any action that “hinders, delays or prevents the lawful arrest or detention.”

Law enforcement organizations say they need the statute to help them in situations where suspects are not compliant, but they have not yet made a clear case for why this new authority would be needed or how it would be contained.

It’s already against the law to refuse to stop for an officer, to resist arrest or to interfere with an officer who is trying to arrest someone else. It’s also already a Class D crime to use force against an officer who is trying to make an arrest, but this bill would lower the bar significantly, making “hindering (or) delaying” the same type of offense as taking a swing at a cop.

The broad language raises difficult questions.

Could the statute be used to pile up numerous charges for the same conduct, giving a prosecutor a stronger hand at plea bargaining? Could it apply to lawfully assembled demonstrators, when police officers wade through a crowd to arrest someone for civil disobedience?

If not, what in the proposed law would prevent those excesses?

There is no reason to rush this piece of legislation into the law books. Members of the Maine Senate should pay some attention to this pot before it boils over. They need to “hinder (and) delay” L.D. 251 before it goes too far.

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Our View: Property tax cut keeps money in the right place http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/our-view-property-tax-cut-keeps-money-in-the-right-place/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/our-view-property-tax-cut-keeps-money-in-the-right-place/#respond Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185798 Good tax policy demands more than just raising enough money to meet the budget’s bottom line: It also matters where the money comes from.

In Augusta this year, we are seeing two starkly different approaches to tax policy that would have radically different impacts on the lives of the majority of Maine residents.

Gov. LePage kicked off the legislative session with a package of his greatest hits, led by a big tax cut for the state’s wealthiest, paid for with cutbacks of state aid to school districts, municipalities and homeowners. The governor continues to make the case that these kinds of policies would make the state more prosperous, even though six years of experience tells us otherwise.

A much different vision of tax relief has also been presented this year, and it’s one lawmakers should find a way to support. Instead of cutting income tax rates, the plan put together by Democratic lawmakers is focused on reducing property taxes through a package of policies that would relieve the pressure on school districts and municipal governments that has been driving steep increases in recent years.

This is not just a matter of digging into a different pocket of the same taxpayers to fund the government. These strategies would dictate who pays and what services are funded.

The governor’s proposal would move Maine toward a lower income tax, which he would pay for by cutting education, revenue sharing for communities and residential tax relief programs, which he recently described as “anti-business.”

The Democratic proposals start with fully funding K-12 education at the level required by state law. That would deliver $150 million in sales and income tax revenue that would not have to be raised at the local level from property owners.

They would go further with increasing the homestead exemption for primary residences from $20,000 of valuation to $30,000. They would also add $33 million to the property tax fairness credit, which helps people whose property tax exceeds 6 percent of their income, or whose rent exceeds 40 percent of their income.

And they propose adding to state revenue sharing, not eliminating it. Altogether, these policies would make for the biggest property tax cut in Maine history.

The differences between the two approaches could not be more clear. LePage’s plan would put money in the pockets of the top 1 percent, hoping that they would invest some of it locally. According to an analysis by the Maine Center for Economic Policy, LePage’s approach would give people who report more than $384,000 of taxable income a tax break of $22,665 a year. Meanwhile, everybody who earns less than $92,000 a year would see a tax hike.

The Democrats would put money into local schools, public safety and roads.

LePage’s regressive proposals would provide a lot of relief for a few, while making the majority pay considerably more. That’s not the right choice for Maine.

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Maine Voices: When victims realize what is happening, they can leave abusive homes http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/maine-voices-when-victims-realize-what-is-happening-they-can-leave-abusive-homes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/maine-voices-when-victims-realize-what-is-happening-they-can-leave-abusive-homes/#respond Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185871 After 14 years in my position as domestic investigator and handling over a thousand cases of domestic violence in Sagadahoc County, I am often asked what drives me, given the unpleasant nature of my job. My reply is simple: It is the small victories that make this job worth it.

I admittedly came to this position without the unrealistic idealism that I would solve the relentless societal scourge of domestic violence. Having worked as a police officer in Topsham for 26 years before taking this position, I had been exposed to and completely aware of the dynamics of domestic violence and all of the complexities that prevent resolutions that most would find acceptable.

With each new case, I approach it with an open mind and measured expectations. The task with each case is the same: Ask the right questions, solicit relevant responses, discover the accurate information and then report my findings to the prosecutors.

This brings me to the point of what drives me to put the effort in. I cannot recall the number of philosophical discussions I have had with victims of domestic abuse, attempting to have them visualize the bigger picture. I never directly try to persuade them to leave the abuser, but simply to look at this and past events in their lives together with hopes they continue with their eyes open and objectivity in their hearts.

Yes, I take some satisfaction when an abuser is found guilty and an appropriate sentence is imposed, but that feeling does not last long when I learn that the victim wishes to continue the relationship despite the abuse. My best days are when victims reach their “Aha” moments. Those moments when victims of abuse finally recognize the situation they found themselves is not likely to get better. Those moments they recognize they and their children face risk of harm and that it is no longer reasonable to stay with this person.

I have three examples of women who articulated their discovery and awareness in writing in what I feel is their “Aha” moment. The following are excerpts of their feelings about their situation.

The first is from the narrative of a protection-from-abuse order:

“We have been together for four years and it has been clear to me that it is an unhealthy pattern. He controlled where I went, he said terrible things to me, I felt I was overpowered, I felt like he made all the decisions in the relationship and always knew exactly how to make me feel the way he wanted me to feel. I attempted to end the relationship seven or eight times but he persuaded me. I am afraid that he is going to continue to want to be with me and that is something that I could never want because he physically hurt me.”

Next is from an email sent me from a past victim:

“I have learned I am not the only one and he has a way of manipulating us females into believing these actions are completely our fault. It hurts to know I am the one who has to be the one to do this because he convinced me as others that we are the one and only love of his life. Yes, I am an abused woman and have been easily scared into covering up for someone I once believed was true and would never intentionally hurt me. I since learned many things about him and myself. I will not take the full blame for his actions. I will accept responsibility for my own actions as he should do.”

This piece came from a victim impact statement read in court at the time of sentencing for a domestic violence case:

“Any mother could tell you that she always wants what’s right for their children, their safety and well-being is absolutely of utmost importance, even before her own. But a mother is only as good for her kids as she is to herself. A broken mother can’t be the strength her children need when they’re looking for strength to draw upon. No man has the right to make a woman feel that she deserves pain and sadness because she’ll never be good enough for someone else. Fearing for myself and my children is not a place any mother should be brought to, and I pray all women will find strength to get the help and get away from such damage.”

These are the small victories that keep me going.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/maine-voices-when-victims-realize-what-is-happening-they-can-leave-abusive-homes/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/497657_shutterstock_151887428.jpgStrangulation is a leading indicator that domestic abuse will escalate to murder. In most cases, acts of strangulation do not end until the victim is unconscious or the abuser is worn out.Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:55:37 +0000
Our View: More debt than opportunity from for-profit colleges http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/our-view-more-debt-than-opportunity-from-for-profit-colleges/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/our-view-more-debt-than-opportunity-from-for-profit-colleges/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185465 A lot has been said about the college debt crisis, but not enough about one of its main causes. For-profit colleges, as a group, not only leave graduates swimming in student loan debt, but also struggling to find well-paying jobs.

That’s a shame, particularly in Maine, where the robust community college system offers a better track record at training and placing workers for a fraction of the cost, and where a stagnant population and the demands of the economy require a well-educated workforce.

HEAVY COSTS, LOWER PAY

Steadily rising costs at colleges of all kinds certainly have contributed to the worrisome level of student debt. But making matters worse are programs that claim to build job skills, yet often fail to land graduates jobs. That’s the experience of many students, in Maine and across the country, who have attended for-profit colleges.

A report released last week by the nonpartisan Center for Responsible Lending found that Maine graduates of for-profit colleges are left with nearly two and a half times the debt of graduates of two-year public institutions: $23,781 versus $10,940.

That scans with a report earlier this year from the federal Department of Education, which found that of the more than 800 career-training programs nationwide that leave graduates with unaffordable student debt – defined as more than 12 percent of total earnings – 98 percent were at for-profit colleges. An early federal study found that public college graduates earn nearly $9,000 more per year than graduates of comparable for-profit career-training programs.

“It’s clear that low performance is concentrated in the for-profit sector,” said Ted Mitchell, then-undersecretary of education.

What’s more, students at for-profit colleges are more likely to take out federal student loans: 75 percent compared to 41 percent at two-year public institutions in Maine.

These schools are filling their coffers with taxpayer-backed loans, then failing to follow through on their promise to prepare students for a better job. That backfired when two of the largest for-profit colleges, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, folded while under investigation for fraud, leaving taxpayers on the hook for forgiven loans, and it is backfiring in Maine when students get nothing but piles of debt out of their for-profit degree.

A BETTER WAY

Far more successful is the Maine Community College System, which is providing better job placement while creating less than half the student debt.

It’s targeting the same population, too: Mainers, many of them nontraditional students, who want job-specific training; 70 percent are in occupational programs.

They are also low-income, with 76 percent of Maine Community College System students qualifying for financial aid, even though the tuition is lowest in New England. Nearly 60 percent attend part-time, and more than a third work at least 30 hours per week.

Maine must reach these students if it wants to compete. The number of high school graduates is down 14 percent since 2008, and is expected to fall another 13 percent by 2032. With 60 percent of new jobs requiring some sort of postsecondary degree, Maine needs most of its high school graduates to go on to college and flourish, both for the sake of the state workforce and the students themselves.

Given the outcomes at for-profit colleges, it also makes sense for Maine to keep an eye on these institutions. Under former President Barack Obama, schools were forced to disclose student earnings, debt and graduation rates, which is why we know so clearly that for-profit colleges as a whole are a failure. The requirements, however, have been under attack since they were proposed, and President Trump may not enforce them.

It would then be up to the state to look out for students. L.D. 1404, a bill from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, would review for-profit colleges each year, making sure they are serving students. Legislators should give it serious consideration.

With such a strong community college system, there’s no need for Maine to have undertrained workers, or for Mainers to throw away money on junk degrees.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/our-view-more-debt-than-opportunity-from-for-profit-colleges/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/06/654076_letters_0115.jpgStudents will be able to transfer up to 35 credits between the University of Maine System and the community college system under an agreement announced Monday.Fri, 21 Apr 2017 21:50:53 +0000
Commentary: Chemical weapons aren’t the real problem in Syria http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/commentary-chemical-weapons-arent-the-real-problem-in-syria/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/commentary-chemical-weapons-arent-the-real-problem-in-syria/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185220 In 2012, President Obama warned that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a “red line” that would “change (the) calculus” of U.S. policy toward the Syrian civil war. A year later, faced with evidence that Assad had used sarin gas against his own people, Obama said, “The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere.” President Trump apparently agrees: He ordered a missile strike against the Shayrat air base in Syria in early April, in retaliation for another chemical attack.

The Obama-Trump doctrine that the United States will enforce a global norm against the use of chemical weapons is strategically pointless and morally arbitrary. Strategically, it requires the United States to invest its time and resources policing a weapon this is not qualitatively different from conventional weapons. Morally, it amounts to a declaration that the United States cares more about the murder weapon than the murder victim.

Despite their reputation, chemical weapons are not especially deadly or efficient at killing people compared to conventional weapons. Chemical weapons saw their widest use in World War I, during which they killed relatively few soldiers: perhaps 90,000 out of up to 17 million people who died during the war. Chemical weapons sickened tens of thousands more, most of whom recovered.

So why do we blame chemical weapons for the carnage of World War I? The weapons were new and poorly understood – soldiers naturally feared them. They were also viewed as ungentlemanly, a form of unchivalrous cheating – a special kind of insult for professional soldiers. The reputation of chemical weapons doubtless helped bring about strict regulations on them after the war. But the true weapon of mass destruction in World War I was the machine gun, followed by influenza.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein notoriously used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in Halabja in 1988, an attack that probably killed around 5,000 people. But the attack involved at least a score of aircraft flying a dozen or more sorties dropping bombs for hours, preceded and followed up by conventional explosives. Given that much firepower and time, Saddam Hussein could have killed as many – probably more – with any kind of explosive. Saddam Hussein discovered, as others have before, that chemical weapons are difficult to employ because they depend on ideal weather conditions beyond human control. Since chemical weapons are costly to build and maintain safely but not terribly useful, it was easy for the great powers to ban them entirely after the Cold War.

Morally, there is no point whatsoever to enforcing a global ban on the use of chemical weapons. I am not arguing we should be more permissive about their use; rather, I am arguing we should be far less permissive about the slaughter of civilians, regardless of the weapon used. The Trump-Obama doctrine amounts to a declaration that the dictators and tyrants of the world can murder their citizens with impunity so long as they dare not murder with a chemical weapon. It signals that perpetrators of genocide enjoy a free-fire zone within their own countries if they pretend to keep the killing clean and gentlemanly.

If you think there is really such a thing as clean and gentlemanly killing, you have watched too many war movies. As Gen. William Sherman reputedly said, “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” Or as Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

War is always barbaric and obscene, even just war. It is morally obtuse to believe that there is such thing as clean or humane killing. I am no pacifist: I am a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and I believe there is an occasion when the use of force is just. But I am under no illusion that killing is ever gentlemanly or clean. Pretending that there is a humane way to kill someone is ridiculous – it is in fact immoral, because it allows deluded civilians to support war under the false pretense that it is more humane than it actually is. Dead is dead, whether killed by bomb, bullet, or machete.

Enforcing a ban on the use of a certain weapon places moral weight on the wrong thing: on the weapon rather than the purpose for which it is employed. We should be angered at the massacre of civilians, regardless of the method of their deaths. If Assad was a monster for gassing a few dozen people this month, he was a monster for slaughtering 500,000 over the past six years with barrel bombs and conventional explosives. It takes a striking degree of moral myopia to be angrier about the murder weapon employed than the fact of the murder in the first place.

I understand that photos of dead Syrian children who were gassed to death troubled many people, including the president. “A chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people including women, small children, and even beautiful little babies – their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” Trump said in response to the chemical attack in early April.

