The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Opinion Wed, 26 Oct 2016 19:27:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Leonard Pitts: A more disturbing sign of the times is vandalism to Emmett Till’s death site Wed, 26 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 So what was it they were trying to kill?

After all, the sign standing near the Tallahatchie River is cratered by dozens of bullet holes. More than idle target practice, it suggests a frenzy of gunfire, an attempt to kill something. And the something is not really that hard to name.

Memory. They sought to assassinate memory.

The damaged sign, discovered last week and posted to Facebook by student filmmaker Kevin Wilson Jr., marks the spot where the body of Emmett Till, barbed wire around his neck tying him to a 75-pound fan from a cotton gin, surfaced 61 years ago.

He had traveled to the nothing town of Money, Mississippi, to visit family for the summer. Emmett, a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago unschooled in the ways of the Jim Crow South, accepted a schoolboy dare: Bet you won’t whistle at that white woman in the store. He carried out the challenge, wolf-whistling at 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant.

Four days later, her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half brother, J.W. Milam, came for him in the dark of night.

The body that was pulled from the Tallahatchie River three days afterward barely resembled a human being, much less a prankish boy. It was bloated to the point of shapelessness and had been savagely beaten. An eye had been gouged out. There was a bullet hole in the skull.

The brothers freely admitted the kidnapping. A witness placed Milam at a barn inside of which he said he heard a child being tortured. Yet jurors acquitted them in under an hour. One said it took that long only because they stopped to “drink pop.”

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral. She said she wanted the world to see what had happened to her child in America. The world saw and was horrified. African-Americans saw and seethed with a familiar outrage that was old even then.

Four months later, an Alabama seamstress named Rosa Parks refused a bus driver’s demand for her seat. There are those who say the two events were not unrelated.

And here, perhaps the reader looks to the writer for assurance that while you can vandalize a sign, you cannot, in fact, murder memory. The writer has no such assurance to give.

Whoever destroyed that sign represents, albeit crudely, an emerging American consensus. It says that things which give us pain are better off forgotten, some memories better off dead.

So you get Cal Thomas and Snoop Dogg complaining that “Roots” has been remade. And textbooks teaching slavery as “immigration.” And Margaret Biser, a docent on a Southern plantation, writing of being scolded once that talking about slave life “is bringing down America.”

Forget about it, they say. Forget Rubin Stacy and Mary Turner. Forget Trayvon Martin. Forget Emmett Till.

We’d never say, “Forget Anne Frank.” That would be like killing her all over again. But then, America bears no conscience scars there. America did not kill her. In its intransigence and hatred it did, however, kill Emmett.

Nor is this the first time the marker of that tragedy has been damaged. In Mississippi such markers are often vandalized.

With spray paint and guns or just refusal and denial, some of us seek to murder memory. But others of us stand stubbornly in memory’s defense. One is glad to hear that money is being raised to replace the sign.

Besides, even if you kill memory, you do not escape the past. America is shaped by Emmett Till’s death and always will be, even if we no longer know his name.

We make history. But history makes us, too.

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

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Greg Kesich: Political yard signs may be stupid, but freedom of speech is not Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Let me start by saying this: Political yard signs are stupid.

Campaign volunteers are eager to put them up, but they lose interest after the election, and the rest of us have to face the sight of a dejected loser driving around on Veterans Day, pulling up his or her own signs, wondering where they went wrong.

It’s just sad.

But guess what? Political signs are political speech, the exact same speech guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

Yard signs might be stupid, but freedom of speech is not, and you would think that everyone could agree on that.

But you would be wrong.

Betta Stothart, one of “three moms” from Falmouth who were caught tearing down Trump-Pence signs near midnight on Oct. 15, said that denying a neighbor his right to speech was an act of conscience.

Stothart told the Portland Press Herald that the group was offended by the number of Trump signs on Route 1, and she wanted to do something about it: “It felt to me like there was a small group of people really trying to impose their political ideology on the community.”

So an even smaller group of people waited until late at night and imposed their political views on the community. Ahh, democracy.

Stothart went much deeper into her reasoning in an op-ed that was published in The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The afternoon before the plot had been hatched was the day that the world heard Donald Trump, in his own words, brag about how he could assault women because “when you are a star, they let you do it.”

Stothart had her own story about sexual harassment. In her case, a powerful man tried to leverage his financial relationship with Stothart’s employer to force her to have a sexual relationship with him.

“I wanted to punish Trump and anyone who could support him,” she wrote. “Especially now, knowing what we know about his treatment of women.”

The column is a classic example of how you can be totally right and still so wrong. It’s not as much what she did (yard signs are stupid), but her pride in doing it that’s telling.

Humility is history. No one is ever wrong anymore.

I see this kind of thought mostly on the political right, because – because of course I do. That’s how I’m wired.

When Gov. LePage says that background checks are a secret plan to confiscate guns, or the minimum wage is the moral equivalent of murder, he’s making it clear that there is only one right answer. His.

You don’t just disagree with him, you are out to hurt people. End of story.

It’s harder to see the hypocrisy when it’s on your side, but some things are so blatant that they can’t be ignored.

Tearing down a sign is not a form of protesting its message – it’s denying the author’s right to speak. The only acceptable response to a sign you don’t like is putting up your own sign. Saying that your disapproval of Trump justifies silencing his supporters means that no one should ever be allowed to speak but you.

I don’t want to defend Donald Trump. I don’t want to stand up for the people who want him to be president. I don’t want to be silent about his history of abuse. I don’t want to give comfort to the millions of men who have demeaned and degraded women.

But if somebody wants to put up a bunch of stupid, pointless yard signs on a strip of grass by Route 1, the Constitution says, “Let them.”

It’s one of the ways in which we at least go through the motions of having a society where people freely express themselves and resolve differences without violence.

Attacking those traditions undermines our democracy, and when you keep doing that you can’t expect it to work.

Stothart has a court date after the election. I hope she gets a civics lesson.

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

Twitter: @gregkesich

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Our View: Maine’s affordable-housing shortage exacts high cost Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In the aftermath of the 2014 Portland fire that killed six young people, the trial of the building’s landlord, Gregory Nisbet, has been a landmark event – and the reaction to Nisbet’s acquittal last week on manslaughter charges in the deaths has been correspondingly intense.

But while people may differ over whether the verdict was fair, it’s indisputable that Maine has a statewide shortage of safe, affordable housing, and Mainers’ lives depend on government using all available tools to resolve this critical need.

The three-story Noyes Street duplex that burned Nov. 1, 2014, was reportedly in rough shape, its overall condition a factor in complaints from neighbors and multiple inspections by city officials before the fire.

Smoke detectors were missing or disabled. Former residents testified that there was no alternate way out of the building from the bedrooms on the third floor, where three people died. The secondary exit from the second floor was blocked, according to survivors whose trial testimony included harrowing descriptions of making their way through smoke and heat to escape via a second-story window.

Why would anyone have chosen to live in such a rundown place? By all accounts, Nisbet was a laid-back landlord who didn’t press tenants to pay the rent on time, making him a viable option in a city with a lot of low-wage service-sector jobs and few available rental units.

To address the city’s affordable-housing shortage, Portland has enacted an ordinance that requires developers of market-rate housing to set aside units for moderate-income tenants or pay into an affordable-housing fund. In exchange, developers get incentives such as increased density, a reduction in fees or tax breaks for their projects.

But this is a problem that’s far bigger than Portland. In each county in Maine, according to a study of fair-market rents, people are paying anywhere from half to two-thirds of their monthly income for a place to live. And many of these places are probably as rundown as the Noyes Street property was, given the advanced age of Maine’s housing stock.

The housing pinch hasn’t gone unnoticed at the state level. Legislators voted earlier this year to streamline the process of applying for housing assistance. But getting help covering the cost of a rental unit doesn’t do much good if there are no places available to rent. To develop workable solutions, like Portland’s inclusionary-zoning ordinance, government must recognize that the free market isn’t equipped to provide enough safe, affordable housing in the places where it’s needed.

Every Maine resident deserves access to well-kept housing that doesn’t drain their budget. Officials in Maine’s largest city have taken a step in the right direction toward this goal – now policy makers in Augusta should follow suit.

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Another View: European Mars lander’s flub is just a bump on its mission Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Last week, the European Space Agency lost contact with the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander during its harrowing six-minute descent to the Martian surface. Fifty seconds before it was slated to make a soft, controlled landing on Mars with the aid of nine thrusters, ExoMars stopped transmitting.

There were initial hopes that the Schiaparelli lander, a $320 million joint mission with Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, was only temporarily silent and would resume transmitting despite a rough landing on Mars.

Many days later, the Schiaparelli lander is still silent and its exact location still unknown, but its mission to gather valuable atmospheric data needed to ensure a successful landing for the Martian rover that the ESA plans to send to Mars in 2020 was not a failure. Valuable information was gathered during the descent.

After separating from its orbiting mother ship, the lander’s supersonic parachute deployed and heat shields worked properly as it streaked through the Martian sky at 13,000 mph.

While transmitting data during its descent, the lander’s thrusters turned on earlier than they were supposed to before abruptly turning off, leaving the lander to a fate that would be decided by gravity and whatever distance was left during its descent. The loss of the signal indicates that the Schiaparelli lander hit the Martian surface hard.

Still, much of its mission was accomplished. The European Space Agency has a lot of data to pore over to prep for the automated Mars rover mission that will aggressively seek out signs that life once existed on the planet. Even failures are instructive when it comes to space exploration. Don’t cry for the Europeans. They’re just getting started.

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Maine Voices: Supporting our schools a sound investment for Maine businesses Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AUBURN — Building our economy, and building Maine’s economy, are key on every voter’s mind during this turbulent election campaign. We can grow our economy two ways: by attracting new businesses and by making it easier for local businesses to succeed and grow. Both make sense.

And when we think about what businesses need, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe capital, or a big idea, or a really great location or determination?

Wrong! The answer is people. Back in 1914, my father knew that the most important thing for a business to succeed is people. Well-trained people to make and sell your products or services, and well-paid people to buy them. People make up both sides of the business coin. At Lamey-Wellehan Shoes, our success depends on the hard work of our 105 associates and the loyalty of our thousands of guests/customers.

In order for us to find the best workers to hire and for our customers to get the good jobs they need to afford a good life, Maine needs well-funded schools. Primary and secondary schools are where young Mainers first develop the skills that will prepare them for a career that allows them to support their families, whether they’re working for me, for another small business in Maine or starting their own.

Poverty is a major issue in our country and in Maine as well. Nationally, 51 percent of the children in our public schools live in poverty and food insecurity. It’s worse than that in many Maine communities. Many students often go to school hungry, dependent on school food programs. That’s not a great way to start your day of learning.

Their parents are struggling, and live in a poor neighborhood, which is usually a major part of a poor city, which regularly turns down school budgets because they simply cannot afford the tax increase. The growth of inequality has badly damaged our communities and our nation.

While some of our higher-income towns have great schools, the scholastic results are generally much lower in underfunded schools, despite the effort of dedicated teachers there. Our children and our businesses and professions deserve better than that.

Not surprisingly, what makes things work for local businesses will make Maine a place of interest for new high-tech companies. They need great young people, but they also want great schools for their children, as they and their families consider moving to a new location.

That’s why I support Question 2 on this November’s ballot, the Stand Up for Students campaign. Question 2 brings much needed funding to our public schools by asking the wealthiest Mainers – those making over $200,000 per year after deductions – to pay a little more. How much more? Three percent more, but only on the taxable income over $200,000. That isn’t a big change, unless you get to $300,000 or $400,000, and then, what the heck? Don’t you want your children and their friends across the state to have a strong education?

Some have suggested that the wealthiest will move to New Hampshire, but that means choosing to pay a dramatically higher real estate tax instead.

The huge income tax cuts that our governor has provided for the richest Mainers have left the state with underfunded schools, higher property taxes, deteriorating infrastructure and even a higher sales tax.

The growth in income inequality has left too many communities unable to provide proper school support through property taxes. It’s time for those of us who enjoy business or professional success in Maine to step up and pay our fair share to support our local schools.

Investing public money in our schools is a sound investment. Kids only get one shot at a great education, and making sure all our children get the best education possible, regardless of ZIP code, is as good a return on investment as any business owner could hope for, and is much more efficient than more tax cuts for wealthy Mainers.

Nothing will encourage the leaders of new tech companies to locate in our communities more than great schools. Great schools will bring great opportunities for Maine children, Maine families and Maine businesses. I hope you’ll join me Nov. 8 in investing in Maine’s children, Maine’s communities and Maine’s economic potential by voting “yes” on Question 2.

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Charles Lawton: ‘No’ on referendum Question 2 is a pro-education vote Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 On Election Day, Maine voters will be asked to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to Question 2, which would impose a 3 percent state income tax surcharge on filers with taxable incomes over $200,000.

Proponents project that the surcharge could raise $157 million in year one – to be channeled, under law, to the state’s public elementary and secondary education funding mechanism, with certain strings attached to ensure that the money doesn’t go to administrators.

Why should Maine citizens who believe that investing in education is the most important public policy challenge facing our state today vote “no” on Question 2? Let me count the ways.

 First, public initiatives are a terrible way to govern. They represent a de facto vote of no confidence in our system of government. They take decisions about the public good that we elect representatives to decide for us through deliberation, public hearings, discussions, careful thinking and voting procedures and transfer them to unelected interest groups with the most to gain and the largest marketing budgets.

Second, this particular initiative, much like the “law” it is intended to replace – a goal that says the state should contribute 55 percent of the total cost of pre-K-12 public education – is almost certainly destined to become an equally futile feel-good gesture that will be ignored by future Legislatures in the heat of their own budgetary battles. Just imagine how secure this “lockbox” of “rich people’s money” will be when some future governor asks, “Well, shall we close the hospitals or the schools?”

Third, this initiative totally ignores Maine’s long-standing tradition of local control. Even if this new tax were to be imposed and money collected and allocated to the state’s public education subsidy program, all the state can do is pass the money on to local school districts. What those bodies actually do with the money is entirely up to them.

The tradition of local control would mean that any additional money would simply be allocated as it is today – through a local budgetary process involving voters and a local bargaining process involving teachers and staff.

Fourth, if passed, this law would have the economically catastrophic effect of raising Maine’s marginal income tax rate to the second highest in the nation.

Maine is a state in which the number of deaths each year now exceeds the number of births. It is a state in which public pre-K-to-12 school enrollment has been declining for years. It is a state in which nine of 10 new jobs projected to open over the next decade are to replace workers leaving the labor market rather than altogether new jobs.

It is a state that desperately needs to attract workers with high skills and high aspirations who expect high wages. These are workers whose children will help stem the enrollment decline that has turned even fixed educational spending into the inevitable reality of ever-rising cost-per-student ratios.

Without these workers, major Maine employers such as Wex, Unum, L.L. Bean and others will be forced to look to expand outside Maine. In a state desperate to attract new workers and their families, raising the top marginal income tax rate is an act of colossal, self-defeating stupidity.

• Fifth, and most importantly, Question 2 would pour more money into the existing, poorly understood school funding formula – one based on equality of property tax value per student while ignoring all other demands for community services – thus exacerbating the property tax inequities embodied in that formula.

In trying to put more money into education, this initiative would increase property tax disparities among communities and regions and further undermine and delay efforts to reform our out-of-whack property tax system.

Indeed, if Question 2 did somehow get more money into the school funding formula, the first choice available to voters would occur in the communities that voluntarily spend more than the minimum local commitment required for receipt of any state aid: e.g., “Should we reduce our property taxes by allowing state funds to replace the ‘local extra’ money we have been contributing?”

To the extent that this outcome should prove true, Question 2 would have the ironic effect of transferring money from rich income tax payers to rich property tax payers, leaving education untouched while inflicting serious damage on the causes of both economic development and property tax reform.

For all of these reasons, voters should reject the “clear, simple and wrong” solution embodied in Question 2. Instead, they should keep the goal: Raising an additional $157 million is as good a target as any.

