Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Sun, 25 Jun 2017 21:05:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Another view: Sen. Angus King does not represent ordinary Americans http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/another-view-sen-angus-king-does-not-represent-ordinary-americans/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/another-view-sen-angus-king-does-not-represent-ordinary-americans/#respond Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216088 It was a little bewildering to read columnist Alan Caron’s words in the June 4 Maine Sunday Telegram.

Caron, in advocating for the continued congressional entrenchment of multimillionaire Sen. Angus King, writes that one of the major political difficulties Americans face is the fact that “the richest people in America are about to get another handout from Uncle Sam, while our bridges, schools, veterans, retirees and environment get shortchanged.”

Is it possible that Caron doesn’t know that Sen. King, whose net worth is reportedly over $12 million, is among the richest Americans?

Is it possible he doesn’t know that King enjoys lucrative corporate sponsorship from numerous war-profiteering corporations, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, owners of Bath Iron Works? Is it possible he doesn’t know that these corporations don’t invest in congressional advocates who don’t advocate for them?

Is it possible he doesn’t understand that King is a faithful cog in the handout/shortchanging machine?

Readers may be interested in the website opensecrets.org. The site offers information on the corporate sponsorship of U.S. members of Congress, including all four of Maine’s multimillionaire members of Congress – King, Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Happy reading to all.

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Maine Observer: A lesson in lobster, from pound to pot http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/maine-observer-hedy-3/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/maine-observer-hedy-3/#respond Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216091 Last fall, my college roommate, who has a Midwestern background, and her husband came to visit. In the planning, I suggested we have a lobster dinner at my house.

Her first reply was that that would be too expensive, but I explained that I would cook them on my stove and that the meal would be much cheaper than in a restaurant.

She agreed, but I did not know until they showed up at my house that they had never before eaten lobster that had not been picked clean of meat.

Before I prepared the dinner we went down to the lobster pound. I suggested that they come inside and pick out their lobster.

We agreed that a pound and a half was good. The lobsters were crawling around in the tank and were segregated according to size. They hesitated in front of the tank, and so I picked out four medium-sized lobsters.

They came in a bag and when we got home I put them in the refrigerator because we were not eating until my husband came home from work. The bag was loosely closed to give them breathing room, and I stressed the necessity of cooking live lobsters to ensure freshness.

When I opened the refrigerator later, a claw was hanging out of the bag and waving toward us. I showed this to my guest and laughed at the waving claw. My refrigerator must not be as cold as it should be. Then I put on the large pot of hot water and waited for it to come to a boil.

When my husband got home, I turned the stove temperature to high and when it was boiling, he took out the lobsters and dropped them into the water.

Lois and her husband backed away from the kitchen and seemed nervous about this aspect of the dinner.

It was only when they were sitting at the table that I realized they had never had a lobster served this way. We plopped the lobsters on their plates and went through the instructions of how to tackle the beast.

First, I pointed out how to tell if their lobster was female or male by turning it over and inspecting the first feelers after the body, which is called a carapace.

The feathery feelers indicate the female and the hard feelers the male. As we proceeded to rip off the legs and claws, they were a little appalled by the dissection, especially when I tackled the main body and explained that under the lungs and where the largest claw connects to the body is a mine of tender meat.

I felt like they thought I was giving them a biology lesson at the dinner table, and maybe I was.

I hear that lobster from Maine is being sent to China and that the price will not go down after the summer people leave.

I am happy for the lobster fishermen, but will miss this fall treat. Too much lobster? That’s not possible.

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Maine Voices: Centennial of modern conscription http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/maine-voices-centennial-of-modern-conscription/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/maine-voices-centennial-of-modern-conscription/#respond Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216093 Earlier this month, America commemorated the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landings in Normandy that marked the beginning of the liberation of western Europe from Nazi domination.

Articles and broadcasts honoring the sacrifice of June 6, 1944, rarely mentioned that June 5, 1917, marked the centennial of another landmark in American military history. That day was registration day for American males aged 21 to 30, whom Congress had made subject to required service in the American armed forces that would soon be fighting in World War I against Germany and its allies.

Only two months before June 5, 1917, Congress had accepted President Woodrow Wilson’s request for a declaration of war against Germany. After vigorous debate, strong majorities in both the House and the Senate supported the president. Nonetheless, six senators and 50 members of the House voted against war with Germany.

Lawmakers on both sides recognized the momentous nature of the declaration. The horrors of war in Europe since August 1914 were well known to the members of Congress and to the American people. Numerous public statements from lawmakers emphasized that America had declared war against the strongest military power in the history of the world.

A TRADITION OF VOLUNTEER SERVICE

One of the first issues Congress faced after the declaration of war was how America would go from a small peacetime volunteer Army to a force that could influence the outcome of the world war. The American tradition had been to rely on volunteers to staff and expand its armies. The Revolutionary War volunteers at Lexington and Concord were the model American soldiers.

The one significant experience with required military service came in the Civil War. When necessity forced the Union Army to resort to conscription, draft riots broke out in New York City and elsewhere. Statutory provisions allowing the purchase of a substitute were widely criticized. The overall contribution of draftees to the Union victory was modest at best.

Nevertheless, in 1917 the professional leaders of the Army endorsed nationwide conscription to fill the American ranks. They persuaded President Wilson to support their cause and to ask Congress for legislation that would shape the Army around the military draft.

For the six weeks after the declaration of war, Congress engaged in one of the most significant debates in its history. Opponents of conscription raised a wide range of objections that challenged the constitutionality and wisdom of compelling military service. Concerns ranged from the disruption of race relations to the injustice of asking Americans of German ancestry to bear arms against their homeland.

STRONG MAJORITIES SUPPORTED DRAFT

Supporters of the draft stressed the efficiency of the draft and the fear that an army of volunteers only would bring the elite of American manhood into the military while leaving “slackers” to avoid service. Former President Theodore Roosevelt complicated the debate with his request to raise divisions of volunteers that would model Roosevelt’s Rough Riders from the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Eventually, strong majorities supported the Army bill and the draft. Those refusing service faced felony punishment. The bill also set a single day – June 5, 1917 – for a nationwide registration of all males from ages 21 to 30. That registration would begin a selection process of young men who would actually become soldiers.

The conscription or draft law on the statute books was one thing. The law in action was another. A June 3 New York Times headline, “More Anti-Draft Agitators in Jail,” reflected the considerable opposition to the draft from a variety of directions. Numerous registrants could contend that their elected representatives in Washington had voted against conscription as unconstitutional, unwise and a violation of American traditions.

What would happen if large numbers of required registrants simply refused to appear at the registration stations? Would the government be ready or able to bring tens of thousands of criminal prosecutions for draft evasion? Would civilian juries be ready to convict? Government officials must have faced June 5, 1917, with anxiety.

The news of June 6 could not have been better for President Wilson, the majority of Congress and the military. The Times headline “Probably 10,000,000 Enroll for War” captured the big picture. The Times reported that it found “no evidence of gloom, despondency or reluctance.” As one registrant put it: “It was the thing to do; everybody was doing it.”

An American Army had been shaped and a tradition of military conscription had been established that would allow America to fight its major wars of the 20th century.

 

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Our View: Vocational schools provide a good leg up for many Maine kids http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/our-view-voc-schools-a-good-leg-up-for-many-maine-kids/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/our-view-voc-schools-a-good-leg-up-for-many-maine-kids/#respond Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216097 Every day, Maine employers large and small work with high schools and colleges to guide students toward well-paying and fulfilling jobs – and yet many of those jobs remain perpetually unfilled.

It is a disconnect that is hurting Maine’s economy and stunting the potential of many of its young residents, and it has its roots in the long-standing stigma against vocational education.

JOBS AVAILABLE

Once thought of as a dumping ground for students who were not cut out for college, vocational education – now known as career and technical education – is the training ground for some of the state’s fastest-growing sectors and most in-demand workers.

That transformation is well known to the business leaders who use Maine’s technical schools to help build their workforce, but it has yet to be embraced by some parents and educators, who are still stuck on the old image.

That is one reason so few Maine high school students take part in career and technical education. Just 14 percent of students take one or more class, and just 6 percent choose it as a concentration, both less than the national average. That’s why the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Educate Maine are teaming up on an effort to double participation by 2020.

Announced last week, the effort is aimed at Maine’s 27 career and technical education high schools, which now offer 23 programs in 10 clusters, including arts and communications, construction and manufacturing, public safety, hospitality and tourism, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Students who complete these programs end up as welders and electricians, HVAC installers and machinists, police officers and licensed practical nurses, carpenters and auto technicians — some of the most in-demand and high-wage jobs in Maine. Forty percent earn an industry-recognized credential while still in high school, while many others gain college credit. They often have direct contact with employers while studying, making clear to them the path to a good career.

MANY BENEFITS

And whether they take one career and technical class or fill their schedule with them, they gain hands-on experience in a collaborative atmosphere, earning skills that translate to college or the workplace regardless of the path they choose. By building a house or restoring an old car — two projects undertaken recently by Maine students — they learn to apply physics, math and other subjects in ways not always seen in high school classrooms.

This can be formative and eye-opening for young students unsure of their direction. Maine does a great job of graduating high school students, but too many of those graduates then lose their way.

Some stop there, without the training they need to thrive, or drop out after a year or two of higher education, left with debt but no degree.

Students exposed to career and technical training, though, get a clear view of what their future can be and what steps are necessary to get there. They gain the “soft skills” so important to employers, too.

The new initiative aims to bring more students into the career and technical education path by expanding partnerships with private employers and colleges, as well as apprenticeship programs, and by removing the barriers, like scheduling conflicts, that keep high school students from taking career and technical classes.

Those are great steps, but none of it will help unless parents and educators are open to pushing students toward career and technical education. As the Maine State Chamber and Educate Maine know, reducing the stigma is the first, most important step. Employers want these students — there are careers waiting for them. People need to know that career and technical education is a path to a good life, if everyone can just see it that way.

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Bill Nemitz: Obamacare’s a lifeline for our smallest hospitals http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/bill-nemitz-obamacares-a-lifeline-for-our-smallest-hospitals/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/bill-nemitz-obamacares-a-lifeline-for-our-smallest-hospitals/#respond Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216593 Let’s say you live in or near the western Maine town of Bridgton.

You’ve been following this Obamacare repeal business, sort of, and you think you heard something last week about the Republicans in the U.S. Senate finally unveiling a bill that’s supposed to be less “mean” than the one passed last month by the Republican-controlled House.

Now, a question. Have you visited Bridgton Hospital lately?

“Anybody who will listen, I’m talking to,” said David Frum, the hospital’s president and CEO, in an interview Friday. “In the barbershop, I might be getting my hair cut, but I’m still preaching.”

His message: If you’re not paying close attention to what’s happening to health care in this country, start.

And if you’re partial to your community hospital – Bridgton is one of 16 small, critical-access hospitals scattered across Maine that stand to lose big league under the bill released last week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – you have precious little time to speak up.

“We generally think more people on insurance is a better thing,” Frum said. “Whether it’s a Republican model or a Democratic model or somewhere in between, people being insured means they’re healthier.”

And make no mistake about it. From massive cuts in Medicaid to sky-high premiums on private policies to five-figure deductibles that many Mainers couldn’t begin to pay, the so-called “reforms” circulating on Capitol Hill aren’t just bad news for patients.

They’re a potential death knell for Maine’s small hospitals.

Bridgton Hospital, founded 100 years ago as the Northern Cumberland Memorial Hospital, is no Maine Medical Center.

A tour of the 22-bed facility on Friday took just over 20 minutes. As tour guide Nicki Van Loan, R.N., coordinator for the emergency department, put it: “We’re family. It’s kind of a palpable feeling that you get. We’re happy.”

At the same time, they’re essential.

The hospital logs about 1,100 inpatient admissions annually, while 12,000 people – locals and vacationers alike – seek treatment in its emergency department. Physician office visits number between 35,000 and 40,000 each year.

In addition to the cuts, bruises and those other calamities Nurse Van Loan lumps under “Hold my beer, watch this!” – Bridgton Hospital offers treatment through 17 specialty clinics: a six-chair infusion room for chemotherapy and other treatments, a two-room labor and delivery unit for the 100-plus babies born there each year, a diabetes clinic, medical nutrition, urology … the list goes on.

But here’s the rub: Reduce the number of people coming through the door with insurance cards, as the legislation now before Congress most definitely will do, and some of those clinics will start to disappear.

Drive up the hospital’s “bad debt” via those with no insurance or those with mammoth deductibles that far exceed their ability to pay and, sooner or later, the hospital’s very survival comes into question.

Bridgton, along with the neighboring Rumford Hospital, has been recognized nationally for its efficiency and quality of care. They’re both part of Central Maine Healthcare, which also includes Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, and they both represent community medicine at its finest.

To wit: Last summer, a man who was terminally ill and on palliative care had only one request – and a big one at that – before he died. He wanted to marry his sweetheart.

“So we pulled off, over one weekend, a wedding,” Frum proudly recalled. “The staff found flowers, they got a few key family members together. And it wasn’t a justice of the peace – it was an ordained minister who happened to be the relative of one of our staff members.”

Compare that with being hospitalized an hour or more away in Lewiston or Portland, where everyone is a stranger and visitors are few – if they can make it at all.

Or worse yet, compare it to skipping this week’s infusion therapy, or that life-or-death MRI, because it’s snowing outside and there’s no safe way to get to an appointment, let alone pay the bill.

“There’s a portion of the population that, if the service is not available locally, they just won’t get it,” Frum said.

As threatening as the current political climate might be to the Bridgton area, it’s even more so in the farthest reaches of Maine.

Calais Regional Hospital currently is phasing out its obstetrics department and will shut it down completely by the end of the year.

By the end of this summer, the Jackman Community Health Center will no longer provide overnight emergency service – forcing those in need to drive more than an hour to Skowhegan for help.

And all of that comes before the latest assault on health care – not just in the back rooms of Washington, D.C., but also in a state budget (assuming one ever passes) that cuts Medicaid, or MaineCare, reimbursement rates and ratchets up the state hospital tax.

Jeff Brickman, CEO of Central Maine Healthcare, said in a separate interview Friday that he’s seen the numbers faced by Maine’s most remote hospitals and “they’re quite dire. I don’t know how many of those organizations will be able to survive much longer.”

And should they fall, it won’t just be bad for local folks’ health. The loss of a community hospital – and all the jobs that come with it – also undermines a local economy.

Bridgton Hospital, with close to 350 people on its payroll, dwarfs any other workplace in the entire Lakes Region.

That explains why President and CEO Frum has spent much of his time lately speaking to service clubs, church groups, anyone willing to learn more about this oncoming train wreck.

He urges them, for starters, to get involved: Call Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a pivotal vote in the coming days, and tell her in no uncertain terms that Maine can’t afford to lose Bridgton Hospital – or the 15 others like it.

But in order to do that, Frum said, everyone first must sit up and pay attention.

“Take the time and effort to fully understand the truth,” he implored. “It’s not an issue that can be resolved by a sound bite. It just can’t.”

Sitting behind Frum as he spoke was a large white board, covered with a roughly drawn map of western Maine and all the health facilities in places like Bridgton, Norway, Rumford, even North Conway, New Hampshire.

It was part of a recent strategic planning exercise, Frum explained.

But at the same time, it stands as a stark reminder of how much the “other Maine,” the Maine without a huge medical center minutes away, stands to lose should the Affordable Care Act collapse into a mammoth tax cut for the rich and misery for everyone else.

In the past few years, Bridgton Hospital’s bad debt has more than doubled to $5 million. The hospital is legally required, after all, to treat anyone and everyone, with or without insurance, who comes through the door – but how long can that door remain open?

“In a small setting like this, we truly believe we are a critical asset to a community,” Frum said. “They’re also our neighbors, our family and our friends.”

Forcing a weary smile, he added, “We’d like to have another 100 years.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/bill-nemitz-obamacares-a-lifeline-for-our-smallest-hospitals/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Sun, 25 Jun 2017 07:54:53 +0000
Cynthia Dill: We’re suckers for Russia’s misdirection http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/cynthia-dill-hedy-2/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/cynthia-dill-hedy-2/#respond Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/25/cynthia-dill-hedy-2/ It’s mildly amusing that the most sophisticated weapon the suddenly super-macho United States is developing to thwart a cyberattack is called an “implant,” but the real joke is that cyber spies named “Fancy Bears,” along with 400-pound guys on mattresses, stole the 2016 U.S. election while prurient Americans were glued to their devices watching a salacious video for a change of pace from the daily dump of Hillary Clinton email nonsense.

The “Access Hollywood” story was first reported at 4 p.m. Oct. 7, 2016. Then-candidate Donald Trump was caught on a hot microphone, bragging to Billy Bush “in vulgar terms” in 2005 about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” Days later the headlines read, “The 2016 electoral map is rapidly slipping away from Donald Trump,” attributing his diminishing chances of winning in part to the “Access Hollywood” tapes. Even the most cynical person would not think for a minute that the story of a presidential candidate caught in flagrante delicto would boost his chances of winning, but it did. Sex sells and the story eclipsed everything else.

It turns out other very interesting things were happening during the election besides smut and email. According to a riveting story about the “crime of the century” published Friday in The Washington Post, it was around this time in June of last year that “a CIA operative returning by taxi to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was tackled and thrown to the ground by a uniformed FSB guard. In a video aired on Russian television, the U.S. operative can be seen struggling to drag himself across the embassy threshold and onto U.S. sovereign territory. He sustained a broken shoulder in the attack.”

Did CNN, MSNBC or Fox News show this video? Are there no “Fancy Eagles”?

About a month after our CIA hero got his shoulder broken by Russian thugs, “a Russian military helicopter dropped from the sky to make multiple passes just feet over the hood of a vehicle being driven by the U.S. defense attaché, who was accompanied by colleagues, on a stretch of road between Murmansk and Pechenga in northern Russia. The attempt at intimidation was captured on photos the Americans took through the windshield.”

Many people would have been interested to see those photos last summer. Russians bullying Americans by helicopter is interesting and a bipartisan concern, one would think, but last summer, while we were drowning in email, “the FBI was tracking a flurry of hacking activity against U.S. political parties, think tanks and other targets” and “the Russians were playing this much bigger game, which included elements like released hacked materials, political propaganda and propagating fake news.”

It took until Oct. 7 for the Obama administration to release a public statement about the growing intelligence that Vladimir Putin was aggressively trying to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, in part because “getting appointments with certain Republicans proved difficult” and many, like Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, simply do not believe Russians ran a campaign to undermine our democracy, instead accusing U.S. intelligence of a “politically calculated move.”

The first public comments about Russian interference were reported on Oct. 7 at 3:30 p.m., just 30 minutes before the “Access Hollywood” story blew up, and thanks to the willful ignorance of people charged with protecting us, it wasn’t until Dec. 29 that 35 Russian officials were finally sanctioned and expelled from America and two Russian-owned compounds in Maryland and New York they called “recreational facilities” were seized.

“The administration gave Russia 24 hours to evacuate the sites, and FBI agents watched as fleets of trucks loaded with cargo passed through the compounds,” the story recounts. “When FBI agents entered the sites, they found them stripped of antennas, electronics, computers, file cabinets and other gear, officials said, their hasty removal leaving visible markings on floors, tables and walls.”

Our distraction from credible reports of Russian meddling during the presidential campaign last year actually helped to elect President Trump.

If Americans and especially Congress had the focus and determination to get at the truth instead of score political points we might have learned then what we know now. Russia wanted Donald Trump to win and used the power and resources of its government to elect him.

Now that we desperately need a distraction from his embattled and chaotic White House, the Russians once again do not disappoint.

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/2017/06/25/cynthia-dill-hedy-2/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1216743_729916-Putin.jpgIn an interview this month with NBC reporter Megyn Kelly, Russian President Vladimir Putin, above, dismissed conclusions by the U.S. intelligence community that Russia meddled on behalf of Donald Trump, saying that he had read the report and found nothing but "speculation and conclusions based on speculation."Sun, 25 Jun 2017 11:40:36 +0000
The humble Farmer: If you’re not paying off debts, how do you justify your existence? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/the-humble-farmer-if-youre-not-paying-off-debts-how-do-you-justify-your-existence/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/the-humble-farmer-if-youre-not-paying-off-debts-how-do-you-justify-your-existence/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216210 What worries you?

If you have time, I’d like your opinion on a theological problem that worries me.

The online booking engines I discovered last year are bringing more friends to our bed-and-breakfast than Marsha and I can handle. We will certainly be turning people away this summer.

These dozens of B&B friends will enable me to pay off my mortgage before the first frost. Although I’ve looked forward to that day for 47 years, therein lies my problem.