But if you want to base your foreign policy on troubling photos, you have just outsourced your grand strategy to CNN – or worse, Twitter. You are creating a norm that if you want America’s attention, be sure to capture your victimhood on camera. The Afghans, for one, might feel justifiably jilted that the world’s media decamped from Kabul long ago, leaving so many useful atrocities unfilmed.

And, finally, you need to recognize that the Syrian photos weren’t even that bad on the scale of world events. If you felt the warm glow of virtuous anger at Assad after viewing those pictures, you need to Google the Rwandan genocide, or the massacre at Srebrenica, or perhaps Auschwitz. Be sure to sit down, don’t eat, and turn SafeSearch off.

Paul D. Miller is the associate director of the Clements Center for National Security at The University of Texas at Austin and a research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He served as director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

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Bill Nemitz: Scholarships awarded at birth mean no child left in a bind http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/nemitz-500-scholarships-awarded-at-birth-mean-no-child-left-in-a-bind/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/nemitz-500-scholarships-awarded-at-birth-mean-no-child-left-in-a-bind/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185633 Earlier this month, Colleen Quint traveled up to Lewiston to buy a growler of beer for a friend at Bear Bones Beer. She had on a vest bearing the logo of the Alfond Scholarship Foundation.

“The young guy pulling the beer has tats running up and down (his arms) … he’s got the cork thing in the ear,” Quint recalled.

As he poured, the bartender stopped for a moment and squinted at the tiny logo on Quint’s vest.

“Do you know anything about that program?” he asked.

Quint happens to be president and CEO of the foundation. For the last four years, it’s awarded a $500 college scholarship, no questions asked, to every child born in Maine.

“Yeah,” Quint replied to the tattooed beer guy. “I’m involved with that.”

“That is the best thing,” he said. “My daughter is 4 months old and we are so excited about that. And we’re telling all of the family she doesn’t need toys, she doesn’t need clothes. What she needs is her future.”

Pausing at the tap once again, he looked Quint in the eye and said, “It’s a really important thing you’re doing.”

Eureka.

Three years ago in this space, we celebrated the news that the Alfond Scholarship Foundation had taken its Harold Alfond College Challenge universal – meaning parents, rather than formally apply for a free $500 kickstarter grant for their newborn’s college fund, automatically had their child enrolled in the program simply upon registration of the baby’s birth.

The money, which at current rates is expected to grow to between $2,000 and $2,400 by the time today’s newborn reaches 18, can be used to pay for any qualified higher education expense (as defined by the Internal Revenue Service) at any accredited postsecondary school in the United States. The recipient has until the age of 28 to use it, or it goes back to the foundation.

“Think of a family living in rural Maine in a trailer somewhere and the kid gets to be 17 years of age – and they’ve got 2,400 bucks in the bank for something. And they can’t do anything with it except to look for higher education,” said Greg Powell, president of the overarching Harold Alfond Foundation. “Having it there, year after year, for 18 years – the studies are proving that it will change the way parents feel about the future of their child.”

Let’s go to the numbers.

Since its founding as a pilot program in 2008 and the switch to automatic enrollment starting in 2013, more than 70,000 Maine children now have Alfond Scholarship Foundation college savings accounts in their own names.

Taken together, those funds now represent an investment of $35 million – and growing.

Add to that the matching funds being kicked in by parents, relatives, some employers and others and, as of the end of 2016, the total investment now exceeds $70 million.

Noted Powell with a knowing grin: “Harold Alfond loved matches.”

Indeed he did. The late Maine industrialist-turned-philanthropist’s legacy is deeply woven into the fabric of Maine’s higher education community, from large campus buildings adorned with his name right down to the toddlers, buoyed by an Alfond scholarship, who will one day walk those very hallways.

Until now, the scholarship program has centered its outreach on the website 500forbaby.org, which remains up and running to welcome the 12,000 or so infants born in Maine each year.

But the original recipients are now in second and third grades. Noted Quint: “We figure as kids get older, they’re not going to be interested in a website called ‘500forbaby.’ ”

Introducing myalfondgrant.org.

Operated through the Finance Authority of Maine, it’s a place where parents (and children, as they grow older) can easily access their account and check their current balance. At the same time, they can explore setting up a tax-deferred NextGen college savings plan alongside the Alfond account.

Some will undoubtedly scoff at all of this. They’ll point to the soaring price tags for four-year, private college – many now at or beyond $250,000 – and say, “What’s the use? It’s going to take a lot more than $500 in seed money from the Harold Alfond College Challenge to climb that mountain.”

A few important points:

For starters, said Quint, recent reports show that upward of 80 percent of Americans currently enrolled in higher education pursue something other than a four-year, residential degree.

Translation: Applied to a public university, a two-year community college degree or a welding certificate program, that $2,400-plus college savings account becomes a lot more significant – both in getting one’s foot in the door and lowering debt load upon graduation.

(Speaking of debt, it’s also worth noting that the Alfond Foundation recently unveiled a debt-relief program whereby students who work in science, technology, engineering or math jobs in Maine for at least five years will qualify for up to $60,000 in relief from outstanding college loans.)

Powell also notes that the costs of many elite, liberal arts colleges cannot keep skyrocketing forever. He envisions models, by the time many of today’s infants turn 18, whereby the intellectual content developed by such institutions will be much more widely available through individually targeted, online learning.

“I am by nature an optimist,” Powell said. “And what I would say is 18 years from now, the cost of higher education will be much, much lower.”

Now let’s look beyond the number-crunching.

Equally as vital as the actual $500 grant is how the Harold Alfond Scholarship Challenge taps into what Quint calls the “aspirational piece” of the higher education equation – particularly for parents who wish only the best for their children, but are hesitant to say so for fear of raising expectations that they might not be able to fulfill.

The Alfond account signals to that parent, in the most tangible way possible, that “someone else believes in my child. Someone sees potential in my child that I see as well,” Quint said.

Hearing that at the time of a child’s birth, she added, is “an incredibly powerful thing.”

Need proof?

Mounted on the wall in a meeting room at the Alfond Foundation is a huge banner full of handwritten messages from parents to their children.

The foundation saved the mural from the days when parents had to enroll in order for their child to get a $500 grant – these particular messages were scrawled during a sign-up event at a shopping mall.

“To Isaac,” reads one, “Dream big, work hard and the future is yours. Love, Mom and Dad.”

Thanks to Harold Alfond and those who strive to keep his name alive, every kid in Maine now hears that message starting on Day One. And lo and behold, it’s working.

Just ask the beer guy.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Cynthia Dill: Too many are being strangled by the disability ‘safety net’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/cynthia-dill-strangled-by-the-disability-safety-net/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/cynthia-dill-strangled-by-the-disability-safety-net/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185222 The LePage administration loves bragging about how many “able-bodied” people it has thrown off the welfare rolls by making them ineligible for food stamps and health insurance. And it should come as no surprise that when an economic strategy that cuts taxes but not poverty fails, it blames immigrants. They are easy scapegoats, especially if their skin is brown in a place like Maine that is so white.

The fact is, however, that denying people welfare doesn’t magically put them on a path toward self-reliance.

Often the push moves them from state and locally administered welfare to Social Security disability, and the people who get pushed are usually white, which makes them invisible in Maine. They are thrown from a frying pan that’s hot – but at least watched – into the fire, where they vanish.

Ten percent of people in Maine collect federal disability benefits, one of the highest rates in the country, up from 7 percent in 2011. The state is failing its vulnerable people in so many ways: Infant mortality rates, childhood poverty and drug addiction are off the charts. In addition, close to 40,000 men in the prime of their lives are sitting it out instead, debilitated by the pain of humiliation, poverty and failure because they can’t work.

Fifteen percent of Maine men ages 25 to 54 are out of the workforce completely – not even counted among the “unemployed” because the term implies employability. Once “disabled,” work is no longer an option. Use of disability benefits has risen more among 25- to 54-year-old men who are not in the labor force than any other group, Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist with the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in his 2016 book “Men Without Work.”

Debilitated and lonely, forsaken and abandoned, these men are really lost boys nobody is looking for, dying of shame and despair at our expense.

Manhood in America in the age of Donald Trump, Tom Brady and Jay-Z is challenging enough for the middle class in urban areas. For uneducated, unskilled men in communities dying of economic starvation, success is impossible to envision, let alone attain. Choices include running a meth lab, dealing heroin, collecting disability or all of the above. How can any demographic on disability benefits succeed?

The safety net intended to catch these men when they fall is strangling too many of them. The program as designed is pushing people in pain to be people forever disabled; that’s bad for society and should stop.

This is the year of the white man in the White House, and he needs to address the growing population of white men not working, collecting disability benefits while high on drugs and low on life. Blaming liberals and immigrants for their personal demise is no longer an option.

There is plenty of work to be done and not enough people chipping in. Here are three things we could do:

• Maine has a lot of land, adequate water and long growing seasons. We are spared from calamitous weather patterns and deadly pests. The Pine Tree State could have stately public farms that pay people who work there in shares as well as wages. Producing good food in fresh air using any set of muscles, big or small, would yield more positive results – physically, emotionally and financially – than a walk to the convenience store for beer and chips when the monthly disability check arrives. Work opportunities at public farms could encourage productivity by offering shares in farmland, or other proverbial carrots, in addition to teaching valuable skills. The food produced could be used to feed the growing numbers of hungry children and the elderly.

• We need to see these 25- to 54-year-old men who collect disability and hear why they are in pain. Research on the psychological impact and social cost of men with little choice other than becoming disabled is needed. There may be a wiser and cheaper alternative to sending a monthly check.

• The legal and medical establishment that enables the proliferation of a permanently disabled society should be held accountable. Doctors who prescribe opiates contributed to the present-day drug addiction crisis, and lawyers motivated and enriched by forever disabling others contribute to the disturbingly large number of people collecting disability benefits. It is incumbent upon them to direct a reasonable sum of money, time or talent to an alternative model.

Pain and mental illness – the single largest category of Maine’s disability recipients – are serious health conditions that legitimately cause disability. Worthlessness, poverty and despair likely contribute to pain and mental illness. It’s imperative the cycle be broken.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/cynthia-dill-strangled-by-the-disability-safety-net/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:33:02 +0000
Jim Fossel: Upward Bound decision is federal bureaucracy at its worst http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/jim-fossel-upward-bound-decision-is-federal-bureaucracy-at-its-worst/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/jim-fossel-upward-bound-decision-is-federal-bureaucracy-at-its-worst/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185223 College, to be sure, is not for everyone. If you know at a young age exactly what career you want to pursue and are confident that you can get a job without a degree, perhaps you can skip it. This might apply to you if you’re supremely talented in a certain field (especially arts or athletics), or if you’re happy to take over the family business or work in a technical field. If you’re lucky enough to be in this position, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go ahead and get a jump on your career without accruing student loan debt.

However, if you’re unsure what you want to do professionally, college offers you an excellent chance to broaden your horizons. It exposes you to a wider world, and you may find your true passion. This is especially true if you’re from a smaller town, where the opportunities available to you are more limited. Sadly, college is getting more and more expensive every year, becoming farther and farther out of reach for many Americans.

Fortunately, there is a program designed for the needs of those who want to attend college but who lack the financial means: Upward Bound. Over more than 50 years, Upward Bound has proven enormously successful at giving low-income students the chance for a college education, with a special focus on rural students who are the first in their family to attend college. Regardless of what one thinks of the merits of this program, the reason that hundreds of Maine students may be denied from accessing it – and subsequently, higher education – is completely absurd.

You see, a half an inch of blank space may end up keeping Mainers in Aroostook County from going to college.

When the University of Maine at Presque Isle applied for its annual grant to access Upward Bound funds, they accidentally formatted some of the text with 1.5 inches of space instead of double-spacing it per the requirements. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education not only refused to even look at UMPI’s application, but they also would not grant the university the chance to correct this mistake. This is not a substantive error; UMPI didn’t forget to include a section of data or ignore questions required by the application. It was a minor mistake on two pages of a 65-page application – pages that weren’t even required for the application.

This is, essentially, the equivalent of a professor flunking a student for an entire semester because he forgot one punctuation mark in a 50-page paper. Moreover, the appeals process offered by the Department of Education is even more nonsensical than the NFL allowing players to appeal decisions made by the commissioner to the commissioner: It doesn’t exist. That’s right – technically, UMPI lacks the means to appeal this decision.

This is exactly the kind of thing that leads people to detest government: irrational, impractical decisions that harm people’s lives for no good reason. Conservatives often say that they wish government were run like a business, but in this case if the Department of Education is being run like a business, that business is United Airlines. Politics and ideology aside, we all should be able to agree that the government we have should work for the people, no matter its size.

Fortunately, UMPI and its students who depend on Upward Bound have an advocate willing to work on their behalf: Maine’s congressional delegation. Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Angus King, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Bruce Poliquin have all banded together on this one, seeking to have this decision reversed. They’re appealing directly to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to overturn the decision of the bureaucrats who work for her.

Now, this sort of bipartisan work doesn’t get a lot of attention – that tends to go toward the high-profile battles over budgets and Supreme Court nominations. At the end of the day, though, it’s exactly this kind of work that constitutes much of what members of Congress and their staffs do all day. They frequently work on behalf of Mainers to cut through red tape and get things done.

They’ve placed the ball firmly in DeVos’ court. She has the opportunity to show that she can be reasonable by reconsidering UMPI’s application or giving the school a chance to revise it. Or she can deny hundreds of Maine kids a college education over a minor formatting error. Please, Madame Secretary, do the right thing: That space was not intentionally left blank.

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

jwfossel@gmail.com

Twitter: jimfossel

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Maine Observer: Brief mud season a harbinger of better times http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/maine-observer-brief-mud-season-a-harbinger-of-better-times/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/maine-observer-brief-mud-season-a-harbinger-of-better-times/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185233 There are geese on the wing who honk away only to complain about the cold/wet weather or to argue about directions and breakfast. Far from romantic song. There are also those long-awaited robins, who sing their almost monotonous “We’re up. So what?”