But rather than continuing a “more of the same” policy, it’s time to launch a serious effort to identify an educational investment strategy, a series of new initiatives to connect schools to the knowledge, skills and attitudes that all Maine children will need to build and live successful lives in an increasingly different and vastly more complicated world than the one that created our current education funding system.

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

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Kathleen Parker: White-tie dinner shows why so many prefer Trump to Clinton Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 If Beltway insiders and other East Coast elites ever wondered why so many Americans prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, all they need do is watch a rerun of last Thursday’s 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

There they were in their finery, A-listers from the once-cherished institutions of church, state and the Fourth Estate – including the two aforementioned major-party presidential candidates; Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the evening’s host; and, hardly least, Maria Bartiromo’s candy apple red dress, long sparkling earrings and elbow-length gloves.

Oh, but the delectable humor, jarring jokes and quivering quips – the titters they brought to bleached smiles and knowing nods – and all for the good of disadvantaged children for whom the dinner raised $6 million. What could be better than dining with a few close friends, amusing oneself as the future president and the inevitable loser trade insults, as millions of viewers remember why they hate Washington?

Homage also was paid to the dinner’s namesake, Al Smith, the first Catholic to run for president of the United States and at a time (the 1920s) when Catholics were viewed as Satan’s spawn by people such as Trump’s own father – who took part in a Ku Klux Klan-sponsored, anti-Catholic rally, as Washington Post political writer Philip Bump has documented.

God bless America, how far we’ve come.

But not really, as Trump came to remind the boo-and-hisser crowd. As though he cared. And, as though all the deplorables and Trump sympathizers watching at home weren’t perfectly delighted by Trump’s performance.

To them, the dais was a diorama of self-congratulatory elites, smugly tittering at insider humor and then, suddenly, betraying white-tie outrage at their redneck Gatsby, who hocked up his couth and hurled it into the nearest vat of Dom Perignon.

The dinner is supposed to be a gentle roast at which political foes parry a bit but always with rubber rapiers. Attendees faithfully present themselves as priests and priestesses of the Highest Order of Civility, Good Humor & Charitable Hearts. A good time is supposed to be had by all.

Trump knows the rules, all right, and even mentioned that he’d been attending the dinner for years, beginning when he was a young man accompanying his father. But being Trump means never playing by the rules.

He began his remarks well enough, looking comfortable in a formal environment bloated with swells. But Trump carries within him a little bit of Gollum mixed with a touch of Truman Capote.

Like Gollum, he loathes what he loves and can’t resist sabotaging himself. Like Capote, he turns on his own. If Capote alienated all his “swans,” the belles of Upper East Side New York, by betraying their confidences in “La Cote Basque, 1965,” Trump betrayed the hopes of his powerful and wealthy colleagues that he could be trusted to behave.

Some of his jokes were very funny: “After listening to Hillary rattle on and on and on, I don’t think so badly of Rosie O’Donnell anymore,” he said. When Clinton took her turn, she jabbed back with: “And looking back, I’ve had to listen to Donald for three full debates, and he says I don’t have any stamina!”

But about midway through, Trump’s lightness turned dark.

“Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said of Clinton, who was seated next to Dolan. (Boos.) Trump was referring to the WikiLeaks email in which an exchange among Clinton campaign staffers seemed to be condescending to Catholics.

He earned more boos when he said Clinton was so corrupt that she’d been kicked off the Watergate Committee. And, “She knows a lot about how government works. And according to her sworn testimony, Hillary has forgotten more things than most of us will ever, ever, ever know.”

Reading over the transcript, the jokes don’t seem so bad – or so good. Delivery really is everything. But watching the speeches in real time, Trump’s cuts contained a palpable hint of malice that wasn’t present in Clinton’s.

To the booing select, Trump’s performance was the final nail in his coffin. But to the great “unwashed,” you can be sure, Trump was doing his job and sticking it to the elites, which is what tens of millions of Americans deeply yearn to do.

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

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Maine Voices: Let’s hope World Series winner avoids arrogance of Red Sox, Yankees Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CUMBERLAND — The World Series begins Tuesday night, and baseball fans in a major Midwestern city are awfully excited. The Cleveland Indians haven’t been Major League Baseball’s champions since 1948, when they won a quintet of post-season games in an eight-day span.

Things have changed radically since then: Their one-game playoff win over the Boston Red Sox that year took 2 hours and 24 minutes to play, and their four World Series triumphs over the Boston Braves lasted (in order) 2 hours and 14 minutes, an hour and 36 minutes, an hour and 31 minutes, and 2 hours and 16 minutes.

That’s an average game time for those five contests of exactly two hours, which is about as long as it takes to play five commercially polluted, pitching change-fraught innings of just about any televised game these days.

However, despite Cleveland’s nearly seven-decade stretch without a World Series title, America hasn’t embraced the Tribe as lovable, long-overdue underdogs in this year’s Fall Classic because their opponents, the Chicago Cubs, are even more victory-starved.

The Second City North Siders last won the series in 1908. That was the same year that a 46th star was added to the U.S. flag (representing the state of Oklahoma), Henry Ford produced his first Model T automobile and women couldn’t vote in the November presidential election (or any other elections, for that matter).

Even the terminally hard-hearted must concede that 108 years between championships is a long drought, so it’s no wonder much of America has embraced the suddenly formidable Chicagoans. But giddy Cub fans should proceed with caution.

Not long ago, another large group of avid baseball fans was championship-starved. As the 21st century began, the Boston Red Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1918. But even more galling to New England baseball enthusiasts was the success of their team’s arch-rivals, the perennially snooty New York Yankees.

The only emotion even close to the limitless devotion that Sox fans had for their team was antipathy for the haughty, perennially successful (26 titles) Bronx Bombers and their arrogant and entitled followers. Not only were the despicable New Yorkers perpetually obnoxious winners, but the contemptible manner in which they obtained their titles, outbidding every other team for the game’s top talent just because they could, truly stuck in Boston’s collective craw.

Then came the magic autumn of 2004, when the Sox stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to eliminate the hated Yankees in the American League Championship Series, then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight World Series contests, ending their 86-year title drought.

Demons exorcised, the team rapidly won two more titles, in 2007 and 2013, and contended for several others.

But new and deep-pocketed ownership began overpaying already-wealthy mercenaries every bit as rashly as their New York rivals ever did. A top Sox pitcher-pundit who fancied himself an entrepreneur defaulted on a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island, later getting fired from a cushy sportscasting gig for issuing more insensitive and inappropriate sound bites and tweets than anyone not currently running for president.

And the two best hitters on Boston’s 2004 and 2007 championship teams tested positive for banned substances, causing speculation that the team’s powerful offense was at least partially fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

This year’s Sox improved by 15 wins over 2015, jumping from last place to first in the process. But less than 24 hours after their elimination from the American League playoffs, much of the team’s rabid fan base, egged on by agitators masquerading as columnists and bloviating talk radio hosts, shrilly demanded the ouster of the team’s manager.

Winning that elusive championship in 2004 ended 86 years of frustration in New England. But it also helped turn once-cuddly Red Sox Nation into the Evil Empire North. These days, the only discernible difference between fanatical Boston rooters and foaming Yankee fans are the accents.

No one outside New England currently considers the Red Sox underdogs, or even remotely lovable. Everyone, it seems, hates a too-frequent winner.

Good luck to the Chicagoans in their efforts to break a 108-year title-less streak. But Cub fans should be careful what they wish for.

They just might get it.

Correction: This story was updated at 10:44 a.m. on Oct. 25, 2016 to correct a reference to the Second City North Siders.

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Our View: Catching the signs could save people from overdosing Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Devon Higgins started using drugs as a teenager who struggled with attention deficit disorder, anxiety and depression.

“He told me once that he immediately loved oxy (the synthetic opioid oxycodone) because he didn’t have any pain,” Higgins’ sister Jaime Higgins told the Portland Press Herald. Last month, she got the call that her brother was dead, killed by an overdose before reaching his 30th birthday.

Devon Higgins’ death is far from unique. There were 272 drug overdose deaths in Maine last year, and that record is likely to be eclipsed in 2016. Like Higgins, many of these casualties had family members who cared about them and tried desperately to get them into treatment. In Higgins’ case, his sister is the coordinator of Operation Hope, the Scarborough Police Department’s effort to get addicts into treatment, and he was a successful graduate of Drug Treatment Court, thriving under the strict supervision the program offered.

Sadly, the help came too late. The time for intervention may have been long before he ever started.

Researchers in Canada have identified four traits that put young people at risk of addiction. They are sensation-seeking, impulsiveness, anxiety sensitivity and hopelessness.

Young people like Higgins could be struggling with one or more of these factors before they start to display symptoms that lead to diagnoses like ADD or depression in their teenage years. With the right intervention, they could learn to manage their conditions before finding a substance that makes all their pain disappear.

A new program called Preventure has been tested in Europe, Canada and Japan and has shown dramatic results. Instead of offering blanket statements like “Just say no” to discourage all children from getting involved in drugs, they identify the traits that put students at risk and involve them in workshops designed to work on their vulnerabilities. In early testing, researchers believe that they can identify up to 90 percent of the students at highest risk, and can prevent many of them from becoming addicted at a young and vulnerable age.

Maine’s opioid epidemic is a stubborn problem that does not lend itself to easy answers. Law enforcement is necessary to disrupt the supply of drugs, and access to treatment is essential to save the lives of the people who become addicted. But early intervention programs that prevent potential addicts from ever using in the first place may be the most important piece of an effective drug policy.

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Another View: Legalizing cannabis would put Maine on shaky moral ground Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It seems that, in this debate, the morality of legalizing and taxing marijuana was overlooked. Proponents may point at the hypocrisy of penalizing pot, while taxing alcohol and tobacco, but this is a false analogy to a morally problematic policy.

In the case of tobacco, we tax it as a disincentive to its use, not as a way to fund public services. If our only means to fund government is to inebriate the population and then tax their intoxication, then we are surely living in a failed state.

If the campaign succeeds, why stop at pot? Will initiatives to legalize psilocybin mushrooms or peyote cactus be next? LSD precursors can be easily extracted from the seeds of common plants. Should these also be packaged into candies and sweets?

As if our nation’s heroin epidemic and fascination with prescription medications weren’t enough, at what point do we become a population so addled by drugs that our society stops functioning?

This is terrible public policy.

We can take meaningful action without creating a pot free-for-all.

We need more job training and social engagement programs. Give people tools to build purposeful lives and they won’t need to escape into mind-bending drugs.

These would be moral, social and financial victories – victories that do not force the state to expand its role in promoting the public’s inebriation.

This issue demands action, but Question 1 isn’t the path. Our inaction allowed predatory, out-of-state companies to shape our values for us.

We need to deny the profiteers their revenues at our expense. We must challenge our legislators to create policy that corrects the failures of the past, recognizes the realities of the present, and sets a course of moral leadership for Maine’s future.

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Our View: UMaine System graduate study center would help economy grow Mon, 24 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For a while, Maine’s “one university” concept sounded like a nicer way of saying “budget cuts.”

For two painful years, it was the rationale behind the consolidation and elimination of programs needed to close a deficit in the operating budget in a time of declining enrollments. It was especially acute at the University of Southern Maine in Portland and Gorham, where the bulk of the cuts were made.

Now we are seeing the first real sign that “one university” can mean more than just cuts. It can also mean growth in new and exciting ways.

Last week, the public got a look at the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies, a developing idea to combine new investment with existing resources to deliver services that would not otherwise exist. The center would combine business, law and public policy graduate schools into a single entity, where students could do combined degrees and work on interdisciplinary projects, not only in academic settings but also in real-world collaborations with Maine businesses.

The program would get off the ground as soon as next fall, with a combined master’s in business administration program, involving faculty and students in both Portland and Orono. Eventually, the programs would be housed in a new building in Portland that would include space for conferences and facilities to help start new businesses as well as give startups what they need to grow.

If successful, this could be a catalyst for economic development in Maine that the state desperately needs. The state is aging fast, ushering more of its residents into retirement than it graduates from high schools.

Despite being a desirable place to live, Maine has not been able to fight that demographic trend because it does not have the kind of jobs that would attract younger people to move here and start their careers. And that is in part because businesses looking to move here or expand can’t rely on an educated labor pool, creating a chicken-and-egg spiral that keeps our economy stagnant while it grows elsewhere.

The exciting thing about the Maine Center is that it attacks the problem from several angles at once. The combined degree programs would attract young people to the state, and helping them develop relationships with local businesses while they are in school makes it more likely that they would choose to stay after graduation. And involving faculty and students in helping solve problems for real businesses will spur their growth, just the way the land grant colleges supported development of agriculture in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Now that the cutting has been done, this is the kind of growth of the university system that could benefit all Mainers, even if they are not planning to sign up for classes. We are looking forward to seeing this new institution take shape.

]]> 10, 23 Oct 2016 18:26:55 +0000
Letter to the editor: Pot’s not a gateway drug and can be regulated Mon, 24 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As a mother, I understand the fears about legalizing marijuana. Parents want the best for our children. We worry about addiction. But research unfailingly has shown that most users of hard drugs start with alcohol or tobacco, not cannabis. And marijuana has never caused a single death, unlike opiates or alcohol.

Parents worry about teen use. Question 1 will better protect our kids, who, everyone agrees, should not use marijuana.

From other states, we know Maine teens won’t use more marijuana if we vote “yes” on Question 1. In addition, black-market dealers do not check IDs and do not test their products, putting our kids at risk

Maine can create a legal, regulated market for adults that tests and labels products for safety, conforms to marketing restrictions, requires child-proof packaging, sells only to adults and is accountable to us.

Tammie Snow


]]> 12 Sat, 22 Oct 2016 16:21:06 +0000
Another View: Nemitz overly optimistic about validity of Maine elections Mon, 24 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Citing the small number of cases of voter impersonation as proof that the elections are legitimate, as columnist Bill Nemitz claims (“No grave concerns about integrity of Maine’s upcoming election,” Oct. 20), is like saying that since hardly anyone is injured by waving sparklers, fireworks are safe for children – a bogus conclusion.

The reason voter impersonation is used is that the focus is wanted there, rather than on the real reason for the possibility of election fraud – voting machines that can be hacked into and leave no paper ballots for a possible recount.

This is why over 60 countries, from France to Finland, have outlawed these machines and have gone back to paper ballots.

In the face of this overwhelmingly negative view of these machines, why is America still using them?

]]> 6 Sun, 23 Oct 2016 18:25:24 +0000
Maine Voices: For these restaurateurs, raising minimum wage is the decent thing to do Mon, 24 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When my wife and I opened Vena’s Fizz House, an Old Port bar and restaurant, in 2013, we made each other a promise: We promised that we would pay our bartenders and servers a fair wage, instead of the current sub-minimum wage for tipped workers of $3.75.

We made this pledge for a couple of reasons: first, we have both worked in the restaurant industry for many years before we became teachers, so we understood the precarious and stressful nature of relying on tips for income.

Second, we strongly believe in the simple fact that if you pay a decent wage, you will retain employees who will feel valued, work harder, be more invested and, ultimately, save you time and money.

As former teachers who taught for nearly two decades each, we know exactly how it feels to work hard, love what you do, but never be paid fairly for your investment in your work. We knew that if we were going to ask our employees to invest their time and energy in our business, we would have to invest in them.

Our soda-makers, bartenders and servers – traditionally tipped positions – all start with a base wage of $9 per hour, and every employee has the opportunity to move up through the ranks. Our head bartender has been with us for about 19 months and already earns $11 per hour plus tips. And we will happily raise our employees’ starting wage to $12 and beyond as the state minimum wage increases.

We hope you will join us in supporting Yes on Question 4 on Nov. 8. It would raise the statewide minimum wage from the current $7.50 an hour to $9 next year and then by $1 per year until it reaches $12 in 2020.

More importantly for our industry, it would raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers from the current $3.75 to $12 by 2024. Going forward, the minimum wage would increase along with the increase in the price of goods.

One Fair Wage – where all working people are guaranteed the same minimum wage by their employer – is in place in seven states, and the restaurant industries are thriving there. So is tipping.