I will no longer be poor – for you will agree that a person like Longfellow’s Village Blacksmith, who “owes not any man,” is rich. For the first time since I first borrowed change from my brother when he was 5 and I was 10, I will not owe any money. And if you are not working to pay off your debts, how do you justify your existence?

If you don’t owe somebody for something, it is probably because you are either very smart or able to work five days a week from 8 until 4. The rest of us spend our lives in the position of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s coal miner who couldn’t die because he owed his soul to the company store.

A few of us have never been able to work for someone else. We were born tired and drop in our tracks shortly after noon. While making Edsel radios in 1957, I spent my noon break sleeping on the floor. The thought of having to be somewhere at a certain time every day where I would have to do the same thing over and over is unthinkable. Those of us so afflicted end up playing in bands or entertaining audiences from the stage. We might produce wonderful works of art – or write for newspapers. For our entire lives, we were able to earn just barely enough to keep the banks at bay.

There was light at the end of my tunnel until a day in 1988 when I walked into my forest and saw that some of it that I’d been paying taxes on for 18 years hadn’t belonged to me and was surveyed into house lots. I quickly remortgaged my house and bought the entire “development” to preserve the neighborhood. Now, as a forest under conservation, in 100 years it will be one of the few places in St. George where my neighbors’ great-grandchildren will be able to shoot little furry animals.

I like this bed-and-breakfast business. Every day, interesting people come to visit. They are from everywhere, they all have stories to tell and they pay me to listen.

Two elderly ladies said that their lives were more difficult since their children became adults. When I asked why, one said, “Oh, when they grow up they have children, they get divorced, they borrow money.”

I like working in my home. I like the fact that no matter how many loads of wash I do and no matter how often I run the clothes dryer, I am generating all that electricity with my 30 solar panels, so until the people who are getting rich selling energy have their way, my $154.56 yearly on-grid fee doesn’t change.

I like making new friends. Whenever I see the toilet in the executive suite, I think of the boy from Brazil who wouldn’t leave until he’d put new guts in the tank so it would flush properly.

His wife and mother-in-law, who were packed and ready to leave, had to wait for him to do it. He was some kind of computer or techie guru whose dream was to own a B&B. He effected the repair by snipping something off the flapper with a pair of scissors. I wish I’d seen what he did.

While paying me rent, Earl and Bill helped me put up solar panels. Al fixed the foundation on my house when Lyme disease messed up my knees so I could barely walk. Al also enhanced our lives with his guitar-accompanied rendition of “Dippin’ Copenhagen Snuffed Out My Old Flame.” (You can find it under my name on YouTube.) B&B friends like Dr. Karen, Professor Peter, Heather Grills, George and Denise, the Huppers and dozens of others enhance our lives by becoming part of our family for a few days every year.

So, with such a wonderful summer season to look forward to, why should I be a bit antsy?

Well, what’s to do when your mortgage is paid off? When the bank is not gobbling up half of my yearly income for indiscretions incurred from 20 to 50 years ago, what will I have to look forward to?

My concerns are of a theological nature.

Is there life after debt?

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

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html

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Commentary: Ideology shouldn’t trump practical solutions, LePage energy adviser says http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/lepage-energy-adviser-ideology-shouldnt-trump-practical-solutions/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/lepage-energy-adviser-ideology-shouldnt-trump-practical-solutions/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216239 AUGUSTA — Two vending machines stand in a lobby, side by side. You insert a dollar in each machine. The first gives you a dollar back, and the second gives you $8 back.

Which would you choose?

Amazingly, when that question was posed to students in a University of Maine at Augusta environmental studies class, they opted for the system with the low rate of return. Why? Their professor’s response could be summed up as: “We don’t care about money – we only care about solar panels.”

The class understood that the first machine stood for solar panels, and the second for a less expensive way to reduce carbon. Students also understood that solar panels weren’t effective at reducing carbon dioxide emissions and oil consumption in Maine. Yet they chose the ineffective, expensive option. This is representative of the dilemma in any substantive discussion about real energy issues.

When comparing which technology is more effective at reducing oil consumption, and thus reducing carbon emissions, heat pumps are 8.3 times more cost-effective than subsidized solar panels, according to my calculations.

In the vending machine scenario, the dollar amounts represented carbon credits – Gov. LePage wants to put every dollar in the slot that produces the most carbon credits. Special interests just want laws forcing the public to pay for their solar collectors under the guise of their environmental stewardship.

Reducing oil consumption substantially reduces carbon emissions. Maine uses 100 times more oil for heat and transportation than it does electricity. Maine is the sixth cleanest electricity producer in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and electricity generation accounts for only 9 percent of Maine’s total carbon emissions.

So why is the LePage administration so set on heating and transportation technologies that reduce oil? Because oil is where the carbon is, not electricity! So, who is the environmentalist?

This is the emotionally charged debate of wants versus needs that the LePage administration has to face every year.

LePage questions solar for simple and fundamental reasons. Solar, in addition to its lack of cost-effectiveness, is an unreliable energy source for Maine. It only produces electricity 15 percent of the year because it’s dark every night, with little daylight in the winter months. It is cloudy, snowy and rainy many days, and panels are often covered in snow. This is a Mother Nature problem that more subsidies or legislation cannot fix.

Despite a 40-year marketing effort undertaken by the solar industry, with its annual barrage of new solar legislation requesting more money, the only numbers adding up are taxpayer- and ratepayer-funded subsidies, subsidies that benefit only solar panel owners, and a small group of marginally successful and heavily subsidized producers and installers who continue to pray for more sunlight and subsidies.

One of the LePage administration’s proposed alternatives to subsidized solar in reducing cost, pollution and oil is lifting the Quebec hydropower restriction, a restriction supported by the solar, wind and fossil fuel industries. Hydropower produces no carbon, nor any of the other byproducts of burning heating oil. For every clean watt of hydropower feeding an electric heat pump, the heat pump produces three units of “ultra clean” carbon-free heat.

Buy one, get two free – you can’t beat that!

With Canadian hydropower at 6 cents a kilowatt-hour feeding heat pumps, it costs $6 for every million British thermal units used to heat our homes. Yes, the $6 leaves Maine’s economy, but with oil at $2 per gallon, $17 per million Btu leaves Maine’s economy. By replacing half our oil heat with heat pumps fueled by clean hydropower, $200 million will stay in Maine’s economy each year.

At a meeting in Farmington about a month ago, sponsored by the pro-solar Natural Resources Council of Maine, attendees were asked if they would support a policy that was product neutral, and based on carbon savings per subsidized dollar. The response, led by a University of Maine at Farmington professor, was essentially a resounding “No. We want solar.” Their emotional response clearly reflected their true ideology that practical solutions to save the planet are not going to stand in the way of unjustified solar subsidies.

Which poses a bigger threat to our environment, an environmental studies degree based on ideology, or certain legislators who continue struggling between the world of ideology and practical solutions?

As we move forward in our shared vision of clean, efficient and affordable energy for Maine’s citizens, who will we trust along the way?

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/lepage-energy-adviser-ideology-shouldnt-trump-practical-solutions/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/10/1100632_AP_830700187937.jpgThe International Energy Agency says renewable energy projects – like this 178,000-square-foot solar array being installed in Miami – surpassed all other sources of new electricity worldwide last year.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 12:01:52 +0000
Maine Voices: Maine’s arts and culture and its natural wonders are tied together http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/maine-voices-maines-arts-and-culture-and-its-natural-wonders-are-tied-together/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/maine-voices-maines-arts-and-culture-and-its-natural-wonders-are-tied-together/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216296 As Maine’s tourist season draws upon us and people from around the world flock to our state to relax and recharge by our lakes, mountains and shoreline, as well as at our museums, concert halls and cultural institutions, I can’t help but think about how all these destinations come together to offer the full Maine experience.

Throughout the year, people stop in the Portland Museum of Art on their way to Katahdin, Sugarloaf or Acadia National Park, complementing their outdoor adventures with the state’s vibrant arts and culture. This range of experiences is why the world remains captivated by our way of life, and why visitors return again and again.

This has been the case with Maine for nearly two centuries now. Paintings by artists such as Winslow Homer and Frederic Edwin Church inspired America’s new middle class to explore regions such as Maine. Robert Laurent, featured in our summer exhibition “A New American Sculpture, 1914-1945: Lachaise, Laurent, Nadelman, and Zorach,” co-founded the Summer School of Graphic Arts in Ogunquit, drawing countless artists to the state.

This relationship between art and tourism continues through today – it is no coincidence that the Maine Office of Tourism is supporting the exhibition “Marsden Hartley’s Maine,” which is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will soon travel to the Colby College Museum of Art, where it was co-organized along with the Met. The natural beauty of Maine has long attracted artists to the state, and their representations of Maine have in turn attracted visitors, residents and businesses.

Furthermore, the influence of art on conservation efforts and our national parks cannot be overstated. Ansel Adams’ photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park, have embedded themselves into the national consciousness, helping to spur preservation initiatives. We have several works in the PMA collection representing Maine’s own Acadia National Park, by everyone from Adams to painter Richard Estes, and I return to these artworks often, contemplating how fortunate we are to live near such inspiring natural beauty, and how important it is to keep these places pristine and accessible.

For these reasons and many more, the PMA supports the mission of our national parks. Last year, the museum proudly joined Friends of Acadia and became an Acadia Centennial Partner, celebrating the park’s 100th year – a year that saw a reported 3.3 million people enjoy the park’s mountains, beaches and trails, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the surrounding communities and the state.

Here in Maine, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have recognized the importance of Acadia to our state and have co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to dedicate funding to the deferred maintenance backlog of our national parks. If passed, the National Park Service Legacy Act would allocate $500 million annually to the Park Service, reflecting the kind of commitment necessary to support Maine’s tourism economy and preserve our heritage.

At the PMA, we have applied this commitment to one of our most treasured locations: the Winslow Homer Studio. Working with the Prouts Neck Association and the Scarborough Land Trust, we have preserved the land around the Winslow Homer Studio in perpetuity. The vistas Homer viewed, painted and drew inspiration from are an integral part of his narrative, and it was imperative that we protect them. To see this small part of the Maine coast is to understand why Homer felt the urge to make it both his home and his muse.

The relationship between Maine’s arts and culture and its natural wonders and the respite that the land offers are intrinsically tied together. To support one is to support the other, and both must be made available to as many as people as possible. This summer at the PMA, we’re making our own green space – the David E. Shaw and Family Sculpture Park – open and accessible to everyone, so that whoever you are, you can spend time outside and feel refreshed, recharged and inspired. We must enable our national parks to continue offering similar experiences to all.

As stewards of a collection of more than 18,000 artworks, we at the PMA know something about conservation. I believe that together, we can preserve the natural beauty of Maine for centuries to come – on the canvas or out in the world.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/maine-voices-maines-arts-and-culture-and-its-natural-wonders-are-tied-together/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/11/1105757_20160627_acadia_21.jpgCloud cover sweeps over the top of Bar Island as seen from the summit of Cadillac Mountain one day last June. On busy summer days, anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people may visit Cadillac, which offers sweeping vistas from atop the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 12:06:27 +0000
Another View: Police shooting verdict demands better answers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/another-view-police-shooting-verdict-demands-better-answers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/another-view-police-shooting-verdict-demands-better-answers/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1216307 A Minnesota jury has acquitted police Officer Jeronimo Yanez of all charges in last year’s fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man and longtime school cafeteria worker. The verdict, the result of a two-and-a-half-week trial and 27 hours of jury deliberations, must be accepted. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be questioned, particularly in light of the release of a video that shows the shooting and its startling details.

It appears Castile did everything asked of him, so why did he end up losing his life? Did his race play a role in his car being pulled over or factor into the officer’s decision to shoot? These questions point to the need for an independent review by federal law enforcement to determine if his civil rights were violated and if there are systemic problems in the police force. Can the Trump administration acknowledge that need?

Castile’s death last July, one of a number of police shootings of black men that have fueled a national debate, struck a chord when the terrible moments after Castile was shot were live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. A police dashboard-camera recording of the shooting, shown at the trial but not made public until Tuesday, is even more painful to watch.

The video starts with Castile being pulled over, ostensibly for a broken brake light. He is polite. He quickly hands over his insurance card. He volunteers that he has a firearm on him, which he has a permit to carry. The officer reaches for his holster and instructs him not to reach for the gun. Castile starts to answer but is cut off by the officer, who raises his voice. “I’m not pulling it out,” Castile says and Reynolds also tries to reassure the officer. The officer yells and fires seven shots, striking Castile five times. “I wasn’t reaching” are Castile’s last words. Everything happens within the space of seconds, and afterward the officer is emotional and agitated as he yells an expletive over and over and over. Reynolds is comforted by her 4-year-old daughter: “Mom, please stop saying cuss words and screaming … I don’t want you to get shooted.”

The video doesn’t show the car’s front seat, and, one juror told reporters, that created reasonable doubt about what happened. Yanez testified he feared for his life. The law gives broad latitude to police – based on their perception of danger – to use lethal force.

As a result, criminal convictions are rare. An officer in Tulsa was acquitted last month in the shooting death of an unarmed black man, and a former Milwaukee officer was acquitted Wednesday in the death of a black man who was fleeing.

There should be no surprise, then, at the angry assessment of Castile’s mother that “the system continues to fail black people.” Only small comfort can be taken from the fact that Yanez is no longer employed on the City of St. Anthony police force. A Justice Department review of that force, announced last year, should be vigorously pursued despite the change in administrations to one openly disdainful of the need for police reform. How a traffic stop of a man on his way home from getting groceries with his girlfriend and her daughter ended with gunfire and death demands better answers than have so far been supplied.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/24/another-view-police-shooting-verdict-demands-better-answers/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1216307_Castile_Shooting_96004.jp2_.jpgPolice dashcam video shows how officer Jeronimo Yanez reacted to Philando Castille, but it doesn't explain how the motorist and officer arrived in the fatal situation.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:09:15 +0000
Maine Voices: Nonprofits’ second-in-commands are leaders in shaping communities http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/maine-voices-nonprofits-second-in-commands-are-leaders-in-shaping-communities/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/maine-voices-nonprofits-second-in-commands-are-leaders-in-shaping-communities/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215655 On a fairly regular basis, I am urged by a well-meaning friend or supporter of Preble Street to run the agency “more like a business.” And from conversations with other nonprofit executives, I’m quite certain I’m not the only one getting that advice.

It drives me crazy to hear that. Of course we run the agency like a business! But we do so within the framework of a nonprofit business, which is decidedly different. Not better or worse, but different. Preble Street’s business model has different realities, different complexities, different challenges and different opportunities from those of a local restaurant, or clothing store, or high-tech company.

The key is not to “operate like a business,” but to operate like a good business: being strategic and nimble, working harder than others, always staying true to your core competencies and goals (which, for a nonprofit, is our mission statement), and hiring and retaining the very best people.

This last piece is key – hiring and retaining the very best people.

One of the very, very best people I’ve ever hired is Jon Bradley, associate director of Preble Street. After 18 years with this agency, Jon is retiring this month. We will miss him dearly. I will miss him dearly.

Like so many other associate directors at other organizations (or assistant directors, or vice presidents of programs, or similarly titled second-in-command positions), Jon has been instrumental in the success of Preble Street and the key architect of most of the programs here that have touched so many lives. And before coming to Preble Street, Jon was the longtime second-in-command at Ingraham, where he played a similar role in building strong and effective programs and services.

Jon has been responsible for an enormous amount of good in this community. In truth, it’s difficult for me to even imagine Portland as it currently exists without Jon’s fingerprints all over it. Fundamental to the caring, diverse, inclusive, vibrant city and state we are becoming is the work that people like Jon do.

Executive directors usually get more press and win more awards, but it is the associate directors who roll up their sleeves and get the work done. Whatever is needed. Maine has been blessed by many, many nonprofit professionals who, while not in the role of executive director or CEO, have made their organizations great and done tremendous good for all of us who live and work here. And too many of them go unnoticed (although that is exactly how many of them like to do their work – behind the scenes).

Well, I’ve noticed, as have others in the nonprofit community. We’ve worked with them, learned from them and relied on them in our efforts to fully realize our missions.

People like Jane Prouty, who, for so many years at the old YWCA, was a steady and strong second in command, through thick and thin. Gloria Melnick did inspiring work developing and running programs at Youth Alternatives until her retirement. Peter Stuckey at PROP worked tirelessly and passionately for decades on behalf of poor people.

Besides Jon Bradley retiring this month, Mary Ruchinskas of New Beginnings is also retiring after three decades of extraordinary work serving homeless and runaway youth. And this fall, Ed Blanchard of Shalom House will join them in retirement after a lifetime of quiet but great accomplishments in creating housing and services for people with mental illness.

Others are still at it, thank God, working long hours in the ever-changing and struggling nonprofit environment: Peter Rand at Community Partners, Inc; Giff Jamison at Tedford Housing; Lisa Munderback at Day One; Jane Driscoll at Goodwill; Greg Payne at Avesta Housing; Jan Bosse at the Portland Housing Authority; Tom Kane at LearningWorks; Don Harden at Catholic Charities, and Mary Swann (my personal favorite, of course) at the Kids First Center.

In lifetime pursuit of social and economic justice, they have all earned our respect and admiration, and we owe them our thanks.

Maine is a far, far better place because of these nonprofit professionals, people like Jon Bradley, Preble Street’s associate director, who have made their lives full and meaningful by combining their personal values with their professional expertise. Thank you, Jon.

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Charles Krauthammer: At stake in the Mideast is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/charles-krauthammer-at-stake-in-the-mideast-is-consolidation-of-the-shiite-crescent/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/charles-krauthammer-at-stake-in-the-mideast-is-consolidation-of-the-shiite-crescent/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215676 The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter-bomber. Iran launches missiles into eastern Syria. Russia threatens to attack coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates.

What is going on?

It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear. The great Muslim civil war, centered in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It’s the end of the beginning. The parties are maneuvering to shape what comes next.

It’s Europe in 1945, when the war was still raging against Nazi Germany, but everyone already knew the outcome. The maneuvering was largely between the approaching victors – the Soviet Union and the Western democracies – to determine postwar boundaries and spheres of influence.

So it is today in Syria. Everyone knows that the Islamic State is finished. Not that it will disappear as an ideology, insurgency and source of continuing terrorism both in the region and the West. But it will disappear as an independent, organized, territorial entity in the heart of the Middle East.

It is being squeezed out of existence. Its hold on Mosul, its last major redoubt in Iraq, is nearly gone. Raqqa, its stronghold in Syria and de facto capital, is next.

When it falls – it is already surrounded on three sides – the caliphate dies.

Much of the fighting today is about who inherits. Take the Syrian jet the U.S. shot down. It had been attacking a pro-Western Kurdish and Arab force (the Syrian Democratic Forces) not far from Islamic State territory.

Why? Because the Bashar Assad regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, having gained the upper hand on the non-jihadist rebels in the Syrian heartland (most notably in Aleppo), feels secure enough to set its sights on eastern Syria. If it hopes to restore its authority over the whole country, it will need to control Raqqa and surrounding Islamic State areas. But the forces near Raqqa are pro-Western and anti-regime. Hence the Syrian fighter-bomber attack.

Hence the U.S. shoot-down. We are protecting our friends. Hence the Russian threats to now target U.S. planes. The Russians are protecting their friends.

On the same day as the shoot-down, Iran launched six surface-to-surface missiles into Syrian territory controlled by the Islamic State.

Why? Ostensibly to punish the jihadists for terrorist attacks two weeks ago inside Iran.

Perhaps. But one obvious objective was to demonstrate to Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Arabs the considerable reach of both Iran’s arms and territorial ambitions.

For Iran, Syria is the key, the central theater of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony. Iran (which is non-Arab) leads the Shiite side, attended by its Arab auxiliaries – Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militias in Iraq and the highly penetrated government of Iraq, and Assad’s Alawite regime. (Alawites being a non-Sunni sect, often associated with Shiism.)

Taken together, they comprise a vast arc – the Shiite Crescent – stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.

If consolidated, it gives the Persians a Mediterranean reach they have not had in 2,300 years.

This alliance operates under the patronage and protection of Russia, which supplies the Iranian-allied side with cash, weapons and, since 2015, air cover from its new bases in Syria.

Arrayed on the other side of the great Muslim civil war are the Sunnis, moderate and Western-allied, led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan – with their Great Power patron, the United States, now (post-Obama) back in action.

At stake is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent.

It’s already underway. As the Islamic State is driven out of Mosul, Iranian-controlled militias are taking over crucial roads and other strategic assets in western Iraq. Next target: eastern Syria (Raqqa and environs).