Singing it over and over, we hear them now that they’re new again, but by May their song will be better blocked out so that they don’t wake us with their repetition ad nauseam. Among other things of note, it is: tax season, Lent, the equinox, Mardi Gras and springing ahead to daylight saving time. Not only is baseball back, but mud season is also back. March came to Maine like the proverbial lion, but thanklessly it roared out like one too, with an April Fool nor’easter or two just for fun.

I easily will admit I’ve been longing for an end to winter, so I’ve looked upon all these fresh signs of change with pure joy. There’s nothing pretty about mud season. It is damp, windy, gray, rainy; the snow piles are ugly, dirty reminders of the cold, and the aforementioned bird songs are nothing like tuneful. There are still few chances for wearing shorts, and it would be wise if we remember to bring gloves.

The thing that’s remarkable about mud season is that it is what I would call a “thin time.” A time so fraught with change and so brief, we thrill to know that the snow is shrinking and on the run. Our old friends are returning, and unlike in winter, unlike in summer, we shouldn’t complain. We feel it would be thankless to complain; I mean, only the most fanatic of skiers would have winter continue. Enough with the snow already. Summer is exquisite, fall is best of all. Tulips and daffodils sing of spring. But mud season is so brief, so mixed, we don’t have time to either compliment it or to complain about it.

So we’ve returned to a time that reminds us to pay attention. Everything seems new. We don’t really mind hearing the geese or the robins. They’re new again. “Everything old is new again.” Stepping into a muddy path, forgetting to wear a hat, those ever-loving puddles to jump. It is a time of pure transition, and so we feel lucky to notice everything about it each year.

Mud season doesn’t deserve the complaints it often receives. It is here for such a short time. We’ll forget it when it’s gone and smile when it returns in all its harsh, ugly mix of contrast and transition next year. All of this doesn’t mean we have to enjoy getting up an hour earlier or paying our taxes, but we are oh so lucky to discover a season of pure change.

Pure déjà vu. Mud season, redux. Just a little praise. How could I forget?

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Maine Voices: Genocide survivors share ‘soul wounds’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/maine-voices-genocide-survivors-share-soul-wounds/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/maine-voices-genocide-survivors-share-soul-wounds/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185243 Every April I remember and mourn. I mourn my maternal Jewish grandfather and the 12 uncles and aunts and their extended families murdered in the Holocaust by the evil that we call genocide. But I am comforted to some extent by the knowledge that I am not alone. Other communities share this month to commemorate their own genocides. Armenians, Cambodians, Rwandans and Darfuris share with me membership in a horrific fraternity/sorority of sorrow. It is a group that knows no divisions or boundaries of color, religion, gender or geography. That is because genocide is an equal opportunity killer. It strikes out against them all.

Who are they, these generations of genocide? Our great Holocaust voice, the late Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz, tried to describe them:

“You must look at them carefully. Their appearance is deceptive … they laugh, they love. They seek what others seek. But it isn’t true. Anyone who has seen what they have seen cannot be like the others, cannot laugh, love, pray, bargain, suffer, have fun or forget like the others. You have to watch them carefully when they pass something that reminds them of that other time, of that horror they endured. Something in them shudders and makes you turn your eyes away. These people have been amputated; they haven’t lost their legs or their eyes but their will and their taste for life. The thing that they have seen will come to the surface again sooner or later and it will bury itself in the generation that follows.”

We, the generations of genocide, bear a soul wound.

Soul wound is not my term. It has been an integral part of Native American people’s knowledge since Columbus landed in this hemisphere. What is a soul wound? When this nation was colonized, many Native Americans were killed and herded like cattle onto reservations because of who they were. The killing eventually stopped; the wounds to the body healed. But the mind did not heal, and the pain lasted for generations and continues to last because the wound was to the soul of the human being.

When this nation enslaved and killed African-Americans because of who they were, the killing eventually stopped, and now slavery and Jim Crowism seem to be a thing of the past. The wounds of the body healed. The mind’s wounds did not, and the pain lasted and continues to last for generations because the wound was to the soul of the human being.

It has been estimated that more than 35 million people died in the 20th century’s international and domestic wars. But it has also been estimated that more than 170 million were murdered – and continue to be murdered – in massacres and mass executions carried out by countries in which they were living.

Since 1948, we have had a term to define that kind of mass killing, what Winston Churchill called “the crime without a name.” We call it genocide. It is a word coined by the late jurist Raphael Lemkin, with roots in the Latin and in the Greek. It means the killing of a group based on race, religion, gender or a whole host of other reasons.

Why do the killers want to kill? One of the Rwandan genocide murderers stated that “the killers did not know that the Tutsis were human beings because if they had thought about that they wouldn’t have killed them. Let me also include myself as someone who accepted it. I wouldn’t have accepted that they, the Tutsi, are human beings. As I was hearing it, I had the same perception as others at the time.” Here is the frightening part: He also stated that what he did “was a dark cloud that came into people’s hearts and covered them, and everything became dark because to see someone standing in front of you without any energy and you hold your machete high or a club and hit him … it is something difficult that was done with a lot of anger and rage, I mean this genocide.”

Is this the dark cloud that lurks in all of us just waiting to emerge if the circumstances are right and we no longer see the victim as a human being?

But the murderers murdered and the dead cannot be brought back to life. What do we do with our memories and with our soul wounds, those of us who bear the burden of our genocides? And how can humanity begin to understand the “other” in its midst as our brothers and sisters?

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/maine-voices-genocide-survivors-share-soul-wounds/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1185243_holocaust.0423.jpgA piece of art by Holocaust survivor Helga Weissova-Hoskova. April is Holocaust Remembrance Month, recalling the crimes of genocide committed in Europe by the Nazis. It's also a time to remember other acts of genocide that continue to take place today.Sat, 22 Apr 2017 17:14:59 +0000
Another View: Column on health care policy fell far short of the mark http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/another-view-column-on-health-care-policy-fell-far-short-of-the-mark/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/another-view-column-on-health-care-policy-fell-far-short-of-the-mark/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185245 In his April 12 column, Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich stated that, contrary to some conservative arguments, “there is no free market in health care because there can’t be.” He then went on to document the ways in which, though we’re often unaware of it, “paying for health care is a government function” in the United States, as it is in most other industrialized countries.

Instructive as these points are, though, they led up to a rather disappointing conclusion: “We’re already paying for a government-funded system, so we ought to demand one that works.”

What one would that be?

How about the Medicare-for-all, single-payer one Michael Bacon outlined in his letter to the editor the next day? Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein described it in their February column in the peer-reviewed Annals of Internal Medicine.

Documenting how such a system would save over $600 billion annually through reduced administrative and prescription drug costs, Woolhandler and Himmelstein showed that replacement of our present multi-payer system with a simpler, more cost-effective, and at last universal, one is doable.

The highly successful and popular Medicare program, universal for those who make it to 65, is a good example of “one that works.”

To learn more about this approach to health care funding, Maine AllCare will be screening “Now Is the Time,” an informative and entertaining film about the surging, if underreported, single-payer movement, on Tuesday, June 6, at 5:30 p.m. at Portland Public Library’s Rines Auditorium. A panel discussion will follow.

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Commentary: Maine needs a reform governor – and the pickings are slim http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/commentary-maine-needs-a-reform-governor-and-the-pickings-are-slim/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/commentary-maine-needs-a-reform-governor-and-the-pickings-are-slim/#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185267 During the last two Maine gubernatorial elections, the public discourse centered on polling and spoiler candidates – both of which could be summed up in one question: “Who can win?” We never got to ask the critical question: “Who should win?” If the Legislature gets out of the way and implements ranked-choice voting, we might just have a shot at a real debate on ideas and vision in 2018.

Maine’s next governor must be able to crystallize and execute a clear roadmap of economic opportunity. Housing costs are rising dramatically, while mills are being shuttered and sold for scrap.

Bernie Sanders won 63 percent of Democratic caucus voters and Donald Trump won an Electoral College vote in rural Maine – because they both were able to accessibly speak the language of the unheard and oft-dismissed economic challenges people are genuinely facing. Their message of reform and opportunity resonated. The next governor must seriously work to address those economic challenges by reforming the systems that created them.

Addressing the opioid crisis must be a top priority for the new governor. With Gov. LePage’s refusal to expand Medicaid, progress has been minimal, because people often can’t afford treatment without it. Mainers will vote on expansion at the ballot box, but we need a governor committed to implementing it properly.

Expanding Medicaid will also insure roughly 70,000 Mainers, including 3,000 veterans, who are currently not insured. This one policy change would significantly improve the health, quality of life and economic circumstances for Maine families.

Rural Maine needs significant investment in its infrastructure, particularly broadband access. Susan Corbett of Axiom has done a remarkable job deploying broadband throughout Washington County, understanding its critical importance for building an economy that works for her region.

Her work should be replicated across the state, coupled with serious job training investments. Regions that have invested in broadband and job training together have seen dramatic shifts in their regional economies. We must invest in the tool, but we must also invest in teaching people how to effectively utilize that tool to their best advantage.

I introduced marijuana legalization measures three times in the Legislature, and last fall Maine voters passed a referendum legalizing commercial marijuana sales to adults over the age of 21. In a tourist state, proper implementation of this new system has significant potential to increase tax revenue – revenue that should be earmarked to build and maintain our schools and opioid addiction treatment programs.

Wall Street continues to disinvest in small businesses, and with the imminent repeal of key banking regulations enacted post-Great Recession, they are poised to make similar mistakes all over again. It’s time to invest dividends back on Main Street, and a state bank – like the Bank of North Dakota – would do just that. Even if Maine started small with an infrastructure bank designed to invest in our infrastructure, it would put taxpayer dollars to work more effectively. Roughly 40 percent of public works project costs are interest alone.

By reinvesting interest rates back into a state public bank – and not Wall Street – we could reduce overall infrastructure costs while earning a better return on investment for Maine taxpayers. If we broadened the mission beyond infrastructure, we could have an economic tool to put mill communities in better negotiating positions when mill companies play hardball.

As part of the team that brought the Opportunity Maine program into existence, I confess serious bias toward it. That said, the refundable tax credit to reimburse student loan payments for Maine graduates has been a growing success. It’s not just for students, though. Businesses can take the tax credit if they pay the student loans of their eligible employees.

The next governor should lead a public campaign to encourage all Maine businesses to offer the Opportunity Maine student loan repayment benefit to entice young graduates to stay in Maine. It also would better incentivize people who need to transition careers to attend and finish college, further increasing the talent pool of our state while reducing the skills gap.

We have work to do, and we need a leader who can chart a concrete course forward and engage Maine voters to see that agenda to fruition. The 2016 elections clearly show Maine is ready to support a reform candidate and that party status is secondary to a serious, accessible vision. Now, we just need some reform candidates.

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Another View: Here’s why the French election matters http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/another-view-sacre-bleu-why-the-french-election-matters/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/another-view-sacre-bleu-why-the-french-election-matters/#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185310 There may be revolution in the air in France, but not the Bastille kind. Winds of change are howling through the country from Calais to Cannes, and they could replace European unity with circle-the-wagons nationalism.

More so than any other election in Europe this year, France’s presidential ballot Sunday is a referendum on the battered European Union. Though Brexit wobbled the bloc, it wasn’t the existential broadside the French election could deliver. The shadow over the EU’s future comes in the form of not one but two candidates – far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and left-wing populist Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Standing in the way of an EU meltdown: Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist ex-investment banker who believes France’s prosperity is inextricably tied with Europe’s. Sunday’s contest is the election’s first round. If no candidate wins a majority, the top two vote-getters square off in a second round May 7.

EUROPEAN UNITY AT RISK

Postwar European unity has never had it this rough. The debt crisis that roiled several southern European nations beginning in late 2009 was followed by the flood of migrants streaming into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. Then last summer, the United Kingdom shocked the world by deciding to quit the EU. That, coupled with the ascent of Donald Trump, had European leaders bracing for a populist revolt at the polls this year across the continent.

In national elections in the Netherlands last month, the defeat of ultra-nationalist Geert Wilders was a victory for advocates of continued European integration. Still on tap: elections this fall in EU powerhouse Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats face a challenge from the anti-EU party Alternative for Germany, though that group’s popularity has dipped in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Parliament approved British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for early elections in June – a bid to grow the number of lawmakers who prefer a smooth Brexit to a more sudden, economically disruptive one.

For the U.S. and the rest of the West, an integrated, cohesive Europe is a stronger, more reliable partner.

It was Europe working as a collective entity that sent thousands of soldiers to bolster American military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine would have had less bite without the EU joining in.

Russian President Vladimir Putin yearns for the day that Europe fragments into insular, self-interested nation-states that he can meddle with more readily.

Le Pen, 48, who flew to Moscow to meet Putin earlier this year, speaks the Kremlin’s every-country-for-itself language. “The European Union will die!” she recently exhorted at a campaign rally in Lille. “The time has come to defeat the globalists!”

BOTH MELENCHON, LE PEN SEEK EU EXIT

The daughter of nationalist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once called Hitler’s use of gas chambers a “detail of history,” Le Pen is staunchly anti-immigration, supports abandoning the euro and ultimately the EU and touts protectionism to strengthen the French economy. Polling has her as a safe bet to make it to the second round: She’s buoyed by strong support from French millennials frustrated with 25 percent youth unemployment.

Ideologies aside, in many ways Melenchon’s positions mirror Le Pen’s. He also wants out of the EU and envisions France as a protectionist state. His advisers paint him as a French Bernie Sanders, though commentators have dubbed him a “French Chavez,” and for good reason – he has spoken admiringly of the late Venezuelan socialist leader. Melenchon’s Robin Hood pledges include slapping a 100 percent tax on income earned over $425,000, lowering the official retirement age to 60 and trimming back the workweek. Early on, he was at the back of the pack, but he’s surged to compete with Le Pen and Macron.

Macron, a former economy minister for Socialist President Francois Hollande’s government, offers voters a distinct alternative: expansion of health services and vocational training for youth, support for an open door immigration policy and an embrace of European unity. At a campaign speech earlier this year, he told the crowd France needs Europe “because Europe makes us bigger, because Europe makes us stronger.”