Some of the greatest eating cities in this country, places like San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas, have One Fair Wage, as do rural states like Montana and Alaska. All the data suggest we can have a fair wage system and great, thriving restaurants. The National Restaurant Association’s own projections say the seven states with One Fair Wage will have stronger restaurant industry growth in the years to come than the national average.

All of my employees know they will always make at least the true minimum wage hourly, so their tips – the value of which has not changed with a higher base wage – are truly a gratuity to supplement fair pay. The servers, bartenders and soda-makers all readily share their tips after each shift, instead of fighting for tables and customers, because they know when they work together, they will all do better and things will run more smoothly.

Vena’s Fizz House is a relatively new addition to the Old Port – we opened just over three years ago – but we have quickly gained a reputation for our attention to detail and personalized service. My wife and I are extremely proud to have been featured in Food & Wine magazine, as well as to have been recognized by The Food Network’s Alton Brown as one of his Top 8 list of national stops and by the Portland Food Map.

None of that would have been possible, however, without the support and dedication of our staff. They are the faces of our business and the reason why we have grown so quickly.

We’re excited that this referendum will mean we are no longer putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage in order to provide our employees with a fair wage.

How can we expect to retain the amazing talent in this city’s restaurant industry when we continually tell them they are worth less than those working in other professions? How can we continue to penalize our tipped employees – in Maine, 82 percent of whom are women – for choosing to work in our vibrant and thriving restaurant industry?

When we were teachers, we both supplemented our income with jobs in restaurants and retail and were subject to the subpar wages and subpar treatment from customers that come with making such a low wage. We hope you will join us and the owners of over 600 other Maine small businesses in voting Yes on Question 4.


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Bill Nemitz: A personal ode to the Best Dog Ever Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It was, among daily life’s many rituals, my favorite.

I’d pull into the driveway at the end of a long day.

Fairbanks, the Best Dog Ever, would jump up and stand by the porch steps, his face one big smile, his tail wagging like there was no tomorrow.

I’d come down the walk, stop in my tracks and say, “C’mon, Banks!”

Bolting down the steps, he’d sprint directly toward me, veering off at the last second into a wide circle – past the miniature Japanese maple, out to the driveway, around through the hostas and back up onto the porch, where he’d crouch like a coiled spring, tongue out, tail still wagging …

“C’mon, Banks!” I’d repeat. And we’d do it all over again … and again … and again …

I thought about those glorious homecomings with tears in my eyes Monday as I lifted Fairbanks up from the driveway and onto the towels my wife, Andrea, had spread across the back of the car.

His eyes clouded by cataracts, his hearing all but gone, his fluffy tail motionless between his arthritic hind legs, Bankster looked back up at me and, I swear, one last time he smiled.

He came into our lives 13 years ago, rescued at the last minute from a kill shelter in Alabama by The Golden Retriever Rescue Lifeline and trucked all the way to Maine along with more than a dozen other equally lucky pups.

I’d just written about the good people who run the rescue program, and Andy and I went to the park-and-ride lot in Biddeford to watch the offloading.

It was love at first sight. Fairbanks came down the ramp and sidled up next to Andy, who melted on the spot.

The next thing I knew, I was writing a check for the adoption fee. And just like that, all of our lives took a turn for the better.

If you’ve never had a dog, you may not get how a non-human can become part of a family. If you have, then perhaps you’ll understand.

Fairbanks was more than just a friendly dog. He was, to us and to so many who crossed his path over his long life, an actual friend.

Some might remember when I last wrote about him just over four years ago.

Back when he was a local celebrity.

Andy managed an upscale clothing boutique on Middle Street at the time and, rather than leave Bankster alone at home all day, she began bringing him to work.

Sitting there in the display window, at eye level with whoever passed by, he proudly served for more than a year as the Old Port’s therapy dog. To this day, people tell us how their daily “Fairbanks fix” made their workaday lives a little less wearisome, their burdens a little bit lighter.

“So handsome,” wrote one of many admirers on his “Friends of Fairbanks” Facebook page. “You light up my workday. Thanks, Fairbanks.”

Andy eventually changed jobs and, alas, Fairbanks lost his window on the world. His fans were crushed.

Still, life went on. We adopted another rescue dog, Sofie, to keep Bankster company during the day. And we tried mightily not to notice time’s inevitable advance.

His end-of-the-day welcomes slowed from four loops around the driveway to three, then two, then one … until finally he stayed put on the porch and gamely waved with his tail.

He slept more and, when he did play, moved more gingerly. His 4-mile walks shrank steadily until anything over a half-mile was likely to leave him lame for a day or two.

His facial hair turned gray.

But his spirit, dare I say his love, never wavered.

Last year, as I spent most of my time sick in bed, Fairbanks sensed something was wrong. Tail wagging, he’d stare into my eyes for what seemed like hours, as if to say, “We’ve got this. Things will get better.”

And they did. At least for me.

They say golden retrievers have an average lifespan of 11 or 12 years. Yet even as Fairbanks limped past 14, Andrea and I had trouble accepting that this gift, this once-scrawny little guy with the outsized grin, could ever stop warming the world around him.

But as we Googled “dog end of life” and scanned all the checklists on “when to know it’s time,” the evidence slowly mounted: Night wandering? Check. Loss of vision and hearing? Check. Inability to climb stairs? Check. Increasing incontinence? Check. Weight loss? Check …

Then it was Monday. From the moment we awoke, the 3:15 p.m. veterinarian appointment hung heavy over the day until finally, as the clock hit 3, I took a deep breath, hooked the leash onto Fairbanks’ collar and said, my own throat tightening, “C’mon, Banks. Time to go.”

Our veterinarian could not have been kinder. She examined Fairbanks, asked us about this and that, and gently assured us that, yes, we were making the right decision.

Upon hearing the words, I suddenly felt panicky. I wanted to scoop him up, run out to the car and make a beeline for home, where everything would be perfect again and Bankster would run to his heart’s content.

Instead, I held his front paw and watched as the vet administered the sedative and left us all alone for a few minutes.

Our tears flowing freely, Andy and I hugged and petted the dog of our dreams. Then he kissed us each on the chin one last time, lay down and, ever so slowly, drifted off to sleep.

Only then did I realize I still had my slippers on.

Only as I got in the car and closed the door did I fully grasp how attached we’d become to that furry bundle of pure, unadulterated friendship.

Only now, as Sofie and I sit here amid the silence, do I appreciate how much a dog can fill an old house – and beyond – with his simple presence.

Time surely will heal all of that.

Still, as I look over at the corner of the living room and spot a Fairbanks fur ball hiding in the shadow, I’d give anything for one more sunny afternoon, one more welcome home, one more wag of that brilliant tail.

Goodbye, Bankster. May you run in peace.


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Maine Voices: A call to resist ‘toxic masculinity’ Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WATERVILLE — It’s hard to find much good in the news these days when it comes to men. The release of the “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush; the growing number of allegations that Trump kissed, groped and otherwise assaulted women; and Trump’s lame it’s “just words,” nothing more than “locker room talk” defense have all put contemporary masculinity in the crosshairs.

A number of commentators have highlighted Trump’s “toxic masculinity” and suggested that in its hyper-macho posturing, bullying and lack of empathy for others, it masks an underlying fear and anxiety of not measuring up, of being inadequate, of losing control. Others have noted the “precarious masculinity” of Trump’s white working-class male supporters, and suggest that many men see in Trump and his talk of male dominance and success someone who can restore their lost power and status.

White working-class men are suffering, economically, socially and physically. And so it is understandable that these men would identify with Trump, desperately hoping that he will save them from their despair.

But what about other men, men with power, privilege and prestige, men like Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pence, Jimmy Fallon, Matt Lauer and Billy Bush, who have happily served, in public and in private, as “beta boys” to Trump’s “alpha male”? Why are they falling all over themselves to serve him, to defend him, to treat him gently, even playfully, to laugh at his crude comments?

The answer to this question takes us back to “toxic masculinity,” and to the fear and shame and self-silencing that those of us who identify as men learn at a very young age that other boys and men will judge us as inadequate, weak, cowardly, “soft” and “feminine” if we don’t suck it up and play along.

Yet, in spite of all the Trump-inspired bad news about men and masculinity, there is, thankfully, some good news, too.

First of all, it’s good news that so many men spoke up and spoke out in response to the Bush-Trump video. From politicians like President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, to celebrities and media figures, to academics, to a whole host of professional athletes, there has been a chorus of condemnation directed against the notion that the Bush-Trump conversation is typical of “locker room talk,” and and against the assumption that nonconsensual physical contact is acceptable.

In addition, organizations that promote healthy masculinity and work with boys and men to reduce the incidence of sexual assault, like Mentors in Violence Prevention, A Call to Men and Maine’s own Boys to Men, continue their critically important efforts.

Second, there is mounting evidence that respectful, equitable, nonviolent and emotionally adept forms and expressions of masculinity are not only possible, but also lead to positive outcomes for boys and men, educationally, physically, psychologically and socially.

For example, psychologists Carlos Santos, Niobe Way and their colleagues have found that middle-school boys who resist conventional hypermasculine norms are more engaged in school, remain in closer, more emotionally supportive relationships with their mothers, siblings and friends, and exhibit fewer depressive symptoms than boys who do not resist.

My students and I are finding similar things as we talk to young men at Colby College who embody forms of healthy masculinity – young men like 2012 graduate Eric Barthold, 2014 graduate John Kalin and 2016 graduate Chris Millman, who are leaders in sexual violence prevention and social justice efforts on campus, young men who are scholars and athletes and musicians and mentors to children in the community, young men who resist the pressures to be “beta boys,” and who have the courage to stand up and speak out about misogyny, sexual violence, homophobia and racism on campus.

Talking to these young men is helping us to understand the complex contours of what we have come to think of as healthy masculinities, as well as to chart the developmental and educational conditions and experiences that enable some young men, like our informants, to grow up to be good and just human beings.

The path from boyhood to healthy manhood isn’t easy. It’s full of challenges, pitfalls, stops and starts. Resisting the toxic masculinity of the Trumps of the world can sometimes be very dangerous, and even life-threatening.

But in these difficult days, when masculinity seems to be on trial at every turn, it’s important to know that Trump and his kind don’t speak for all men, and to have faith that better men will prevail in the end.

]]> 10, 22 Oct 2016 16:42:10 +0000
Maine Observer: Catch a falling leaf, just for fun Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 While most people enjoy the fiery palette of fall foliage, and many enjoy tracing, with their eyes, the dipsy-doodle paths of falling leaves, only a few are members of the Leaf Catchers Club.

To be a card-carrying member (more on that later), you must catch a leaf after it falls from a tree and before it hits the ground. It’s not that easy, and the almost constant Maine wind makes it harder.

The purpose of the Leaf Catchers Club I founded in my high school is to encourage fun, laughter and smiles. Get outdoors. Breathe in and enjoy the landscape. Reactivate the child within. The club is a “student organization,” but many teachers, coaches and parents have also joined.

I keep a poster in my classroom. Club members bring their leaves in, tape them to the poster and sign their names. It’s based on trust, which is why “integrity” is added to our motto of “speed and dexterity.” October is the only leaf-catching membership month.

I don’t remember how or why I started encouraging leaf catching, but now I know I continue the club, in part, for those teenage students who never seem to smile. Most of them, in my experience, have been girls.

I teach in extremely rural Maine where tall, leafy trees are plentiful. Sometimes we study haiku poetry, a Japanese genre often rich in natural imagery. Then we go outdoors to be inspired by nature and to write … almost always in October. I mention the club, and the students take it from there. If you’ve ever seen the beaming face of a young fisherman with a just-caught fish, you’ve seen the face of a leaf catcher.

My favorite memory is of one of those unsmiling, tough-luck teenagers locked onto the trunk of a 15-foot maple, shaking a few leaves loose. Then she and a similarly impassive friend ran in circles, laughing crazily before falling, all smiles, to the leafy ground.

During the annual meeting, I welcome all club members by shaking their hands with the secret handshake. It’s silly – that’s the point. Membership cards, also silly, quote Byron: “West wind … Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! / One too like thee: tameless, and swift, / And proud.” I serve maple-flavored, maple leaf-shaped cookies. Our motto is “Carpe folio” (“Seize the leaf”).

Be careful as you go after your leaf. As you look up, your feet are left on their own below. You might twist an ankle or run into something. However, in over 15 years of leaf-catching clubs, no one has reported an injury.

There’s nothing wrong with passively taking in Maine’s fall foliage. But hundreds of proud, smiling leaf catchers, with color in their cheeks, are worth emulating. When’s the last time you had a chance to pirouette in the crisp fall air while something fell from heaven into your waiting hands?

]]> 0 Sat, 22 Oct 2016 16:34:59 +0000
Our View: Vote Emily Cain in 2nd District to make Congress work again Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, has, through his energetic style and prodigious fundraising, earned attention in a way not often seen for a first-term congressman. But he has also sided regularly with the House Republicans whose obstructionism gives Congress its bad name, and whose efforts are largely centered on repealing the significant gains of the Obama administration.

For those reasons, and for Democrat Emily Cain’s solid legislative record and firm grasp of the federal issues facing Maine, we are endorsing Cain in the Nov. 8 election. She was an effective legislator, and she has been an energetic campaigner, too, reaching out to Mainers throughout the 2nd Congressional District and showing an ability to connect warmly and empathetically with voters of all backgrounds and political leanings, traits that will serve her well as a congresswoman.

Poliquin has had some admirable victories. He brought to the finish line the effort to have athletic footwear covered under the Berry Amendment, which will ensure American-made sneakers are bought by the military, a boon to Maine’s New Balance employees. Along with the the rest of the state’s congressional delegation, he successfully stood up to Sweden’s proposal to ban Maine lobsters from the European Union, saving $200 million in annual exports.

But he has also, time and again, sided with the tea-party caucus against important issues related to health care, national security, and civil and worker rights.


Poliquin was one of seven Republicans in the U.S. House to change votes to defeat a measure aimed at upholding President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees by religious organizations that contract with the federal government. He also voted to repeal long-overdue changes to the rules governing overtime that were allowing companies to exploit workers.

Poliquin was part of a party-line vote to permanently bar federal funding for abortion, and though he voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, he is only waiting for a Republican-approved alternative to surface.

Based on the ideas coming out of the party, we have no confidence that a Republican alternative would fix the ACA in a way that will preserve its best features, nor does it seem plausible that Poliquin will work with Democrats to improve the ACA in the way that is necessary.

Poliquin is also opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, which we believe made the world safer by slowing the ability of Iran to make nuclear materials and increasing monitoring. It was the most realistic way to bring the international community together on the issue, and it should stay, against the wishes of the many Republicans.

Finally, Poliquin is adamantly opposed to the new national monument near Millinocket, which we feel is an exciting development for the region, particularly if it is a step toward a national park.

Cain, meanwhile, is on the right side of all those issues. She backs LGBT and worker rights. She supports fine-tuning the ACA and protecting access to health care, including a women’s right to an abortion. And unlike Poliquin, she would be part of a caucus that supports full funding for Social Security and maintaining Medicare in its current form, not replacing it with a voucher system.

In addition, she backs the Iran deal, and though her stance on the national monument has been somewhat tortured, she is ultimately supportive.


Cain also said she would also angle for a committee spot advantageous to Maine, such as the Agriculture Committee. Poliquin is on the Financial Services Committee, which fits his Wall Street background but does little to directly impact the state.

Cain, whose experience in the Maine Legislature as a leader for both the majority and minority party would certainly benefit her in Congress, has been open and forthright about her positions on these issues throughout the campaign.

That’s in direct contrast to Poliquin, who has frequently dodged questions, particularly those related to his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

It is troubling that Poliquin refuses to say publicly whether he supports Trump, even as Trump has made the 2nd District a focus of his campaign. Trump has exhibited character flaws and a dearth of policy knowledge unprecedented among modern major-party candidates, and Maine residents deserve to hear what the congressman thinks.