Imagine the scenario: a unified Syria under Assad, the ever more pliant client of Iran and Russia; Hezbollah, tip of the Iranian spear, dominant in Lebanon; Iran, the regional arbiter; and Russia, with its Syrian bases, the outside hegemon.

Our preferred outcome is radically different: a loosely federated Syria, partitioned and cantonized, in which Assad might be left in charge of an Alawite rump.

The Iranian-Russian strategy is a nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East. And for us too.

The Pentagon seems bent on preventing it. Hence the Tomahawk attack for crossing the chemical red line. Hence the recent fighter-bomber shoot-down.

A reasonable U.S. strategy, given the alternatives. But not without risk. Which is why we need a national debate before we commit too deeply. Perhaps we might squeeze one in amid the national obsession with every James Comey memo-to-self?

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/charles-krauthammer-at-stake-in-the-mideast-is-consolidation-of-the-shiite-crescent/feed/ 0 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:45:37 +0000
Our View: Sen. Collins should fight Senate health care bill http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/our-view-sen-susan-collins-should-fight-senate-health-bill/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/our-view-sen-susan-collins-should-fight-senate-health-bill/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215690 Sen. Susan Collins says she will spend the next few days carefully reviewing the new Affordable Care Act repeal proposal, taking a hard look at an upcoming analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and considering what she has learned from her conversations with constituents in Maine.

We admire her diligence, but we think Collins already has enough information to know what she should do. This bill would be bad for Maine and bad for America, and the senator should speak out against it as forcefully as possible.

Collins’ voice has never been more important. Because of the way parliamentary rules are being applied, the 52 Republicans in the Senate are the only ones who get to make a meaningful impact in this debate. If only three Republican senators refuse to sign on, the bill will have to be renegotiated. Just hours after details of the bill were revealed, four hard-right senators said they might scuttle it if the cuts to health care aren’t even deeper than proposed.

They will frame the debate unless someone in the Senate Republican caucus speaks up for people with disabilities, people in nursing homes, the self-employed and those with chronic diseases whose access to health coverage is at risk.

Collins has taken a series of small but important steps that have helped guide the process in a positive direction, starting with her 2015 vote against an Obamacare repeal bill because it called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

The vote was largely symbolic, because that measure was destined for a certain veto by then-President Obama, but Collins left a marker for her colleagues, telling them where she would not go.

She has left other markers this year, including issuing a list of critical questions after the House Republicans passed their version of Obamacare repeal, which is projected to make 23 million people lose their coverage.

The most dangerous part of both the House and Senate bills is not what they do to the Obamacare reforms to insurance markets, but the way they would fundementally gut Medicaid, which has been a federal and state partnership for more than 50 years.

Both bills would cap federal Medicaid contributions on a per-patient basis. As medical costs increase, the federal government’s share would shrink.

About 265,000 people in Maine are on Medicaid (known here as MaineCare), with three-quarters of the care going to people who are elderly, disabled or are children. A per-patient cap would suck billions out of the Maine economy, and put lives at risk. Reducing federal support for these people would guarantee agonizing decisions for state officials in the future.

Collins is no fan of the status quo, and she and others have identified real problems with Obamacare that should be addressed. The plans offered on the exchanges are too expensive for many, and the premiums and out-of-pocket costs have increased dramatically in a short time. The abrupt cutoff for subsidies creates a penalty for people who have had a good year in business or get a promotion.

There are parts of the country where there is no competition between insurance companies to drive down prices, and there are even places where there may be no willing insurance providers at all next year.

But the Senate Republican bill would not fix any of those problems; in fact, it would make them all worse.

Defeating this bill now – and defeating it for the right reasons – would force senators to start over and work to find ways to cut costs and improve access to health care. That’s the effort America needs, and we hope Collins will help lead it.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/our-view-sen-susan-collins-should-fight-senate-health-bill/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1215690_Congress_Health_Overhaul23-e1498185665976.jpgMaine Sen. Susan Collins is asking the right questions about what her colleagues' Affordable Care Act repeal bill would do to Medicaid.Thu, 22 Jun 2017 22:41:51 +0000
Commentary: Society’s vulnerable may pay with their lives if Medicaid is gutted http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/commentary-mom-child-vulnerable-may-pay-with-their-lives-if-medicaid-is-gutted/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/commentary-mom-child-vulnerable-may-pay-with-their-lives-if-medicaid-is-gutted/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215703 My son Kaden was born with a bigger list of obstacles to overcome than most kids.

When he was about 2 months old, we discovered Kaden has a congenital heart condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot with an absent pulmonary valve. He also has Von Willebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder.

Kaden, now a spunky 12-year-old who loves science and theater, has had multiple open heart surgeries, survived on life support, suffered a stroke, lived through a bleeding disorder – the list goes on. The medications that keep him alive cost $300 to $1,000 each per month, and he has a rotating cast of 11 different doctors whom we visit regularly.

On top of that, I have some medical challenges of my own:

During gall bladder surgery, a doctor accidentally severed a bile duct and I’ve had multiple invasive procedures to repair the damage. I was left with a chronic condition that requires specialists and medication for the rest of my life and makes it even harder for me to give Kaden the care and support he needs.

Without our health care coverage through Medicaid, neither Kaden nor I would be alive. With President Trump and Republicans in the White House threatening to slash more than $1 trillion from Medicaid – the program that Kaden and I depend on for coverage – my worries have gone from how we’ll manage our conditions to whether we’ll survive them.

Every mother understands that I am willing to do anything and everything I can to protect my son’s health and his future. I juggle being a single mom and holding a full-time job so I can provide for Kaden. Even though I work full-time, I can’t afford my employer-sponsored health insurance; Medicaid and Children’s Special Health Care Services keep my son alive.

If Trump and Republicans in Congress succeed in gutting Medicaid so they can give a giant tax break to their billionaire buddies, Kaden and I will be the ones who pay the price. And there are millions of families like ours who can’t afford to foot the bill for this administration’s heartless budget.

We have dealt with lapses in our coverage before, and I know how it feels to be unable to afford an inhaler or a medication that Kaden needs. It isn’t as though we’ll be choosing between a nice vacation and a quicker doctor visit, or a new car or an important surgery. We’ll be choosing between life and death.

My mind races as I play out the tragic scenarios we could face if Congress passes the Trump budget or the House health care law: At what point will I have to choose between paying for food or for Kaden’s life-saving medication? What if giving up one still doesn’t allow me to pay for the other? What then?

No mom should have to ask these questions. Yet elected officials in Washington are trying to dismantle a health care system that currently protects the lives of millions of Americans, including our youngest, our oldest and our most vulnerable.

Providing health care for those who need it the most reflects our nation’s values. We take care of our family, our friends, our neighbors. We give each other a hand and help each other out. This is who we are.

Those values seem to have been stripped away by callous policymakers who are intent on destroying a health care system millions depend on to line the pockets of their wealthy campaign donors. But here’s what I’ve learned: Chronic conditions, terminal illness and medical emergencies don’t discriminate based on how you vote or how much money you earn. Our ability to get and stay healthy shouldn’t, either.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/commentary-mom-child-vulnerable-may-pay-with-their-lives-if-medicaid-is-gutted/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/AP17171695655867.jpgSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks following a closed-door strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Sen. McConnell says Republicans will have a "discussion draft" of a GOP-only bill scuttling former President Barack Obama's health care law by Thursday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:27:16 +0000
Dana Milbank: Ivanka, take note, your own family is stoking fear, fury, ‘ferocity’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/dana-milbank-ivanka-take-note-your-own-family-is-stoking-fear-fury-ferocity/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/dana-milbank-ivanka-take-note-your-own-family-is-stoking-fear-fury-ferocity/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215106 Now we’ve done it. We’ve hurt Ivanka Trump’s feelings.

“There’s a level of viciousness that I was not expecting,” the presidential daughter and senior White House official told Fox News last week, adding that she was “blindsided” by the “ferocity.”

The poor dear.

Here are a few sources the blindsided footwear magnate might consult to understand why things are so vicious:

 Her brother Eric. The previous week, he called the head of the Democratic Party a “total whack job” and declared that “morality is just gone” from Democrats. “To me, they’re not even people,” he said.

Her brother Donald Jr. Last Wednesday, after the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball team practice, the president’s son retweeted with approval a claim tying the shooting to “NY elites glorifying the assassination of our President.”

Newt Gingrich. Last Thursday, the informal Trump adviser and surrogate tweeted a conspiracy claim that special counsel Robert Mueller is “now clearly the tip of the deep-state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency.”

Her dad. The president last Thursday went on yet another Twitter tirade. He declared himself the victim of the “single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!” And he renewed his attack on his vanquished opponent, saying, “Crooked H destroyed phones w/hammer.”

This is why Washington is so vicious right now. Plenty bad before Trump’s campaign and presidency, it has gotten markedly worse. This is what happens when the president and his surrogates portray opponents as immoral, subhuman and criminal, when they hack away at the courts, the press and other pillars of a free society – and when they promote conspiracy theories suggesting American justice is tainted.

It was sickening that a lunatic apparently converted his hatred of Trump last week into violence, shooting House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and others on a baseball diamond. The would-be assassin’s act – the ultimate assault on the rule of law – is the antithesis of the principled opposition to Trump.

Revolting in a different way is the speed with which a few on the right have tried to use the shooting to delegitimize the justifiable and widespread anger that Trump has generated. Rush Limbaugh called the gunman “a mainstream Democrat voter.” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said of the shooting: “I do want to put some of this at the feet of Barack Obama.”

Sean Hannity of Fox News, broadcasting from the scene of the shooting, alleged a “record level of vicious left-wing hate,” claiming this is the “biggest issue we need to address as a country.”

Some have gone in search of precedent to justify this attempt to smear Trump’s opposition by blaming it for a madman’s bullets. A writer for the conservative Washington Examiner falsely claimed last week that in 2011 I “blamed” Sarah Palin for the shooting that injured then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and killed others. In fact, I wrote then that “there’s no evidence that either Palin or (Glenn) Beck inspired the Tucson suspect” but that they both deserved to be “held to account for recklessly playing with violent images.” Now, as then, nobody but the shooter is to blame for a depraved act, but we all should be careful with violent language and imagery that could be misconstrued by the unhinged.

Kathy Griffin’s severed Trump head was grotesque. Though I doubt those who watch Shakespeare performed by the Public Theater in New York are violence-prone, I wouldn’t have cast the assassinated Julius Caesar as Trump-like.

The deep and broad anger with Trump, however, has nothing to do with this. Part of it comes naturally from being out of power: Liberals were more vitriolic late in the Bush years, conservatives were nastier during Obama’s presidency, and the pendulum is swinging again.

But now there’s a new variable: The president himself is stoking fear and fury. Seven months after the election, he is still attacking Hillary Clinton as a criminal.

He is frightening allies, attacking the courts, discrediting the intelligence community and the “fake news media,” and suggesting there’s a major conspiracy against him in the justice system.

This recklessness causes enormous fear, which generates the “ferocity” Ivanka Trump perceives. President Trump could calm the anger – if he could calm himself.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Maine Voices: Republican health bill will gut Medicaid, leaving behind moms and newborns http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/maine-voices-republican-health-bill-will-gut-medicaid-leaving-behind-moms-and-newborns/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/maine-voices-republican-health-bill-will-gut-medicaid-leaving-behind-moms-and-newborns/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215120 Republican leaders in Washington can’t afford to squander their best opportunity by pushing through a “repeal and replace” measure that could leave Maine’s moms and newborns behind.

The House-passed proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act includes provisions to enact per-capita caps on Medicaid, cut Medicaid funding by billions of dollars and remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The House bill as written would decrease federal funding for the entire Medicaid program, which covers over 70 million low-income kids, adults, disabled individuals and the elderly – and those millions include mothers and pregnant women.

The impact here at home in Maine could be devastating. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 43 percent of births in Maine in 2015 were covered by Medicaid. That means almost half our pregnant moms rely on Medicaid funding to ensure they’re receiving adequate prenatal care.

We know firsthand the critical role Medicaid plays in funding care for newborns and mothers. I began my medical career as a physician assistant working in a neonatal intensive care unit participating in the care of the most vulnerable premature infants. It was during that time that I met my future husband, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, while he delivered a child born at 32 weeks after an extra-uterine pregnancy, a rare condition in which a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus.

He saved the life of the mother, a walk-in patient who had had no prenatal care, while I resuscitated the small neonate. Weeks later, that newborn passed away from multiple complications. The mother survived, but not without her own share of surgical problems.

Both were innocent victims of medical problems that they had no control over – not all that different from what we see today in the rural state of Maine.

Later, we were offered an opportunity at Maine Medical Center to start the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, with diagnostic ultrasound, genetic testing and care of the high-risk pregnant woman. We quickly realized the need to develop a comprehensive perinatal outreach network with Maine’s hospitals, many of which were small, rural community facilities, so that people could receive care without having to travel long distances.

I was honored to serve as director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2011 to 2015, seeing firsthand the many health care challenges that face our state, especially for our most vulnerable populations, including mothers and infants as well as the disabled and elderly.

Advances in medicine have greatly increased safety for women in delivery, but these innovations are effective only if our residents can access them. Maintaining access to prenatal care for mothers is crucial and could be at risk if the Senate moves forward with aggressive cuts to Medicaid and changes that make funding available based on population instead of need.

There’s no denying that the repeal and replacement/reform of the ACA must be done in a budget-conscious manner, but restructuring our Medicaid program and removing protections for those with pre-existing conditions is not the right approach: It will only transfer the budget issues to Maine’s balance sheet and diminish access to care for those that need it the most. As we move past the mistakes of the ACA, we must ensure our children don’t end up paying the price for rushing the process. Infants have no choice in the health care debate, but we do.

It’s not just infants and children – over 260,000 Maine residents and their families depend on Medicaid for the care they need. This is an issue of public health that ultimately affects everyone. The state of Maine has worked hard to encourage individuals who are able to get back to work and to learn new skills and become self-sufficient so that they, too, can lead independent lives.

Thankfully, we have elected leaders representing us and the needs of our state in Washington who understand this. Sen. Susan Collins has been a tireless advocate for those who need it the most and is dedicated to finding a solution that provides Americans with more health care coverage than the current system, not less.

I hope her colleagues in the Senate follow her lead as the debate continues, ask the tough questions and take the time to get it right, while they work together to revise the American Health Care Act and build a better health care bill that won’t leave moms and newborns behind. Maine needs to continue to take the lead on this issue, while working together for a brighter, healthier future for all.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/maine-voices-republican-health-bill-will-gut-medicaid-leaving-behind-moms-and-newborns/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1126198_Mommy_Brain_05575.jpg-3012-e1498087803588.jpgA mother holds her newborn baby in Corpus Christi, Texas. A study released Monday shows pregnancy affects not only a woman's body: It changes parts of her brain structure, too.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 19:28:33 +0000
Commentary: Planned Parenthood’s Maine patients need health care, not politics http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/planned-parenthood-needs-senate-to-honor-needs-of-its-poorest-patients/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/planned-parenthood-needs-senate-to-honor-needs-of-its-poorest-patients/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215132 If the Senate blocks funds, many will face a dearth of affordable choices for women’s health care.

What would a world without Planned Parenthood look like?

Planned Parenthood provides critical care to millions of people across the country. Right here in Maine, our health centers treat more than 10,000 patients a year, and for many of them we are their only access to health care. What will happen if they are denied access to their provider?

Unfortunately, we may soon find out.

The Senate will vote next week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” and the bill will likely include a provision blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving reimbursements from Medicaid, sometimes called “defunding” Planned Parenthood.

The effects would be significant. In Maine, 25 percent of our patients are insured through Medicaid, and for many of our patients, we are their only access to health care. Without Planned Parenthood, they would have nowhere else to go.

We see patients like Leah, a survivor of sexual assault. Leah was unable to tell her parents, her primary care doctor, or her gynecologist what happened.

She wrote, “the health care providers who helped me at Planned Parenthood were my only line of defense against what had happened to my body … they provided me with the medication I needed, along with the emotional support I needed to handle this trauma. If I hadn’t been able to go to Planned Parenthood for help I don’t know where I would have gone.”

Samantha told us, “It is sad that Planned Parenthood is under [attack], because I personally don’t know what I would do without the convenient and affordable care they have to offer.”

And Diana Turner, a cancer survivor, explained, “I was just 26 when the first [pap test] result was abnormal. After that, I went back every six months, then every three months, as Planned Parenthood and I tracked the approach of cervical cancer.”

This early detection and treatment saved her life.

Though the stories vary, our patients share one thing in common: They don’t come to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement.

They come to us for compassionate, affordable, high-quality health care. Denying patients access to their trusted healthcare providers for political reasons is simply wrong.

Yet efforts to block patient access to Planned Parenthood continue. Some opponents of Planned Parenthood have suggested our patients simply go to another provider, like a community health center or Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).

Public health experts have resoundingly dismissed this notion for several reasons.

First, these health centers simply don’t have the capacity to treat all of our patients. A recent analysis by the Guttmacher Institute determined that without Planned Parenthood, FQHCs in Maine would have to at least double their contraceptive caseloads – and that’s just for our birth control patients.

Furthermore, Planned Parenthood health centers offer a full range of contraceptive methods – from birth control pills and patches to IUDs and implants. Many FQHCs do not.

We also offer same-day and next-day appointments. Across the country, more than 80 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers offer same-day IUD insertion. Only one in four FQHCs do.

And all of our health centers in Maine have extended hours to accommodate patients who have difficulty taking time off from work or family. Little more than half of FQHCs have extended hours.

In short, on key indicators, Planned Parenthood health centers do better than FQHCs. Is it any surprise that in Maine our four health centers provide contraception to more women than the 65 FQHCS combined?

FQHCs are not the answer. Quite simply, Planned Parenthood is irreplaceable.

Our elected leaders must reject any attempt to cut off millions of people from Planned Parenthood and the lifesaving preventive care we provide.

Last month, the U.S. House failed to do so. Instead, a majority chose to sacrifice women’s health for political gain by repealing the Affordable Care Act and preventing Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood.

The U.S. Senate will vote at the end of the month. We are counting on them to do the right thing so that Planned Parenthood continues to be available to patients like Leah, Samantha, Diana – and millions more.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/planned-parenthood-needs-senate-to-honor-needs-of-its-poorest-patients/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/11/756179_623060-20151124_plannedpare.jpgServices offered by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which has an office in the Clapp Building on Congress Street in Portland, above, include birth control, cancer screenings, breast health, abortions, and sexual health education and counseling.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 20:05:10 +0000
Our View: Solar bill would let Maine 
grow clean energy jobs http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/our-view-solar-bill-would-let-maine-%e2%80%a8grow-clean-energy-jobs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/our-view-solar-bill-would-let-maine-%e2%80%a8grow-clean-energy-jobs/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215176 There’s an energy boom underway in this country, and it’s not in the oil fields.

Advances in solar power technology have brought down prices, putting photovoltaic panels in financial reach of millions of homeowners as well as small and medium-size businesses. There are opportunities for utility-scale solar projects – the most cost-efficient application of the technology – and for community solar farms, where people can pool resources and invest in a solar project that puts energy on the grid, earning its owners credit for the power produced that’s applied to their home electric bills.

Two percent of all new jobs in the nation – one in 50 – are in fields related to solar energy.

It’s not happening in the oil fields. And it’s not really happening in Maine, either, because political division has kept the state from modernizing its regulations.

A bill that just passed preliminary votes in the House and Senate, L.D. 1504, would move Maine in the right direction. Sponsored by Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, the bill would make three major improvements:

• It would stabilize the market by keeping net energy billing, also known as net metering, in place through 2021, both for existing and new solar customers.

• It would require the Maine Public Utilities Commission to study other compensation schemes that better reflect the real value of the power produced by rooftop solar installations and report back to the Legislature by the end of 2021.

• It would lift the cap on the number of people involved in community solar farms from 10 to 200, creating opportunities for people to benefit from solar power even if they can’t afford a system or live in a place where it can’t be installed.

It’s important to make these changes. Maine ranks last in the region for solar jobs on a per capita basis, and it’s not because the sun doesn’t shine here. Maine is on a much lower latitude than Germany, a country that is able to generate nearly 7 percent of its power from solar (Maine currently gets less than 1 percent of its power from the sun).

Maine can’t keep up because its regulatory scheme hasn’t kept up.

The Legislature has attempted to tackle the issue in each of the last two years, coming up with a compromise plan last year that had the support of solar installers, environmental groups and the transmission utilities, but not Gov. LePage, who vetoed it.