We hope French voters see the bigger picture – the need for European cohesion, now more than ever. With Le Pen or Melenchon at the helm, the idea of France’s exit from the EU becomes real and frightening. It would leave the bloc without any nuclear weapons, without a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council, and without one of its heftiest economies. An EU collapse could follow.

The West faces persistent terrorism and a resurgent Russia. A further fractured, weakened Europe would make the challenges more daunting.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/another-view-sacre-bleu-why-the-french-election-matters/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1185310_RTS12EHB.jpgA man walks past campaign posters of the 11 candidates in Sunday's French presidential election, in Le Soler, France. The shadow over the EU's future comes in the form of not one but two candidates – far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, second from left, and left-wing populist Jean-Luc Melenchon, third from right. Standing in the way of an EU meltdown: centrist Emmanuel Macron, third from left.Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:40:32 +0000
Join lobstermen, others concerned with Maine’s environment at climate march in Augusta http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/maine-voices-join-lobstermen-others-concerned-with-maines-environment-at-climate-march-in-augusta/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/maine-voices-join-lobstermen-others-concerned-with-maines-environment-at-climate-march-in-augusta/#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185352 FRIENDSHIP — I have been a lobster fisherman out of Friendship Harbor for well over 30 years. During that time I’ve seen firsthand the impacts of climate change to not only the Gulf of Maine, but also to our evolving fisheries, and to the coastal communities that depend upon them. I’ve done what I can to face those challenges, not only on the water by making adjustments in the way I fish, but also with altering aspects of running my business, and in trying my best to minimize personal environmental impacts.

The additional challenge of trying to communicate some of my observations and thoughts also occupies some of my time, and is done in the hope that I can elicit the help of others in government and the general public to do what they can as well. Even though lobstermen are noted for their independent nature, effecting change in climate and energy policy is not something one can tackle alone.

At times the science, coupled with the news, is overwhelming. The Gulf of Maine, long battling ocean warming, now also faces off with what some call climate change’s “ugly stepsister”: ocean acidification. The Gulf of Maine is, to make matters worse, uniquely susceptible to both. Acidic waters make it more difficult for shellfish to produce their shells, and makes lobsters more vulnerable to prey and have less energies for reproduction.

To add insult to injury, the Trump administration’s proposed budget would cut the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget by 17 percent, and in doing so, cuts some of the very science and programs dealing with climate and acidification that are needed.

The Sea Grant program would also be eliminated as part of the cuts. Maine Sea Grant has supported many lobster research projects over the years, including funding to monitor newly settled lobsters, a program to predict future landing and resources to measure the impacts of warmer ocean temperatures on the fishery.

Additionally, in light of increasingly severe storms and unpredictable weather, lobstermen like myself look to the National Weather Service, also funded by NOAA, to know when it is safe and practical to be out on the water. The combination of changing ocean conditions and a decrease in resources to help understand those changes puts both the future of my livelihood and my personal safety in jeopardy.

Given this reality, speaking out about climate change has become not just a choice but imperative in nature, and towards that end, I am joining with other Mainers who will be speaking at the Maine People’s Climate March in Augusta on April 29 . Anyone reading this whose livelihood also depends on a stable climate or a clean environment – or who would just like to stand with us – is encouraged to attend as well.

Our elected officials who represent Maine in D.C. consider three major factors when making a decision about how to vote: how their peers are voting, what their conscience is telling them is right and the will of their constituents. We are the constituents, the Mainers who voted them into office, and our collective voice can influence how they vote. It already has, and thanks to constituent pressure, both Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King voted against Scott Pruitt for Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

By coming together at the People’s Climate March in Augusta, we will remind our elected officials that action on climate change is vital to the continued success of Maine’s economy, and that environmental conservation and protection is our heritage and a Maine value, not a partisan one.

To everyone who cares about the preservation of Maine’s fishing communities: March with us. To everyone who believes that Maine’s environment is a large part of Maine’s economy: March with us. To everyone who believes that action on climate change should be a nonpartisan issue: March with us. My voice alone can only do so much, but by standing with me, we can show our elected officials the will of the people of Maine and make a real difference. See you at the State House.

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Garrison Keillor: After visit to vast, empty Alaska, it’s the people you remember http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/garrison-keillor-after-visit-to-vast-empty-alaska-its-the-people-you-remember/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/garrison-keillor-after-visit-to-vast-empty-alaska-its-the-people-you-remember/#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185355 Up to Alaska last week to visit old friends and relive fragrant memories of previous trips. Landing on a short uphill grass strip near a native village and later taking off on that strip and off the edge of a cliff. Fishing in a fjord near Juneau as a dark enormity rolled up from the deep, a humpback 30 feet off starboard. Encountering a moose while biking around Anchorage. Sitting in a friendly cafe in Sitka that felt like family. Hiking the Iditarod trail and seeing the body of a moose who broke through the ice of a lake and drowned. Going to the state fair in Palmer and mingling with Alaskans in a state of euphoria produced by sunlight.

It is a state that one remembers long afterward.

Last week I sat in a little cafe in Anchorage and got into conversations by the simple device of asking directions. In a state that offers so much solitude, people are happy to talk. I met a couple who’d lived for many years in the mountains east of there, raised two kids, got divorced and now live a few blocks apart from each other in the city. “We’re still best friends,” she said cheerily and he gave her a wan look. He is still in love with her, he said, and wants to get back together, and she isn’t interested. Instead of directions, you get a novella.

I met a Tlingit woman who gave me her unvarnished views on Alaska politics and an old trucker who hauled materials for the pipeline, and finally quit, fed up with the rules and regulations. His first truck was a White, a good truck, and he wound up driving a Peterbilt, which he hated. “Never buy a truck that is on the assembly line on Friday and they finish it on Monday,” he said. He was once fined $250 in Arizona for speeding and the highway patrol sent him a picture of his truck taken by a roadside camera on the desert that also recorded his speed, and he sent them a photo of $250 arranged on his kitchen table.

I was sitting in my hotel room in Anchorage last Wednesday morning, when someone yelled, “Open up! Open the door!” I opened the door. Two uniformed officers stood there. It wasn’t me they wanted. They were yelling at the door next to mine. One cop had a revolver drawn, aimed at the next door. Another cop yelled, “Open the door now! And keep your hands where we can see them!” Police can yell really loud and their diction is quite clear.

An officer with an assault rifle stepped into my room and said that they had a warrant out for a man next door and that he had announced he had a gun. The officer opened the door to my balcony and suggested I go into the hall.

So I stepped out, barefoot, without glasses, in jeans and a T-shirt. Seven officers stood in the hall, including a slight young woman cop, and four of them had guns drawn, including her, and were focused on the door next to mine. They were on high alert. I slipped past the uniforms and none of them glanced at me. The one closest to the door yelled again, “Open the door! Now!”

I’m a civilian. I lead a casual, jokey life. I mess around. I wouldn’t know how to bring that steady intensity to bear on a closed door. That’s just a fact. I can do panic; I don’t do high-focus readiness. If I am responsible for your security, you are in serious trouble.

They got their man. He surrendered and was handcuffed and I got a glimpse of him in the hall, a skinny guy with a hangdog expression, wanted for drug dealing. He had been dealing them out of the hotel room. Whatever drugs he himself was on were not a kind that make you smarter.

Nobody I talked to in Alaska began a sentence with “I was reading an article the other day that said that …” – everything they said was from their own experience. This is different from the world I live in, of people tuned in to media. I can say from my own experience that an armed man dealing drugs in the next room is a danger to me and that I maintain my casual, jokey way of life thanks to public servants whose training enables them to bring highly focused attention to bear. That’s what I know.

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Opinion page podcast: The 2018 gubernatorial race starts to take shape http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/podcast-2018-gubernatorial-race-starts-take-shape-case-jason-sanborn-goodbye-bill-oreilly/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/podcast-2018-gubernatorial-race-starts-take-shape-case-jason-sanborn-goodbye-bill-oreilly/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:12:43 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185058 Portland Press Herald Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich, and columnists Bill Nemitz and Cynthia Dill discuss the week’s news, including the first official entry into the 2018 governor’s race, the disturbing case of Anthony Sanborn Jr., and Bill O’Reilly’s departure from Fox News.

Related:

Prosecutor facing scrutiny over 1992 murder trial agrees to testify

Veteran, attorney Adam Cote files to run for governor as Democrat

Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News Channel

Podcast Links:

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Maine Voices: There are common-sense, fact-based ways to fix immigration http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/maine-voices-there-are-common-sense-fact-based-ways-to-fix-immigration-in-u-s/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/maine-voices-there-are-common-sense-fact-based-ways-to-fix-immigration-in-u-s/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184676 HOLDEN — Our media is inundated with political narrative, misinformation and myths on immigration. A few examples:

 Reducing immigration is “anti-immigrant” and “right-wing.”

Reducing immigration is no more “anti-immigrant” than birth control is “anti-children.” We limit our family size to give our children advantages. Reducing immigration protects jobs and wages for everyone, including legal immigrants. That’s why the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by civil rights icon Barbara Jordan, told Congress to severely reduce legal immigration. And The New York Times reported that President Bill Clinton proposed a one-third reduction in 1995. “Right-wingers”?

 Only Trumpites oppose sanctuary cities.

Last October, the Obama Justice Department announced that cities would receive federal law enforcement grants only if they fully complied with federal immigration reporting laws. The current administration is continuing this policy. In addition, 80 percent of Americans oppose sanctuary policies, and even in hyper-blue California, a majority felt that cities should not be allowed to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities.

 Immigrants pay taxes.

The National Academy of Sciences was clear: Immigrants are currently a huge fiscal drain. In 2013, the fiscal deficit – taxes paid minus services used – was $279 billion. But why? They work hard. Their wages are low because most are unskilled. Bottom line: Taxpayers are subsidizing cheap labor for the employers.

• If illegal immigrants left, our produce would rot in the fields.

Alabama’s agricultural output rose in the three years after passage of its “draconian” immigration law. In addition, the H2A visa program, which allows farmers to employ foreign guest workers, has no caps. There’s no excuse for any illegal workers picking our produce.

• We need immigrants to “do the jobs Americans won’t do.”

Nobel economist Paul Krugman: “The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays – and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants.” When garlic famers couldn’t find enough workers, they recently increased wages by $2 an hour, and were flooded with applicants. Surprise! Americans picking produce!

• If we pay more, food prices will skyrocket.

Philip Martin, of the Commission on Agricultural Workers, reports that raising farmworkers’ wages by 40 percent would increase a family’s annual food budget by only $16. By hiring legal workers and paying a livable wage, we save taxpayers the cost of poverty programs, and government gets more taxes.

• We need high-skilled foreign science, technology, engineering and math workers.

The Wall Street Journal: “America’s dazzling tech boom has a downside: Not enough jobs.” And The New York Times: Corporations, claiming dire shortages, are displacing Americans with foreign workers. “STEM shortages”?

• We’re caught between “mass deportations” and “mass amnesty.”

We have other choices. Passing mandatory E-verify for all new hires would immediately end the jobs magnet. Over five years, we could phase in E-verify for all workers. A five-year transition period would allow employers now dependent on an illegal workforce to rethink their business plan, and it would allow illegal immigrants time to make other arrangements.

 Families could be divided!

It’s not our responsibility to provide amnesty and citizenship to people who’ve committed Social Security card fraud and identity theft and lied on federal documents in order to “make a better life.” If native-born Americans commit these crimes, they face jail time.

• What about “Dreamers,” brought here as children? They’re innocent.

Legalization without citizenship for a limited number of highly deserving Dreamers makes sense. But their plight shouldn’t become a Trojan horse for another mass amnesty.

• We need more young people!

Since immigrants sponsor their elderly parents, too, immigration has no discernible effect on generational demographics, according to the pro-restriction Center for Immigration Studies.

• President Barack Obama deported millions. Illegal immigration is simply unstoppable.

The Los Angeles Times: The Obama administration changed the definition of “deportation.” Citing that fact, Obama himself called his deportation statistics “a little deceptive.” Using the old definition, deportations declined by 40 percent under Obama.

How can we stop illegal immigration? It’s obvious: Go after the employers. Decisive enforcement. No more “catch and release.” Immigration policy will affect nearly every aspect of our society for generations. Let’s try applying a fact-based discussion to this complex problem.

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Charles Krauthammer: U.S. still has cards to play in North Korean crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/united-states-still-has-cards-to-play-in-north-korean-crisis/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/united-states-still-has-cards-to-play-in-north-korean-crisis/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184773 The crisis with North Korea may appear trumped up. It’s not.

Given that Pyongyang has had nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for more than a decade, why the panic now? Because North Korea is headed for a nuclear breakout. The regime has openly declared that it is racing to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States – and thus destroy an American city at a Kim Jong Un push of a button.

The North Koreans are not bluffing. They’ve made significant progress with solid-fuel rockets, which are more quickly deployable and thus more easily hidden and less subject to detection and pre-emption.

At the same time, Pyongyang has been steadily adding to its supply of nuclear weapons. Today it has an estimated 10 to 16. By 2020, it could very well have 100. (For context: The British are thought to have about 200.)

Hence the crisis. We simply cannot concede to Kim Jong Un the capacity to annihilate American cities.

Some will argue for deterrence. If it held off the Russians and the Chinese for all these years, why not the North Koreans? First, because deterrence, even with a rational adversary like the old Soviet Union, is never a sure thing. We came pretty close to nuclear war in October 1962.

And second, because North Korea’s regime is bizarre in the extreme, a hermit kingdom run by a weird, utterly ruthless and highly erratic god-king. You can’t count on Caligula. The regime is savage and cult-like; its people, robotic. Karen Elliott House once noted that while Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a prison, North Korea was an ant colony.

Ant colonies do not have good checks and balances.

If not deterrence, then prevention. But how? The best hope is for China to exercise its influence and induce North Korea to give up its programs.

For years, the Chinese made gestures, but never did anything remotely decisive. They have their reasons. It’s not just that they fear a massive influx of refugees if the Kim regime disintegrates.