Based on that lack of response as well as his political experience, there is little hope that Poliquin would work with a President Hillary Clinton. Nor would he push back against a Freedom Caucus that would either be conducting another four years of obstructionism, or – God forbid – advancing the agenda of a President Donald Trump.

Emily Cain, on the other hand, would be another vote for maintaining and building on the advancements of the last eight years while looking out for Maine’s interests in Washington. For that, she has earned our endorsement.

]]> 30, 22 Oct 2016 17:31:45 +0000
Another View: Poliquin has good reason to oppose U.S.-Iran nuclear deal Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Gordon Adams (Maine Voices, Oct. 8) criticizes U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s position on the Iran nuclear agreement.

Here are some issues that refute Mr. Adams’ claims that the deal is a good one:

There is ample evidence for the existence of an Iranian-Russian strategic alliance with the objective of regional dominance. This has a major impact on the deal. Mr. Adams touts the uranium enrichment reductions achieved, but overlooks two potential offsets.

First, Iran can use the U.S. funds to purchase uranium from the Russians, who recently canceled a uranium reduction treaty.

Secondly, production can be relocated to Syria, entirely avoiding U.N. inspections. Russian-Iranian forces are interoperable in Syria.

Previous Iran-North Korea nuclear agreements failed. This one has further eroded enforcement by limiting sites inspected to only ones named. Unnamed and military sites are off limits.

The deal is only for 10 years, but it’s highly unlikely to last. A Russian U.N. veto will prevent the use of U.N. sanctions now and in the future.

Iran continues to test ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, in violation of other international agreements. It continues to support terrorism and call for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel.

Now, Iranian missiles have been used in Yemen to attack our U.S. Navy. It is counterintuitive to expect such a reckless and nefarious regime to abide by any agreement. Once the U.S. turned over the funds, the Iranians have absolutely no motive or incentive to abide by the deal.

I can’t think of any other way to describe someone who is so sure this is a good deal than to say that he is naïve and living in a fairy tale. We need more politicians like Rep. Poliquin, who understands that appeasing our enemies promotes more aggressive behavior, as history has shown again and again.

]]> 1 Sat, 22 Oct 2016 16:33:56 +0000
Analysis: Mainers suffering high anxiety over election Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Have you had trouble sleeping over the election? Worried you were about to be run off the road because your bumper sticker had sent someone else into a fever pitch of nastiness? Or found yourself on Facebook, steam coming out of your ears as you indignantly give what-for to that misogynist, racist creep who maybe went to high school (in another state) with someone that you met once and friended?

You are not alone. You are so far from being alone. The heinous, horrible debates are over and the gavel will come down in the case of Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump on Nov. 8. But in the meantime, what about our collective blood pressure? This can’t be good for anyone, on either side of the political fence.

Fifty-two percent of American adults reported that the election is a very significant or somewhat significant source of stress, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association released earlier this month.

Mental health professionals themselves report being disturbed, both for their patients and for themselves, by the way the presidential race has unfolded. William Doherty, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a licensed marriage and family therapist, started a manifesto in opposition to “Trumpism” (first bullet point: Trumpism “is antithetical to everything we stand for as therapists”). Over 3,000 therapists have signed it already.

Portland’s Gail Clinton, a trained psychiatrist who uses talk therapy in her practice, is one of the 10 or so Maine medical professionals who put their name to Doherty’s manifesto. Clinton (no relation to the candidate) said that in her practice, she started noticing election-related tension in her patients about six months ago.

“But it has really accelerated in the last weeks and certainly months,” Clinton said. “Even in the last week it has accelerated.” Although the APA survey found men and women to be almost equally stressed about the election, in Clinton’s practice, she said “definitely more women that I work with are upset.”

Elise Magnuson, a Portland psychologist and president of the Maine Psychological Association, agreed. Trump’s taped, gleeful boasts of sexually predatory behavior have alarmed many women and brought back deeply stressful memories of being groped, grabbed and treated as prey.

“I do think that this is very relevant for a lot of women,” Magnuson said. “Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 will report receiving unwanted sexual attention by the time they reach adulthood.”

How do they cope? How should they cope?

“APA recommends remembering that the presidency is only one of the three executive branches of the government,” Magnuson said. “Other things that do commonly help is time outside, particularly in our gorgeous Maine fall. Time with friends. Journaling. Meditation. Exercise. It cures everything.”


Sharon Bearor is trying to chill, but it’s hard. She’s a registered nurse, which in theory might make the Portland resident better equipped to deal with the stressors of the 2016 presidential election. For her personally, these include three separate negative encounters on the road because of a pro-Hillary Clinton magnet on her car, including being berated by two men in a car. “I was kind of listening to music and enjoying my little space,” she said. “I started crying.”

During the debates she let the rage at Trump flow, standing right up next to the television, swearing and tweeting freely, even though, she says, she’s not an angry person by nature. “I’m peace, love, Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell,” she said. “But this guy? He makes my skin crawl.”

Duncan Newcomer, one of the signatories to the anti-Trump manifesto, is a psychotherapist and minister in Belfast.

“I think Trump has disturbed people in a really profound way by his violence and his anger and his irrationality,” Newcomer said. Among those he counsels, “people are pretty agitated. As am I.”

He has even had dreams about Trump. And for him, those would be nightmares.

Stress levels are undoubtedly high on both sides, although it proved harder to get Republicans to admit to it on the record than Democrats. When Press Herald reporters interviewed Trump supporters at his recent rally in Bangor, they spoke of being afraid of increased terrorism, should their candidate not be elected. Some supporters, like Gov. Paul LePage, picked up on Trump’s completely unsubstantiated claim that were he to lose, it would be because the election was rigged. Which of course, would send voters into a panic.

Not Adam Ratterree, who is chairing the Waldo County residents for Trump. He said he has observed some tension from others, but he is fine. Given how badly Trump is flagging in the polls, particularly after recent news items about his sexually predatory behavior, is he prepared for a Clinton presidency?

“I really don’t want to see that,” Ratterree said, serenely. “As far as my calm demeanor about it, what is going to happen is going to happen.”


Although the survey found that it didn’t matter whether respondents were Democrats or Republicans, the APA did conclude that those who use social media are more likely than those who do not to be experiencing stress (54 versus 45 percent, respectively). Sandy Johnson, a Realtor in Portland, reports that her stress level has gone down since she ditched Facebook a few months ago for political reasons.

“I was overcome with revulsion at some of the stuff I was reading,” she said. “I was off the charts. I was so angry and upset about everything.”

Of her Facebook decision she says, “It was liberating, let me tell you.”

Exercise, as psychologist Magnuson noted, is a definite balm.

“I do find working out helps some,” said David Rogers Treadwell, who regularly submits opinion pieces to the Times Record in Brunswick. He’s tried to keep his political passions from taking over his columns, but so much for what the American Psychological Association says: He’s unabashed about his liberal angst on social media. “I get out my stress by posting on Facebook,” he said. “That helps. I don’t hold back.”

Then there’s acupuncture. Beth Herzig, a licensed acupuncturist at Rocky Coast Acupuncture in South Portland, said the election “is coming up in conversation with almost everyone. People are really down about it.” There are specific treatments, including the “five-point protocol” that are “wonderful for calming the nervous system,” in general, Herzig said, although there is no specific pressure point that releases the pent-up fears of either liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans.

In the case of this particular election, it might help to be siding with neither. Matt Roy, a lifelong Republican who is running in Lewiston for an open seat in the Maine House of Representatives, is voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Both Trump and Clinton “scare me,” he said, and he knows Johnson doesn’t stand a chance of winning. (Well, he’s got hopes for Utah.) Maybe that’s why Roy is more Zen about this election than others.

“I’m sure deep down, we all have our anxieties about the future,” he said. “But everyone has anxieties about the future.”

]]> 15, 25 Oct 2016 10:46:30 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Surprising myself with my choices in the early-voting booth Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I typically vote on Election Day, but this year I voted early because I’m signed up to volunteer as a “voter protection” lawyer on Nov. 8 in the bordering battleground state of New Hampshire. I think the job will entail milling around a gymnasium or an Elks hall with a group of cheerful senior citizens, snacking on homemade brownies and making polite conversation as American democracy peacefully happens. Because there’s never been any real voter fraud, nor is there any legitimate reason to believe voter fraud will happen this year. But who knows? Maybe in some sleepy little town in the White Mountain hollows a legal controversy of national proportion will erupt and I’ll be called upon to spring into action and defend the Constitution. That would be exciting.

It certainly was exciting to vote for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States, and regular readers know why I so strongly support her candidacy. Clinton has the experience, intelligence and temperament to be the leader of the free world, and her moral compass has led her on a lifetime path of public service and fighting for justice.

Chellie Pingree is an under-appreciated, reliable workhorse for the First Congressional District, and voting for her was a no-brainer. She’s a steady, seasoned lawmaker and successful businesswoman who miraculously is able to quietly make real gains for Maine and the country as a member of the minority party in Washington. Pingree’s expertise and reputation around food, sustainability and economic issues adds real value to her seat in Congress, and she has helped veterans all over in substantial and meaningful ways.

As to Question 1, the legalization and regulation of marijuana, I surprised myself and voted no. This in spite of my strong support of medical marijuana and innate belief that recreational use should be legal. Alysia Melnick, the political director for the Yes on 1 campaign, won me over in the debates, but then Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, and District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, a Republican, came out opposing the bill and I got spooked. Feeling guilty for not reading the language of the legislation, on top of my lingering questions about how this new industry can be effectively regulated when federal banks refuse to transact business with marijuana businesses, jerked me to a no vote.

More surprising than my vote on Question 1 was my spontaneous rejection of the very heartfelt advice I often give others about voting, and that’s if you don’t comfortably know the candidate or the issue, skip it and leave it blank and vote for what you do know. Look at Brexit, the vote in England to leave the European Union. More than half of the voters supported it in large part only because they were pissed off at the government about immigration and a lagging economy. Many pro-Brexit voters had no idea it would cause a complete transition of power and ex-communication from Europe. I may regret my vote on Question 1.

I also voted no on Question 2, too, even though I support the concept of raising taxes on high-income families to support public education. A big problem I have with Question 2 is Gov. Paul LePage. If the initiative passes, he will sabotage the law that springs from Question 2 because he personally hates teachers unions. I dread the drama and veto of the budget or any other law needed to pass to implement this new tax, plus I do not believe tax policy is properly done by referendum. I also have cautious optimism that a Clinton presidency will bring federal changes to the tax code that will raise money for public education, and the state should follow.

I voted yes on Question 3 because a person on a no-fly list due to suspected terrorism or who beats kids and tortures animals should not be able to buy an assault weapon willy-nilly from Uncle Henry’s list or at the Cumberland County Gun Show. Warnings that a background check is the first step down a slippery slope of big government taking away guns and repealing the Second Amendment is the biggest crock of beans since Y2K.

I voted yes on Question 4, the bill that seeks to raise the minimum wage gradually to $12 an hour in 2020 and, thereafter, roughly tie it to inflation, plus increase wages for restaurant workers. The current minimum wage law is a loophole being used by some companies to exploit employees who have no good alternatives. Taxpayers foot the bill for entitlement programs that low-wage workers need to make ends meet while the companies they work for pay their CEO 350 times what their average worker earns, most of them women. If a large or small business can’t afford to pay a decent wage for a hard day’s work, then the business model is flawed.

I voted yes on Question 5, the so-called ranked-choice voting bill, because the election of Lepage, twice, to the Blaine House was a travesty. His stain on Maine politics will not come out for several washings. In the meantime, Maine is the perfect place to experiment in a safe and thoughtful way with the democracy process to try and make it better. The implementation and technology challenges may cause us to reverse or change course, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.

I voted yes on Question 6, the infrastructure bond. The low interest rates we will pay on the debt coupled with the low gas-tax revenue available without it for roads, bridges, ports, airports, bicycle and pedestrian trails, makes this an easy one. We need to upgrade and maintain our infrastructure to maintain our standing in the world.

To be a volunteer lawyer on Election Day this year is good, and to have the opportunity to vote and express myself is great.

God bless America.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 25, 23 Oct 2016 14:38:40 +0000
Alan Caron: Voters united at last, over distaste for sore loser Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Donald Trump stumbled into the last debate, wounded and bleeding. It seemed impossible that he could come out in even worse shape. To do that, he had to find a trapdoor into a deeper cellar than the one he had already wandered into. He not only found it, but he promptly jumped in. And whatever chance he had to reset the trajectory of the campaign went with him.

When asked, twice, by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, if he would accept the outcome of the election, he refused to answer. Trump will now go down in history as the first major-party presidential candidate who not only proclaimed that the election was “rigged” before it happened, but who also refused to respect the outcome of the election unless he wins.

Most folks would never tolerate their kids talking or acting like that about a ball game or a test at school.

Trump did succeed in one goal, in that debate. He united the country. But the unity was against the nonsense he’s been peddling lately about “rigged” elections. We Americans will acknowledge our many faults, and no party or ideology or system, including our elections, is perfect. But the integrity of our elections has always been a deeply held and nonpartisan American value, and the foundation of our democratic system.

It is a system that has been sustained and nurtured through every challenging period and hard-fought election battle in our 240-year history. And safeguarded by states and courts, towns and cities, patriots and citizens.

The sanctity of our elections is the work of thousands of Americans, here in Maine and across the country, who maintain voter lists; organize them by precinct; check machines and pencils; prepare to greet you on Election Day at the local polling place; and work late into the night carefully counting and recounting ballots.

Many do that work for free or for a small stipend. They do it, mostly, out of a love of our democratic traditions and for the example that America sets for others in the world. They deserve our deepest gratitude.

What they don’t deserve is careless talk by self-serving politicians. Conspiracy fears run amok. The crazy blather of far right-wing radio is brought to the mainstream of the country. All by people who assume the worst in others, state their fears and suspicions as settled facts, and recklessly make sweeping charges, without a shred of evidence, against people who disagree with them.

Donald Trump should apologize to the people who run our elections, but of course he won’t. He never apologizes to anyone because, in his mind, he doesn’t make mistakes, except those that are someone else’s fault.

So let’s apologize on his behalf. When you vote on Nov. 8, take a moment to thank the people who are working at the polls. Congratulate them for getting through another grueling and stressful day.

This election has now become more than a vote for a Democrat or a Republican, as this latest controversy makes clear. It’s an opportunity for America to send a message to Washington and the world. We want change, but not senseless and mean-spirited division. We want energetic debates, but civility. We want to include people rather than exclude them. And we want co-operation to become a strength again, rather than a weakness.

Trump and Clinton have provided us with two starkly different visions of America and our future. Donald Trump offers a relentlessly negative view of an America besieged by forces beyond our control and ruled by stupid and dangerous elites. He offers the appeal of the strong man who promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington, seal the borders, expel 15 million immigrants, corral American businesses so they can’t go overseas, further reduce taxes on the rich and roll back gains for women, minorities, the environment, consumers and workers.

Hillary Clinton offers a more hopeful view of an America on the mend after a Great Recession. She calls for reining in the power of corporate America, raising taxes on those who have gained far more than everyone else in recent years, reinvesting those dollars in education and infrastructure, and continuing progress for women, minorities, gays and lesbians, climate change and working people.

Those who say that there isn’t much difference between the two parties, and that it’s hardly worth voting except as a protest, need to take a harder look at these competing visions. What kind of future we’ll have is on the ballot this year.

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

]]> 6, 22 Oct 2016 16:37:20 +0000
Port City Post: Talent for tap dancing can lead to overconfidence, bigly Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 An empty nest allows extra time for some potentially foolish decisions – like raising chickens, meditating or taking a hip-hop class, for example.

As we mature, our self-consciousness goes low as our impulsiveness goes high. We decide to do things that we might not do during our more relevant decades, like getting a tattoo or walking our dog in our pajamas.

If a friend told me that she had signed up for a tap dancing class, I’d be very polite and enthusiastic, but I would also hope that she would not go as far as inviting me to her recital. I think I’m busy that night.