This year the PUC came up with its own version of reform, grandfathering net energy billing for current solar customers, but phasing it out for those who sign on later. The commission also required a complicated arrangement where solar users would have to install additional meters and pay transmission fees for electricity that they produced and used on site without it ever going on the grid.

If legislative action ultimately fails, the PUC rules will stay in place, creating uncertainty in the marketplace and stifling development in a promising sector of the economy.

As was the case last year, the really important vote will not be on the bill itself, but on whether to override the expected veto from Gov. LePage.

Lawmakers on the fence will have to decide: Is Maine going to be able to take part in the new energy boom, or will our politics force us to keep sitting on the sidelines, where all we can do is watch?

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/22/our-view-solar-bill-would-let-maine-%e2%80%a8grow-clean-energy-jobs/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1215176_636474-20170605_housing_3.jpgAvesta Housing and Portland Housing Authority's new complex on East Oxford Street uses solar energy for some of its power. A bill in Augusta would create incentives for more property owners to invest in solar, but lawmakers must be ready to override an expected veto by Gov. LePage.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 22:51:44 +0000
Leonard Pitts: In uneasy times, we can become what we hate, but this hero defied that http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/in-uneasy-times-we-can-become-what-we-hate-but-this-hero-defied-that/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/in-uneasy-times-we-can-become-what-we-hate-but-this-hero-defied-that/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1214474 The other day, a Muslim saved a terrorist.

It happened just after midnight Monday in London. The terrorist, according to authorities, was Darren Osborne, 47, from Cardiff, Wales, who drove a rented van 150 miles to the British capital, where he jumped a sidewalk and plowed into a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque as people were attending to a man who had collapsed.

Osborne is reported to have screamed, “I want to kill all Muslims!” The outraged crowd dragged him from the van, punching and kicking him. They might have killed him, but then Imam Mohammed Mahmoud of the Muslim Welfare House put himself between the mob and the man. “No one touch him!” he ordered. “No one!”

Mahmoud later told reporters it wasn’t just him, but “a group of brothers” who were “calm and collected and managed to calm people down.” As a result, Osborne was still in one piece when police arrived.

At least 10 people were reported injured in the attack. The man who collapsed later died, though the cause is unclear.

Mahmoud’s moral heroism seems especially stark in light of what Osborne allegedly did. Not just the random maiming of innocent people, but the fact that he did it, one presumes, in protest of terrorism.

That’s more than simply mad. It is also visceral proof of the human tendency to become what we abhor.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it like this: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

That would seem to be what happened to Osborne. It seems to be happening to many of us, the dangerous absurdities and frightening expediencies of this political moment having a coarsening effect on supporters of otherwise honorable causes.

So that a man who opposes the devastating agenda of the Republican Party devastates a Republican baseball practice with rifle fire. And people angry about police randomly killing African Americans randomly kill police officers. And people who protest the destructive words of conservative firebrands commit destructive acts to the tune of $100,000 damage in Berkeley, California. Now Darren Osborne apparently decides to protest terrorism by committing it.

We become what we abhor. We become the monster we fight. Small wonder. Few things are more attractive than violence cloaked in righteousness. This is especially true in a morally disjointed era wherein politics is broken and down is up and up is sideways and violence, like the snake in the Garden, whispers temptations and seductions. People who never would have listened before find themselves listening now.

That’s why Mahmoud’s example is powerful. His ability to separate himself from the anger of those people in that moment is a reminder that no one is predestined to be swept away by righteous anger into unrighteous acts. Being moral is a choice, albeit sometimes, a very difficult one.

Some will surmise that Mahmoud was able to make that choice because he’s a faith leader. But that’s a convenient rationalization that removes from the rest of us the onus for doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is alluring and nobody would blame you for it.

It is probably closer to the mark to believe he did it not simply because he is an imam, but because he is an upright man who realizes you can’t take the low road to the high place. And that Nietzsche was right: when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you. You cannot control that.

But you can control what it sees when it does.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Our View: More needy children in Maine deserve quality early care http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/our-view-more-poor-children-in-maine-deserve-quality-early-intervention-that-leads-to-better-student-outcomes-down-the-road/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/our-view-more-poor-children-in-maine-deserve-quality-early-intervention-that-leads-to-better-student-outcomes-down-the-road/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1214491 Thousands of needy young children in Maine are missing out on early intervention services that could shape their futures for the better – and still others could lose out if officials in Augusta fail to prioritize the long-term benefits of investing in Early Head Start over the short-term advantages of reining in spending on this critical program.

Geared primarily to families at or below poverty level – $24,600 a year for a family of four – Early Head Start works with children up to the age of 3 and their parents. Adults receive parenting help and child care; get connected to health care, job training, education and other resources, and learn how to prepare their children for school by encouraging their natural curiosity and desire to explore.

While over 8,000 children in Maine are eligible for Early Head Start, there are only 837 funded Early Head Start slots in the state, according to a recently released University of New Hampshire study. And there’s good reason to fear that these services will remain out of reach: Eighty-three more Maine children will be cut off from Early Head Start under Gov. LePage’s proposed state spending plan, which calls for an $1.8 million cut in Head Start funding.

Maine legislators are facing difficult decisions as they struggle to reach an accord on the state budget, but they shouldn’t have to think for very long about whether to fund Head Start. Research shows that high-quality programs for disadvantaged young children consistently pay off down the road.

University of Chicago economist James Heckman analyzed two North Carolina preschools and found that children who’d taken part in well-designed programs were healthier, more likely to attend college and earned more money as adults than children who didn’t go to preschool or went to less-well-run programs.

Philip Trostel, an economist at the University of Maine, recommends full-time education for children from birth to age 5, estimating that it would boost the high school graduation rate for teenagers from low-income Maine families from 72.4 percent to 90.6 percent. And both Trostel and Heckman note that access to child care through programs like Early Head Start makes it easier for parents to get and keep jobs, thus lowering their dependence on public assistance.

The first few years of a child’s life set a pattern for the decades ahead, and if we want those later years to be healthy and productive, we have to pay an up-front cost. Given what’s at stake, we can’t afford to do any less.

Correction: This editorial was updated at 10:32 a.m. on June 21 to correct a misspelled name in the photo caption.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/our-view-more-poor-children-in-maine-deserve-quality-early-intervention-that-leads-to-better-student-outcomes-down-the-road/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1214491_edi.0621.jpgCharli Cote reads her new book with Educare Central Maine staff member Leeannza Delosh in 2015. Over 8,000 Maine children are eligible for Early Head Start services like those provided by Educare, but there are only 837 funded Early Head Start slots in the state.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:32:02 +0000
Another View: Reversing course on Cuba won’t advance U.S. interests http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/another-view-reversing-course-on-cuba-wont-advance-u-s-interests/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/another-view-reversing-course-on-cuba-wont-advance-u-s-interests/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1214494 Nearly two years after President Barack Obama restored U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba, his successor, Donald Trump, is poised to roll them back. That would be a mistake.

Trump is reportedly considering restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and on transactions by U.S. companies with entities connected to the Cuban military, which controls more than half of the country’s economy. But turning back the sanctions clock would hurt the U.S. without offering Cuban citizens a clear path to a better future.

Cuba is less than 100 miles off the coast of the world’s biggest economy. American tourism is already creating more Cuban entrepreneurs: Airbnb has paid Cuban hosts $40 million during the past two years – an average of $2,700 a year, nearly eight times the average annual wage.

Record remittances from the U.S. to Cuba are opening up other new economic opportunities for ordinary citizens. Empowering them will, in turn, put more pressure on the regime.

More broadly, U.S. engagement with Cuba has improved cooperation on everything from counter-narcotics to environmental protection.

Greater sanctions wouldn’t persuade Cuba’s one-party state to change its spots; they would just reinvigorate aging hardliners and their narrative of Yanqui persecution. And a blanket ban on U.S. transactions with Cuba’s military conglomerate would just create opportunities for European, Asian and Latin American investors to fill the gap, depriving the U.S. of influence and commercial opportunities.

At the same time, engagement alone cannot break the grip of a one-party state. The U.S. could use further dismantling of the embargo as leverage for Cuba’s progress in implementing economic reforms that the Cuban government has tentatively endorsed, settling property claims, releasing political prisoners or returning fugitives.

Reversing course in Cuba would benefit neither Cubans nor Americans. The last half-century offers lots of proof of what doesn’t work. Why repeat it?

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Greg Kesich: Republicans disrupting insurance markets for political advantage http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/greg-kesich-republicans-disrupting-insurance-markets-for-political-advantage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/greg-kesich-republicans-disrupting-insurance-markets-for-political-advantage/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1214509 If you are one of the thousands of Mainers who buy their health insurance on the Obamacare exchange, you may have gotten something like this in the mail this week:

“This letter provides you with two important notices: 1) Notice of Harvard Pilgrim’s proposed (39.7 percent) rate increase for 2018, and: 2) Notice of Harvard Pilgrim’s possible withdrawal from the individual HMO market in Maine.”

The reasons for both, the letter goes on to explain, are health care costs, especially for pharmaceuticals, which continue to rise faster than inflation. And it says “developments in the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act will have the effect of further raising individual-market product costs in 2018.”

That’s a nice way of saying, “We can’t afford to stay in this business if our partner in Washington keeps trying to kill us.”

Because that is what’s happening. While the 13 Republican senators in a health care working group debate in secret about how many millions of people they have to dump off Medicaid to get Ted Cruz’s vote, the Trump administration is doing whatever it can to exploit cracks in the system by pumping them full of uncertainty.

And every time an insurance company drops out of an exchange somewhere, a crocodile-tear news release goes out from the administration, bemoaning the fact that the system is failing and needs radical reform. Never mind that the reforms they have in mind would make things worse and move millions of Americans from flawed coverage to no coverage at all.

All the attention now is on the U.S. Senate, and really just the Republican working group. Democrats can’t do anything but complain because they are locked out of the process, so the millions of Americans who were able to get health insurance under the ACA are left hoping that Sen. Susan Collins and two other moderate Republicans might be able to stop a runaway train.

It’s important to remember that what we are seeing is not a battle of ideas being waged in Washington, but one of political calculation. The House-passed American Health Care Act, which would cost 23 million Americans their coverage, is not some utopian ideal dreamed up by a free-market think tank. It was a bill designed to get 216 Republican votes, and it just barely did.

And in the Senate, negotiators are not pursuing the best way to cover the most people for the least amount of money, they are looking for at least 50 out of a possible 52 Republican votes so they can ram a bill through with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence if necessary.

The goal here is not to reform health care, it’s to deliver on campaign promises that were made in four straight elections. The partisan’s main job isn’t to govern, but to win.

So while the Senate careens toward a vote on a mystery bill that is likely to preserve the worst parts of the hideously unpopular House bill, its authors are trying to change the subject.

Instead of talking about how they plan to dump more of the cost of caring for people in nursing homes onto state governments, or about phasing out Medicaid expansion, thus leaving millions with no coverage at all, Republican lawmakers prefer talking about Obamacare.

In a 49-second video released Tuesday, a lineup of Senate Republican leaders say some version of “Obamacare is unsustainable” seven times. If you wonder what they plan to replace it with, you’re out of luck. They didn’t mention that once.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is doing whatever it can to make insurance companies nervous. It started by sending mixed signals about whether it would continue to enforce the individual mandate that requires everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Adding more healthy people to the insurance pool was the trade-off that insurance companies needed when they were forced to cover people with pre-existing conditions. If only sick people buy insurance, the markets really would collapse.

And the administration has sown doubt about whether it will continue to pay cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which partially cover out-of-pocket costs for 7 million low-income people who buy insurance on the exchanges. Insurance companies will have a hard time pricing their plans without knowing how much the government is going to kick in.

No wonder companies like Harvard Pilgrim are thinking about getting into a safer line of work.

Figuring out why it might be good politics to put millions of people’s lives in danger by threatening their access to health care is a question for the experts.

But don’t ask whether Republicans are intentionally creating chaos in the health insurance markets in order to gain political advantage, because the answer is obvious.

It came in the mail to thousands of Mainers this week, and they probably won’t be the last to get the message.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: gregkesich

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Maine Voices: Legislature should fully fund Commission on Indigent Legal Services http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/maine-voices-legislature-should-fully-fund-commission-on-indigent-legal-services/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/21/maine-voices-legislature-should-fully-fund-commission-on-indigent-legal-services/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1214402 BRUNSWICK — Anyone who can’t afford a lawyer gets one appointed for them, right? No, not right.

We are familiar with the sentence “if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you” from countless television shows and movies. But the right to have a lawyer appointed for you is limited. It applies only in certain cases in which the courts have decided that the stakes are so high that the U.S. Constitution requires the state to protect your rights by providing an attorney. This fundamental right was applied to criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963.

Justice Hugo Black, who wrote the unanimous decision, stated that “reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person hauled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.”

The constitutional guarantee of a fair trial, however, also applies to other cases where the stakes are just as high as going to jail. Legal representation for indigent people is required as a matter of fundamental fairness in matters like child protective cases, where parents and children may be separated, and requests to involuntarily commit someone to a psychiatric hospital.

Maine’s constitutionally required indigent legal services have been administered by the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, an independent state agency, since July 1, 2010. Previously, Maine had appropriated funds to the Judicial Branch for this purpose.

During the last half of 2016, the commission reported over 13,000 cases opened in which Mainers were represented in 997 child protection petitions, 59 child emancipations, 409 involuntary commitments, 435 juvenile matters, 1,396 custody matters, 166 termination of parental rights cases and 285 child protective order reviews. Each court in Maine has a roster of attorneys vetted by the commission and qualified to provide indigent legal services. The number of attorneys ranges from 11 in the Fort Kent District Court to 162 in the Portland District Court.

Although Maine law directs the commission to work “to ensure adequate funding of a statewide system of indigent legal services,” its funding is beyond its control. Providing fundamental fairness when the stakes are whether you lose your child or whether you are committed to a psychiatric facility is not inexpensive. The commission has now run out of money because of inadequate funding. Lawyers are asked to work for free in the hopes that the Legislature will catch up.

I am not asking anyone to feel sorry for the attorneys. The ones who suffer are ultimately the poor of this state, children, elderly, veterans, parents and those with psychological disabilities.

The commission has been chronically underfunded. This is not the first time that the state has exposed its citizens to the risk of lawyers just giving up on the system. As one might expect in these economic times, the needs of the indigent increase. Yet legislative funding fell by nearly $3 million from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2017.

The commission anticipated the need for, and requested, supplemental funding for fiscal 2017 to enable it to meet the state’s constitutional requirements. The commission is out of money and that urgent request has not been acted on. Moreover, the biennial budget originally proposed for fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 included less-than-level funding when compared with fiscal 2017. Recently, Gov. LePage released a “change package” that includes additional funding for indigent legal services – but only through January 2018.

Reliance on continual patches and after-the-fact funding is not a solution. These simply postpone the reckoning. A continued failure to provide adequate funding risks exposing the state to lawsuits for denying constitutionally protected rights or exposing the legal system to a complete breakdown in these most important matters.

A strong, unwavering commitment to adequate state funding for fiscal 2017, through the next biennium and on an ongoing basis is essential. Perhaps it is naïve, but I believe that programs and services that the Constitution says the state must provide should always be fully funded in our state budget.

It is well past the time for Maine to fully embrace and support the constitutional and statutory rights of poor Mainers to receive the legal counsel that the Constitution is supposed to guarantee. Please join me in urging members of the 128th Maine Legislature to provide adequate funding now and in the future to the statewide system of indigent legal services overseen by the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.

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Opinion Podcast: The comments section http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/opinion-podcast-comments-section/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/opinion-podcast-comments-section/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:43:35 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1214315 They say “don’t read the comments,” but here at the newspaper we can’t help ourselves: because the comments come from you, our beloved readers and subscribers.

So this week editorial page editor Greg Kesich and assistant editor Sarah Collins grab their favorite heartfelt, skeptical, whiny, funny, and outrageous comments off of our website. Kesich and Collins may get the final word on this podcast, but if you send us a note, the conversation can continue.

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Commentary: Studies show women marginalized in meetings and conversations

Greg Kesich: For Portland residents, a source of real fake news right in our backyard

Mainland parking near ferry, vital to island life, drying up in Portland

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Garrison Keillor: Those in power, be wise, because the tables will surely turn http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/garrison-keillor-those-in-power-beware-the-tables-will-turn/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/garrison-keillor-those-in-power-beware-the-tables-will-turn/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/garrison-keillor-those-in-power-beware-the-tables-will-turn/ I am a registered liberal who mostly toes the party line but I am not devoted to the idea of big government. I loathe the law in New York state requiring gas pump nozzles to not latch. This means that I must stand beside my vehicle, holding the nozzle lever open, instead of latching it and walking into the gas station to use the john which, if you’re an older male and hear gushing liquid, you feel a powerful urge to do, so thanks to legislative over-regulation, I am on the verge of humiliating myself.

Liberals believe in universal suffrage, but I don’t think the right to vote should be extended to people walking around with wires going into their ears. If you need to walk through the world in a state of stupefaction, you don’t belong in a democracy. The ballot should belong to people who pay attention.

Garrison Keillor

I have other strong conservative tendencies: I accept limitations as inevitable, even sometimes futility. I once gave a very funny speech in the chapel of an Ivy League college and my voice went ricocheting around the Gothic arches and came back to me 15 seconds later and it was incomprehensible, even to me whose voice it was. I might as well have been speaking Navajo. Nobody laughed. I did not complain to authorities. I was amused. Stuff happens.

Life is unfair. The National Endowment for the Arts bestows pots of gold on poets, chickenfeed on humorists, and so what? The federal government is responsible for the announcement in airports warning you to report to authorities any stranger who asks you to carry an object aboard an aircraft. It’s like telling people to report any sightings of unicorns. But who cares? Not I.

All around Washington stand handsome temples housing the ABA, NEA, AFL-CIO, the Federated Organization of Associations, the Organization of Associated Federations, the American Scatological Society, the National Recidivists Alliance, all of which have marbly lobbies and numerous executive vice presidents whose job is to buttonhole public servants. My group, UNCLE, the United Newspaper Columnists in the Language of English, has no such temple. We are harmless, like the Moose and the Elks, and ask only to be left alone.

Same with my other group, Minnesotans Oppressed by Rather Obsessive Self-Effacement (MOROSE), which, despite our resistance to attitudism, refusing to cheer at football games or join sing-alongs, has only dug a hole for itself. People regard us as a joke. We are not. We are victims of a self-mortifying culture and dare not ask anything for ourselves such as major defense installations, which go to Texas or California, but what are you going to do?

So there I am, pumping gas in Poughkeepsie, about to wet myself, all because of big government, and it dawns on me that back in my boyhood days, patient and practical-minded men and women got into politics and formed a strong bipartisan bloc that worked for decent mental health facilities and prisons, made higher education available to children of mail clerks and waitresses, created parks and protected wilderness — all the basic stuff of government. That bloc seems to have evaporated and now we are locked in bitter conflict about which way is up and whether the earth is round. Crankiness is in the driver’s seat.

Meanwhile, dreadful things are afoot. Powerful people want to put potheads in prison, clamp down on travel to Cuba, let banks mess around however they like, deport the folks who pick the lettuce and slaughter the hogs, and work assiduously to ease the troubles of the very rich, and if one says boo to them, they blame the media or my aunt Sally. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country lest the quick brown fox jump over the lazy dog and President Etaoin Shrdlu endure. Sad! Total loser! You know it, I know it.

Republicans, beware. The tables will turn. We liberals will regain power by the simple method of redistricting. We will incorporate the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah into California, and usher in a hundred years of progressivism. What goes around comes around. Be wise. The Senate majority staffers who are trying to put lipstick on a cruel House health care bill are spitting into the wind. In 20 years, Obamacare will be gone, replaced by universal Medicare, and you will be employed as carnival workers, running the kiddie rides, and you’ll stop for gas in New York and remember this column and ask yourselves, “Why didn’t we listen to him then?” Well, why don’t you?

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Maine Voices: Coverage of Pride parade a disservice to those who face discrimination http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/maine-voices-coverage-of-pride-parade-a-disservice-to-those-who-face-discrimination/ Tue, 20 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213890 Living as an openly queer-identified individual is an inherently political act. If you’re transgender, a person of color or low-income, it is also a revolutionary and extremely dangerous act.

The Portland Press Herald’s coverage of the Pride parade and corresponding festival did a great disservice to those who bravely weather discrimination and bigotry on a near-daily basis for either how they identify or for the color of their skin. I’d like to draw attention to the wonderful folks who took the stage in Deering Oaks during the festivities, as they read the names of the more than a dozen transgender women of color who have been brutally murdered in this year alone.