It’s also that Pyongyang is a perpetual thorn in the side of the Americans, whereas regime collapse brings South Korea (and thus America) right up to the Yalu River.

So why would the Chinese do our bidding now?

For a variety of reasons.

 They don’t mind tension but they don’t want war. And the risk of war is rising. They know that the ICBM threat is totally unacceptable to the Americans. And that the current administration appears particularly committed to enforcing this undeclared red line.

 Chinese interests are being significantly damaged by the erection of regional missile defenses to counteract North Korea’s nukes. South Korea is racing to install a THAAD anti-missile system. Japan may follow. THAAD’s mission is to track and shoot down incoming rockets from North Korea but, like any missile shield, it necessarily reduces the power and penetration of the Chinese nuclear arsenal.

 For China to do nothing risks the return of the American tactical nukes in South Korea, withdrawn in 1991.

 If the crisis deepens, the possibility arises of South Korea and, most importantly, Japan going nuclear themselves. The latter is the ultimate Chinese nightmare.

These are major cards America can play. Our objective should be clear. At a minimum, a testing freeze. At the maximum, regime change.

Because Beijing has such a strong interest in the current regime, we could sweeten the latter offer by abjuring Korean reunification. This would not be Germany, where the communist state was absorbed into the West. We would accept an independent, but Finlandized, North.

During the Cold War, Finland was, by agreement, independent but always pro-Russian in foreign policy. Here we would guarantee that a new North Korea would be independent but always oriented toward China. For example, the new regime would forswear ever joining any hostile alliance.

There are deals to be made. They may have to be underpinned by demonstrations of American resolve.

A pre-emptive attack on North Korea’s nuclear facilities and missile sites would be too dangerous, as it would almost surely precipitate an invasion of South Korea with untold millions of casualties. We might, however, try to shoot down a North Korean missile in mid-flight to demonstrate both our capacity to defend ourselves and the futility of a North Korean missile force that can be neutralized technologically.

The Korea crisis is real and growing. But we are not helpless. We have choices. We have assets. It’s time to deploy them.

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Commentary: In the modern workplace, men like Bill O’Reilly need to be rooted out and fired http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/in-the-modern-workplace-men-like-bill-oreilly-need-to-be-rooted-out-and-fired/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/in-the-modern-workplace-men-like-bill-oreilly-need-to-be-rooted-out-and-fired/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184781 Wealth and power have allowed men to get away with sexual harassment and abuse for ages, that’s not new.

From Bill Cosby to Bill Clinton, from Dominique Strauss-Kahn to Donald Trump, high-profile men have been accused of preying on women in very ugly ways.

And many of them duck allegations and legal consequences for years or even decades – right up until the gratifying day that their victims finally take them down.

Which brings us to the well-deserved downfall of Bill O’Reilly, the combative Fox News host who joined his heinous pal, former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, in the unemployment line this week.

These two men are accused of using their positions to sexually harass and abuse the women in their workplace over and over again.

For years, women who worked with O’Reilly – the co-author of a book on “Old School” values – said the talking head verbally abused them, called them up at home and described lurid (and ridiculous) sex acts he wanted to perform on them. He allegedly told his associate producer that he was masturbating while talking with her and offered others promotions in exchange for sex with him.

This is a guy who was recorded telling that associate producer that he wanted to fondle her with a falafel, though he actually meant a loofah. Yet somehow that wasn’t embarrassing enough to get him off the air.

Nor were the court records that had his teenage daughter describing the way he was “choking her mom” as he “dragged her down some stairs” by the neck. Nah, keep that guy on the air and let him promote his books on family values.

Let’s put aside the ethics and morality of those accusations to just look at the corporate cost of such accusations – the lawsuits filed, the hours in negotiations with lawyers, the $15 million in settlements.

And still nope. Those things weren’t enough to make Fox News say adios to a guy who gets millions of viewers by spending all his time ripping into others from the comfort of a TV studio.

No, the Fox overlords didn’t consider ditching O’Reilly until the New York Times published a stunning story earlier this month about sexual harassment settlements with five women who worked at Fox over a 15-year period. That’s when advertisers began to flee and when the cable news channel finally began to take the allegations against their top-rated host seriously.

It was all about the Benjamins, baby. Not the behavior women said he was guilty of.

But it is a reminder of the awesome power of consumers with the companies who want to sell us stuff. The allegations against O’Reilly prompted a stampede of nearly two dozen big advertisers to run away from Fox.

Hooray BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Smart move Constant Contact. And yes, it was extra sharp for the men’s shirt company called Untuckit to high-tail it away from a man who allegedly called women at night and described himself untucking something.

I know, it’s all pretty disgusting.

But there is a funny part to this. After Fox announced they were ousting him, O’Reilly – who famously calls anyone opposing his conservative ideas “snowflakes” – continued to whine about his fate and deny the avalanche of allegations against him.

“It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims,” he said in a statement after Fox announced his axing. “But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”

He said his accusers – all of them successful, professional women – targeted him because he’s famous. That’s a familiar defense from men like him, who are accustomed to saying and doing anything they want to the women around them.

Our president once bragged on an “Access Hollywood” tape about kissing and groping women whenever he was attracted to them.

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump explained to Billy Bush in 2005. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” Bush agreed.

“Grab them by the (genitals),” Trump said. “You can do anything.”

Most men, of course, would never talk this way. They treat their female colleagues with respect. But it is how some men in positions of power think. And in the 21st-century American workplace, those men must be rooted out and fired.

The women who alleged they were being harassed by Bill O’Reilly should have been taken seriously right away. They should not have had to wait until advertisers spoke up.

But the money folks are listening. Remember that. It’s a start, and that power is in our hands.

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Our View: Maine should make it easier for women to access birth control http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/our-view-maine-should-make-it-easier-for-women-to-access-birth-control/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/our-view-maine-should-make-it-easier-for-women-to-access-birth-control/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184830 Women use birth control for decades of their lives, but missing even one or two doses can cause an unintended pregnancy, with all the life-changing consequences that entails. A proposal before the Legislature would remove a significant barrier to accessing contraception, and legislators who are committed to the interests of Maine families should support it.

L.D. 1237, sponsored by Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, would allow women who are prescribed birth control to receive up to a 12-month supply with one visit to a pharmacy. Currently, patients have to go back every one to three months for refills.

If that requirement doesn’t strike you as such a big deal, then you’re out of touch with the reality of a lot of women. Inconsistent use of birth control accounts for 41 percent of unintended pregnancies, and University of California at San Francisco researchers found in 2011 that one in four women has missed a day’s dose of contraception because she wasn’t able to get a new pack in time.

Among the reasons for the gap: Women are juggling multiple responsibilities – work, school, raising a family. They’re holding down hourly jobs and can’t afford to take the time to get to the drugstore before it closes. They don’t have reliable transportation – a huge barrier in rural states like Maine.

Women in abusive relationships face challenges of their own in accessing birth control. Bent on maintaining control of his wife or girlfriend, an abuser will throw away mail-ordered medication or obsessively monitor even local trips, making it tough for his partner to get to the pharmacy regularly for refills, Regina Rooney of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence told legislators at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Several other states, including Oregon and California, already have laws in place allowing yearlong contraception prescriptions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs this approach, too – because it works.

Compared to women who received only a 30- or 90-day supply of birth control, women who received a year’s supply were 30 percent less likely to get pregnant unexpectedly and 46 percent less likely to get an abortion, according to the 2011 UCSF study. With fewer unintended pregnancies, employer-sponsored insurance plans won’t be spending as much on covering prenatal care, labor and delivery.

L.D. 1237 will go a long way toward enabling responsible family planning, and for that reason, it deserves legislative approval. Though hormonal birth control is safe and effective, it won’t benefit women unless they have it when they need it.

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Another View: Sexual abuse scandal mars peacekeepers’ exit from Haiti http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/another-view-sexual-abuse-scandal-mars-peacekeepers-exit-from-haiti/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/another-view-sexual-abuse-scandal-mars-peacekeepers-exit-from-haiti/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184837 The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti will end in a few months, but not before reckoning with a fresh scandal.

A U.N. battalion of Nepalese peacekeepers in 2010 introduced a lethal strain of cholera to Haiti, where it has since killed over 9,000 people and infected hundreds of thousands. Now, The Associated Press reports that at least 134 U.N. peacekeepers from Sri Lanka took part in a sex ring in Haiti that victimized nine children from 2004 to 2007. The report should serve notice that U.N. peacekeeping operations worldwide are badly in need of reform and oversight.

The sex ring was part of what appears to have been a broader pattern of sexual exploitation and abuse, along with impunity, that has marked the U.N. mission in Haiti since it began in 2004 after an elected president was overthrown. The AP turned up hundreds of allegations of abuse in Haiti, carried out by peacekeepers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uruguay and Sri Lanka. In very few cases did the troops face discipline.

The U.N. announcement last week that the mission in Haiti would be wound down over the coming six months was unrelated to the AP’s nearly simultaneous revelations of sex abuse by peacekeepers. The troops’ withdrawal reflects both the country’s progress toward stabilization after successful elections and financial pressure to trim peacekeeping operations.

Haiti is by no means the only place peacekeepers have treated as a sexual playground. The United Nations must insist, as a precondition for accepting peacekeeping troops, that contributing countries will court-martial and punish soldiers who commit abuse. It should also sever payments to peacekeeping contingents implicated in sexual abuse if they fail to impose discipline. In the absence of such accountability, peacekeeping missions may do more harm than good.

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Dana Milbank: Dear Mr. Kim: Don’t pick a fight with someone crazier than you are http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/dana-milbank-dear-mr-kim-dont-pick-fight-someone-crazier/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/dana-milbank-dear-mr-kim-dont-pick-fight-someone-crazier/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:25 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184248 The Hon. Kim Jong Un
The Great Successor
Sun of the 21st Century
Supreme Leader Marshal
Ryongsong Residence
Pyongyang, North Korea

Dear Mr. Kim:

I write to congratulate you on the occasion of your late grandfather’s 105th birthday. I heard about the difficulties you had with the missile this weekend, but be assured that the launch was cheered by thousands of Muslims in Jersey City.

Please forgive the impersonal nature of this correspondence, but a matter of this urgency cannot be left to the North Korean postal system. The world is the closest it has been to nuclear war in 55 years, and I wanted to caution you that the man with whom you are now eyeball to eyeball could be as mad as a March hare.

Jong (if I may, or do you prefer Little Un?), you yourself are known to be a bit nutty, or, as John McCain calls you, a “crazy fat kid.” That’s why we were so quick to believe that you fed your uncle to dogs a few years ago. For years, American presidents left you and your father in power because they didn’t want the bother of a war. But that was then.

President Trump has been practicing the “madman theory,” which your family has used well: If people think you are insane, they’ll give you a wide berth. But Trump does such a convincing job portraying a madman that he might actually be a madman. It may surprise you to hear me say that, but here in America we can criticize our leader without fear that our coffee will be poisoned and we will keel over onto our 8jmkiuh9tr5f444 4444444444444 44444444444 44444u.

Kidding! The point is, we don’t know if he’s bluffing or if he’s crazy. And neither do you.

Little Un, if you think this American president is stable like his predecessors, I refer you to his Twitter account. He has sent 13,321 tweets with exclamation points, 864 tweets with two exclamation points, 432 with three, 146 with four and 57 with five (the last one, in August: “#WheresHillary? Sleeping!!!!!”). Trump’s single greatest exclamation in recent years – 15 points – was in 2014: “This cannot be the the [sic] Academy Awards #Oscars AWFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Now he’s turning his punctuation on you. Until the past couple of years, the extent of his public commentary on your country was to say he wouldn’t go. “Dennis Rodman was either drunk or on drugs (delusional) when he said I wanted to go to North Korea with him. Glad I fired him on ‘Apprentice’!” he tweeted in 2014.

But this time Trump is in a position to fire missiles, not the former Chicago Bulls forward. And he has been treating the crisis with the gravity we’ve come to expect from him. At the White House Easter Egg Roll, where he was joined by the Easter Bunny, Trump said North Korea “gotta behave” and, if not, “you’ll see.” There is still a chance that his advisers will talk him down. The most sensible one is Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. His nickname: “Mad Dog.”

Americans, though concerned about the nuclear standoff, have been paying more attention to an election in Georgia for one of 435 seats in Congress, and to a lawsuit filed by a white nationalist claiming Trump’s language incited him to violence. And this gives me an idea.

Jong, if you really want to go after Trump, do it the American way: File a lawsuit. True, he has been sued hundreds of times, but yours would be special, because you could claim that his words and actions incited you to build and test missiles and weapons capable of unspeakable violence. You would be following in the footsteps of a revered American, Paula Jones, whose lawsuit against President Bill Clinton won a substantial payout and helped pave the way for his impeachment.

You would, I’m afraid, have to give up your nuclear arsenal to pursue this course, but Trump could afford to settle with you for significantly more than Clinton paid Jones. Also, I know from Seth Rogen and James Franco that you admire Katy Perry and margaritas. I can’t promise, but it’s possible that if you renounced your nuclear weapons and sued Trump instead, Perry might perform for you. And I would share my secret margarita recipe.

Please consider this peaceful alternative. Should you stay your current course, nobody knows what Trump might do. Not even Trump.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:
dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Our View: What happened to Gov. LePage’s plan to fix Riverview? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/our-view-what-happened-to-gov-lepages-plan-to-fix-riverview/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/our-view-what-happened-to-gov-lepages-plan-to-fix-riverview/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184227 Late last year, even as they fought over the right way to build a new facility for some patients now at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, legislators and the LePage administration agreed that the need for such a facility was urgent. Turns out, only one side was serious.

Nearly four months after Gov. Le-Page said he was moving forward with his plan to build the “step-down” facility whether the Legislature liked it or not, there seems to have been little progress, and no word from the governor’s office on what’s holding it up. Meanwhile, the delays in care that the plan was meant to solve continue.

LePage first proposed building the 21-bed facility – which would house forensic patients who no longer need hospital-level care, freeing up beds for those who do – directly next to Riverview.