It’s hard not to look upon the choice of an aging pal to start taking a tap dancing class without seeing it as just another desperate attempt to stay alive, upright and ambulating.

But here I am telling you about my decision to finally take a tap dancing class. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for years. I now own a pair of shiny-new tap shoes and a 10-class pass to Casco Bay Movers. It’s jazz hands all around, my friends.

Be happy for me because I plan on being the best tap dancer ever.

As it turns out, I am already great at tap dancing. I mean really, really great. I’m bigly and fantastic at tap dancing. I can hear an eight-count beat from a hundred miles away. Shuffle ball change step, shuffle ball change step and stomp.

I was born to tap and because of my natural ability to tap, I’m quite confident that I could also become president of the United States or have my own reality show or climb Mount Everest or become a movie star. Why not? After all, greatly begets greatly and then we become, well, terrifically terrific!

I’m already the best student in my class. And speaking of my class, it is a very good-looking group of people. I went around the room so I would know who the hell I was tapping with. There are some seriously bad senoritas in my class rocking their right to tap. If I weren’t tapping with these women, I would probably be dating them.

Tap is all about love and “love” is a fantastic word and I know words. “Love” is the greatest word ever besides “beautiful” and “strong,” of which I am both.

The beauty of me is that I believe in me and my ability to tap. Don’t feel insecure around me when you see me tap. It’s not your fault. Shuffle off to Buffalo, one two three four five six seven eight, ball change.

Nobody has more respect for tap dancing than I do. Fa-lap, fa-lap, fa-lap, one two three four five six seven eight.

And women are the best tappers ever. Nasty women are unbelievably great at tap dancing. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Tap is winning. Tap is love. Tap is nasty. Let’s all hold hands and make a big wall of sound with our tap shoes and then life will be safe, secure and goodly.

Let’s make America great again, one nasty ball change after the other. Love and tap trump hate, and I just want you to be happy.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

]]> 5, 21 Oct 2016 18:04:32 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Worry about Trump’s new role dampens glee over election finally ending Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This election is winding down, thank heaven, and barring a bombshell backstage video in which Hillary Clinton is heard talking about how she loves to stroll into a men’s room and let out a whoop and yank the waistbands of men at the urinals and yell “Snuggies!” the outcome is in sight, and finally we’ll be done with Nate Silver and Politico and RealClearPolitics and the ranting and raving on YouTube and the borderline psycho posts on Facebook by people we wish we weren’t related to, and we can get back to real life.

The bitterness of it has been exhausting. The “issues” were piffle, there was zero illumination, the election was all about hostility. The ugly billionaire nitwit versus the Babylonian anti-Christ. The Trumpites stuck with him despite his hopelessness because his candidacy gave The New York Times fits, and the Hillareans stuck with her because the alternative was him.

So here we are, loathing each other. Too bad, but we are a righteous people and we need to have someone to loathe.

Look at the English language. The words that express peaceful harmony are so few, so pale, so flaccid, while the words that express disgust, dismay, revulsion constitute a vast and delicious vocabulary. “You’ve got bubblegum for brains, you jackass, you nincompoop, you fathead. You are so average, did you eat dumb flakes for breakfast?” – it goes on and on and on.

Shakespeare is loaded with insults from our rich Anglo-Saxon heritage. It’s a language for people who don’t like each other. You want harmony, go talk Sanskrit.

So here we are, bilious and consternated, and in three weeks, it all comes to an end. Apparently, Mr. Trump will not call up Hillary on election night and offer her congratulations. He may file a lawsuit instead. His followers will be encouraged to believe that the election was rigged by Wall Street hedge fund managers in cahoots with the vaccine industry, followers of Saul Alinsky and aliens living in Roswell, New Mexico, but whatever – it will be over.

The shouting will die down. The “Lock her up” T-shirts will go into the bottom drawer. Families will gather for Thanksgiving and bite their tongues and avoid eye contact. There will be Christmas. The inauguration will take place, and Barack and Michelle and the girls will go to their new home and get out the Scrabble board and pop a kettle of popcorn. And next spring, the 2020 campaign will begin.

I worry about Donald Trump. What is he going to do? He has damaged his brand. The steaks, ties, home furnishings, fragrances, whiskey, resorts, condos, golf club memberships – when you associate yourself with white supremacy, male chauvinism and invincible ignorance, this is not smart marketing.

He can’t go back to the tower. Manhattan is about 83 percent Democratic. Why live among people who don’t appreciate you and ride around in a black limo with smoked-glass windows through crowds of pedestrians giving you the finger? It’s no way to live.

Does the man have friends? Or only associates? This is the big question. Is Sean really and truly his friend? Or Howard? Or Rudy? Do they go out for lunch and tell jokes about the two blondes who went to the drive-in theater in February to see “Closed for the Season”? I doubt this.

He should pick up his traps and move to Nebraska. He is leading in Nebraska, about 2-to-1. There are wonderful warmhearted people there who love and admire him, so he would fit right in. Look at Broken Bow, a town of 4,000 on Highway 2 in Custer County. He could get a nice 3BR there for $150K. There’s a municipal airport, a hospital. The restaurants are good if you like beef. You can play golf from May through September and after that you can use a fluorescent orange ball and play in the snow.

He’d be far away from The New York Times. He could make Broken Bow great, put marble floors and walls in the public school, put up a marble statue of George Armstrong Custer. He could attend a good evangelical church every Sunday and go to Bible reading Wednesday night, where maybe he can learn more about those two Corinthians.

He’d need to be careful about touching women suddenly without permission, though, because many of them are armed. If he grabbed one, she might cut him to ribbons. Even if she were a Christian.

]]> 3, 21 Oct 2016 18:07:23 +0000
We could all breathe easier by reducing greenhouse gas emissions Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When my son was young, his asthma affected his ability to play, especially on hot and humid days. It always broke my heart to have to make him slow down and even to stop playing.

Here in Maine, on the tailpipe of the U.S., we know that air quality is important to our health. We have an opportunity through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a mandatory market-based program that works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector – to support a 5 percent emissions cap that will reduce exposures to air pollution and help slow the progression of climate change that also threatens our health.

The RGGI cap on carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) represents a regional budget for carbon emissions from the power sector in the nine participating states. Strengthening the emissions cap from 2.5 percent to a 5 percent reduction in emissions per year, starting in 2021, will build on RGGI’s previous success and ensure that Maine is doing its part to clean up air pollution and protect health well into the future.

Maine residents, no matter where in the state they live, are and will be affected greatly by increased asthma and respiratory illness, heart attack and stroke as a result of air pollution and climate change. Reducing carbon emissions through RGGI reduces the rate of climate change, improves the health of millions of Americans by clearing the air of toxic co-pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides, ozone and particulate matter and even returns economy-boosting dollars to our state. It’s a win-win-win.

When we reduce carbon emissions in the electric sector, harmful air pollution declines. Our kiddos with asthma can avoid scary emergency room visits; they can play safely and participate in sports outside without fear of an asthma attack.

Workers stay healthy, on the job and productive, earning the wages they need to support their families. Elders are healthier and live longer, with more time to help their adult children and enjoy their grandchildren. Taxpayers save billions on the health costs of pollution-related disease.

RGGI states, including Maine, adopted aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals to combat climate change – a 35 to 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and a 75 to 90 percent reduction by 2050. These admirable goals are essential targets that we must meet to avoid allowing Earth’s temperature to increase more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, which, scientists agree, is required to prevent severe environmental collapse.

Maine must help choose a plan for RGGI that will propel us toward these important goals. There is little time left to debate how to control climate change. We already have the information needed to be confident that a 5 percent carbon cap reduction in the RGGI program can be achieved and will produce health and economic benefits.

RGGI’s success has been valuable for Maine, producing benefits to consumers while reducing electricity demand and supporting clean renewable energy. However, the funds from auctioning allowances are only a small part of the economic bonus that the RGGI states receive for reducing emissions.

Air pollution is so deadly that the monetized health co-benefits of reducing carbon emissions are enormous, as are the indirect economic benefits of keeping students in school and workers on the job.

A recent paper in the journal Nature Climate Change quantifies the health and economic benefits that will accrue from the changes that the electric sector must make to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees. These required emissions reductions are roughly equal to an annual cap reduction in RGGI of 5 percent.

If all states reduced carbon emissions by this amount, we would see dramatic health benefits nationwide, with thousands fewer asthma attacks requiring emergency room visits in children under 18, and potentially millions of fewer missed work days. In this scenario, we could also prevent thousands of premature deaths each year.

Even the most conservative economic models show that the benefits of the emissions reductions required to meet the goals of the RGGI states are five to 10 times the costs of implementation.

RGGI is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions from the electric sector and to make the future healthier for Maine citizens. We urge the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the leadership of RGGI to seriously consider an annual cap reduction of at least 5 percent.

Families and children in our state are relying on the DEP and RGGI leadership to choose a plan that will adequately control climate change and improve public health so that no matter where we live in Maine, we can breathe easier for many years to come.

]]> 27, 21 Oct 2016 23:27:59 +0000
Another View: Global trade is here to stay – whatever politicians say Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 They say you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, but if you could, here’s how we imagine it: An American company invents the process and then outsources physical genie-stuffing to a factory in Mexico. The empty bottles are shipped in from Taiwan.

No, we’re not really thinking about genies – we’re contemplating the global economy. Once a country becomes part of the international order of things, it’s not easy or cheap to retreat to the previous way of life. Free trade and free genies are similar: Each will go its own way and pursue its best path.


The example of the moment is the United Kingdom, where British voters in June voted to leave the European Union. The decision, called Brexit, is an exercise in genie-stuffing: The process of reversing decades of economic integration is expensive and counterproductive. Warning signs are everywhere: European leaders say they’ll take a tough negotiating stance on the divorce, which has caused the British pound to plummet. Financial services firms may leave London for the continent. A leaked British government report warns that Brexit could cause a sharp decline in GDP over 15 years.

Being part of the EU is good for Britain, but as with all trade relations there are positive and negative aspects – tradeoffs, as it were, for being part of a large, single marketplace.

British voters didn’t like the fact that citizens from the continent could live and work in the U.K., potentially taking jobs from locals. They also resented the role EU bureaucrats in Brussels played in their everyday lives. Brexit passed because voters believed the argument that Britain could disentangle from Europe but keep the trade benefits of EU membership.

The problem is there are 27 member countries in the EU besides Britain, and in order to dissuade other members from breaking away, they will not make it easy for the U.K. to leave. European leaders appear determined to require that the U.K. keep its borders open for all EU citizens in exchange for unrestricted access to the continent’s market. France’s president, Francois Hollande, set off the pound’s recent plummet by saying Britain won’t be allowed to retreat to its bottle without pain. Once on its way out of the EU, Britain will be a diminished player.

The United States faces the same existential debate about global trade and integration. Donald Trump is campaigning on the promise of abrogating or renegotiating trade deals that he says are killing American factory jobs. Hillary Clinton, who once promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries, is now against it.


Yet international trade and investment already are the reality. In the global economy, companies and countries specialize in making the most valuable products they can and buying the rest. American companies manufacture sophisticated goods and American farms grow crops sold all over the world. Our genie company would be most efficient and profitable with its headquarters and R&D in the States and the assembly line in Mexico.

There is no need to reverse these economic trends, and they shouldn’t be reversed. The TPP will be good because the best way to improve the American standard of living is to support the competitiveness of American businesses. Conversely, American consumers enjoy the benefits of less expensive goods from overseas. Part of the equation is using trade deals to secure and protect new markets for American products. That’s what the TPP will do.

The folly of putting this genie back in the bottle is exemplified by Trump’s campaign promise to get Apple to bring production of the iPhone home in order to create more American jobs. Setting aside the fact that presidents don’t control business decisions, assembling iPhones in the United States isn’t going to happen.


Making the phones here would add $50 to $100 to the cost of each one, which would drive consumers to Apple’s competitors. That likely underestimates the cost by multiples, because China’s factories, with their low-cost workforce, are so vast and flexible that no American plant could compete.

The late Steve Jobs once was asked by President Obama what it would take for Apple to make iPhones in the United States. Jobs’ reply, according to The New York Times, had a touch of the genie to it. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said.

The best path for the American economy is to seek productivity gains and competitive advantages wherever they are. No magic is required.

]]> 3, 21 Oct 2016 20:12:38 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: WikiLeaks disclosures about Clinton a warm gun but still non-smoking Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The case against Hillary Clinton could have been written before the recent WikiLeaks and FBI disclosures. But these documents do provide hard textual backup.

The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Hillary Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.

Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.

And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.

In sum, a warm gun but nonsmoking. Indeed, if the phrase “quid pro quo” hadn’t appeared, it would have received little attention. Moreover, it obscures the real scandal – the bottomless cynicism of the campaign and of the candidate.

Among dozens of examples, the Qatari gambit. Qatar, one of the worst actors in the Middle East (having financially supported the Islamic State, for example), offered $1 million as a “birthday” gift to Bill Clinton in return for five minutes of his time. Who offers – who takes – $200,000 a minute? We don’t know the “quid” here, but it’s got to be big.

In the final debate, Clinton ran and hid when asked about pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation. And for good reason. The emails reveal how foundation donors were first in line for favors and contracts.

The soullessness of this campaign – all ambition and entitlement – emerges almost poignantly in the emails, especially when aides keep asking what the campaign is about. In one largely overlooked passage, she complains that her speechwriters have not given her any overall theme or rationale. Isn’t that the candidate’s job?

It’s that emptiness at the core that makes every policy and position negotiable and politically calculable. Hence the embarrassing about-face on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the popular winds swung decisively against free trade.

So too with financial regulation, as in Dodd-Frank. As she told a Goldman Sachs gathering, after the financial collapse there was “a need to do something because, for political reasons … you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”

Giving the appearance that something had to be done. That’s not why Elizabeth Warren supported Dodd-Frank. Which is the difference between a conviction politician like Warren and a calculating machine like Clinton.

Of course, we knew all this. But we hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Illicit and illegal as is WikiLeaks, it is the camera in the sausage factory. And what it reveals is surpassingly unpretty.

I didn’t need the Wiki files to oppose Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I have long disagreed with her worldview and the policies that flow from it. As for character, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of unfitness.

Against any of a dozen possible GOP candidates, voting for her opponent would be a no-brainer. Against Donald Trump, however, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But, as I’ve explained in these columns, I could never vote for Donald Trump.

The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer doubly unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide.

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

]]> 6, 20 Oct 2016 19:47:52 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Trump may be an outlet for Americans’ anger, but defeating him will not end it Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The other day I met a fellow who, I discovered, also has a degree in political science, and after we talked a bit, I said to him, “Oh, you’re a quant.”

He seemed a little bit taken aback, but not because he thought it was an insult; his reaction seemed more along the lines of “What else would I be?”

The term “quant” was coined in 1979 (according to Merriam-Webster) as shorthand for “quantitative analyst.”

It describes a social science professional who focuses on how human behavior can be quantified – reduced to charts, tables, graphs and numbers – in place of “softer” intellectual analysis.

That’s OK as far as it goes – professionals like Charles Murray do excellent work teasing normative truths out of numerical tables – but because you can’t measure everything (or even the most important things) by numbers, it has turned most current non-quantitative political analysis over to historians, journalists and similar observers of the human condition.

Thus it has fallen to non-specialists to peer behind the curtain of opinion polling, crime rates and economic statistics to look at what is motivating Americans’ psyches from the inside out these days.

To start, the decidedly non-Donald-Trump-friendly political consultant Reed Galen wrote Tuesday in his “The American Singularity” column that, “According to a Politico/Morning Consult survey out this week, 41 percent of all voters (73 percent of Republicans) believe that the election could indeed be stolen from Trump. … His words shock the American political soul, are cause for concern and are a pro-active threat to how we conduct ourselves in the public square.”

Where, one wonders, could Trump backers have gotten the idea that the political process is stacked against them? Oh, that’s right, the recent revelations about Democratic corruption from WikiLeaks, clandestine videos and FBI document dumps.