Race, gender and sexuality have been intertwined in the battle for our mutual liberation since the very genesis of the gay liberation movement at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. That riot began because of a concerted effort to brutalize and harass young, impoverished queers living in New York’s Greenwich Village, most of whom were black or Latinx (a gender-neutral term for the Latin-American community).

So why shouldn’t the Black Lives Matter cause be brought up at a Pride event, a day after Philando Castile’s killer walked free? Why shouldn’t our communities come together in solidarity, striving to battle the dark shadow of injustice, wherever it might hide?

Press Herald Pride coverage repeatedly referred to Donald Trump and what was described in a photo caption as “the lack of political overtones” at the parade and festival. I know this may surprise the reporters at the Press Herald, but there is actually more to politics these days than being explicitly anti-Trump.

Their neoliberal, and frankly bourgeois, take on the activist scene in Maine has ground the gears of more than just their conservative counterparts. Why not report on the multiple Islamophobic and transphobic signs seen in the crowds during the Pride march down Congress Street? Or the significant rise of violent hate crimes committed against many minority communities across this nation after the ascension of the Trump administration?

A little over a month ago, I had my own experience with just how dangerous it can be to live as an openly transgender individual in this supposed progressive bastion. While walking home from the neighborhood gay bar, Blackstones, in my favorite pair of heels no less, I was tripped by two middle-aged white men and called a “faggot.” While I was on the ground, they kicked me twice in the ribs, and punched me in the face before running off with the $20 bill I had in my wallet. The detective later assigned to the case commented over the phone to me that “Portland is a very safe city.” It sure didn’t feel that way to me last month.

There’s a variety of solutions that City Hall and Portland police could pursue, least among them putting some decent lighting throughout the Parkside neighborhood. Inevitably, though, they will have to challenge the toxic culture that exists within our policing communities.

As the Press Herald reported last week, a recent survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 62 percent of Maine respondents reported verbal harassment or physical assault at the hands of the police, while 59 percent of Maine respondents said they would feel uncomfortable asking the police for help. Why are those numbers so high? What can policymakers and police chiefs do to find solutions to these issues? Listening to those most affected might just be the best way to start.

Ultimately, Pride organizations across this nation are coming to grips with some serious demographic shifts in the LGBTQ+ community, as we’re starting to look younger, more gender-nonconforming and increasingly racially diverse.

This challenge should be seen as an opportunity to build bridges so we can center voices that suffer most in our society. You need only venture down to the Preble Street Teen Center to see that a significant plurality, if not an outright majority, of youth affected by homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning or other. Where are they in the Pride organizers’ minds when we plan our week of events?

I suspect a change in the tide is coming, as old political and social realities begin to dawn on us in light of the resurgence of far-right populism throughout the world. My hope would be that Pride would change along with the world: “Adapt or die,” as the saying goes. Next year’s ethos for Pride Portland shouldn’t be “Love is love,” as warm and fuzzy as that sounds – it should instead proudly declare a gender and sexual “Revolution!”

 

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http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1209727_LGBT_Marches_84281.jpg-5214.jpgMarchers unfurl a huge rainbow flag as they prepare to march in the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington on Sunday. Thousands paraded past the White House.Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:07:26 +0000
Our View: Time to restore online burn permits – because they work http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/our-view-time-to-cool-off-controversy-over-online-burn-permits/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/our-view-time-to-cool-off-controversy-over-online-burn-permits/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213901 If the state of Maine wanted to create the perfect website for issuing open burn permits, it would be easy, convenient and inexpensive, both to residents and municipalities. It would be a lot like WardensReport.com.

But after years of serving residents and local fire departments well and without incident, WardensReport.com and another site like it, BurningPermit.com, are offline for now, under orders from the Maine Forest Service.

The Legislature should act quickly to allow these proven tools for fire safety back in service.

BurningPermit.com, started a decade ago by a Gorham firefighter, and WardensReport.com, launched in 2013 by two Gardiner firefighters, together serve over 70 Maine cities and towns.

WardensReport.com, which partners with more than 60 municipalities, charges $75 a year to each community, which in turn has the ability to restrict when permits are issued and set limits on the number of permits issued, to account for weather conditions and staffing levels. Through an app, firefighters can easily see where that day’s burns are occurring.

On their end, residents can obtain burn permits for free from the comfort of their own homes.

The state’s site, by contrast, charges $7 a permit.

Sure, if they don’t want to pay, residents can get the same free permit in person from their municipality. But that means an extra trip out, and requires that the town keep someone on hand to issue permits at all times, which can be costly for some communities. For years now, the system has worked well – last week, Pittston Fire Chief Jason Farris said the private online services make his job easier and his community safer, as well as saving the town money.

The Maine Forest Service, however, now says the permits issued through the privately run sites are invalid, reversing an earlier position. The state says for safety considerations, all permits should come directly from state or local authorities.

It’s hard to see how that is the case. Through the private services, city and town fire departments have complete control over who gets burn permits and when they get them, and can easily make adjustments based on local conditions, something the state site does not accomplish as well, users say.

And by making it easy to obtain a free permit, the privately run sites have made it much more likely someone will get one, putting them on the radar of local authorities. Before that, firefighters say, inconvenience often kept people from getting a permit – meaning that open burning would take place but no one with access to a firetruck or hose knew it was going on.

Legislators see this, too, and are working on a fix. Sens. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, and Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, are both working to get a bill passed to clarify that local authorities have the right to issue permits through the privately run sites.

Last week, a forest ranger defended the state’s actions by saying they need a system for issuing burn permits that is “safe and convenient.”

It appears, before the state shut the sites down, that such a system was already in place. Lawmakers should get it going again.

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Kathleen Parker: In the shooting aftermath, is this really the best we can do, America? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/kathleen-parker-in-the-shooting-aftermath-is-this-really-the-best-we-can-do-america/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/kathleen-parker-in-the-shooting-aftermath-is-this-really-the-best-we-can-do-america/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213909 Kelley Paul had gone to bed Tuesday night as usual, with her cellphone set on “Do Not Disturb,” except for family and close friends whose calls would always go through.

That’s why, when Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tried to reach his wife early Wednesday using a borrowed phone, the call went straight to voicemail. Paul had left his own phone in the baseball dugout he had abandoned when the shooting began.

It was after a neighbor started banging on the front door of the Pauls’ Louisville home that Kelley learned of the rampage at the Alexandria, Virginia, baseball diamond where her husband and others were practicing for the annual congressional game between Republicans and Democrats.

On this particular day, the gunman was hunting Republicans.

In an email exchange with Kelley, a friend since last year’s presidential campaign, she told me of waking up to the sound of loud knocking – the shooting took place shortly after 7 a.m. – and finding her best friend at the door. Fearful that Kelley might read or hear the news through some form of media, the neighbor had rushed over to be by her side.

“Thank God, because my first three texts were along the lines of, ‘Is Rand OK??’ ” Kelley said in an email. “I would have flipped out.”

Such moments, doubtless, were taking place all over the country as family and friends wondered if their representative, senator, loved ones or friends had been in the line of fire. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, whose condition was upgraded from critical to serious Saturday, was near second base fielding balls when he was hit. Most are familiar by now with the details, especially the acts of heroism by Capitol Police officers who were attached to Scalise. Sen. Paul noted in retrospect that the event might have been a massacre had it not been for Scalise’s security detail.

And, yet, in some wretched irony, it was Scalise who absorbed the worst of the gunman’s rage when a single bullet pierced his hip, shattering bones and ripping through organs, leaving the congressman fighting for his life.

Perhaps because I know Scalise, this particular horror hit hard. Kelley and I shared our emotional exhaustion and sorrow, as well as fear. It isn’t only the terrible suffering of Scalise or the others wounded that day. It’s the cumulative effect of so much violence pounding us from all directions, day after day.

What is the tipping point for the human psyche, when too many becomes too much? For a lot of us, the psychological trauma began with the blunt force of 9/11. From then, humanity’s death spiral has seemed unrelenting. From the first beheading by the Islamic State to the mock severed head of President Trump, a malevolent spirit seems to have penetrated the air we breathe.

Yet, we defend our great nation as the best there is. This is certainly true if you happen to be a Syrian refugee or a survivor of slaughter in South Sudan. But is this really the best we can do?

I’m not much interested in debating gun control or assigning blame. The media didn’t open fire on that baseball field, nor did Donald Trump. Some horrible guy did it. He was apparently political, based on his social-media ramblings against Republicans. But it’s highly doubtful that he was reacting to some random act of punditry or a presidential tweet, maddening though they can be.

More likely, he found the impetus to act out his narcissistic rage in the same interior space that other mass murderers mine for imagined meaning. Do we need a kinder, gentler nation, as former President George H.W. Bush put it way back in the relatively innocent 1980s? Yes, we do. So, let’s.

We can’t un-crazy crazy, but we can each try to stem the madness. It begins with simply caring: By looking up from our cellphones and making eye contact; by asking the checkout girl about her day; thanking the garbage collector; doing favors without a scorecard; giving away money because someone needs it more.

Sometimes a small gesture of kindness can change someone’s day – or life. If the cumulative effect of evil acts brings us down, mightn’t the cumulative effect of good deeds lift us up? Madmen likely won’t abandon history anytime soon, but the least the rest of us can do is better – for Team Scalise and for America.

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/2017/06/20/kathleen-parker-in-the-shooting-aftermath-is-this-really-the-best-we-can-do-america/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1212725_APTOPIX_Congressman_Shot_32.jpgFBI Evidence Response Team members mark evidence at the scene of Wednesday's shooting in Alexandria, Va., in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and four others were shot during a congressional baseball practice.Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:00:21 +0000
Another View: Pennsylvania takes smart step toward avoiding fiscal disaster http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/another-view-pennsylvania-takes-smart-step-toward-avoiding-fiscal-disaster/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/another-view-pennsylvania-takes-smart-step-toward-avoiding-fiscal-disaster/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213910 The easiest thing for government to do is to give the voters what they want today, and worry about paying for it tomorrow. That explains much of the process that landed Puerto Rico in the equivalent of bankruptcy. Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut have trod a similar path of least resistance en route to fiscal trouble, albeit not as dire, yet, as the mess in Puerto Rico.

And so it is heartening to see that at least one major state has decided to take a long-term approach: On Monday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a pension reform law that will help the state appropriately compensate its future employees while reducing risks to its taxpayers.

When it goes into effect in 2019, the law will abolish standard defined-benefit pensions for most new state and public school employees. Those public employees will have to choose from three retirement savings options similar to the defined-contribution plans common in the private sector. Among other benefits, this could make retirement savings portable for many who may work for Pennsylvania only for a few years before moving on.

Pennsylvania had already acted in 2010 to put its pension funding ratio, which as of 2015 stood at an unsatisfactory 56 percent, on an upward trajectory. In combination with that past enactment, the new one, which also aims to reduce bloated investment costs, could render the state less vulnerable to unexpected costs in a downturn.

This has been accomplished on a bipartisan basis (Wolf is a Democrat; the Pennsylvania Legislature is Republican-controlled), showing that the cause of problem-solving is not altogether lost in American politics. Now it remains for other states to follow Pennsylvania’s example.

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Charles Lawton: It’s time for tourism model that spreads benefits all over the state http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/charles-lawton-vision-for-future-of-tourism-spreads-benefits-all-over-the-state/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/charles-lawton-vision-for-future-of-tourism-spreads-benefits-all-over-the-state/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213929 The development of tourism in Maine to its full potential depends less on separating our visitors from more of their money and more on separating them from more of their vehicles. Maine as a place encompasses about 35,000 square miles and includes more than 490 separately incorporated cities, towns and plantations as well as millions of acres of unorganized territory. But 67 percent of lodging sales – the foundational component of the hospitality industry – is concentrated in seven economic areas encompassing barely 7 percent of the state’s total area. And over 91 percent of lodging sales are concentrated in 18 areas encompassing barely 15 percent of the state’s total area.

There are, it seems to me, two basic spatial models for tourism – the river and stream model and the hub and spokes model. In the first, visitors to Maine travel (almost exclusively in their own private automobiles) along the state’s highways and roads much like fish swimming up our rivers and streams. In this model, tourism – like fishing – is a matter of finding a good spot, placing an effective lure and catching enough passers-by to satisfy each particular fisherman’s annual income requirements over the course of the much smaller seasonal “run” of visitors.

This model is conducive to a wide variety of largely independent small businesses. The initial capital requirements are relatively low; there are relatively few technical and regulatory barriers to entry; and as long as our state and local governments maintain the road network adequately, the annual “run” of visitors is fairly reliable. The major uncertainties driving year-to-year fluctuations are gasoline prices, the state of the national business cycle, weekend weather forecasts and the Canadian exchange rate.

This model served Maine well for virtually all of the 20th century. It is the fundamental reason for the largely positive image that Maine enjoys across the country (and increasingly the world). It provides good jobs – largely seasonal – for thousands of Mainers and thousands of seasonally temporary immigrants who have become the human lifeblood of the industry in the wake of the ever-increasing shortage of young Maine residents brought on by the demographic imbalance of our “oldest in the nation” population status. Finally, this model has provided the basis for substantial wealth for hundreds of successful business people and families who have proved adept at mastering the requirements of providing reliable hospitality.

But this model faces serious threats – traffic congestion in popular areas, worker shortages exacerbated by uncertainty surrounding foreign visa programs, and the ever-growing fiscal pressures that demographic imbalance and fuel efficiency places on the state’s highway maintenance programs.

A second model of tourism – the hub and spokes model – exists in Maine today primarily through the cruise ship industry. Instead of arriving in Maine by car and traveling in small parties along the highway network, visitors arrive in floating hotels (mini-city-like hubs) and spread out like spokes throughout the select set of ports they visit. This model is far more capital-intensive for the travel portion of the business and keeps most of the lodging, meals and entertainment spending in the pockets of the cruise ship industry.

Despite these disadvantages, however, I believe this model points the way to the future of tourism in Maine, a tourism that can spread the economic benefits of visitor spending over a far wider area of the state and that can provide enormous opportunities to Maine entrepreneurs and the towns and cities willing to think bigger about destination resort tourism. The key to 21st-century tourism in Maine is finding ways to capture the auto-free advantages of the cruise ship model. Achievement of this goal will require three essential investments.

The first investment is creation of new hubs, new equivalents of cruise ships docked permanently in selected spots across Maine.

They would be destination resorts that provide easy access to visitors across the globe, comfortable accommodations with a wide variety of easily accessible shopping and entertainment options designed both to provide a “taste” of Maine and a familiarity and sophistication comfortable for the global traveler.

The second investment is creation around each hub of a set of clearly defined, explained and guided “adventures” – whitewater rafting, fishing trips, hiking, biking, cultural/historical tours, bird and other wildlife sightings, business and amenity group training/learning events, on and on. This investment would require extensive investment in human capital, i.e., in training knowledgeable, courteous and enthusiastic guides and docents.

The third investment would be extensive public investment in non-highway transportation. Success of visitor hubs across rural Maine would require a vast increase in in-state air travel and in coordination of those flights with bus and van transportation that would seamlessly transport visitors and their baggage and equipment to their chosen hubs in quick and efficient ways.

All of these investments would require extensive public-private partnerships in planning, permitting and financing this new model. But the benefits of success present the clearest opportunity we have for retooling Maine’s largest industry for another century of success – one that serves all regions of the state.

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/20/charles-lawton-vision-for-future-of-tourism-spreads-benefits-all-over-the-state/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/07/052703-ship1.jpgStaff Photo by Doug Jones, Tue, May 27, 2003: The cruise ship Rotterdam is docked at the State pier dwarfing everything else in the harbor accept the oil derricks next to it.Mon, 19 Jun 2017 20:45:47 +0000
Maine Voices: Those who support existing zoning rules shouldn’t be called obstructionists http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/19/maine-voices-those-who-object-to-existing-zoning-rules-shouldnt-be-called-obstructive/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/19/maine-voices-those-who-object-to-existing-zoning-rules-shouldnt-be-called-obstructive/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213335 The Portland Press Herald recently reported on a meeting in South Portland between real estate developers and Portland city officials, at which concerns about changing zoning in order to accommodate proposed real estate development were deprecated as examples of NIMBYism (short for “not in my backyard”).

The developers complained that objections by Portland residents to their requests for zoning changes are making it difficult to site large real estate development projects in the city. Their complaint seemed to have the implicit support of both the municipal officials at the conference and this newspaper.

Both the speakers at the conference and the newspaper coverage failed to differentiate between local citizens’ efforts to maintain existing zoning regulations in the face of developer pressure for project-based changes, and neighborhood opposition to projects that are permitted by existing zoning and land use regulations.

One can certainly characterize local citizens’ efforts to block or delay projects that comply with established zoning and land use regulations as unreasonable and obstructive. On the other hand, it is a lot harder to criticize citizens who oppose changes to the existing zoning in their neighborhoods to allow projects that would not otherwise comply. They are merely trying to maintain the quality of life that is supposed to be protected for them by the long-term planning and zoning process.

Our existing zoning ordinances are the result of an elaborate planning and legislative process designed to maximize the welfare of all Portland residents in their various neighborhoods. Based on a comprehensive plan, the zoning ordinance seeks to regulate land and building size, location and use in the various neighborhoods so as to maintain a particular character in each neighborhood. Residents are expected to comply with these regulations in the use and improvement of their property. Compliance is enforced.

By the same token, the neighborhood residents can have some sense of security that the zoning ordinances will protect their investments and the amenity of their lives from structures and uses that are deemed inharmonious with what is permitted in that locality.

Portland has long taken its zoning and land use regulation seriously. Homeowners and small businesses are required to comply with local zoning and are not given special dispensation or zone changes to accommodate their wishes.

However, in recent years, it appears that a double standard is emerging. While zoning still counts for ordinary citizens and small landowners, larger developers with more ambitious projects seem to be able to obtain changes in zoning for their proposals almost at will.

Current examples include not only the outsized cold-storage warehouse being proposed for West Commercial Street, but also the massive residential development proposed on outer Westbrook Street, and the grandiose proposals for redevelopment of the Portland Co. property at 58 Fore St. What these projects have in common is that each of them is of massive scale compared with the usual Portland project, each of them will have a major adverse effect on the quality of life of many neighborhood residents, and each of them requires a zone change that departs from the city’s long-range plan for the affected neighborhood.

It is not fair to disparage the efforts of citizens who object to the loss of existing zoning protections in their neighborhoods as obstructive NIMBYism. Portland’s record with grandiose projects allowed to sprout in neighborhoods not originally designed for them has not been good.

The 1960s-era Portland House, as well as Promenade East from the 1970s, have forever compromised the skyline of the eastern half of the city. I can imagine visitors thinking: “How could they ever have let those be built?” Holiday Inn by the Bay, across from the McLellan-Sweat Mansion on Spring Street, has been an eyesore ever since it was constructed. Ditto for Franklin Towers.

Every time we have put aside our carefully planned land use regulations to accommodate a grandiose individual project, we have come to regret it. So let’s not be so hard on those of our fellow citizens who believe in the quality and integrity of our long-term planning and zoning and want to protect it. They may be really saving our city from our own shortsightedness.

 

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Our View: With lobsters and climate, there’s not a debate http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/19/our-view-with-lobsters-and-climate-theres-not-a-debate/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/19/our-view-with-lobsters-and-climate-theres-not-a-debate/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213322 During a week in which much of the world was wondering whether the president of the United States considers climate change a threat, in a Portland hotel conference room full of people who spend their lives on the water, the question of man-made warming wasn’t even being asked.

For the men and women who must pull a living, lobster trap by lobster trap, out of the Gulf of Maine, it isn’t up for debate – they have seen the change with their own eyes. When you find that the best spots for fishing have moved, or that there’s a new disease in the mix – when you have actually watched temperatures rise and the ocean ecosystem transform – there is no question at all, except over how you’re going to deal with it.

Instead, the Trump administration is doing its best to not confront it at all. President Trump announced he was pulling the United States from the historic Paris climate accord, prompting the question over whether he believed in man-made climate change, a question members of his Cabinet answer in the negative without hesitation.

The president has also proposed a budget that would severely diminish government-funded research into climate change. Among many other items, it would hinder Maine’s ability to find out how warming waters will impact the lobster industry.

That is not an insignificant matter. The industry landed more than $500 million worth of lobsters last year – more than 80 percent of the state fishery. An entire sector of the economy – and entire coastal communities – depend on its health.