However, Democrats, concerned about the governor’s desire to have a private company operate the facility, and turned off by the administration’s unwillingness to answer questions about it, exercised legislative leaders’ control over state construction within Augusta’s Capitol Area, voting to kill the proposal until administration officials appeared before the appropriate committees.

LePage lost it. His spokesman accused Democrats of “playing politics,” then said the administration would build the new facility in Bangor instead, outside the Legislature’s purview, despite warning – without further detail – that it would add $1 million to the cost, and despite assurances from both Democratic and Republican legislators that hearings could be held almost immediately, soon enough for construction to start in January.

While Democrats were playing it up for the media and lobbyists, the administration said, the governor was “laser-focused on getting these patients the treatment and facility they need and deserve as soon as possible.”

Just short of four months later, there is no new building, and seemingly no plan for one. Administration officials haven’t briefed the Legislature on what they plan to do. Questions from mental health advocates, legislators and the media have gone unanswered, even unacknowledged. Where there was once so much urgency from the governor’s office, there is now “radio silence,” according to Republican state Sen. Roger Katz, whose district includes Riverview.

And the problems at the hospital continue. While Riverview has made great strides in care, staff shortages and employee morale since its federal certification was revoked in 2013, there remains a widely recognized need for more beds.

Daniel Wathen, the former Maine chief justice who oversees Riverview under a consent decree covering people with severe mental illness under state care, said late last year that the average waiting list for a Riverview bed was nine people, and as high as 16. The executive director of the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said she heard of people waiting eight to 12 days in an emergency department hallway for a bed to open up at Riverview.

There is broad agreement that a step-down facility would help alleviate those problems. In fact, it’s the first area of broad agreement since the troubles at Riverview first surfaced.

And still, it appears, nothing is being done. It sure looks like someone was playing politics back in December – it just wasn’t the Democrats.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/our-view-what-happened-to-gov-lepages-plan-to-fix-riverview/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1184227_406958_20140808_riverviewsi-e1492681358899.jpgPeople are waiting eight to 12 days in ER hallways for a bed to open up at Riverview Psychiatric Center. A "step-down" facility would free up room there by housing forensic patients who no longer need hospital-level care.Thu, 20 Apr 2017 05:42:48 +0000
Commentary: Latest NRA-driven right-to-hunt bill mocks Maine’s Constitution http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/commentary-latest-nra-driven-right-to-hunt-bill-mocks-maines-constitution/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/commentary-latest-nra-driven-right-to-hunt-bill-mocks-maines-constitution/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184231 The Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday on a proposal that aims to make hunting, trapping and fishing a constitutional right in Maine.

This is the third attempt by the National Rifle Association and its Maine supporters to accomplish this objective. If supported by the Legislature, the proposal would be put before voters on the 2017 statewide referendum ballot.

Testimony in favor of a prior right-to-hunt bill underscores the intent to silence Maine citizens concerned about inhumane, unethical hunting and trapping practices and prevent citizens from initiating ballot initiatives on wildlife-related issues. The latest proposal, L.D. 11, says that “the right of the people of this state to hunt, fish and harvest game and fish, including by the use of traditional methods, may not be infringed …” It also provides that “public hunting and fishing are a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.”

This is a misguided move to serve special interests. The Maine Constitution is primary law. It provides the basic architecture for government and society. One of its key purposes is to “promote our common welfare.” Over nearly 200 years, it has been amended more than 170 times, but never to give special privileges to one class of citizens and rescind the right of other citizens to have a voice on critical matters of public interest such as wildlife management.

The bill is redundant and unnecessary. Hunters and trappers are a powerful minority in Maine, not a persecuted one.

Hunting rights are not in jeopardy in Maine. The state’s hunters and trappers have both power and privilege. In fact, hunting and trapping proponents already changed state law in 2016 to make not science, but hunting, fishing and trapping the basis for managing our state’s wildlife. This was accomplished when a bill designed to discourage wildlife ballot initiatives was completely rewritten after its public hearing, approved by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee and pushed through the Legislature.

For the past 30 years, hunters and trappers have been given full access to hunt and trap on more than half a million acres of land purchased with Land for Maine’s Future Program funds. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department largely functions to serve hunter and trapper interests, not the broader public, because the agency’s funding depends on income derived from the sale of licenses, guns and ammunition.

The wording of the bill, such as the vague, undefined terms “harvest” and “use of traditional methods,” could enable the reintroduction of practices and tools that are unacceptable to the public. What “traditional methods” are we talking about? How could we ensure they would be safe, rational and ethical? If L.D. 11 becomes law, the public would have no legal pathway to object to trapping brutality, or to the use of tools currently banned, such as snares and slingshots.

L.D. 11 was driven by the NRA and drafted by the organization, with minimal edits by the measure’s Maine proponents. The NRA’s goal is to fossilize hunter and trapper interests in state constitutions in order to thwart future debate on wildlife issues that deserve to remain in the public forum.

The NRA’s signature method is to frame hunting and trapping as “science-driven” wildlife management, and to whip up fear and exaggerated claims that inflame its base of supporters with imaginary threats from so-called “animal rights extremists.” It also suggests that some truly fundamental right is under siege.

The passage of this bill would set the stage for costly disputes and court battles. Would it affect the rights of the public to control publicly owned property? Could the rights of our towns to enact their ordinances related to land-use be overridden? The number of ways that current and future management practices and regulations could conflict with this new set of “rights” is endless.

The right to hunt and trap is not a societal core value. It is not essential to our citizenship. The vast majority of Maine citizens do not participate in it. Elevating pastimes that have undergone a steady decline in popularity from a regulated privilege to the lofty status of a protected right is unsupportable.

This proposal mocks the Maine Constitution and sets a dangerous precedent sure to open the floodgates for more special-interest politicking.

Maine’s advancement requires a governmental process that is responsive to the public’s will. This proposal blatantly violates the integrity and fundamental purpose of our democratic principles and should be emphatically rejected by all citizens.

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Maine Voices: Our state can lead the way in modernizing child care, elderly services http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/maine-voices-our-state-can-lead-the-way-in-modernizing-child-care-and-elderly-services/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/maine-voices-our-state-can-lead-the-way-in-modernizing-child-care-and-elderly-services/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184243 As the director of a licensed child care facility in Portland, I know first-hand that our existing child care system is fundamentally flawed. The ways our families live and work have changed dramatically over the past few decades, yet our caregiving policies are stuck in the 1950s.

This is one of the reasons why so many families today are struggling in ways that their parents did not. While we once could rely on women’s unpaid labor at home to care for children, that is no longer the reality, as more women are in the workforce than ever before.

And it’s not only those who take care of children who are experiencing a squeeze. Those who care for older adults – often an aging parent or grandparent – are struggling as well. Today, at least 31.2 million Americans are working while also caring for family members. More and more of us are grappling with this new reality every day. Every eight seconds, someone in the country turns 65. Maine is the second-oldest state in the nation, and by 2025 more than one in five Mainers will be 65 or older.

Child care is the backbone of a healthy economy. Without it, many parents wouldn’t be able to work. Yet we are one of the few countries where child care is almost exclusively left up to the private market, and where the entire cost of child care is paid for by families. This has serious consequences for everyone involved, from families, to the owners and operators of child care facilities, to the child care professionals who keep them running.

I know first-hand how difficult it can be for parents to afford quality child care. The private tuition for infants in my program is $15,236 a year, which is far out of reach for most residents of Maine. The state’s reimbursement rates for federal vouchers are about 20 percent lower than our private tuition, which is why so many child care providers can’t afford to accept them, resulting in limited access to child care for families who qualify for a voucher. My program is fortunate to have gap funding through various grants and contracts, or many of our families would not be able to access our program either.

Ironically, even as most families cannot afford the cost of child care, providers like myself are faced with the slimmest of margins and can barely cover our own costs. While we do our best to pay fair wages to the child care professionals at our center, and are fortunate to be able to offer benefits for full-time work, the truth of the matter is that wages are still way too low.

Essentially, the low wages of our child care staff subsidizes the entire child care system. This is a moral problem, in that those who care for others should be paid dignified wages, as well as a pragmatic one, as it makes it difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers. The high turnover in our field, especially in this tight labor market, isn’t good for workers, it isn’t good for families and certainly it isn’t good for the children.

We are on an unsustainable path right now that benefits no one. Because of the high cost of care, many families are forced to make impossible choices between work and caring for their loved ones. Many Mainers end up leaving the workforce, losing income and affecting their future retirement security, as well as hurting our state’s economy. Some parents are forced to make child care choices in the informal, underground market that may actually do harm to the children. Clearly, our children are not our priority.

It’s time we address this new reality and modernize our social safety net to meet the needs of families. It’s up to states like ours to lead the way.

This is why I support the universal family care bill introduced by Rep. Drew Gattine, which would provide universal child care, support for stay-at-home parents and universal home care for seniors and people with disabilities. This would all be paid for by ensuring that the wealthiest of our residents contribute their fair share in taxes. It would also address the low wages currently being paid to child care and home care professionals by guaranteeing a living wage, which would go a long way toward attracting the workforce that our children and our seniors need and deserve.

If we really want all of our children to reach their potential, we must find a different way to support them, their families and our economy. That solution for Maine is universal family care.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/maine-voices-our-state-can-lead-the-way-in-modernizing-child-care-and-elderly-services/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/08/1020866_103512-20160818_Kindergar2.jpgAshton Hutchins, 5, wears a big smile in his classroom at Songo Locks School on the next-to-last day of the new Jump Start program, aimed at helping youngsters who have never been to daycare or pre-kindergarten.Thu, 20 Apr 2017 06:44:27 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Don’t want my anger? Sorry, but since Jan. 20, I have to fight for my country http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/leonard-pitts-dont-want-my-anger-sorry-but-since-jan-20-i-have-to-fight-for-my-country/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/leonard-pitts-dont-want-my-anger-sorry-but-since-jan-20-i-have-to-fight-for-my-country/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 10:00:26 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183761 BP has not been pleased.

Indeed, BP, who is one of my readers, has been downright disappointed with what she’s seen in this space since last year’s election. She wrote me about it a few days ago. Her email said, in part:

“I had hoped for your articles to be the beacon of light to show the way a democracy should work. Instead I am finding hopelessness and unrelenting anger at the outcome and all that has come since.

“… We need intellectuals with a balanced mind to help us go forward. No matter how much we disagree with the direction, we need to be guided the humane way, not the angered way. Anger begets anger begets irrational and hateful behaviors. We have enough of that.

“Would you consider helping guide us to be more humane instead of just angry? Journalists have the most amazing influence and I have always felt that way about your words. Please use your words to move us forward. We already know how to be angry.”

I think BP makes an important point. Here’s how I replied:

“I’ve struggled with the issues you raise since November. Frankly, I would love to be a ‘beacon of light.’ But the fact of the matter is, I don’t feel particularly hopeful and I am angry. Everything that has happened since January 20th has only reinforced my pessimism.

“I worry for the future of this country in a way I never have before. With the possible exception of the 1850s – the decade preceding the Civil War – we have simply never been this divided. Frankly, I don’t know if reconciliation is possible. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even desirable.

“… I think honesty is something every writer – and in particular a writer of personal essays – owes a reader. I could conceivably write the kind of columns you’re asking for, but it would be a lie. And I’ve always believed that at some subliminal level, a reader always knows when he’s being lied to.”

BP wants light. But just now, all I have is resistance. And if, reading our exchange, you’re struck by my cynicism about reconciliation, you should know, for whatever it’s worth, that I’m struck by it, too.

I am, after all, the same guy who once wrote columns denouncing politicians who blithely floated the idea of secession. But that feels like a hundred years ago, before we became this Frankenstein’s monster of ill-fitting parts.

America is a story of victory over long odds, a movie where the hero smashes through in the final reel. Our national mythology holds that the worst only happens in other countries. We are spared because we are us. So it’s understandable that some of us are sanguine, even now, that we will eventually figure out how to knit those parts back into a functioning and cohesive whole.

But the 12 weeks since Jan. 20 have seen more scandal, international incidents, incompetence, instability, lies and jaw-dropping embarrassments than the previous 12 years combined.

America is threatened as it has never been before. And it occurs to me that faith in inevitable salvation is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Whatever comes next, there is nothing predestined about it. If America is to be saved, it won’t be because we are us.

It won’t be because some columnist wrote soothing words. It will be because enough of us decided America was worth fighting for, and did. That’s what I’ve been trying to say.

You may think it alarmist. If that turns out to be the case, I’ll be happy – indeed, relieved – to concede the point.

Meantime, I am reminded of what Aristotle said: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” That’s always been America’s saving truth.

Time for us to decide whether it still is.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/leonard-pitts-dont-want-my-anger-sorry-but-since-jan-20-i-have-to-fight-for-my-country/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:28:38 +0000
Maine Voices: There is no survivable ‘nuclear option’ in alarming new arms race http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/maine-voices-there-is-no-survivable-nuclear-option-in-the-alarming-new-arms-race/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/maine-voices-there-is-no-survivable-nuclear-option-in-the-alarming-new-arms-race/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183695 The phrase “nuclear option” was widely used a few weeks ago to refer to a dramatic change in the rules of the U.S. Senate. The word “nuclear” was chosen to convey just how significant the consequences of using that parliamentary “option” may be.

Let’s think for a moment about some of the assumptions conveyed by this phrasing. By exercising the “option of going nuclear,” we recognize that an extremely powerful action has been taken, yet we also believe that we will live to see another day.

The unfortunate unconscious correlation is that some believe we can also survive “going nuclear” with real nuclear weapons.

Shortly after he was elected president, Donald Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.” The next day he followed with: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

These are such troubling times for so many reasons. Each threat is urgent, crying out for our attention. It’s exhausting to respond to all of them, which leads many of us to turn away, to find meaning in our day-to-day tasks and comfort in family and friends.

Yet as a physician concerned about the health of all of us living on this fragile planet, I must intrude and raise alarm. We must pay attention to the most dangerous “nuclear options.”