If they’ve been allowed to hear of them, that is.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel noted last week: “If average voters turned on the TV for five minutes … chances are they know that Donald Trump made lewd remarks a decade ago and now stands accused of groping women. But even if average voters had the TV on 24/7, they still probably haven’t heard the news about Hillary Clinton: That the nation now has proof of pretty much everything she has been accused of.”

Even as the major media downplay and even ignore them, revelations have emerged of paid provocateurs picking fights at Trump rallies that get blamed on his backers; slurs against Catholics as backward and benighted; Clinton’s expressed need to have contrary “public and private” positions on issues where the private ones favor fat-cat supporters of her campaign and family foundation; and direct coordination between some of those covering the campaign and Clinton’s staff.

Such events appear to be why, Galen notes, that Clinton “is the embodiment of what so many Americans (and almost all Republicans) see as a country run by elites who truly care little for their well-being. Clinton’s example is less stout, less noisy and less ugly (than Trump’s), but no less insidious, odious or threatening to the Republic.”

Should she win, Galen says, and again acts “to save the big guys at the expense of the little, the ensuing wildfire will be more than just an election can hope to head off. Trump may be an outlet for the anger of many Americans, but his defeat will not end their disaffection.”

That’s an idea echoed and expanded on by (no surprise) classical historian Victor Davis Hanson, who wrote Tuesday on National Review Online that “a political neutron bomb” has exploded in our political institutions, leaving them hollow shells.

Once the Bernie Sanders insurrection was disposed of (by close coordination between the Clinton campaign and supposedly “neutral” party officials) Democrats found apparent unity – as a Clinton family enterprise, in the full Sicilian sense.

As Hanson says, “Collate the (Clinton adviser John) Podesta e-mails. … Review Hillary’s Wall Street speeches and the electronic exchanges between the media, the administration, and the Clinton campaign. The conclusion is an incestuous world of hypocrisy, tsk-tsking condescension, sanitized shake-downs, inside profiteering, snobby high entertainment – and often crimes that would put anyone else in jail.”

Republicans, meanwhile, are torn asunder: “No one quite knows what the party will become after Donald Trump sprinted away with the Republican nomination and then discovered that most of the Republican establishment, implicitly and explicitly, would rather lose to Hillary Clinton than win with him. Many said they quit the Republican Party when Trump was nominated, as many perhaps will quietly quit when it returns to normalcy. After the election, don’t expect a rapid reconciliation.”

There’s little danger of that. But if traditional governing institutions have been gutted, what will fill their vacant roles?

I doubt it will be pleasant.

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

]]> 5, 20 Oct 2016 19:45:53 +0000
Another View: Regulating cannabis like alcohol is not what Question 1 does, Maine AG Mills says Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I had not intended to wade into the debate on marijuana, but after reviewing Question 1 last month, I shared my legal analysis with a reporter. Apparently, I struck a nerve.

Like many Mainers, I listened to campaign rhetoric saying that if this bill passed, marijuana would be regulated like alcohol. In an opinion column (“Question 1 reveals the real dangers of marijuana,” Oct. 19), Greg Kesich reiterates this view. However, while that may be the goal of the proponents, it is not what the bill actually does.

Nothing in the referendum regulates possession of marijuana by a minor, and the bill even repeals the existing section of law that does.

There are a number of laws that prohibit minors from possessing alcohol or driving after consuming any alcohol, but these protections are lacking in Question 1.

To say that this referendum regulates marijuana like alcohol is to imagine a world where words in lawbooks have no meaning.

That is not the world in which I operate.

The drafters of this bill have not explained why the proposed law fails to protect children, why it greatly expands the definition of cannabis, why it lacks penalties or why it fails to protect the workplace the way the Maine Medical Marijuana Act does.

Perhaps these are drafting errors, but as attorney general I would be remiss if I did not point out these flaws. If passed, the law will take effect 30 days from the governor’s proclamation, giving a new Legislature little time to act.

Regardless of whether marijuana should be legal (Maine decriminalized possession of small amounts 40 years ago), the question is whether this 30-page bill should become law.

I ask every citizen to read the entire bill before voting on this measure.

]]> 13, 21 Oct 2016 11:42:11 +0000
Our View: Youngest voters missing in action at Maine polls Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Maine is justifiably proud of its high voter turnout rate – but statistics don’t tell the whole story. It’s true that the percentage of all eligible adults who cast a ballot is consistently higher here than it is elsewhere. But our youngest voters aren’t picking up the habit, and that’s something we can’t afford to ignore.

Each of us gets just one vote. Someone with a Ph.D. and a million-dollar house has no more say at the polls than someone who didn’t finish high school and shares an apartment with three other people. Those who don’t vote forgo their one and only opportunity to directly choose what initiatives will be put in place and what people will be implementing them.

A lot of factors influence whether someone votes. Making it easier for a voter to register has been shown to make it more likely that they’ll go to the polls. In states that allow voters to register or update their registration information on Election Day, researchers have found that average turnout over time is at least 10 percentage points higher than in states with advance deadlines.

Maine pioneered same-day registration, and in terms of voter participation, we consistently outpace other states. In 2014, our voter turnout rate was the highest in the country; in 2012, during the last presidential election, we came in sixth, and in 2008, we trailed only Minnesota and Wisconsin.

But too many Mainers who are newly eligible to vote aren’t doing so. In 2008, 2012 and 2014, anywhere from a quarter to a third of those age 18 to 29 weren’t even registered, putting them far behind other age groups. Those same years also saw similarly significant gaps between the 18- to 29-year-old voter turnout rate and the rate for people in other age groups.

Fortunately, this is an issue nationwide, too, and there’s been a lot of research on how to get young people to vote. Making sure they have reliable information on registration is key. The best way to get it to them? In-person, door-to-door contact with someone their own age. (The least effective way? Automated phone calls.) Allowing online registration has also been shown to boost youth turnout.

Whatever the outcome on Election Day, none of us can afford to sit back on Nov. 9 and think that there’s no more work to be done. If the youngest generation of voters doesn’t get into the habit of casting ballots now, our democracy will be deprived of their voices, and our policies will reflect their lack of participation.

]]> 6, 21 Oct 2016 00:12:22 +0000
As Americans vote in 2016, they should remember the lessons of history Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — As America votes in 2016, thoughts go back to 1945 when, with youthful eyes, we witnessed an America celebrating the end of World War II and a nation relieved that “our boys are coming home.”

Elementary school children at the time, we were vague in our understanding of the war’s meaning. Later, when proceeding up the educational ladder, we would become aware that our elders were themselves attempting to understand the meaning of these years now blessedly past – and to learn from the tragic experience. In our election season, we would do well to reflect on this spirit of learning that prevailed in that postwar era.

Amid the celebrations of the end to the loss of so much blood and treasure, and with the horrors of Hitler’s Germany revealed, America pondered how the long nightmare had come to be. How did a Germany steeped in Western civilization, comprised of people who were primarily Christian and lived in a democracy, allow an Adolf Hitler to come to power?

We who were children at that time of victory were to grow up in an America – and in an educational system – committed to understanding this horrific phenomenon.

As teenagers in junior high and high school, we were introduced to this quest. By the time we reached high school, and later in college, we discovered that some of our teachers were now those former “boys” who had returned. Not surprisingly, they taught with an engaging sincerity and with a commitment that the lessons learned never be lost on us.

We learned that by 1930, the German people had suffered greatly. The sacrifices of a lost World War I, the economic catastrophe of inflation and then the Depression put them and their democracy to a severe test.

During the tumultuous decade of the 1920s, Hitler and his Nazi Party made great political gains. This rise to prominence took place despite many warning signs.

Hitler’s deeply flawed character was easily evident. His narcissism, his braggadocio, his opportunistic lies were readily apparent. With skillful demagoguery he appealed to emotions, exploiting the fears and anger of his people.

It was easy for us to contrast Hitler’s approach with our earlier study of our own Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of America’s greatest crisis, appealed to our reason, built our nation up and urged us to seek “the better angels of our nature.”

Hitler stooped to appeal to the worst nature within his fellow citizens. He tore his country down, he bellowed his campaign theme to make Germany great again – and he boasted that only he could do it. He attacked that which he claimed was foreign within their borders. He drew on the fear of terrorism and preyed on (and, in a sense, prayed for) any evidence of it that he could seize on for political gain.

How, facing this clear and present danger and living in a democracy, did Germans end up with Adolf Hitler? This disastrous result occurred although the German people never gave the Nazi Party a majority vote in a free election. In the final analysis, Hitler did not need a majority vote – merely a plurality.

Unfortunately, the German people did not have the advantage of a two-party system such as ours that would have offered them a choice between two major candidates. They had many parties from which to choose.

Left with several choices on their ballots, voters were able to let rigid ideology, past voting habits and even personal pique guide their individual vote. Each voter who didn’t want to vote for the Nazi Party could select from a multitude of other parties the one party that best matched their own particular political inclinations. Votes were thus dispersed among the many parties rather than combined to support but one major-party candidate opposed to Hitler.

In this way, millions of voters were able to vote with a “clear” conscience: They had not voted for Hitler. In this way, the Nazi Party obtained a plurality. In this way, the path was cleared for Hitler to become Germany’s leader.

Postwar America strove to understand the German political experience. As we Americans cast our ballots in 2016, the lessons learned should serve us well.

]]> 64, 21 Oct 2016 00:15:47 +0000
Current fisheries science supports increasing menhaden quota Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 KENNEBUNK — Maine’s lobstermen recently caught a break with the reopening of the state’s menhaden fishery. A key source of local, fresh bait for Maine’s lobster fishery, menhaden has been an increasingly common presence in Maine waters. But the fishery’s reopening is only a temporary patch on a long-standing problem.

Scientists have determined that the menhaden stock is in great shape. But the fishery suffered steep cuts in quota by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the interstate body that manages menhaden, because the stock assessment conducted in 2012 had erroneously concluded that the stock was overfished.

The most recent menhaden assessment, conducted in 2015, found that the opposite was the case: Menhaden is not being overfished and has not been overfished since the 1960s. In short, the fishery is being managed sustainably. When read in conjunction with other metrics from the assessment, including all-time low levels of fishing mortality, it is clear that the menhaden stock is poised for long-term success.

Last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, in recognition of the sustainability of current menhaden management, raised the coastwide quota by 10 percent. While this increase was a positive development for fishermen, the quota still remains well below what it what it was nearly five years ago.

We have made dramatic gains in our understanding of the stock. Since the current science clearly supports the sustainability of the menhaden stock, the quota can clearly be safely increased.

In the year since the 2015 assessment, additional science continues to support a quota increase. The marine fisheries commission also conducted an analysis earlier this year to determine the potential impact of a quota increase on the menhaden population. The assessment consisted of nearly 9,000 simulations, testing a variety of different potential harvest level raises.

At all levels tested, the scientists’ conclusion was that there was a zero percent chance of overfishing if the quota were to be raised. There are few decisions of resource allocation that can be made with such certainty.

Today, menhaden fishermen are back out on the water, thanks to an “episodic exemption” from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. This allows them to continue to fish above Maine’s low menhaden quota when the fish become abundant in state waters. This year’s episodic exemption in Maine supports the assessment’s conclusion that there are large numbers of menhaden in Atlantic waters.

This phenomenon is not limited to Maine. Large schools of menhaden have been reported throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic, especially in states like New York and Rhode Island. Both of those states were also granted episodic exemptions this year after experiencing unusually large menhaden runs in their state waters. There is currently no reason why the quota cannot be reasonably increased.

Even states with larger quotas, such as New Jersey, have had trouble keeping up with the menhaden schools in their waters. Garden State fishermen met their menhaden quota early in the summer, leaving enough menhaden crowding into local waterways to cause menhaden die-offs. These incidents support the ASMFC’s scientific conclusions that the menhaden stock is healthy, and menhaden management is sustainable.

All of which raises this question: Why has the quota remained at its current artificially low level, given the flawed assessment that the quota is predicated on? As it stands, lobstermen are paying exorbitant prices for bait this year because of a summer shortage of fresh bait such as herring and menhaden.

Maine’s lobster industry generated nearly $2 billion in economic activity for the state in 2015. Lobster landings alone were valued at more than half a billion dollars. Our coastal communities depend on this revenue for their economic vitality, and Maine lobstermen depend on a steady bait supply to generate landings. In addition, menhaden fishermen also lose thousands of dollars each year by virtue of the artificially low cap.

This month, when the issue of raising the menhaden quota is again brought to a vote, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has the opportunity to reverse its flawed decision to cut the menhaden harvest. Mainers would be greatly served by a prompt ASMFC vote to increase the quota to a reasonable level.

]]> 0, 19 Oct 2016 23:36:01 +0000
Dana Milbank: With talk of fraud, Trump trying to create post-election chaos Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — We are three weeks from the election, and very close to the edge.

Retiree Gerald Miller, a volunteer at Donald Trump’s rally here, is confident his man will win Nov. 8 – unless there’s foul play.

Miller, wearing a National Rifle Association pin and a tea party cap over his long hair, shares Trump’s concern that the election may be “rigged” by the Clinton campaign. “It is enough to skew the election. They can swing it either way,” he said, particularly because Hillary Clinton may have “the FBI working for her” in committing the fraud.

So what happens if Clinton is declared the winner? “Donald Trump is going to holler fraud if he doesn’t win,” figured Miller, who is white and says he has post-traumatic stress disorder from “racial violence” he suffered in the military. “I think we’re on the verge of a civil war, a racial war. This could be the spark that sets it off.”

I fear that Miller may be right.

Objectively, Trump is in big trouble; master handicapper Stuart Rothenberg wrote for The Washington Post online Tuesday that Trump’s path to Electoral College victory is “nonexistent” and said he could win fewer than 200 electoral votes.

But I spent a couple of hours before the rally in this indoor show ring talking to many Trump supporters and found them in states of denial and fury. I didn’t find one who expects Trump to lose. To varying degrees, most agreed with Trump that the election process is rigged. And some predicted ominous things if Trump loses – if not violence, then a mass rejection of the legitimacy of the democratic process.

Ann Macomber, a Christian, retired teacher and Trump volunteer handing out fliers saying “Hillary Clinton is coming for your guns,” told me the voting system in Colorado has been “infiltrated”: dead people voting, voters with bogus addresses, precincts that report more votes than registered voters. “It’s happening. It’s sad,” Macomber said. “If we lose this election, we can’t trust anything in America anymore. We’re not sovereign.”

Some observers dismiss Trump’s talk of a “stolen” and “rigged” election as just more rantings of a narcissist who can’t accept that he is almost certain to lose. But the talk of election fraud is more nefarious than that and clearly an effort to destabilize the post-election environment.

In early August, Trump consigliere Roger Stone declared that there is “widespread voter fraud” and argued that “if there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate … we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.” In an interview with the conservative outlet Breitbart, Stone said Trump has to “put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical … bloodbath.”

Now the head of Breitbart News is the head of the Trump campaign, and Trump, who had quieted the fraud talk when he was improving in the polls, is raising it more than ever.

“Voter fraud is all too common,” Trump told a few thousand people Tuesday afternoon in Colorado Springs, but if you mention it, he said, “they say bad things about you, they call you a racist.” He scolded Republican leaders for saying “everything is peachy” with the election process and warned that this could be the year “America truly lost its independence.” Warned Trump: “It’s going to be a one-party system. This is your final shot.”

He particularly scolded the press, which “created a rigged system and poisoned the minds of so many of our voters.” But he also found corruption in voter surveys (“I don’t believe the polls anymore”) and in his opponent (“many times worse than Watergate”).

“We won’t let them stop maybe the greatest movement in the history of our country!” Trump said, prompting chants of “USA!,” some foul language shouted at the press corps and, after the rally, a mass chant of “Shame on you!” directed at the press risers.

The candidate’s reckless closing message that nothing is on the level – not Democrats, not the press, not the polls, not Republican leaders, not even the integrity of the voting process – has left many of his supporters prepared to declare the election results illegitimate.