And as Dave Cousens, longtime president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, told the people in the hotel conference room earlier this month, the recent past shows the future is anything but certain.

Speaking at the International Conference & Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management, Cousens said he and other lobstermen watched over the decades as water temperatures rose and predators disappeared, putting the sweet spot for lobster reproduction over the entire Maine coastline. The annual harvest, fairly consistent at around 20 million pounds a year for more than a century, started shooting upward starting in the early 1990s, and last year, lobstermen landed 131 million pounds.

But not all the news is good. Lobsters have disappeared from Long Island Sound, and are all but gone from southern New England. The center of Maine’s lobster industry has moved too, from Casco Bay north to Stonington.

Cousens said that he already this year found “shedders,” or lobsters that have lost their hard shell. “You’re not supposed to get shedders where I fish now,” he said. “The biological clock of lobsters is shifting.”

Clearly, the changes in the Gulf of Maine that brought about the record landings are still churning, and what that means is unclear. Researchers believe a decline is coming, but just when it will come and how severe it will be is up for debate.

If we are to maintain the fishery, and prevent seaside communities from losing their heart and soul, understanding and preparing for that decline is key, as is pushing for policies that will slow climate change.

The same can be said of sea-level rise, for which communities along the Maine coast and rivers must be ready. Or hurricanes in the South, or drought and wildfires in the West. Coal mining may benefit from a lax climate policy, but nearly every other industry or region will have to adjust to the effects of climate change.

Those effects are not a matter of debate – they are happening right now. Just ask a lobsterman.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/19/our-view-with-lobsters-and-climate-theres-not-a-debate/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1213322_bannerstonington-e1497865867353.jpgThe best lobstering used to be in Casco Bay in the 1980s but it has shifted east and is now considered to be in and around Stonington because of rising ocean temperatures.Mon, 19 Jun 2017 05:51:15 +0000
Commentary: Studies show women marginalized in meetings and conversations http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/commentary-where-does-misogyny-get-water-from-a-well-actually/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/commentary-where-does-misogyny-get-water-from-a-well-actually/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212623 That Uber board member was right — more women does mean more talking.

Because we have to repeat ourselves multiple times to be heard and start over every time we get interrupted.

Look at Kamala Harris. I came home from work Tuesday and my husband filled me in a little bit on the Jeff Sessions hearing, which I hadn’t watched.

“They kept interrupting Kamala Harris!” he said. “And they didn’t interrupt any of the men!”

I tried to register shock, but my face wouldn’t go there.

(Actual New York Times headline: “Kamala Harris Is (Again) Interrupted While Pressing a Senate Witness.”)

But back to David Bonderman, the Uber board member. He stepped down Wednesday after catching heat for what I assume was an attempt at a joke.

Fellow board member Arianna Huffington was discussing how one woman on a board leads to more women joining a board. Bonderman replied, “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”

Huffington replied, “Oh, come on, David.”

And the exchange happened at a meeting about the company’s lousy culture. LOL.

Statistically speaking, Bonderman’s statement was inaccurate. Researchers at Brigham Young University and Princeton University found that on school boards, governing boards of organizations and firms, and legislative committees, women speak significantly less often than men.

But I don’t think he was trying to cite research. I think he thought he was at a Christmas party, and it was the end of the evening where all the men gather and joke about how long it will take their chatty wives to say their goodbyes.

Anyway, his heart was in the wrong place, but his statement was hardly shocking. Multiple studies show women are marginalized in meetings and conversations.

In “Sex Roles, Interruptions and Silences in Conversations” sociologists Don Zimmerman and Candace West recorded and analyzed public conversations between two people: 10 between two men, 10 between two women and 11 between a man and a woman. In the same-sex groups, a total of seven interruptions happened. In the male/female group, there were 48 interruptions. And 46 of them were a man interrupting a woman.

A 2014 study at George Washington University found that men interrupt women 2.1 times during a three-minute conversation – 33 percent more often than when they talk with men.

Remember the pact that female Obama staffers made to amplify each other’s voices in meetings? When a woman made a key point, the other women in the room would repeat it and give credit to its originator. (More talking!)

“‘Woman in a Meeting’ is a language of its own,” The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri wrote in 2015.

Not only do you have the interruptions, but you have the misinterpretations.

“You will think that you have stated the case simply and effectively, and everyone else will wonder why you were so Terrifyingly Angry,” Petri wrote. “Instead, you have to translate. You start with your thought, then you figure out how to say it as though you were offering a groveling apology for an unspecified error.”

Petri translated some famous quotes into the way women would have to say them in a meeting, so as not to be perceived as angry or threatening. (Which really ups your chances of being interrupted.)

“Give me liberty, or give me death” translated to “Dave, if I could, I could just – I just really feel like if we had liberty it would be terrific, and the alternative would just be awful, you know? That’s just how it strikes me. I don’t know.”

Her essay was emailed and Facebook shared roughly 7 gazillion times by my female friends.

We get it. We know where Bonderman was coming from – a place where women are perceived to be chatty and moody and ripe for ridicule because who doesn’t love a little gender stereotyping to ease the tension at an uncomfortable conference, ha ha.

And now he’s gone. Fine. He’s a billionaire, and I think he’ll still find ways to fill his time.

But a lot of us are still stuck going to meetings. For that, I’ll leave you with the advice of Jessica Bennett, author of “Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual (For a Sexist Workplace).”

If you witness a woman being interrupted: “You can be a Manterrupter Interrupter, interjecting manterruptions on behalf of your female colleagues,” Bennett writes. “It’s as easy as, ‘Hey, can you let her finish?'”

If you’re being interrupted: “Just keep talking. Keep your pauses short. Maintain your momentum. No matter if he waves his hands, raises his voice or squirms in his chair, you do you,” she writes. Or, push back. “Bob, I wasn’t done finishing that point. Give me one more sec.”

It’s more talking. But it’s also more equal. And that’s a good thing for everyone.

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Presidential libraries are a waste of money http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/maine-voices-presidential-libraries-are-a-waste-of-money/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/maine-voices-presidential-libraries-are-a-waste-of-money/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212650 Right now, rangers are readying Acadia National Park for the summer arrival of 2.4 million visitors. But there is not enough staff – Acadia, like all national parks, has suffered from budget cuts because of sequestrations, shut-downs and all the rest. And the facilities themselves are in poor shape. The National Park Service said that Acadia has a $57.6 million in deferred maintenance needs for trails, bridges, roads and the like. The story can be repeated for all of the other important national parks across the country – Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite; pick your favorite.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is in the process of setting up yet another presidential library, in Chicago, and intends to raise $1 billion in private funds to build it.

While the Obama library has said they’ll decline funding from the National Archives, this will be the 14th such edifice, all developed since the Presidential Libraries Act was enacted in 1955. In 2016, five of the libraries had a total number of visitors below 100,000. Yet for this, the taxpayers are paying roughly $66 million per year – nearly the annual budget for Acadia.

Even more important than the budgetary question is the philosophical question: Does each president need his own library? Scholar Richard J. Cox says no.

In “America’s Pyramid: Presidents and Their Libraries,” he writes, “We don’t need ‘a library for each president, each armed with its own archivists and museum curators and scattered about the country.’ ” He goes on to say, “Establishing a different kind of Presidential Archives will end the ‘cult of personality’ that seems to be in place with the current Presidential Library system.”

Multiple libraries are also undemocratic because, as professor Jonathan Zimmerman wrote in The Washington Post, “they allow our presidents – not the people who elected them, to define their legacies.”

Unfortunately, many of the private donations to build recent presidential libraries are from foreign governments, and from donors who have benefited from the president’s time in office. They, not the people, control their content.

The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation raised $500 million primarily from donations from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and from the father of a man he had recently paroled.

Bill Clinton’s presidential library was funded in great part by foreign grants and the ex-wife of a person to whom he had issued an 11th-hour pardon.

Don’t look for objective treatment of Watergate at the Nixon Library or of impeachment at the Clinton Library.

Multiple libraries are terribly wasteful, costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year to operate. Do we need three presidential libraries in Texas, two in California and potentially two in New York?

In the last 60 years, the cost of building and maintaining presidential libraries has increased in ways that Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, who established the first libraries, never imagined.

Lyndon Johnson’s library cost 10 times as much as Truman’s library; Ronald Reagan’s was triple the cost of Johnson’s library.

George H.W. Bush doubled the Reagan budget, and Bill Clinton then doubled Bush.

And would President Trump convert Trump Tower into a museum to be subsidized by taxpayers? Why not establish a Presidential Center for Research in Washington for all Americans to enjoy?

Thankfully this practice is relatively recent. If George Washington had established the precedent, by now we’d have 41 such libraries dotting the countryside, dedicated to such luminaries as James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore, and costing close to a half billion dollars a year.

We should end this mistaken experiment; otherwise, a century from now there will be dozens more libraries, looking to future citizens like lost pyramids to forgotten pharaohs.

This is an issue on which our congressional delegation should be able to reach bipartisan agreement. At a time when we are dealing with historical deficits and government spending is under increased scrutiny, we should end this taxpayer subsidy. End the cult of imperial presidents. End the unseemly fundraising. End the system of presidential libraries.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/maine-voices-presidential-libraries-are-a-waste-of-money/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1212650_ye_bush_library_jpeg_0cfaf.jpgPresident Barack Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter arrive for the 2013 dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Presidential libraries cost U.S. taxpayers $66 million a year.Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:54:33 +0000
Maine Observer: A family finds joy on a Maine shoreline http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/maine-observer-a-family-finds-joy-on-a-maine-shoreline/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/maine-observer-a-family-finds-joy-on-a-maine-shoreline/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212659 The cross-over from New Hampshire to Maine occurred early in my 13th year. At first I lay too entrenched in the teen sorrow of leaving friends to notice, silently enduring a rendezvous with my grandparents before launching out on our annual family vacation.

My grandparents’ delightfully eccentric natures regularly drew skepticism from my business-minded father. It showed up this year as we entered Maine, traversing dangerously narrow, winding roads through the woods. It escalated as we bounced onto a narrow, winding dirt road.

“Are you sure there’s a lake back here?” my father spit out, teeth crashing as we rattled on, eating the dust of my grandparents’ car.

My mother threw up her hands. “They rented the cabin from friends,” she said, resignation dripping from her words.

My older sister and I pushed our faces out our respective windows in an unspoken race to find the lake. My 6-year-old sister sat in the middle, oblivious.

“I see it,” I shouted a moment later. My father focused on a sharp turn while my sister joined me at my window. A brief wrestling match and words from the front ensued until my father’s attention went to a thrillingly steep hill while the lake again dipped out of sight.

We crested the hill and followed the dust trail to a dirt circle surrounded by pine trees. I jumped out of the car and stared at a cottage roof sitting almost level with the car. Strange! Sadness forgotten, I ran down a set of wooden stairs, briefly pausing at the first landing.

“The lake!” I shouted back to the doubters, still standing at the top of the stairs.

I completed my descent, taking in the clear waters of Balch Pond. A pier, growing out of a large crop of rocks, stretched ahead and an aluminum boat merrily rocked against it. Though I had been around much of the Maine coast in my young life, this began my love affair with Maine’s Lake District.

The same love must have hit my father, because by the end of the week, this man – who, in my eyes, had never done anything out of the ordinary – announced that we and my grandparents had a deed to a piece of shoreline.

That fall I learned to set footings and through the spring and summer I pumped well water and sanded wood as my family built out the shell of our cottage. Southern Maine, where my grandparents, parents, and younger sister set down roots, became my anchor as adult life pulled me around, finally landing me in my husband’s home state of Texas.

My current challenge? Making sure my grandchildren recognize the eerie call of a loon, see the beauty of a clear lake, the wonder of a starfish on a beach rock, and the mischievousness of harbor seals. Most importantly, I hope to share the tenacity born of a life of changing seasons and changing times. Now, if only I owned an airline!

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Our View: Secret process wrong way to fix health care http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/our-view-secret-process-wrong-way-to-fix-health-care/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/our-view-secret-process-wrong-way-to-fix-health-care/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212798 Republicans in Congress are bumping up against a harsh reality: “Repeal Obamacare” might sound good on the campaign trail, but it doesn’t look so good when you find out who gets hurt.

Some Senate Republicans are trying to fix that problem by making sure that no one can see their repeal effort. A group of 13 senators is working in secret to design their response to the House Republicans’ bill, which was passed last month without a single Democratic vote. And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has arranged for it to go straight to the floor of the Senate, where it would need only 50 votes (plus the vice president) to pass, pushing through a major reform of one-sixth of the U.S. economy without the opposition party or the public knowing anything about its contents.

By contrast, the Affordable Care Act, which has been attacked for being rushed and overly partisan, was subject to six months of hearings before several committees after it was introduced, and was debated on the floor of the Senate for 25 straight days before it passed. No one outside the group of Republican senators crafting this bill has any idea of what’s in it.

The door to the hearing room might be closed, but, by now, everyone should be able to see what’s going on. If the senators thought most Americans would like their bill, they would be showing it to us. The fact that they don’t want us to know what they are up to tells us all we need to know.

Fortunately, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins is well positioned to do something about it.

Collins has been a leading advocate for a deliberate health care reform process focused on giving more people access to care. Back in January, she was one of the senators who spoke out against repealing the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement ready to go, and that was a position that carried the day.

We are encouraged to hear her say she would not support a bill unless it’s been evaluated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and that she favors an open and bipartisan process. We hope she keeps speaking out and influencing the process in a way that would benefit Mainers.

Although there is no Senate bill yet, we know they started with the one passed by the House last month. The senators could make major improvements to that piece of legislation and still end up with something that would devastate families struggling to pay for health care

According to the CBO, the House bill would cost 23 million Americans their health coverage, and despite winning the support of 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, it looks as if it was specifically designed to hurt a place like Maine.

The House bill would reduce insurance subsidies for older, lower-income, rural Americans, increasing subsidies for younger and richer people who live in cities where competition among providers makes health care less expensive.

It would put the Medicaid program, an essential service for people in nursing homes or who have disabilities, on a glide path to inadequacy, leaving state budgets in shambles.

And it would stop federal payments to Planned Parenthood for preforming checkups, sexually transmitted disease tests or cancer screenings – not because that would reduce the cost of health care, but because some members of Congress want to interfere with women who choose to exercise their right to end a pregnancy with an abortion.

The House bill would help some people – the wealthiest Americans who would benefit from a massive tax cut, said Maine’s other senator, independent Angus King, in a floor speech Wednesday. “It’s a gigantic transfer of wealth – probably one of the greatest in a short time in recent American history – where you have millions of people across the country who have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and are protected under Medicaid and Medicaid expansion, and you’re taking that away,” King said.

The House bill is not a starting point, it’s a dead end. The Senate should reject it and start over – in public and with both parties at the table. If Collins and other Republicans stand up now, that’s the kind of process that could get underway.

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Another View: Labor crunch could be eased by giving older workers a chance http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/another-view-labor-crunch-could-be-eased-by-giving-older-workers-a-chance/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/another-view-labor-crunch-could-be-eased-by-giving-older-workers-a-chance/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213078 In the May 28 edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram, there was a Maine Voices column by Steve Hewins of the Maine Innkeepers Association regarding the severe shortage of seasonal workers during the busy summer season. Mr. Hewins left out one factor that contributes to the problem: federal and state income tax laws that discourage retirees from working.

First, the federal laws. In 1986, a law was passed that imposed a tax on some Social Security benefits for higher earners. However, the threshold amount to trigger the tax has not been increased in 30 years. A married couple receiving $4,000 in Social Security and drawing $1,000 from an individual retirement account pays no tax. If one person starts working, it triggers a tax, so every $1 earned can trigger as much as $1.85 in taxable income.

The Maine state income tax is even worse. Nonresidents working in Maine will be taxed not only on in state earnings, but pensions and income received in other states become taxable as well. My tax adviser put it bluntly: The worst thing I could do is take a seasonal job in Maine.

In my seasonal community in Old Orchard Beach, there are many of us who summer here in Maine and winter down south. A lot of us would love to have a part-time job for the summer. Perhaps Mr. Hewins can rally some support in the business community for lobbying state and local lawmakers to fix this so that seniors who want to work and be productive can do so without the crushing tax penalties.

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Alan Caron: Cutting taxes and government hurt economy in Kansas, so beware http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/trickle-down-tried-it-didnt-work/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/trickle-down-tried-it-didnt-work/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212608 Seven years ago, the tea party candidate for governor in Kansas, Sam Brownback, was swept into office with pledges to cut taxes and government, and create a robust and growing economy. Soon thereafter, income taxes for the wealthiest of Kansas citizens were reduced by 25 percent and most businesses paid no taxes at all.

And everyone waited for the promised gravy train.

Brownback called it a “live experiment,” and the Legislature gave him all the laboratory beakers and test tubes he needed. On June 6, the Republican-led Kansas Legislature finally pulled the plug on Brownback’s tax program, after years of fiscal chaos, budget gimmicks, crowded schools, sinking credit ratings and deficits.

The “shot of adrenaline” to the economy that Brownback promised never materialized. Promised revenues were barely half what he projected. The state’s economy did worse than surrounding states.

Staff Illustration by Michael Fisher

And the 2014 elections in Kansas, 100 Republican former and current elected officials turned against Brownback. Voters were not amused either, turning out key Brownback supporters last year in droves, and replacing them with sensible moderates from both parties.

Meanwhile, the wealthy people of Kansas were laughing all the way to their offshore bank.

If the Kansas plan to cut taxes and grow the economy sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same program that tea party champion Paul LePage has pushed for seven years. It’s also the model for Trump’s proposal to lower taxes at the federal level.

That car wreck by the side of the road, with the nameplate “Kansas” on it, could have been us, if LePage had been more skillful in selling his ideas. And it might still be us if Trump’s gets what he wants.

The Republican hymnal about economic growth is not complex. Cut taxes. Shrink government. The economy takes off. Order a round of martinis. The problem is that it almost never works. When wealthy people in Kansas got their tax cuts, they didn’t create jobs. They took the money and ran. They invested it somewhere else. Or they bought a new toy made in Taiwan or Korea.

The greatest period of expansion in the American economy, between 1946 and 1978, is when the modern American middle class was born. In 1946 the top tax rate was 86 percent. By 1978 it had dropped to 70 percent. Today, it’s at 35 percent and President Trump would like to lower it again.

But here’s what happened as those top tax rates fell. The middle class shrunk. Government debt grew. And the distribution of income in America got dangerously lopsided in favor of the super-rich.

The Republican theory of trickle-down economics has been around since Herbert Hoover ushered in the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan employed it while tripling the national debt. President George W. Bush tried it again in 2001 and 2003, and we got the Great Recession.

Ironically, when George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton actually increased the top marginal rate on taxes, in 1990 and 1993, we had a five-year period of robust growth.

The Congressional Research Service recently studied the effect of tax cuts on the economy, since 1945. They concluded that tax rates on the richest Americans “have had little association with saving, investment or productivity growth.”

I’d go a step further. The idea of cutting taxes on the wealthy to generate a trickle-down effect for the rest of us is the worst and most poisonous elixir that the country has ever been asked to swallow.

Another problem with the idea is that the tax cuts are never paid for when they’re enacted. Promoters promise that the growth they’ll create will be so spectacular that they’ll pay for themselves eventually. But they don’t.

That approach is a little like your kid buying an expensive new car because he believes it will lead to a big job offer that will help pay for the car. Most often, that’s going to end badly.

With Congress about to act on yet another round of tax cuts for the rich, and with elections coming up next year for a new governor, we need to get clear on the track record of this fiscal nonsense. This is an urgent issue for Maine.

We dodged a bullet over the last seven years, in some ways, because LePage, unlike Brownback, couldn’t stay focused long enough to enact the tax cuts he wanted. But imagine what would have happened if we’d elected a more competent tea party governor who could have rallied people to support his big tax cuts and slashing attacks on government? What would Maine look like now?

It would look like Kansas.

What happened in Kansas should be required reading for every candidate, elected official and citizen who wants to see a new prosperity here.

Targeted tax cuts can help an economy to grow, but we have to be smart about it. That means replacing ideology and wishful thinking with common sense and real data. If we want people to create jobs, we should reward that behavior. Give tax breaks to people to add and keep good jobs. It’s not more complicated than that.

But across the board tax cuts to the rich, hoping that those folks will do the right thing, and that the benefits will miraculously trickle down to everyone else, is a sucker’s bargain, and always has been.

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

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

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Bill Nemitz: U.S. Capitol changes from the way life should be to armed camp http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/bill-nemitz-u-s-capitol-the-way-life-should-be-changes-to-armed-camp/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/bill-nemitz-u-s-capitol-the-way-life-should-be-changes-to-armed-camp/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1213179 They leaped into the national consciousness last week as bona fide heroes.