Actual nuclear risks are growing on a daily basis, while our current national leaders are doing nothing to reduce that threat. Instead, our leaders are engaged in an acrimonious process that is accelerating a new nuclear arms race, one that will waste hundreds of billions of tax dollars.

Critics are painting President Trump into a corner for his cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his election campaign. Yet the net effect of attacking President Trump for being too soft on Russia only serves to stir up fear of Russian aggression – a fear that then seems to justify building more nuclear weapons.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as President Trump, are all stoking these fears. In such a state of mind, it’s easy to sell the concept that nuclear weapons will make us more secure. They will not. Tragically, just the opposite is true.

Now President Trump has launched a cruise missile attack in Syria. He’s dropped a massive conventional bomb on Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan. And he’s escalating tension with North Korea over their nuclear program.

All of his rhetoric and actions suggest that use of nuclear weapons is a plausible option “to be kept on the table,” whereas the reality is that such an action would amount to committing global suicide.

The nine nuclear weapons states possess over 15,000 warheads, with the bulk of those in U.S. and Russian arsenals. A single one of them can destroy a city, killing millions. Even worse, reports by Physicians for Social Responsibility document that a so-called limited nuclear war anywhere in the world would damage the global climate and agricultural production so severely that billions would starve.

This brings us back to a metaphor from the 1980s: an American and a Russian in a lifeboat far out to sea, with 6 inches of gasoline filling the bottom of the boat. Each has a book of matches and threatens to light one and throw it at the other. Yet both know the whole boat will go up in flames. Will it matter if one has five matches and the other has eight? If one has newer matches than the other? If others from North Korea or India or Pakistan climb aboard with their smaller books of matches?

Current plans supported by both Republicans and Democrats call for rebuilding all of our nuclear weapons delivery systems – new land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and submarines – at a cost of over $400 billion over the next 10 years. This is an unacceptable and colossal waste of precious tax dollars.

Our elected leaders have gotten lost in an arcane game of brinkmanship, putting the lives of all of us at risk. When it comes to nuclear weapons, there is only one option that will result in a survivable outcome: to reduce our nuclear stockpiles, not to rebuild them.

For the sake of our children and future generations, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King must refrain from joining the crowd accelerating the new nuclear arms race. Instead, let’s urge them to spend our tax dollars wisely on those resources that provide real national security – on first responders, schools, health care, education, housing and updated infrastructure.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/maine-voices-there-is-no-survivable-nuclear-option-in-the-alarming-new-arms-race/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1131471_edi.0102.jpgAn Air Force missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an ICBM with a nuclear warhead in an undated photo. Donald Trump's national security adviser says that the president-elect supports missile defense system upgrades in order to maintain a position of strength.Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:27:08 +0000
Greg Kesich: LePage’s fuzzy arithmetic – cut school staff, taxes to improve schools http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/greg-kesich-lepages-fuzzy-arithmetic-cut-school-staff-and-taxes-to-make-schools-better/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/greg-kesich-lepages-fuzzy-arithmetic-cut-school-staff-and-taxes-to-make-schools-better/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183726 Nutrition advice can be confusing. Vegans say don’t eat meat. Paleos say you should eat little else.

Sugar, bread, milk, eggs and wine all have their critics (and also some fans). Even a banana can be controversial.

But no one ever says “don’t eat your greens.” So when in doubt, you know you could always grab a bowl of spinach with a clear conscience.

In the world of public policy, education is your bowl of spinach.

Liberals and conservatives agree that it is the key to a prosperous future, not just for individuals but also for the state as a whole. Public education makes it possible for poor kids to escape poverty. An educated workforce attracts investors and makes it possible for businesses to grow. Schools anchor communities because families want to live where their children will get a good education.

The only problem is how to pay for it.

Education funding is on the menu again in Augusta this year, and lawmakers have two diets to choose from. They should be careful about anything that sounds too good to be true.

Gov. LePage arrived on the scene with a proposal that sounds like the nutrition advice torn from the back page of a supermarket tabloid. His plan is to spend more on education, which he accomplishes by pretending that school administration is not education. Like he did with teacher retirement liabilities, he would put central office costs onto the local taxpayers – to encourage them, he says, to consolidate school districts.

Oh, and he wants to cut taxes again. Income taxes, that is, especially for those with the highest incomes, which would help a few people a whole lot. His plan to end state funding for administrators however would dump costs onto property taxpayers.

Another plan was presented last fall to the voters, who liked it so much they made it state law.

It would increase state appropriations for schools by $150 million a year, which for the first time would get the state to reach its commitment to fund 55 percent of the cost of schools from the General Fund. It gets there with a 3 percent surtax on income over $200,000 a year, affecting the top 2 percent of taxpayers.

That may not be the best way to pay for schools, but it’s the only realistic one up for discussion this year.

In 2004, Maine people went to the polls and voted that 55 percent of the state’s education budget should come from the state, meaning money raised from income and sales taxes. The idea was to take pressure off local property taxpayers, whose share of the burden did not match their ability to shoulder it.

The people voted and 55 percent became the law, but like a New Year’s resolution to eat better, we never got there. It’s just something we can all feel guilty about when we pledge to do better in the future.

This failure to reach 55 percent is often cited as a proof that the Legislature never listens to the people, but the history is a little more complicated than that.

After the referendum passed, the state edged close to the goal, hitting almost 53 percent in 2009 before two things happened. The first was a world economic collapse that made the state income tax collections crater. The other was the election of Paul LePage.

LePage talked a lot about education when he was running for governor in 2010, but since taking office his reform efforts have focused mainly on insulting teachers and administrators.

From Day 1, his focus has been on cutting income taxes, which makes it hard to spend more on education. This year, the state’s contribution is 47 percent, leaving the rest for property taxpayers.

Since 2011, almost $300 million that could have been used to pay for schools and other priorities has been distributed through tax cuts, most going to the wealthiest 20 percent of the population.

Since then, there is a higher percentage of poor children in schools than there was seven years ago, and they have more complex needs.

Dr. LePage’s plan to make us better? He wants to cut income taxes even more – not for everybody, just the top 20 percent again.

The legislative Democrats have put forward a budget proposal that incorporates the 3 percent surcharge and hits the 55 percent funding target for the first time. If there is a better way to raise the money, no one has come forward with it.

Lawmakers should recognize that they can’t just wish their way to an adequately funded school system, paid for by pretending that some costs just don’t exist and that calories from tax cuts don’t count.

The only way to pay for schools is to pay for schools.

It’s time for Maine to eat its spinach.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at www.pressherald.com/podcast.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/greg-kesich-lepages-fuzzy-arithmetic-cut-school-staff-and-taxes-to-make-schools-better/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1162615_477718-20151110_schoolbus_1-e1492625081455.jpgA proposal before the Legislature would give Maine schools flexibility to enforce truancy laws on enrolled students younger than 7. Reducing absenteeism starts with tracking missed days and working with parents.Wed, 19 Apr 2017 14:04:47 +0000
Another View: White House is people’s house; they have a right to visitor logs http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/another-view-white-house-is-peoples-house-they-have-a-right-to-visitor-logs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/another-view-white-house-is-peoples-house-they-have-a-right-to-visitor-logs/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183753 Well, give President Trump credit. This time he’s managed to offend liberals and conservatives to about an equal degree.

The announced policy that White House visitor logs won’t be made public has the Capitol astir. And it should. The White House is the people’s house. It’s not Trump Tower or Mar-a-Lago or one of Trump’s golf clubs.

Trump is a temporary resident, and who comes and goes is the people’s business, period. President Barack Obama had an open policy for eight years wherein logs were released.

What’s up with Trump? His aides say the logs won’t be released until he’s been out of office for five years. That’s preposterous. Any president, if national security demands it, can choose to not disclose visits that need to be kept secret for legitimate reasons.

This new policy smacks of arrogance. No less than Tom Fitton, head of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, said, “This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn’t want to be account to the American people.” Exactly.

And it prompts the question: What’s Trump hiding? Business associates and wheeler dealers? Lobbyists? Donors?

A policy that creates more questions than answers is a bad policy.

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Our View: Lawbreaking motorists shouldn’t be able to hide in Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/our-view-lawbreaking-motorists-shouldnt-be-able-to-hide-on-maine-roads/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/our-view-lawbreaking-motorists-shouldnt-be-able-to-hide-on-maine-roads/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183754 Our cars and trucks are safer than ever. So why is the number of Americans dead or injured in crashes each year continuing to climb? We can’t ignore the facts anymore: Phone distraction is killing people on our roads, and as evidence mounts about the hazards of phone use by motorists, a renewed push to ban hand-held devices in motor vehicles in Maine deserves legislators’ support.

Nationwide, according to federal regulators, about 3,500 people were killed in distracted-driving crashes in 2015, around 10 percent of total traffic deaths. The same year, distracted driving was involved in 14 percent of all traffic accidents nationally.

Maine banned texting while driving in 2011. But the law isn’t much of a deterrent, despite the hefty penalties – $250 for the first violation and $500 and license suspension for repeat offenders. Because the state has no ban on hand-held devices, someone stopped on suspicion of texting while driving can easily get off the hook by claiming they were doing something else, such as looking up directions or dialing a phone number.

That would change under a proposal sponsored by state Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham: L.D. 1089 would outlaw the use of any hand-held devices while driving, with a $75 fine for the first offense and a $150 penalty for subsequent ones.

Maine has tried to do this before, in 2015. That measure received broad support in the Senate but ultimately failed in the House. Critics there downplayed the seriousness and scope of the offense and wondered rhetorically whether the state would next try to regulate other driver distractions, such as argumentative spouses or roaming pets.

But there’s solid evidence that texting or using a device is more dangerous than, say, talking with a passenger or changing the radio station. A motorist who’s using a handheld smartphone is a motorist whose hands, eyes and brain aren’t focusing on safe driving. And texting is particularly distracting, researchers have found: When we get a text, it lights up the part of the brain that enjoys pleasant experiences and demands more of them.

It’s no wonder, then, that a 2013 Virginia Tech study concluded that texting triples a driver’s crash risk. The evidence keeps on piling up, including a report released earlier this month: Based on data from hundreds of thousands of drivers, Cambridge Mobile Telematics found that phone distraction had occurred during 52 percent of trips that resulted in an accident.

Texting while driving is making our roads less safe, and Maine’s current regulations don’t go far enough to discourage it. We can’t sit by while the problem gets worse – let’s move ahead with a proposal that will make it harder for the lawbreakers on our state’s roads to hide.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/our-view-lawbreaking-motorists-shouldnt-be-able-to-hide-on-maine-roads/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1183754_447333-20170316_distract2.jpgIt's one hand on the wheel, one hand on the phone for this motorist on Temple Street in Portland. Because Maine doesn't prohibit drivers from using hand-held devices, violators of the state's texting ban can easily avoid fines by claiming they were actually looking up directions or dialing a phone number.Tue, 18 Apr 2017 21:27:02 +0000
Another View: Does Trump really want to be the president who broke health care? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/another-view-does-trump-really-want-to-be-the-president-who-broke-health-care/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/another-view-does-trump-really-want-to-be-the-president-who-broke-health-care/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183236 “Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” President Trump told The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday in a barely veiled threat to defund a crucial part of the Affordable Care Act. The president delivered this threat even though he has no viable replacement plan. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the president said, “should be calling me and begging me to help him save Obamacare.”

No. Trump should be working to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which is delivering health insurance to millions of Americans.

The president’s comments came after he reanimated the drive to repeal and replace Obamacare on Fox Business earlier last Wednesday: “We have to do health care first to pick up additional money so that we get great tax reform,” he said. “So we’re going to have a phenomenal tax reform, but I have to do health care first.”

More desperate than clever, Trump’s talk of annihilating Obamacare, for which he would be justly blamed, is unlikely to coerce Democrats into supporting anything like the House Republican repeal-and-replace plan he backed, which failed to attract enough Republican support to pass the House. The indecency of Trump taking millions of Americans’ health care hostage is compounded by his suggestion that repeal-and-replace is about freeing budgetary space for Republicans to tinker with the tax code rather than about fixing health care. Even posing his threat, meanwhile, is astonishingly reckless.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/another-view-does-trump-really-want-to-be-the-president-who-broke-health-care/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1178250_Trump_US_Syria_77768.jpg-2.jpgPresident Trump speaks Thursday night at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., after the U.S. fired cruise missiles into Syria in retaliation for this week's chemical weapons attack against civilians. He said the U.S. missile attack on a Syrian air base was in the "vital national security interest."Mon, 17 Apr 2017 20:21:06 +0000
Our View: Maine lawmakers should back ‘death with dignity’ bill http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-back-death-with-dignity-bill/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-back-death-with-dignity-bill/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183246 We all know that someday we are going to die, but we don’t know much more about the subject than that.

Death could come suddenly, or slowly; in agony, or in peace; in the chaotic flurry of a hospital intensive care unit, or at home.

Since the end comes differently for everyone, it stands to reason that different people will make different choices when it’s their time. One of the choices available to them should be access to medication that allows the individualto choose when it’s time to go.

That’s why we support L.D. 347, “An Act to Support Death With Dignity.”

The bill creates a process through which a patient facing the end of life has an option that’s not legally available now. Someone with fewer than six months to live would be able to request medication to hasten the end of life. If two physicians agree with the diagnosis and prognosis and believe that the patient has the ability to make a rational choice, the medicine could be prescribed.

It would not be right for everyone. The patient would have to be able to think rationally and advocate for themselves. Some people in great pain may not be considered candidates under this law because they are not in the last six months of their lives. Others would meet the clinical criteria, but would not be ready to give up hope and would choose not to obtain the medication.

Everyone is different, and that’s why it’s important to have choices. Current law cuts down options.

Studies show that 80 percent of people would prefer to die at home, but most people don’t get their wish. More than half die in acute care facilities in hospitals, 20 percent at nursing homes and only 20 percent at home. In Oregon, which legalized doctor-assisted suicide 20 years ago, those numbers are turned upside-down. Patients are less likely to receive intensive care and more likely to die at home than the national averages.