Joseph Salmons, wearing a “Les Deplorables” T-shirt and pin, told me the election won’t end anything. “The movement’s starting. Even if he doesn’t win, it’s going to tip,” he said.

But tip into what? “I sincerely hope people don’t lose their minds,” Salmons said.

If they manage to keep their cool, it will be despite the best efforts of Trump.

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

]]> 34, 19 Oct 2016 20:13:58 +0000
Our View: Maine needs rational pot policy, so vote ‘yes’ on Question 1 Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Listen to a podcast of our editorial board’s meeting with supporters of both sides of Question 1.

Sometimes it’s the leaders who need leadership. For decades, politicians have been clinging to outdated ideas about drug policy because they didn’t want to appear soft on crime.

We support the citizen-initiated Question 1, an act to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, because it would tell lawmakers to change course.

A “yes” vote says that there is such a thing as responsible, adult use of marijuana. The current law makes criminals out of people who are otherwise law-abiding and dumps millions of dollars into a tax-free black market. Legalization would put low-risk marijuana use on the right side of the law, and focus resources where they are more needed.

Our support for the ballot question does not mean that we consider all use of marijuana to be benign, or that we think its use is appropriate for everyone.

Our editorial board was divided on this referendum, especially because of a concern that passage of the proposal would send a confusing message to young people about drug use.

Many details would have to be worked out before we could be fully comfortable that this law would not result in aggressive marketing to teens or make it easier than it already is for young people to get their hands on pot.

But we are confident that when the Legislature comes back into session it could address that kind of issue before the law goes into full effect. We have no confidence, however, that lawmakers would take on this task unless the voters pass Question 1 and tell them to do it.

Ultimately, this measure is a referendum on the war on drugs, a 40-year-old failed public policy that has used the criminal justice system to address a public health problem. It has given Maine a marijuana policy that makes no sense – one that winks at some violators, punishes others too severely and pumps money into criminal organizations. Our medical marijuana program does a lot of good, but it’s haphazard, making cannabis unavailable to some people who would benefit from it, while providing a back door to legalization for some recreational users.

The referendum question is far from perfect, but it provides the framework for a much more workable system than now exists to balance personal liberty with legitimate public safety risks.

If the question were to pass, we would support legislation that strictly regulates edible products that could be confused with commercially marketed candies and treats. The state could also require the use of child-proof containers and warning labels.

We also expect the Legislature to make sure that municipalities have control over how many retail pot shops can open in their communities, or even whether there can be any at all.

Impaired driving and furnishing drugs to minors would still be against the law, and we would support police efforts to continue to enforce those laws.

But marketing, impaired driving or teenage drug use is not what Question 1 is really about. This referendum simply asks whether adults in Maine have the judgment to handle a little more freedom.

We think that they do, so we vote “yes.”

]]> 136, 20 Oct 2016 07:18:18 +0000
Commentary: Falsehoods, vitriol may win elections, but they throw democracy for a loss Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Regardless of political party affiliation or policy position, the vast majority of Mainers and other Americans agree that the destructive rhetoric, name-calling and mudslinging in the current election cycle have reached a level never seen before. It would seem at times that the very fabric of our society, a unifying force for good, is frayed beyond repair.

Finger-pointing in the service of refusing to work together has paralyzed us anddeposited us in the corners of a political boxing ring from which there is no winning. People feel the negative effects of attack ads, name-calling, falsehood and vitriol that flood the airwaves and print media. It is disheartening. The lack of civil discourse in our public debates and campaigns is sometimes hard to avoid.

As a society, we say we do not like negative campaign tactics, but, ironically, many cannot help but be drawn in. Negative campaigning works, at least with regard to voter polls, even when it does nothing to better the lives of our fellow citizens.

Drew Westen, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has extensively studied the psychology of politics. He explains why negative campaigning works in this way: “Emotions such as anxiety, fear and disgust involve very different neural circuits than, say, happiness or enthusiasm. A candidate’s job is to get all those neural circuits firing – both the ones that draw voters in and the ones that push them away from other candidates.”

Indeed, in study after study, statistics show that Americans cannot avoid the wreckage of negative attack ads. If attack ads and untruths did not work, politicians would not use them.

Even if attack ads “work” on some level, does the end ever justify the means? In my own Lutheran and Episcopalian churches, and in the nine member denominations of the Maine Council of Churches, we do not believe so.

Taking an action or making a statement just because it “works” does not make it moral or ethical. To acquiesce to negative and deceitful campaigning simply because it wins votes is akin to allowing unethical medical experimentation on people and animals, something I would hope the reader finds repulsive. In other words, effectiveness is not the litmus test for morality.

At the Maine Council of Churches, our Preamble on Civil Discourse states that “for a flourishing democracy we need to have debate based on mutual respect and honesty, but communications around political campaigns have become meaner, more deceitful and disrespectful. The impact has been confusion, division, and discord among the electorate.”

The MCC is committed to seeing civility restored to the political process. As a gathering of churches with sometimes divergent views, we model the power and strength that can accrue from civil discourse in a spirit of justice and love for one another. We stand firm when we are on common ground, for we believe that we are called to do no less.

Among the provisions of our Covenant on Civil Discourse is the mandate to act respectfully toward others; to refrain from personal attacks or characterizing one’s opponent as evil; to refuse to make untrue statements; to value honesty, truth and civility (while striving for workable solutions), and to disavow statements by those working on one’s behalf if those statements don’t meet those same standards.

I would encourage the reader to check out our website. There you will find a number of resources on civil discourse. You can also see the list of the close to 200 Maine candidates for local and national office who have signed our Covenant for Civil Discourse. Is there a politician missing from the list? Is it worth a call to him or her to ask if they are willing to pledge to be civil and to avoid negative campaigning and name-calling?

As the political campaign season fills the media with ads and accusations, we ask all people of good faith and conscience to hold our politicians and political organizations to the highest standards of honesty and respect. But civility is not only for politicians. As citizens, we also have a responsibility to be civil. In our households, places of work and recreation, and yes, even in our houses of worship, we can model to one another what it means to be civil in our political conversations.

We can avoid telling untruths, and we can talk about others without calling them names. We can listen to the opinions of others with respect, even if we do not agree with them. Together, we can speak and act in peace, confident in our ability to build a just and prosperous society.

]]> 0 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:24:16 +0000
Bill Nemitz: No grave concerns about integrity of Maine’s upcoming election Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I’m thinking about swinging through the cemetery near my house on Election Day to see if anyone needs a ride to the polls.

Sounds crazy?

Not as crazy as this:

“I am not confident we’re going to have a clean election in Maine,” Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday during his weekly chat with WVOM radio. “Will people from the cemetery be voting? Yes, all around the country.”

Don’t bother asking for evidence.

There is none.

Don’t bother pointing out to LePage, as more than one headline writer has already, that he was elected twice via the same system he now declares unclean.

LePage, we all know by now, is a stranger to irony.

And don’t assume LePage’s words, echoing those of his maniacal messiah, Donald Trump, are not a threat to the democratic process.

If this election has taught us one thing, it’s that a frightening number of Americans will believe anything.

“This allegation of widespread election fraud is just absolutely irresponsible,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Wednesday in an interview.

It’s also getting old.

For the better part of a decade, Republicans far and wide have tried with some success to erect as many barriers as they can between the American voter and the ballot box.

Here in Maine, for example, LePage & Company passed a law back in June of 2011 that did away with same-day voter registration. It set a deadline of two business days before an election – meaning, for Tuesday elections, the close of business the previous Thursday – for people to get on the voter rolls.

That November, Mainers pushed back hard. A people’s veto of the measure passed by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.

Why the lopsided outcome?

Because a majority of Mainers believe in making it as easy as possible to vote. And because back then, just like now, Republican claims that our electoral system is rife with corruption have no basis in truth.

Thus it comes as no surprise that Politifact on Monday gave its worst “pants on fire” rating to Trump’s claim that the country is beset with “widespread voter fraud.”

“More people are struck by lightning or attacked by sharks than are accused of voter fraud,” Politifact found.

Does that mean our system is perfect? Of course not.

In a 2012 study titled “Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence that American Voter Registration Needs an Upgrade,” the Pew Center on the States found much room for improvement when it comes to registrations that are no longer valid or accurate (24 million), names of deceased citizens still on the voter rolls (1.8 million) and people who are registered in more than one state (2.75 million).

“These findings underscore the need for states to improve accuracy, cost-effectiveness and efficiency” in their elections, Pew concluded.

What Pew didn’t allege, however, is that any of those shortcomings have led to actual voter fraud.

In fact, Justin Levitt, an election fraud expert and professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, did an exhaustive study two years ago of crooked-electioneering claims throughout the United States.

Levitt unearthed 31 credible allegations of voter fraud from 2000 to 2014 – out of more than a billion votes cast.

So much for “widespread” skullduggery.

That mirrors an “investigation” back in 2011 by then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers. He launched it at the behest of then-Maine Republican Party state Chairman Charlie Webster, who claimed more than 200 out-of-state students in the University of Maine System had voted here illegally.

The number of students found by Summers to have actually committed voter fraud? Not a one.

But back to the dead people.

According to Secretary of State Dunlap, the Social Security Administration automatically alerts the state whenever a Maine citizen dies. The information goes first to the Department of Motor Vehicles and, in turn, to the state’s Central Voter Registration System.

Typically, Dunlap said, that prompts the removal of a person’s name from the voting list within a month of his or her death.

Beyond that, many of Maine’s 503 municipal clerks take their own steps to keep their lists up to date. In my hometown of Buxton, Town Clerk John Myers told me his staff checks the newspaper obituaries daily to see if any local folk have passed away and therefore shouldn’t be showing up on Election Day.

In other words, LePage’s claim that “people from the cemetery” will vote on Election Day is 100 percent, Grade-A baloney.

As is his other assertion this week that “there are counties in this country that get more votes than there are citizens in their county. So what’s that tell you?”

It tells us, once again, that Maine’s chief executive has no clue how idiotic he often sounds. And that he has zero respect for the intelligence and integrity of election workers who will spend long hours come Nov. 8 ensuring that our democracy works the way our Founding Fathers intended.

Here in Maine, with 10 or more of those good citizens serving at each of more than 600 polling places, that translates into well over 6,000 people. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats, some are independents, but all are driven by a shared belief in the process.

To call our elections rigged, without a scintilla of evidence to back it up, is to call these people incompetent at best and complicit at worst.

They deserve far better from the Republican nominee for president, from Maine’s governor and from the many other bomb throwers now feeding this frenzy.

Truth be told, they’re owed an apology.

As for those who blindly agree with Trump and LePage that the fix is in, you’re missing completely what’s motivating these two bozos as Election Day draws near.

Trump, facing all-but-certain defeat in 19 days, is pre-emptively soothing his gargantuan ego. Incapable of looking in the mirror and seeing the loser that he soon will be, he reflexively blames the system that got him this far.

And LePage?

Dunlap has a theory on what prompted the governor’s crazy talk on Tuesday. Around the same time LePage was calling in to WVOM, Dunlap noted, his administration was rocked by a report from the state auditor that the welfare cops at Department of Health and Human Services had “improperly managed” some $13 million in federal funds for needy children and families.

“How do you address that?” Dunlap mused. “You threaten a zombie apocalypse.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

Twitter: BillNemitz

]]> 60, 20 Oct 2016 08:44:58 +0000
Podcast: How will you vote Nov. 8 on legalizing marijuana? Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:08:49 +0000 Proponents and opponents of Question 1, an act to legalize marijuana, faced off before the Press Herald editorial board, highlighting their points of disagreement on the upcoming referendum.

Subscribe to the Press Herald Podcast on iTunes

]]> 2, 20 Oct 2016 16:28:47 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Documentary shows nation still bound by its oppression of black men Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:00:32 +0000 “Not whips and chains – all subliminal;

instead of (the N-word), they use the word criminal”

– Common from “Letter to the Free”

In the end, she gives us grace. And by then, you really need it.

The end credits roll over pictures celebrating everyday joys of African-American life. A beaming girl rides a pony. Boys flex. Fathers cuddle daughters.

The anger and pain that have sat heavily in your chest for more than 90 minutes begin to lift ever so slightly at these reminders of black life still stubbornly managing to be lived even in the midst of state-sponsored oppression. Otherwise called, without irony, the U.S. justice system.

In “13th,” the troubling new documentary from director Ava DuVernay now streaming on Netflix, the American prison-industrial complex is laid bare as a machine designed for the suppression of an inconvenient populace. Meaning black men – the nation’s bogeymen for two centuries and counting.

Like “The New Jim Crow,” the game-changing 2012 book by Michelle Alexander, “13th” doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know if you’ve been paying attention. Its triumph is to fit the pieces together, to make visible the pattern that was there all along.

Namely, that much of what we call justice is a 150-year effort to win back what was lost at Appomattox. Yet somehow, we never quite see.

Six point five percent of the country accounts for over 40 percent of its prisoners.

The liberal looks at this and says, “Isn’t it a shame what poverty does to them?”

The conservative looks at it and says, “Isn’t it a shame they embrace thug culture?”

The overt racist looks at it and says, “Isn’t it a shame they’re naturally criminal?”

Hardly anyone looks at it and says, “The system is working as designed.” Hardly anyone says, “This is not about criminality, but control.”

DuVernay says it forcefully, explicitly and convincingly. In “13th” – the title comes from the constitutional amendment that ended slavery – the director of “Selma” draws a line from Appomattox through convict leasing, through lynch law, through the Southern strategy, through mass incarceration, through the commodification of black bodies and black misery by private prison entrepreneurs. All the way up to now.

Cue Donald Trump. On screen, a black man is being spat upon at one of his rallies. A black woman is being shoved. A black man is being sucker punched. And Trump is loving it.

“Knock the c–p out of ’em, would you? Get ’em out of here. In the good old days, this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily. Like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

As he speaks, the images change.

It’s 1965 and Rev. C.T. Vivian is being knocked down the courthouse steps.

It’s 1960 and protesters are being hauled off lunch counter stools.

It’s 1957 and reporter L. Alex Wilson is being kicked and pummeled down the streets by the good people of Little Rock.

All as Trump is reminiscing about the good old days. And a chill skitters up your spine.

We like to think we have distance from the past, don’t we? We profess to be mystified by it.

How could people have done such things? If I had lived at that time, a man will assure you, I’d have never tolerated it. But, as attorney and author Bryan Stevenson reminds DuVernay’s camera, “the truth is, we are living at this time – and we are tolerating it.”

It is an unanswerable truth, a truth that leaves conscience maimed. The credits roll just then.

And yes, you are thankful for that small bit of grace.

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

]]> 13, 18 Oct 2016 21:36:21 +0000
Greg Kesich: Question 1 on Maine ballot reveals the real dangers of marijuana Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Before we vote Nov. 8, it’s time that we had a serious discussion about the dangers of marijuana.

We are talking about distorted perceptions and disrupted thinking – and that’s just in the referendum’s opponents.

The “Vote No on 1” crowd seems to be slipping dangerously into a delusional state with less than three weeks to go before Election Day. Its leading spokespeople are scaring themselves with figments of their own imaginations. It’s almost as if a wave of paranoia swept through their minds, and it’s making them blurt out things that they would know weren’t true if they were in a normal state.

Exhibit A is Maine’s top prosecutor, the otherwise sensible Attorney General Janet Mills, who issued a news release last week to announce that saying “yes” to a question that begins “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age …” would actually be legalizing pot for people of all ages.

Mills said the new law would wipe out the existing statute that outlines the penalties for juvenile violators.

“The effect is it makes it legal for anybody of any age – 2 years old, 20 years old, 80 years old – to possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana. That’s disturbing to me,” Mills told WCSH last week. “I have to think it’s something more than a drafting error because they deliberately wrote a 30-page bill. It’s very troublesome, the language of the bill.”

I hear what she’s saying. Two-year-olds smoking anything is indeed a troubling notion. And to think that the people behind a referendum campaign would intentionally do something this awful is even worse.

What are they trying to do to us? What kind of world do we live in? What’s going on?