U.S. Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner, both wounded in Wednesday’s attack by a deranged gunman during a Republican congressional baseball practice, now symbolize our last line of defense against a world gone mad.

They represent law enforcement officers everywhere who don their uniforms each day wondering what awaits them out there, who among the masses might be the next psychopath with a semi-automatic rifle in his hands and murder on his mind.

“I give them a lot of credit,” said Severin Beliveau during an interview in his Portland law office Friday morning. “They’re far better trained than we were back in those days.”

Most people know him as a founding partner of the law firm Preti Flaherty, a former state legislator, a mover and shaker throughout Maine and beyond who long has thrived at the nexus of law and politics.

What few know is that Beliveau, now 79, was once a U.S. Capitol cop.

It was the late summer of 1960. As John F. Kennedy charmed his way toward the White House, Beliveau, then just 22, began his first year at Georgetown University Law Center.

He needed a job to support himself. And he had three choices, all patronage positions controlled by then-Maine Sen. Ed Muskie and Rep. James Oliver.

“Elevator operator, the Post Office and the police department,” Beliveau recalled.

He chose the latter, working the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift as a guard on Capitol Hill.

It paid well at $100 per week, included uniforms that could double (without the jacket) as classroom garb and offered hours of time at a desk – in the pin-drop quiet of the Capitol building – that Beliveau could spend studying his law books.

He did carry a weapon, although for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why.

“They gave you a gun, a .38,” he recalled. “Then they took you to the White House police range and placed a body silhouette 25 yards away. If you struck any portion of the anatomy, you qualified. On my sixth shot, I got the guy in the knee.”

So much for firearms training. So much for bullets, too – more often than not, when he began his shift, Beliveau left his ammunition in his locker.

Why?

“I didn’t want to shoot anybody,” he said.

His duties?

He’d direct traffic from 4 to 6 p.m. out on Constitution or Independence avenues.

He’d chat with then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and Minority Leader Everett Dirksen while they and other legendary lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, poured the whiskey in Johnson’s palatial office at the end of a long day of debating.

He’d even walk May Craig, the legendary reporter for the Portland Press Herald, home to her nearby apartment because “she was a fragile little lady” and much appreciated the escorts by a friendly young man from Rumford.

“Not that there were any problems back then,” Beliveau said. “There were no criminals, no drugs, nothing.”

Not once during his entire nine-month tenure did Beliveau log an arrest. Which was a good thing – his superiors provided him with written instructions on how to write a parking or speeding ticket, but at no point was he schooled in how to take someone into custody.

“The greatest threats were the bums passed out under the bushes,” he said. “We’d prod them along across the street, off into the Metropolitan Police jurisdiction. Then we’d call those guys to come pick them up.”

There were no security stations, no metal detectors, no bomb-sniffing dogs, no surveillance cameras, no machine guns, no automatic lockdowns at the slightest hint – real or imagined – of trouble.

Rather, a law student with a badge greeted late visitors to the Capitol with a handshake, a smile and a wave on through. And if a family on vacation came along, he might take a break from his studies and walk them through National Statuary Hall and then on to the Rotunda.

It was, to borrow an oft-used Maine phrase, the way life should be.

Contrast that with last week.

Special Agents Bailey and Griner, two of more than 2,000 members of a force that numbered not much more than 100 back in Beliveau’s day, were at the baseball practice as part of the permanent security detail for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Scalise remained in critical condition Saturday at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

While others dove for cover under a fusillade of bullets, the two officers ran toward gunman James Hodgkinson, loaded weapons drawn, hollering for him to put his gun down.

Griner took a bullet to her ankle and Bailey sustained a minor, non-gunshot injury before Hodgkinson was finally shot and killed. Had the two officers not been there, many witnesses have said, it would have been a massacre.

“I think the evolution of the Capitol Police department is representative of what’s happened in this country,” Beliveau said. “We’ve gone from a passive guard system to active, professional law enforcement.”

We’ve also become a country where mass shootings – defined by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive to mean four or more victims, not including the shooter – occur at the rate of almost one a day. Wednesday’s was the 154th since the start of 2017.

Will this attack, unlike the hundreds that have preceded it, change anything?

Some say the political bomb-throwing, at least, might give way for a while to a more civil body politic – as it did Thursday evening after Special Agent Bailey threw out the first pitch at the annual Democrats-versus-Republicans baseball game.

But beyond the baseball bonhomie, Washington, D.C., remains, as Beliveau put it, an “armed camp.” Even as his brief stint with a badge, a gun and not a worry in the world remains a gauzy, increasingly distant memory.

“It was collegial. You never felt threatened,” Beliveau said. “Now you go to the Capitol and, because of the overwhelming police presence, you just feel that something’s going to happen.”

Welcome to the new America. Land of the free and home of the wary.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Jim Fossel: Pragmatists are getting things done in Augusta http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/pragmatists-are-getting-things-done/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/18/pragmatists-are-getting-things-done/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212617 With so much attention (rightfully) being focused on the state budget – and the looming specter of a government shutdown – it was easy to miss, but another major showdown was heading toward a resolution last week.

The House and the Senate both voted in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion to restore the minimum-wage tip credit, which had been due to be phased out as part of the citizen initiative that raised the minimum wage. The wide consensus on Sen. Roger Katz’s bill came despite fierce opposition from outside pressure groups, including those who campaigned for passage of the original referendum.

This was an excellent example of legislators stepping up to work together to solve a serious problem, rather than turning it into yet another partisan football. The issue divided Democrats, with the more pragmatic amongst them joining together with their Republican colleagues to support the legislation. Indeed, it not only divided rank-and-file Democrats, but leadership as well: House Speaker Sara Gideon voted in favor of reinstating the tip credit, while Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson was vociferously opposed.

That was especially interesting, as Democratic leadership is usually fairly united on the major issues of the day – witness the schism between House and Senate Republicans over the budget. The minimum wage issue shows, however, that unity is not a given for either party. If Republicans in both chambers stick together, they might be able to sway enough Democrats to their cause to get something good done for the people of Maine. This wasn’t the first time this has happened in recent years, either: Republicans banded together with moderate Democrats to twice elect independent Terry Hayes as state treasurer over the Democrats’ hand-picked candidates.

This debate was even more illuminating than the treasurer race, though, for a number of reasons. Unlike the secret-ballot treasurer’s race, this debate was completely on display for the public to see. There were floor debates, committee hearings, amendments and roll-call votes. That allowed us to see exactly how close the vote was, and precisely where the fault lines lay. It made it abundantly clear that the Democrats have yet to heal the wounds from their divisive presidential party, as many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters (including Troy Jackson) led the fight to eliminate the minimum-wage tip credit. The so-called unity tour that kicked off in Maine earlier this year was, apparently, a failure, doing little to close the rift between Sanders supporters and the Democratic establishment.

In this fight – as in party primaries across the country since the presidential race – the populist faction was unsuccessful.

Here, that failure came despite the presence of a powerful ally, the Maine People’s Alliance, who put enormous pressure on Democratic lawmakers to leave the referendum intact as is. It was a rare example of Democrats publicly doing battle with the MPA – and succeeding.

The question for the MPA now is, where do they go from here? Will they keep pushing Democrats, and continue to publicly pick fights with party leadership when they don’t adopt their views? They’re already doing this to a certain extent, as the MPA also recently attacked Gideon’s budget compromise offer to reduce the tax increase intended to fund education (another key MPA initiative). If they continue down this road, their obvious next step would be to begin gathering signatures for another referendum to repeal the minimum-wage tip credit.

If the MPA chooses this route, they might be successful, but the divisions within the Democratic Party will only continue to deepen. Indeed, Maine Democrats may be facing their own tea party moment, as an increasingly restive grass roots seeks to circumvent party leadership, rather than working with them.

At a state level, they could do this by making sure truly progressive candidates won in the primaries. As Republicans across the country have seen, a restive grass roots and populist anger can be an asset at times, propelling you to unexpected victories. However, they can just as easily lead you into pointless fights that cost you elections.

Divisions among liberals in Maine are nothing new, just as divisions among conservatives aren’t uncommon. What would be quite unusual, however, is a grass-roots rebellion that reached the upper echelons of party leadership. The last time that happened was when John Martin was ousted as speaker of the House, which helped lead to Clean Elections and term limits being passed.

If the disagreements in Augusta today are the start of something similar, the next few years may be interesting indeed.

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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Garrison Keillor: It’s good to get away and take a break from the news http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/garrison-keillor-its-good-to-get-away-and-take-a-break-from-the-news/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/garrison-keillor-its-good-to-get-away-and-take-a-break-from-the-news/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212811 The sign by my seat said, “Fasten seatbelt whilst seated,” so clearly it was a British airline. My daughter and wife were alongside me and we were off to Europe for a break from the news. Our mad king had essentially been indicted in sworn testimony and he claimed vindication and offered to testify under oath, forgetting the one he’d taken in January. Crazy times: It’s good to go away.

In London, the Brits were voting themselves into a deadlock, and the backrooms were busy with desperate deal-making, according to the papers, but none of it affected us. We were quite happy whilst we strolled about.

In our hotel, I took a shower and saw that on the shower knob, in between Hot and Cold was the word “Tepid,” and that was enough to make me consider emigration. The engineer who designed that knob loved the language. It is the richest language in widespread use today and “tepid” is a useful and lovely word. An American engineer would regard this as pointless – logic tells you that in between Hot and Cold is something in-between, lukewarm or moderate or room temperature, lackadaisical, half-hearted nondescript, whatever – and the use of “tepid” would be effete and elitist and cause other engineers to avoid you in the cafeteria. Best to just use H and C. Or a red dot and a blue dot. A country where engineers are fond of language is a country I could be happy in, never mind politics.

We took a fast train to Brussels – 180 mph – and another to Rotterdam, and walked along a canal, five-story brick tenements with bay windows and belfries, arched passageways leading to walled gardens behind, and on one corner a little cafe where we sat down at a table in a patch of sunlight.

The server who approached said, “Hey,” and handed us menus. The Netherlands is a small country with a long history of trade and shipping, so it is multilingual, and she was prepared, I’m sure, for us to speak Dutch, German, French, English or a combination. We being Americans chose English, and ordered croissants and coffee, speaking quietly lest people around us hear our accents and ask us about the current administration.

The people around us, however, were deep into their own conversations. Even a table of four teenagers was engrossed in talk, none of them fingering an iPhone, texting, posting, checking voicemail, but looking each other in the face and speaking as young people in America used to do, except these were speaking Dutch.

The next morning we boarded a ship bound for Oslo and stood at the aft rail, inhaling salt air, watching the gulls swooping down low looking for fish vacuumed up in the ship’s wake, and I thought about the great armada of June 1944 that crossed over to Normandy in the predawn hours.

My old phys ed teacher Stan Nelson was manning a Navy observation boat in that armada and steered it close to the shore to get a read on the state of German resistance. He never mentioned this in the 1950s when I was in his gym class. He simply kept a close watch for shirkers who tried to weasel out of doing the rope climb or the diving somersault over the horse. “Keillor, get back in line,” he yelled. I think of him plying these waters in his little boat. Did the Navy teach him sufficient French that if his boat got blown up and he had to swim to shore, he could ask a farm family to hide him in the barn?

The Europeans have a history of dealing with the madness of rulers; we do not. Lyndon Johnson was vain and dramatic and at times dishonest, but he had some principles and pushed through the Civil Rights Act and Medicare and thereby changed the country for the better.

Now here is a president who communicates in little specks and splats of tweets, leaving his minions to try to say clearly what, if anything, he thinks. The country will weary of this, the dead eyes, the heavy scowl, the jutting chin. The man’s base will discover eventually that he is a carnival hoax, the Cardiff Giant, the Wild Man of Borneo who eats live chickens. You can’t fool 40 percent of the people 90 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, honorable Republicans who have dedicated their lives to public service sit in committee and listen to insanity. If a man with a pistol in hand walks into a 7-Eleven and asks for money and his defense attorney explains that he was only asking for a loan, the gun was not loaded and the handkerchief over his face was for purposes of sanitation, this is a joke, right? Am I right? And if the courtroom takes it seriously, then we must bring in the psychiatrists.

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Forty-five years after Watergate, tapes have special meaning http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/maine-voices-forty-five-years-after-watergate-tapes-have-special-meaning/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/maine-voices-forty-five-years-after-watergate-tapes-have-special-meaning/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212819 LEWISTON — In a Twitter post last month, President Trump taunted the just-fired FBI Director James Comey that he “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” The reference to “tapes” brings back memories of the biggest scandal – to date – in American political history.

Forty-five years ago Saturday, June 17, 1972, five men associated with Richard Nixon’s re-election committee were caught burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex. Two other employees of the re-election committee were soon arrested. The arrests did not affect the 1972 presidential election later that year; Nixon was re-elected by a landslide.

But soon after his inauguration, the trial of the burglars and investigations by reporters and a U.S. Senate committee brought forth charges of a cover-up of various illegalities that engulfed Nixon’s presidency.

Forty government officials were eventually indicted or sent to prison, including former Attorney General John Mitchell, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and White House legal counsel John Dean. Ultimately, Nixon himself resigned in disgrace facing impeachment and accepted a pardon from his successor that prevented his criminal prosecution.

The original Nixon White House tape recorder. President Trump’s taunt to the fired FBI Director James Comey that he’d “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations” brings back memories of the Watergate scandal. National Archives via AP

What turned Watergate from a suspicious set of events into a full-blown constitutional crisis was a secret taping system known only to Nixon and a few staffers. The stunning truth was that the president had recorded himself and his aides covering up a domestic spying and political dirty tricks operation, run out of the White House and his campaign.

For me, the notion that there could be a taping system in the Trump White House has special resonance. That’s because I had the unique opportunity to work on the staff at the National Archives that processed the Nixon tapes.

For 4½ years, I sat at a tape playing machine essentially eavesdropping on the daily conversations that Richard Nixon had with all those he met in the Oval Office and a couple of other White House locations. In all, I estimate I have listened to about 1,500 hours of the estimated 3,700 hours of conversations in the entire collection.

Most of the staff’s time was spent listening to the conversations, identifying the participants and the dates and times of each conversation, outlining the topics discussed and earmarking those portions that had to be restricted on privacy or national security grounds.

The Nixon tapes collection is of inestimable historical value, in large part because the recordings capture not only what Nixon discussed with other participants, few of whom knew they were being recorded. They also capture the tone and nuances of what was said. And they reveal much about the thinking and the personalities of Nixon and those who dealt with him and their interrelationships.

They cover every conceivable topic Nixon talked about, from the routines of the White House to Nixon’s major and minor preoccupations to weighty issues such as the Vietnam War, U.S. foreign policy in general, the economy and the 1972 presidential election. The Vietnam War and the way it played out at home were of particular interest to me, since I had served in Vietnam.

And of course, starting in June 1972, there was discussion of the Watergate break-in and its implications for the upcoming reelection campaign. Since the Democratic opposition was in disarray at the time, and Nixon believed the plan to cover up any White House involvement was working, there was little discussion after a week or so after the June 17 break-in.

Things changed, however, soon after Nixon’s inauguration for a second term. As the tapes reveal in considerable detail, in March 1973 Nixon had come to realize that the Watergate scandal could destroy his presidency. Once the system was discovered, and incriminating conversations came to light, Nixon’s fate was sealed.

The centrality of the Nixon tapes to the investigation of the Watergate scandal underscores the importance of determining whether President Trump recorded his conversations – something investigators will no doubt look into. The task will not be easy, in part because of major changes in the electronic environment. Back in the early 1970s, a taping system required a set-up of microphones, wiring and recording machines along with a small staff to maintain the system. Today, with smartphones and other small devices, it is much easier to record conversations, and hide or even delete the evidence. No one else besides President Trump would need to know of any recording of conversations he had with James Comey – or anyone else, for that matter.

Does President Trump have recordings of key meetings concerning the Russia investigation? Events of the past make this an important question special counsel Robert Mueller and his team will have to answer.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/maine-voices-forty-five-years-after-watergate-tapes-have-special-meaning/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/AP_17150606565766.jpgThe original Nixon White House tape recorder is shown in an undated handout photo. Decades after the fighting over his tapes began, Richard Nixon is finally getting at least part of his wish. The National Archives, under a court order it had fought for years, on Monday, August 10, 1998 will begin cutting up the original tapes from the Watergate years and returning portions dealing with private matters to the late president's estate. (National Archives via AP)Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:31:11 +0000
Rep. Chace: Generic drug bill would offer greater access to affordable care http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/rep-chace-generic-drug-bill-would-offer-greater-access-to-affordable-care/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/rep-chace-generic-drug-bill-would-offer-greater-access-to-affordable-care/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212828 AUGUSTA — Why are drug prices so high? Can we do anything about it? As a pharmacist and a legislator, I hear these questions every single day.

The first question is pretty easy to answer. Mainers need life-saving drugs, and in some cases there are only a few companies making them, which results in high prices. One of the key causes of high drug prices is that some brand-name companies do whatever they can to discourage potential generic competition – competition that would lower drug costs. Where generics are available, though, consumers enjoy far lower prices and greater access to these important medicines.

One of the tactics they employ is to deny generic companies access to the drug samples they need, and to which they are entitled under the law, to develop a competing medicine. Generic drugs are on average 75 percent less expensive than their brand-name counterparts, and when they are available, generic drugs are prescribed 90 percent of the time. In fact, generics saved Maine $954 million in 2015, according to a 2016 study conducted by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

The pharmaceutical system in our country was designed to encourage brand-name drug companies to innovate and find new cures. After brand-name companies develop new drugs, they recoup their investment in research by making a profit while their products are protected by patents. However, once the patents on brand-name medications expire, generic-drug manufacturers are free to compete so patients can obtain the drugs they need at a more affordable price. This system gives the brand company incentive to keep innovating.

Sadly, that’s not what happens.

Often, brand-name companies withhold critical samples that prevent generic manufacturers from even filing an application with the Food and Drug Administration to get approval. This keeps generic versions of their products off pharmacy shelves for years, all while we struggle to pay for the medicines we need.

So, what are we going to do about it?

L.D. 1280, An Act to Require Drug Manufacturers To Comply with Federal Law, fixes some of these abuses and puts an end to brand obstruction and anti-competitive practices. This bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, garnered an 11-to-2 vote in favor from the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce and Economic Development Committee. If passed, L.D. 1280 will ensure that patients in Maine have greater access to affordable health care options.

How so? This bill ensures competition in the marketplace by preventing a licensed drug manufacturer from restricting a sale to an eligible generic company of the samples they need in order to conduct testing required by the FDA for approval. A generics company would pay fair market price for these samples, and such a sale is industry standard. If a brand-name company were to break the law, avoiding sales to a generics company, the Maine Attorney General’s Office could enforce this law, compelling the brand-name companies to sell their product and allowing the generic manufacturer’s testing to move forward.

There is no extra cost to our state government or to citizens for this empowerment – but there is a cost to brand-name drug companies. It means billions of dollars, and they are fighting to hold on to their money.

No matter how bipartisan our support and how right we are on the merits, there will always be detractors. They are trying to blur what is abundantly clear: This is a problem for all Mainers that we can and will fix. I encourage all members of the 128th Legislature to join me and my colleagues and side with an approach to this problem that’s been endorsed by so many on both sides of the aisle. At the end of the day, we are all patients, and we all deserve safe, effective and affordable medicines.

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Another View: Protests in Russia show Putin’s poll numbers lie http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/another-view-protests-in-russia-show-putins-poll-numbers-lie/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/17/another-view-protests-in-russia-show-putins-poll-numbers-lie/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212914 Protests in Russia on Monday confirmed a trend that was seen in demonstrations in March – the appearance of a large number of angry young people, including teenagers. Most of them have grown up in a Russia ruled by only one person, President Vladimir Putin, and his placeholder pal, Dmitry Medvedev, who have together been in power for 17 years. The youthful demonstrators said they were fed up with the stagnant authoritarianism that Putin has come to represent. Nikita Orlov, 18, told the New York Times, “I came here because we have no democracy, our Parliament is not real, our politicians are not real and our mass media is not real.”

Putin likes to paint a picture of stability. He has squeezed out all serious competition to his rule and is frequently presented to the public as the embodiment of the Russian state and a leader of unchallenged popularity.