Opponents of the bill warn that it could be turned into a euthanasia program, which people in power could use to cull the disabled or those who need expensive care. Others question whether a manipulative person could take advantage of a very sick person’s finances and then hasten their end.

But it is wrong to force some people to suffer very real pain because someone else could commit a hypothetical offense. There are better ways to protect against wrongdoing.

Legislators shouldn’t make our end-of-life decisions, but they should make all reasonable choices available to us. It should be up to the individual, not the government, to decide how and when the end should come.

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Kathleen Parker: Twitter mob serves a purpose, as United and O’Reilly prove http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/kathleen-parker-twitter-mob-serves-a-purpose-as-united-and-oreilly-prove/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/kathleen-parker-twitter-mob-serves-a-purpose-as-united-and-oreilly-prove/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183247 Despite recent revelations that Fox News and anchor Bill O’Reilly had settled five complaints of sexual harassment against him to the tune of millions – his ratings went up.

A few days later, a United Airlines passenger was dragged from an airplane to make room for crew members on a full flight – and United’s stock initially went up.

And for this, we pay good money?

The shock wasn’t so much that monetary values seem to increase in direct correlation to the diminution of moral values but that we’ve become passive bystanders to appalling behavior and allegations. Well beyond defining deviancy down, as the great statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan once described our cultural devolution – we hardly know what it is anymore.

Which reminds me of another great social observer, author Flannery O’Connor. Frequently asked why Southerners write so much about freaks, she replied that it was because Southerners could still recognize them. Whether this was ever true is debatable only beyond the Confederate states.

What is true today is that social media has become the church lady and the party-line operator rolled into one. If somebody misbehaves, not just two people know about it. Within hours or minutes, millions do. Like a single organism endowed with the accumulated moral fortitude of human society, Twitter demands justice.

In viral videos of the airplane fiasco, passengers are heard protesting as security officials dragged the man down the aisle toward the exit. But even their objections were relatively muted. Was this a one-off, crazy incident, they must have wondered? Or, was it just a matter of time until the blood-sucking, tentacled tripod machines in “War of the Worlds” reach down to select their next human cocktail to drain? But maybe that’s just me.

Still. It happened. Right here in the USA. On a plane. To a random guy.

United stocks rallied and the friendly skies were no wiser.

That is, until the outrage gathering on social media reached investors. By last Tuesday morning, United had lost millions in market share – not because of the airline’s treatment of the passenger, but because of investors’ loss of faith in the company’s ability to handle a crisis.

As for O’Reilly, o’really?

I was beginning to think I was the last person on the planet for whom mention of “O’Reilly” prompted the instant association to “loofah.” O’Reilly. Loofah. O’Reilly. Loofah. Yes, my fellow Americans, not only is O’Reilly a smug, sarcastic, windbag/anchor of the self-promoting commercial called “The O’Reilly Factor,” he is also allegedly a sex talker of some renown.

Thirteen years ago, O’Reilly settled with a “Factor” associate producer, Andrea Mackris, who sued for sexual harassment. Specifically, she alleged that in telephone conversations, he bragged about his global sexual exploits, encouraged her to release tensions with a mechanical aid, and spoke of a shower fantasy with Mackris and “that little loofah thing.” Later in the same conversation, for reasons unknown, she said he changed his terminology to that “falafel thing” – word of the day, eh? – which falls somewhat short of correcting the record.

“Your Honor, I did not say ‘her little loofah thing.’ I said ‘her little falafel thing.’ There’s a big difference, you know.”

The upshot of the Mackris and more recent Fox News scandals was that women were paid for their silence, in some cases quite well. Gretchen Carlson was awarded $20 million to settle her suit alleging that Fox News boss Roger Ailes sexually harassed her for several years. Ailes is gone; Carlson is rich.

Mackris was paid as well, though not nearly so well. The tapes she supposedly had that would have proved her case were never released, she faded into scandal history, and O’Reilly went on to become Fox’s ratings god for reasons I’ve failed to glean.

Then #bootoreilly was born and thousands of women shared their experiences with workplace harassment. At last count, more than 60 advertisers, including Jenny Craig, Advil and Mercedes-Benz pulled their commercials from the show. Even O’Reilly is only as valuable as the bucks he brings in.

In a pre-Twitter age, the United event might have gone unnoticed by more than a few reporters who corralled a few passengers for interviews – if that. Pre-social media, allegations of O’Reilly’s brutish behavior might have been passed off as just-a-guy having some innocent fun.

Alas, and for good, the party’s over for boors and bullies. Except, of course, for the president of the United States.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/kathleen-parker-twitter-mob-serves-a-purpose-as-united-and-oreilly-prove/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1180993_United_Passenger_Removed_13.jpgPeople with Asian community organizations protest after David Dao was removed from a United Airlines airplane by Chicago airport police at O'Hare International Airport.Mon, 17 Apr 2017 20:28:17 +0000
Maine Voices: LePage administration forfeits almost $2 billion in federal aid to Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/maine-voices-lepage-administration-forfeits-almost-2-billion-in-federal-aid-to-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/maine-voices-lepage-administration-forfeits-almost-2-billion-in-federal-aid-to-maine/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183259 At a time when fake news and alternative facts are all the rage in certain quarters, it is a relief and a pleasure to read the latest report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy, which, with measured prose and hard statistics, indicts the LePage administration for forfeiting almost $2 billion in available federal aid since 2011.

This is a scandal, no question. To date, for example, Augusta has said “No, thanks” to more than $1 billion that would have expanded Medicaid in Maine, via a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (still alive and kicking, despite the Republican Party’s slash-and-burn crusade).

This crucial infusion of federal dollars has been embraced by the District of Columbia and 32 states, including all our New England neighbors. If Maine were to accept its share of Medicaid money, some $246 million would be invested annually in the economy. But because Gov. Trump Lite has a pronounced distaste for Washington money, some 70,000 low-income Mainers cannot access affordable health care.

Since 2011, the state also has turned down $244 million in federal support for MaineCare, which provides medical services to low-income families with children. Partly as a result, the Maine Center for Economic Policy report notes, some 3,500 fewer Maine children had health insurance in 2015 than in 2010, the worst drop in the nation. And largely because of the state’s refusal to accept the federal dollars due it, Maine’s health ranking fell from 15th to 22nd last year, one of the biggest single-year declines in the country.

Thanks to the searing 10-part series that recently appeared in the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, thousands of Mainers now know in grim detail about the growing opioid epidemic in the state. What most of us don’t know, but the Maine Center for Economic Policy report makes clear, is that, while more than one person a day dies of drug abuse, the state has turned away $3.8 million from the federal government that would have helped prevent at least some of those deaths. The report stresses, too, that government assistance for families cuts poverty by half. Yet the state “has disqualified low-income parents from receiving food stamps and basic family assistance while turning back federal funds and letting funds accumulate unspent. Due to state policy decisions, 42,600 children have lost food assistance in recent years … .”

By now, conservatives reading this column may have decided that I’m simply another bleeding heart liberal devoted to the nanny state. Well, I am an unreconstructed New Dealer, but I also like to get a bang for my buck – the buck in this case being the taxes I’ll be sending to Washington this month. Why shouldn’t the portion of them due back in Maine be claimed: to help those less fortunate than I am, and to help me, too?

I drive a car on roads that, as Mainers know, are often more tank traps than highways. The Maine Center for Economic Policy report records that annually “Mainers pay $1 billion for traffic crashes, vehicle repairs, and wasted fuel from driving on roads in poor structural condition.” These roads cause more motor vehicle deaths annually than alcoholism does: 49 each year versus 37.

Yet over the past seven years, Augusta has not asked voters to approve the matching funds needed to secure all available federal funding, thus forgoing $196 million. Maine may be open for business, as the sign on Interstate 95 promises, but the state’s aged and rusty infrastructure is not nearly as welcoming as that invitation.

Gov. LePage makes loud pro-business noises, but he refused even to meet with federal experts working to find ways to strengthen Maine’s forest products industry, a $1.8 billion enterprise. Nor did the governor’s administration seek federal funds available to preserve 6,400 acres of working forest land, or for helping businesses reduce waste and chemical byproducts, obtain clean water and secure land research and development grants.

Drew Gattine, chair of the House Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, says that “turning away federal funds doesn’t lower your tax burden; it sends your tax dollars to another state. Mainers should be outraged by this report.” Amen, I say. And you may say it, too, after visiting mecep.org and reading the Maine Center for Economic Policy’s quietly damning study.

 

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Charles Lawton: Learning is best defense against social threat from tech innovation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/charles-lawton-learning-is-best-defense-against-social-threat-from-tech-innovation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/charles-lawton-learning-is-best-defense-against-social-threat-from-tech-innovation/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183284 The greatest challenge of human development has always been the social adjustment to technological innovation. From the establishment of settled agriculture 10,000 to 15,000 years ago to the current possibilities evident in artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, the expansion of human well-being has depended on our ability to adjust our social institutions to our productive capabilities.

As these capabilities have accelerated over the past several hundred years – the printing press, the steam engine, electric power, digitized information, bio-pharmaceutical engineering – the pressure on social institutions has increased exponentially. As scientist E.O. Wilson says in his modestly titled book, “The Meaning of Human Existence,” the possible creation of artificial organisms and surgically precise modification of the genome “threaten biodiversity and the human species.” The survival of our species, he argues, is “intelligent self-understanding, based on a greater independence of thought than that tolerated today even in our most advanced democratic societies.”

In economics today there is increasing conflict between two schools of thought. On the one side are the traditional optimists who believe that human ingenuity is infinite and will adjust to the now-emerging technological innovations and create new jobs we can’t even imagine today.

On the other are the secular stagnation pessimists who believe that “this time it’s different,” that the job destruction to come will be so great that we will have to build social institutions to support vast segments of the population that will be unemployable.

These thinkers believe that the great innovations of electricity and transportation that enabled us to survive the agricultural revolution of the 19th century and create the great middle class so many mourn today are essentially over, that there are no equivalent innovations on the horizon.

No amount of science, technology, engineering and math education, they believe, will enable us to maintain anything close to the levels of “full” employment to which we have become accustomed over the past century.

We must, they argue, institute some sort of guaranteed income for all simply to insure that the enormous inequality of income that would otherwise result does not tear advanced industrial civilization to pieces.

Personally, I side with the optimists. I think that human needs and desires will always expand. We simply need to find the ways to pay for them. And that speaks to social organization rather than technology.

More importantly, I think that regardless of one’s speculative guesses about the future of economic development, the implications for today are the same – we need to radically redesign the structure, operation, financing and distribution of learning.

In practical terms, what does this mean?

It means that the learning structure established in response to the industrial revolution – one designed first to occupy children while their parents go to workplaces outside the home, and second to instill in them the personal habits and minimal skills needed for lifetime industrial jobs – has to be scrapped entirely. It needs to be replaced by one designed for all ages, all locations and all positions within the social structure.

The economic pessimists are obsessed with the threat of artificial intelligence. They fear two outcomes:

 First, that self-learning algorithms embodied in robots will replace all but the most highly skilled design and repair production jobs and the most inescapably human-to-human service jobs; and

Second, that these two categories of traditional “work” will require so small a segment of the population that the rest of us will have nothing to do, and therefore no means to earn an income, and therefore no way to support ourselves.

The implication of this belief is, in effect, a loss of faith in “real,” or “non-artificial,” or “human” intelligence.

In this regard, it resembles nothing as much as the dreary and frightening world envisioned by Anthony Burgess in “A Clockwork Orange,” one divided between a violent, largely young and uneducated population of “droogs,” and a frightened elite dedicated to attempting to find drugs to dull and pacify the apparently inextinguishable urges of those incapable or unwilling to join in the righteous progress of the elite.

This dystopian future, I believe, is exactly what we face today if we do not find ways to encompass not just the elite, but all of us, in the ultimately only truly human process of learning.

NOTE: An astute reader pointed out an important fact I neglected to mention in last week’s column on recent changes in Maine’s labor force. I noted that a growing number of Maine residents are commuting to jobs located outside of Maine. I failed to note that many of these people commute digitally. While not clearly identifiable in “official” data sources, telecommuters are an important element of Maine’s in-state job creation.

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/charles-lawton-learning-is-best-defense-against-social-threat-from-tech-innovation/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/03/816255_647564-20160308-RoboticMilk.jpgAn employee of Great Brook Dairy Farm in Carlisle, Mass., fixes a sensor on the arm of a robotic milking device.Mon, 17 Apr 2017 20:11:47 +0000
Another View: Arkansas execution spree would be a national humiliation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/17/arkansas-execution-spree-a-national-humiliation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/17/arkansas-execution-spree-a-national-humiliation/#respond Mon, 17 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1182838 It has been nearly 12 years since Arkansas executed a prisoner, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to kill eight in an 11-day stretch starting next week. His rationale is as harebrained as it sounds: The state needs to hurry to beat the looming expiration date of one of the drugs in its cocktail of lethal injections.

Talk about turning common sense on its head. Even as a federal court granted a temporary reprieve to one of the condemned men, Hutchinson is rushing to end the lives of the other seven on an unprecedentedly tight schedule not because justice demands it; nor because the prisoners’ appeals have run their course; nor even because of the cost to taxpayers of maintaining the men on death row.

In Hutchinson’s view, the pharmacological shelf life of a particular sedative requires that death’s schedule be expedited. So hurried is Arkansas’s timetable that witnesses to the executions – state law requires that six “respectable citizens” attend each one – are in short supply. The director of the Department of Corrections was so concerned at the shortage of volunteers that she asked the Little Rock Rotary Club if it could provide some.

Since 1977, when capital punishment resumed in the United States following a Supreme Court review, no state, not even Texas with its execution enthusiasts, has carried out so many death sentences in such a short span.

Botched executions, resulting in agonizing, drawn-out deaths, have taken place in several states in recent years. As it happens, some of those grisly mishaps arose from problems with the same sedative whose expiration date Hutchinson cites as the pretext for his planned state-sponsored killing spree.

Hutchinson’s plan is not just unseemly. It is a scenario for subhuman suffering. If the state goes forward, it will be a blot on Arkansas, and on America.

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