That is precisely why the demonstrations matter. Thousands turned out in Moscow, St. Petersburg and dozens of other Russian cities, summoned to the streets by the anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, who was promptly detained and sentenced to 30 days in jail. More than 1,000 people were also arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

While many came out to support Navalny’s campaign against corruption, in Moscow they were also protesting the city’s demolition of old apartment blocks, among other things. The crowds are a reminder that, despite Putin’s authoritarianism, some Russians want a more democratic and open system and are willing to stand up for their beliefs.

Putin has little use for democracy anywhere – either at home or abroad. In his mind, the West has long interfered in Russia’s affairs by preaching the values of freedom and liberty. He appears to have relished a chance at payback in 2016 through interference with the U.S. election. Of course, he is wrong: In Russia, the West sought to support best practices of democracy and institution-building, not put a thumb on the scale.

Multiple investigations are already probing Putin’s meddling, including the attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign through malicious hacking. This week, Bloomberg News reported that Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system “was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed” and included probes into voter databases and software systems in nearly twice as many states as was previously reported.

President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia in December in response to the electoral intrusions, and a bipartisan group of senators are pressing ahead with new legislation that would give Congress a stronger hand in keeping sanctions in place and would expand them. Sanctions are in general a crude instrument, but this legislation, which the Senate voted Wednesday to advance, promises to send a message to Putin that such interference in the U.S. election is intolerable. It could also deter the Trump administration from lifting sanctions too quickly or in the absence of reciprocal concessions by Moscow.

If Putin is really so sure about his popularity, he should release Navalny from prison and permit a free and open presidential campaign leading up to the scheduled vote in 2018 in which Navalny is allowed to run. Russians shouldn’t have to risk arrest and worse in the streets in order to support a political change.

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Domestic violence gets short shrift as precursor to mass shootings http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/domestic-violence-gets-short-shrift-as-precursor-of-mass-shootings/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/domestic-violence-gets-short-shrift-as-precursor-of-mass-shootings/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212188 DENVER — What do many mass shooters have in common? A history of domestic violence.

At first glance, mass shooters like James Hodgkinson, who authorities say opened fire Wednesday morning as Republicans practiced for the Congressional Baseball Game, seem like a diverse group.

Hodgkinson, whose attack injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a congressional aide, a lobbyist and two Capitol Police officers, had frequently criticized President Trump and other Republican leaders on social media and in letters to his local newspaper, and had contacted the office of Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., 14 times to criticize Republicans.

Past mass shooters have chosen targets or left manifestos indicating wildly different possible political beliefs or motivations – or given no indication at all about what made them act. With no common ideology or goal uniting the perpetrators of such horrific violence, how can we identify those likely to perpetrate mass shootings and prevent them from doing so?

There is one thing, though, that an alarming number of the recent mass shooters in the U.S. share: A history of aggression and violence toward women.

• Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in the horrific massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007, had been previously investigated for stalking two female classmates.

• Elliot Rodger, who killed six and wounded 13 in Isla Vista, California, in 2014, was obsessed with perceived rejection by women, and not long before the shooting had thrown coffee on two women at a bus stop because they didn’t smile at him.

• Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who murdered two police officers in Brooklyn, New York, in 2015, shot his ex-girlfriend in the stomach just hours earlier.

• Cedric Ford, who shot 17 people last year at the Newton, Kansas, plant where he worked, killing three, had been accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend and served with a restraining order not long before the shooting.

• Robert Dear, who shot and killed three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, in 2015, had a history of domestic violence.

• Omar Mateen, who murdered 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, abused his wife for years, beating her because she had not finished the laundry or a similar offense.

Hodgkinson fits the same pattern. In 2006, police records show, Hodgkinson went to his neighbor’s house looking for his daughter and forced his way into the home, using “bodily force to damage” a door. According to a police narrative on file with the St. Clair County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Department, witnesses said he grabbed his daughter by the hair, chased her to their neighbor’s car and used a knife to cut her seat belt off so he could pull her out. Police records say he also punched his neighbor in the face after she told him she would call 911.

The incident did not result in punishment within the legal system. Hodgkinson appeared in court and had screaming outbursts that caused him to be removed. Nonetheless, the judge apparently dismissed his case after a witness accidentally failed to appear at a rescheduled hearing. “I tried to tell the court that this guy’s crazy, that this is a big deal, but they didn’t listen to me,” the neighbor said.

One analysis of mass shootings from 2009 through 2016 concluded that at least 54 percent of mass shootings – or 85 out of 156 incidents – involved a current or former intimate partner or family member as a victim.

Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise that domestic violence and mass shootings are correlated. People who are likely to act violently often start with those nearest to them, who are vulnerable because of proximity and who are often financially, emotionally or legally dependent on their abuser.

The justice system also plays a role, treating domestic violence with less weight than “real” violence. Abusers are less likely to be incarcerated for a domestic violence incident than for an incident involving violence against someone other than a family member or an intimate partner, and are thus less likely to undergo the type of intensive rehabilitation that might deter violence in the future.

Despite research documenting a connection between domestic violence and mass shootings, we still don’t focus on domestic violence enough in the wake of such a shooting. A mass shooting tends to trigger passionate arguments about gun control and mental health services; discussion of how to respond to domestic violence often doesn’t even come up.

In reality, it’s impossible to separate domestic violence from gun violence more broadly: 36.7 percent of women living in domestic violence shelters have been threatened or harmed with a gun used by an intimate partner, and in 2011 over half of women murdered with guns in the U.S. were killed by intimate partners or family members.

Mass shootings are terrible tragedies, no matter what contributes to them. And it’s certainly important to consider all the factors that could go into preventing them. The available evidence indicates that one of the first things we should do is start taking domestic violence seriously.

 

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Our View: Mandatory license suspension won’t end Maine’s addiction crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/our-view-mandatory-license-suspension-wont-end-maines-addiction-crisis/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/our-view-mandatory-license-suspension-wont-end-maines-addiction-crisis/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212209 A federal law intended to bully states into stripping the driver’s licenses of those with drug convictions is outdated and ineffective, and a proposal by Gov. LePage that would bring Maine into line with this statute makes no sense.

The bill in question – L.D. 1637 – would suspend drug law violators’ licenses for six months. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee issued a divided report Wednesday on the proposal; it now goes to the full Legislature for consideration.

Suspending licenses for drug convictions – even when the offense had nothing to do with driving – dates to the “tough on crime” early 1990s and the passage of a federal law tying a portion of highway funding to mandatory suspensions. However, only 12 states follow this policy to the letter. The rest have opted out and hung on to the federal funds under a provision that requires written certification from the governor or state legislative action.

Up until now, Maine has chosen the common-sense approach. All governors since John McKernan have been willing to attest to their opposition to the policy, including Paul LePage. That is, until last year, when he declared that the scope of Maine’s opioid crisis meant that the state would have to change course and implement mandatory suspension as a way to prevent more people from becoming addicted.

We agree that the urgency of this epidemic demands innovative thinking, but there are huge holes in this line of reasoning.

Addiction isn’t a behavior that people choose after a cost-benefit analysis; it’s a disease, and whether someone develops an addiction is heavily influenced by risk factors such as genetics and mental illness that make people more susceptible.

The idea that mandatory suspension will prevent criminal activity hasn’t panned out, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. The group found in a six-state study that “driver license suspension for non-highway safety related reasons is ineffective in achieving compliance with non-highway safety violations.” In other words, the prospect of losing their driver’s license is the last thing on the mind of someone considering committing a drug offense.

Moreover, this punitive policy puts up new barriers to overcoming addiction at a time when we should be making it easier for people with addiction issues to re-enter society. For someone with a criminal conviction, finding a job and earning a legal income is key to reconnecting with their community and staying out of trouble with the law. In a rural state like Maine where most people need to drive to get to work, having a suspended license puts a job seeker at an obvious disadvantage.

The Legislature has rejected five bills that would have enacted mandatory suspension for drug convictions. Anyone who wants to help the thousands of our fellow Mainers who are struggling with addiction should press their elected representatives in Augusta to vote against this one.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/our-view-mandatory-license-suspension-wont-end-maines-addiction-crisis/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1212209_AP_513599884704.jpgMotorists visit a South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles office during a program that allowed some people with suspended licenses to get them reinstated. Many states have opted out of a federal law that calls for stripping drug offenders' licenses; the governor of Maine, Paul LePage, would like the state to sign on to the federal statute.Thu, 15 Jun 2017 22:41:35 +0000
Another View: Mistreatment of U.S. student should not go unpunished http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/another-view-mistreatment-of-u-s-student-should-not-go-unpunished/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/another-view-mistreatment-of-u-s-student-should-not-go-unpunished/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212223 Otto Warmbier was a 21-year-old University of Virginia economics major with a bright future when he signed on for a short tourist trip to North Korea in December 2015. Not until Tuesday was he finally flown home to Cincinnati, gravely ill and reportedly in a coma.

He was arrested, tried on spurious charges and evidently subjected to horrendous mistreatment by North Korean authorities. This was outrageous behavior even by the standards of one of the world’s most vicious and isolated regimes. It should not go unpunished.

By his account, delivered at a scripted “news conference” weeks after his arrest, Warmbier attempted a foolish but harmless prank: trying (unsuccessfully) to pilfer a propaganda poster from the hotel where he was staying. For this he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor on a charge of “hostile acts against the state” following a one-hour trial in March 2016. He had not been seen in public since then. Now it appears that Warmbier may have been gravely ill for much or all of that time.

The harm done to an innocent student is the result of North Korea’s odious practice of seizing Americans to use as political pawns. Three other U.S. citizens are being held by the regime; President Trump should make their release a priority.

The United States should also move quickly to step up sanctions on the regime of Kim Jong Un, which has been racing to develop missiles that can reach the United States with a nuclear warhead. A new report by the research group C4ADS shows that by cracking down on a relatively small number of interlinked Chinese companies and individuals, the pressure on Pyongyang could be greatly increased.

The Trump administration has asked China to act against some 10 entities; if Beijing does not respond promptly, the United States should act unilaterally.

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By slashing pay of experienced aid specialists, National Guard hurts veterans http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/maine-voices-by-slashing-pay-of-experienced-aid-specialists-national-guard-hurts-veterans/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/maine-voices-by-slashing-pay-of-experienced-aid-specialists-national-guard-hurts-veterans/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212159 AUGUSTA — When I met the National Guardsman who later would become my husband, I had just graduated from college, and the sum total of what I knew about the military would have fit on a postage stamp. But military spouses learn quickly. We have to.

We were married five days before he deployed to Iraq. With my husband serving overseas, I decided that I wanted to do my part to support our troops and their families. That’s why I joined the local National Guard family readiness group to support the wives and kids left behind. Even after my husband came home, I continued to volunteer with the group. I loved the opportunity to serve the National Guard community, the mission and, above all, the people.

That’s why when a job came open as a Family Assistance Center specialist at our local Guard armory, it was a no-brainer to apply. So I started a new career helping military members, veterans and their families cope with life’s challenges.

The resources and referrals we provide to military members, veterans and their families change lives every day. I can’t tell you how many Vietnam-era guys we’ve helped who were living in their cars. Some people have a very specific need – a bill that’s overdue, help with Tricare, a counseling referral – while others have a whole host of issues.

I thought the National Guard valued the services that caseworkers like me provided to military families. But I was wrong.

Earlier this year, the National Guard Bureau allowed the contract with the company that employs me to expire. As a result, hundreds of caseworkers around the country were laid off, including five of us in Maine. It was a hard time for me, but it was even harder for the military families who rely on the critical services we provide. In fact, veterans and service members went six weeks without a lifeline until the National Guard signed a contract with a new company.

I was in a local home-improvement store when I got an email from a co-worker letting us know that the new company was offering to let us come back to work – but with a devastating pay cut.

Under the previous contract, I had earned about $24 per hour. Under the new contract, my pay was slashed to $14 per hour. I made more than that when I managed a Subway in college.

I returned to work, but I knew the pay cut was wrong. My co-workers across the country were equally upset, and we joined together with the advocacy group Good Jobs Nation to file a national wage theft complaint with the federal Department of Labor.

Needless to say, absorbing a pay cut of this magnitude has been difficult for my family. We’ve had to borrow money from family members just to pay the bills. Worst of all, my husband had to abandon his plans to start a small business and go back to work. Because of injuries received in combat and stateside, he’s 90 percent disabled. He’s had two shoulder surgeries and two knee surgeries and wasn’t in a place psychologically where he felt ready to find a job. That he did shows just how important we think Family Assistance Centers are.

It’s been rough on our family, but I’m even more worried about what it will mean for the people we serve.

Last November, I received a call from a young ex-Marine. He was so angry by the time he called me. He described how he’d contacted dozens of agencies for help; each turned him away. He was at his wit’s end – “This is my last chance – I don’t know what else to do,” he told me.

“I’m so glad you called, because I’m going to help you,” I said. I gave him a plan and laid out exactly how I’d follow up.

By the end of the call, his voice was so much softer. “I had completely given up hope,” he said. We didn’t solve all of his problems, but we solved enough that he felt empowered to deal with the rest.

Before I joined the Guard Family Assistance program, I spent a decade in social services. One of my co-workers was an Army drill sergeant for 12 years. You won’t get that level of experience paying people fast-food wages.

The truth is that it’s really our service members and military families who are paying the price.

Politicians always like to talk about supporting those who serve. Well, supporting our troops isn’t just about investing in the newest ships and the latest weapon systems. It’s also about investing in the people. It’s about being there for military families when they need us most.

It’s what we do every day, and this is the thanks we get.

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Sens. Dion and Volk: Generic drug bill would be bad deal for Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/sens-dion-and-volk-generic-drug-bill-would-be-bad-deal-for-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/16/sens-dion-and-volk-generic-drug-bill-would-be-bad-deal-for-maine/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1212184 AUGUSTA — The Legislature will soon consider a proposal that claims it will reduce drug prices for Maine consumers. The debate promises to highlight conflicting ideas, views and opinions of the pharmaceutical industry as our legislative colleagues try to decide the fate of L.D. 1280, An Act Regarding Generic Drug Pricing.

As senators, we recognize that the cost of prescription drugs poses a real burden for many of our constituents. We also understand that generic drugs frequently promise affordable medicine at a lower price. And we recognize that the sponsors of L.D. 1280 believe, sincerely, that it will provide relief from high drug prices and make more affordable generics more widely available for Mainers.

However, we believe the policy contained within L.D. 1280 will not achieve those desired results. Contrary to popular opinion, generic drugs are not always the most affordable alternative for consumers. In 2016, Attorney General Janet Mills joined 19 other states’ attorneys general and filed suit in federal court targeting Mylan Pharmaceuticals and five other generic manufacturers, alleging anticompetitive business conduct – including price fixing. According to prosecutors, generic drug company collusion has resulted in harmful economic consequences for healthcare consumers.

Mylan’s decision to hike prices on potentially life-saving Epi Pens by more than 500 percent led to strident criticism by Congress. The Inspector General for the federal Department of Health and Human Services is currently asserting Mylan overcharged Medicaid approximately $1.7 billion on the sale of Epi Pens.

Mylan has no footprint and not a single employee in Maine. But they stand to gain tremendously from passage of this bill.

L.D. 1280 would provide expedited access for generic manufacturers to a restricted class of brand name prescription drugs – about 70 out of several thousand medicines – that the FDA has approved for sale only by brand manufacturers who agree to comply with specific safety restrictions on how these drugs are produced, prescribed, administered and sold to consumers.

For this small set of drugs, producers are required to deploy extensive safety protections approved by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure no human is exposed to potentially deadly side effects. These FDA conditions exist to distinguish the potentially life-threatening side effects presented by these drugs and the need to manage the significant risks these medications pose to public health and safety.

However, L.D. 1280 doesn’t speak to safety regulations at all. And it leaves a huge question of liability unanswered: If a generic drug acquired under the auspices of this state law were to make a patient sick, or even cause a death, who would be liable? The generic producer, or the name-brand manufacturer?

L.D. 1280 creates this uncertainty by allowing Mylan and other generic drug manufacturers to legally circumvent the regulatory process established by the FDA to grant approval for the sale of a restricted brand name drug to a generic manufacturer. Mylan contends that the brand name manufacturers of these “restricted” drugs employ federal regulations as “an excuse” to prevent access to the drug by generic manufacturers. Their message is that “Big Pharma” is intent on blocking consumers from enjoying lower retail prices for these specialized prescriptions.

Contrast their claim of “unnecessary delay” to these restricted drugs with consumer data that outlines a generic marketplace where 88 percent of all prescriptions filled at your local pharmacy involve generic equivalents to brand name medications.

Despite Mylan’s claim that restrictions have an adverse effect on their industry, generic pharmaceuticals have enjoyed a market that realized approximately $74 billion in sales in 2015. L.D. 1280 compels Maine’s attorney general to bring a lawsuit against brand name manufacturers to make these restricted drugs available “without delay or restriction,” despite existing FDA safety restrictions and the likelihood that brand companies would face federal sanctions for complying with Maine law.

Should the attorney general not prevail in the courtroom, Maine taxpayers would be liable for the cost of litigation and attorney fees. We would assume the financial risks of legal action while accepting the absence of any statutory language requiring a generic company to use the contested drug for the purpose of developing a generic alternative. Mylan could simply resell the acquired drug to another manufacturer and at any price.

There is no win in this proposal for anyone but Mylan, themselves a large pharmaceutical company. We urge our fellow elected representatives to reject this legislation.

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Health of many Mainers depends on bill in Congress, Medicaid expansion http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/15/maine-voices-health-of-many-mainers-depends-on-bill-in-congress-medicaid-expansion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/15/maine-voices-health-of-many-mainers-depends-on-bill-in-congress-medicaid-expansion/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1211495 AUGUSTA — The nation watched May 4 as the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved legislation to repeal and replace integral parts of the Affordable Care Act. Now the replacement legislation, the American Health Care Act, is in the U.S. Senate’s hands. And there are rumblings that they might take it back up for passage with minimal changes before the Fourth of July.

If the AHCA passes in its current form, nearly 20,000 Mainers would lose critical access, gained through the ACA, to treatment for mental health concerns and substance use disorder, a number cited in research from both Harvard and New York universities in January.

As we have all heard by now, drug-related deaths in our state reached a new high of 376 lives lost last year, an increase of nearly 40 percent and 100 more people when compared with 2015’s total of 272 fatalities. More troubling, 2016 was the fifth straight year of an increase in fatal overdoses, mostly because of the illicit use of prescription painkillers, heroin and the potent synthetic drug fentanyl.

Behavioral health experts call what’s transpiring an acute crisis and recognize it as a devastating trend that must be halted. Medicaid and its unparalleled access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment needs to be protected, or expanded, to address this crisis.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, has said that the iteration of the AHCA proposed by the House would make our state’s opioid problem worse. At present, at least one person dies every day from an overdose in Maine. This is already one too many. No more.

Opponents of the ACA repeal, including King and Maine’s Republican senator, Susan Collins, understand that about 75,000 Mainers receive ACA coverage in general, more than 20,000 are receiving treatment for behavioral health issues, and some 8,000 are actively getting treatment for substance use disorder. The ACA has allowed many who would have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, which includes mental health and addiction issues, to keep their insurance.

Both senators decried the detrimental effects of the House proposal on the poor and on people over age 50. King called for meaningful improvements, while Collins said, “It really misses the mark.”

Because Maine is not a Medicaid expansion state, it only receives a 64.38 percent matching rate from the federal government for MaineCare (the state’s Medicaid program), a prime source of funding for our behavioral health services. These are critical funds, especially as pressures increase upon our already stretched state budget. Had Maine taken the Medicaid expansion, coverage for the newly eligible adults – an estimated 70,000 – would have been fully funded by the federal government for three years, then phased down to a 90 percent matching rate by 2020 and thereafter.

In February, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap certified that enough signatures have been collected to place a citizen initiative for MaineCare expansion on the November ballot. It’s been passed five times in the Legislature, but vetoed five times by Gov. LePage.

If repeal and replacement of the ACA comes to pass, we’ll lose $5 billion in federal funding for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, financial assistance for marketplace coverage and the option to expand Medicaid. According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, we have already lost nearly $2 billion that we would have received had the governor not vetoed Medicaid expansion.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has increased state funding for addressing our opioid crisis to the tune of millions of dollars, all without the match we would have had under an expansion. Our citizens simply can’t afford this.

Mainers are fortunate that our U.S. senators understand how necessary it is that provisions of the ACA are secured within a new plan, especially real coverage for pre-existing conditions like mental health. Please call Susan Collins and Angus King to affirm your support that any new health care plan protects us all – and especially our neighbors needing substance use disorder treatment and mental health care.

And make sure you go to the polls in November to expand coverage to the tens of thousands of Maine residents who need it.

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