But if you find yourself feeling this way, just focus on your in-breath and listen to some chill music. Maybe light a candle and some incense.

Because this is not going to happen.

First of all, the question is being pushed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Last time we checked, alcohol was pretty strictly regulated to prevent children from buying it.

Teens have been known to steal alcohol or to get some help from adults to buy it illegally, but those are criminal offenses.

Regulating something “like alcohol” is another way of saying that it’s not for kids,

Lawyers for the campaign say that Mills is wrong, and the referendum would repeal only the part of the law that affects fines for adults who use or possess pot. But even if they are wrong and Mills is right, don’t expect to see legal dope dealers at the day care when Nov. 9 rolls around.

That’s because the Legislature would still have to write the rules for retail sales, and there would be more than enough time to fix anything that needs fixing before any legal pot were to be bought or sold.

Does anybody think there would be a single vote in the Maine House or Senate against reinstating penalties for drug use by minors? This would go through quicker than a resolution recognizing Sleep Disorder Awareness Week or National Clean Up Your Virtual Desktop Day. The governor might even sign it.

Speaking of the governor, he is experiencing his own version of the pot terrors.

In a video released by his office last week, Paul LePage, staring into a camera with all the ease of an ISIS hostage on beheading day, reported that marijuana kills.

“THC levels in marijuana snacks are so high, they could kill children and pets.”

Wow. Scary. Sort of.

It’s true that a significant number of children and pets have been killed by marijuana overdoses. The number is zero, which is a very significant number.

Unlike alcohol, aspirin and drain cleaner – all legal products – the illegal substance marijuana has no known lethal dose.

There are plenty of good reasons not to vote for Question 1 next month. Marijuana takes hold of some people’s lives and does not let go. It is especially destructive for young, developing minds. It’s no joke.

If you think that keeping pot illegal is still the best way to stop people from doing something that millions of them are breaking the law to do right now, you should vote “no.”

But if you are worried about 5-year-olds legally sparking up spliffs behind the kindergarten, or coming home to find your dog with his paws in the air after getting into your pot-infused Gummi Bears, relax.

It’s just the pot talking. It can make you think some weird things.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at


]]> 83, 18 Oct 2016 18:17:13 +0000
Maine Voices: By opposing Question 3, LePage wouldn’t disarm domestic abusers Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Gov. LePage has made addressing domestic violence a cornerstone of his time in office. During a very shaky six years, his efforts to protect women from domestic abusers has arguably been his most laudable initiative.

That’s why his comments during his Oct. 1 weekly radio address were so disappointing. By joining the gun lobby in opposition to Question 3 on November’s ballot, LePage is turning his back on domestic violence victims across the state.

The governor’s position on background checks is really puzzling. There’s video of him telling a debate audience during his campaign for re-election in 2014 that he would support universal background checks as long as they went to voters for approval. Now he’s opposing them across the board, making the false claim that background checks – even for convicted felons and domestic abusers – violate the Maine and U.S. constitutions.

Not only is he factually wrong, he’s also morally wrong-headed.

The Maine Constitution provides a robust framework for protecting the rights of Mainers to bear arms. It does not, however, say that criminals and domestic abusers should have unfettered access to guns. Maine law already prohibits the possession of guns by these dangerous people, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that background checks are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

LePage is just plain wrong about the facts.

What’s more disturbing to me, though, is how philosophically wrong the governor is. Just recently, LePage proposed requiring ankle bracelet monitoring for those accused of domestic violence. His heart is in the right place on this. He wants to do everything he can to protect the victims. But without Question 3, those same domestic abusers will be able to purchase guns on the unlicensed market, no questions asked.

And there’s no shortage of guns available that fall through the loophole in current law. A recent study shows there are nearly 3,000 guns offered for sale every year by unlicensed sellers.

LePage’s worldview is one of well-armed but ankle-braceleted domestic abusers. It’s a horrifying contradiction.

The governor is an outspoken advocate for gun rights, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a lackey for the D.C. gun lobby. He seems to be forgoing his genuine concern for abused women in favor of the irrational position of the same D.C. gun lobbyists who opposed Sen. Susan Collins’ bipartisan effort to keep suspected terrorists from buying guns. It’s utterly disheartening.

We have to face the facts, and two things are clear.

First, background checks work. How do we know? In states that have adopted laws similar to Question 3, the rate of women murdered by their domestic partners with a handgun has been cut nearly in half.

 Second, the shocking fact is that half of all murders in our state are of women killed by their intimate partners.

Since Colorado passed a similar law in 2013, over 1,000 prohibited persons – including domestic abusers – have been prevented from getting a gun in the unlicensed market. Background checks for all gun sales will help protect women’s lives.

Many believe that Maine already has background check laws in place. This is only partially true. If a convicted felon, domestic abuser or someone who is severely mentally ill goes into a gun store to try and buy a firearm, they will fail a background check and be prohibited from buying that gun.

But right now, that same dangerous person can walk out the door and buy a gun from someone they meet online or through a classified ad with no background check. This is a fatal loophole. This newspaper’s editorial board recently compared this to a bar that refuses to sell alcohol to minors, but then lets them freely drink by entering through the back door. It just doesn’t make sense.

Question 3 closes this deadly loophole by requiring background checks for all gun sales. Put plainly, there would be no more “easy access” to guns for domestic abusers.

So in light of all of this, when LePage says he opposes Question 3, it feels like he’s throwing away years of good work, and abandoning abuse victims all over Maine who have come to respect his work on their behalf.

If someone is so dangerous that the governor wants them to wear an ankle bracelet, then they’re too dangerous to have a gun.

I hope the governor will take a long, hard look at his position and side with women all over Maine who have come to believe in him as a sincere advocate by supporting “Yes on Question 3.”


]]> 17 Tue, 18 Oct 2016 18:54:05 +0000
Our View: Maine’s drought response too late to do much good Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Though droughts aren’t nearly as rapid or dramatic as floods, Maine residents are learning that ongoing lack of rain can be as disastrous as surging waters. Now eight in 10 Mainers are living in drought, wells are drying up and some municipal sources are scrambling to meet demand – showing why Maine would be better off addressing the risk of drought before it occurs instead of taking eleventh-hour action during an ongoing crisis.

News coverage has focused on the last six months of below-average rain in Maine. But this is a dry spell that’s been several years in the making. The lack of rain last year, combined with the lack of snow last winter, has left us more parched than we’ve been in 15 years.

Groundwater levels are nearing the low point reached during the region’s last serious drought, from 1999 to 2002. During that 14-year period, Maine took no official action in anticipation of the next dry spell. It wasn’t until August that the Maine Drought Task Force, made up of public safety officials and state and federal weather experts, met to discuss the current drought.

That’s because, like many states, Maine responds to droughts after they occur rather than planning ahead to reduce the impact of the next drought. Elsewhere, mostly in the West, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, states look at past drought impacts, develop early warning plans and promote steps that cut water waste, such as fixing leaks in public supplies and encouraging growers to manage their farms in a way that retains water in soil.

This approach, known as “mitigation,” can cut the costs associated with drought, saving $4 for every $1 spent, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. One example cited by the Drought Mitigation Center is assistance to farmers: After the fact, it costs more and doesn’t necessarily reach the people who need it. (Maine farmers lost $32 million in crops in 2001 and 2002.)

This is not to belittle the response in Maine. The state Drought Task Force now seems to be meeting regularly, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission has started assessing whether the state needs a statewide emergency water supply plan or if measures being taken by public water systems are doing the job.

But with evidence accumulating on the benefits of preparation, Maine should embrace that strategy instead of waiting for the next slow-motion disaster to unfold – when it will be far too late to get ready for it.

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Another View: Dentist unfairly dismissive of concerns about fluoride Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In his Oct. 12 Maine Voices, Joseph R. Kenneally, DMD, is disturbed by people whom a headline writer called “anti-fluoridation activists.”

He’s disturbed that the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District board and superintendent won’t accept the statistics that he and all the other doctors, whose academic credentials make them right, are presenting as fact. He’s also disturbed that people of lesser academic standing, who actually handle the hydrofluosilicic acid that goes into our drinking water, are wrong.

The words “poison” and “toxic” on the labels of the hydrofluosilicic acid that goes into our drinking water aren’t scientific. Supporters of fluoridated water don’t use those words.

The doctor dismissed the weight of the arguments against water fluoridation as the misinformation of a few local residents of the Kennebunks – unspecified misinformation that he compared to the weight of the scientific belief of the members of over 100 medical and health organizations, medical and health experts “trained to the doctoral level,” who absolutely support the ingestion of fluoride by over 200 million Americans.

A few people in the Kennebunks complain about spending a measly $20,000 a year for the miraculous effects of drinking fluoride, a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $100 million to $600 million a year that over 200 million of us pay for the fluoride miracle – money we pay to an industry that would have to pay at least that much for the containment of their toxic waste without the blessings of thousands of medical experts.

Of course, the next time I’m in a dentist’s chair, I’ll be on the wrong side of this argument. I joke, but our dental community is powerful. And I respectfully submit that our dental community has overstepped its bounds on water fluoridation.

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Kathleen Parker: The greatest fear of all is what happens after the election Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If I were to distill a recent public discussion about the state of our nation to one word, it would be “worried.”

Not fearful, not angry, but worried – about the future; about an election season that has made evil-clown sightings seem weirdly apt; but mostly about what will happen after the election. How do we mend the deep divisions that have evolved during this thoroughly nasty – and, at times, X-rated – campaign season? How does the country salve its wounds and reunite in common purpose?

Audience members here at the Poynter Institute’s “Community Conversation,” at which I was invited to speak last Thursday, posed these and other questions. The 150 or so attendees were a cross-spectrum mix of students, professionals, retirees and a few notables – a diverse group, in other words, with no protesters, rabble-rousers or armed combatants in search of a revolution. The latter may have been occupied in nearby Lakeland, where Donald Trump had pronounced a global conspiracy against him the day before.

Clinton supporters at the Poynter event told me privately that they were afraid to put “Hillary” signs in their yards for fear of retribution, not from roaming vandals but from once-friendly neighbors. My suggestion that this campaign was reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war, when politically opposite friends avoided each other, was received with nods of agreement.

Whether for Trump or Clinton, neither side can conceive of what compels the other. In this duplex of horrors, Clinton is a corrupt, lying, hypocritical career politician, and Trump is a sleazy, lying, narcissistic autocrat and an (alleged) sexual predator. Never the twain shall meet.

Once the votes are counted, who knows what’s next? President Obama’s final two months may require his coolest touch yet.

Meanwhile, the questions posed here did not readily present answers. What’s needed, I posited half-seriously, is a superhero. Someone to rise from the marshes and cut through the fog of our discontent, someone who can summon our better angels and help restore the country’s self-respect.

At least for now, one is optimistic without reason.

We can know with near certainty that a defeated Donald Trump will unleash the armies of Mordor, comprised of a fan base that will embrace his dark conspiracy theory that the election was rigged. To their minds, his loss couldn’t possibly be linked to a very long list of objectionable, as well as dishonest, statements he’s made, only one of which is the sex-talk video we needn’t view again.

Talking dirty has become the new normal, as anyone walking down a city street can confirm. And the objectification of women isn’t remotely limited to Trump’s warped view. As disgusting as Trump’s verbal (and possibly physical) assaults have been – and, yes, hurtful, too, as Michelle Obama so passionately said last week – a certain contingent of his supporters are reluctantly willing to overlook the nastiness for the sole reason that they dislike Clinton more.

Others aspire to loftier goals, such as preventing a liberal Supreme Court or reducing the tax burden with an eye toward economic growth. These are certainly legitimate reasons. But Trump’s willingness to pave the way for a “revolution” were Clinton to win should be sufficient evidence that this man isn’t fit for the office.

To what extent are Trump sympathizers willing to express their disappointment? Well, who knows? But many will have seen the interview with a woman at a Trump rally last week who said she and her comrades are prepared to take their country back, cheerfully reminding the interviewer that “you’re in the South. We’re all Second Amendment pros.”

Is she talking about a well-regulated militia, perchance?

This is the mindset Trump has nurtured these past many months. These are the people he will summon at the end. These are the reasons the less-emotionally taut are so worried.

More worrisome still is the opposite result: What if Trump wins? We can presume that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be delighted, his possible WikiLeaks alliance having paid off. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who has called Trump a “wise politician,” will order extra platters of chicken wings to celebrate.

As the Japanese proverb goes: When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

Remember, too, that Trump has vowed as president to make it easier for people to sue the media, which, constitutionally, he can’t. But as all authoritarian figures tend to do, Trump has to blame someone else for his failures. The media are handy bait for the credulous and misinformed.

Don’t be afraid, but be worried.

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

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Charles Lawton: Nobel laureate Bob Dylan reminds us to listen to one another Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You’ll never know the hurt I suffered
Nor the pain I rise above,
And I’ll never know the same about you
Your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.
– Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind”

On my morning run several days ago, I passed a neighbor’s house on which was displayed a large sign proclaiming “Deplorables for Trump.” One presidential candidate promises, if elected, to jail the other. Our governor says that supporters of raising the minimum wage should be prosecuted for attempted murder.

If nothing else, our current election will go down in history as among our angriest, as one with the most potential to do lasting damage to our system of representative democracy. The unrestrained vitriol displayed on both sides and the headshaking disbelief at what opponents say and seem to believe is downright frightening.

Pondering this enormous anger – rage, actually – I am reminded of the career and creations of our newest Nobel laureate in literature. The man first described to me many years ago as “perplexing Bobby Zimmerman” by a colleague at the University of Maine at Farmington, who knew him at a summer camp in Minnesota, grew up to become the troubadour who created the emotional milestones that capture the feelings of our age.

He is a man who also generated strong reactions – of praise, of criticism and of betrayal. His critics (quoting from his acceptance speech of the MusiCares 2015 Person of the Year award) said that he “made a career out of confounding expectations.”

He also, I believe, embodies the attitude and the journey we all must emulate if we are to move from this most divisive election to any meaningful repair of our civic structure. Like all would-be saviors, the author of “Idiot Wind” is undoubtedly “a nuisance to live with at home.”

But compared to the litany of transparently insincere apologies scripted by public relations wordsmiths that we have all become accustomed to hearing, there can be no doubt about the depth of personal sorrow our Nobel-winning troubadour feels about his failure to cross the interpersonal borderline depicted so savagely in that monument to “the howling beast” of anger.

In his MusiCares acceptance speech, Dylan describes the origins of his work, how he went to sleep singing folk songs, woke up playing folk songs and traveled the length and breadth of the country listening to and singing folk songs. He describes how he “met other singers along the way who did the same thing, and we just learned songs from each other.”

Declining the “solitary genius” designation, he concludes, “If you had sung that song (‘John Henry was a steel drivin’ man’) as many times as I did, you’d have written ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ too.”

While that conclusion may just slightly overstate the songwriting abilities of most of us, it does speak to the value of trying to see things from other points of view than our own. It does say that any “greatness” America may have comes from every region, every idiom, every person. That is the value of a troubadour – he or she is not a decider, not a convincer, not a salesperson, but an explicator, one who captures the feelings of things and expresses them in ways all who care to listen can understand.

And so, in some small way, I try here to play the troubadour of the Maine economy, saying what I feel to be true for all who care to read. More than anything, what this state and this nation need following whatever results our elections provide is not smug “I told you so, you loser!” victory dances, but heartfelt efforts to listen to one another and make every effort to “bind the nation’s wounds.”

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

]]> 7, 18 Oct 2016 10:49:00 +0000
Maine Voices: It’s time to question whether referendums are a good way to tackle problems Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There’s been a lot written lately about the growth of citizen-initiated referendums. But not enough has been said about how to prevent the problems they present and improve what’s worthy in the process.

What’s wrong with referendums? More and more, they’re becoming a device for single-interest groups, on both the right and the left, to fast-track their legislative agendas by getting the public to vote a question into law, thus circumventing the normal vetting and prioritizing that take place in the Legislature.

We’ve seen popular referendums decided in anger and fear, like Brexit and anti-immigration laws in Europe. Others have tackled real problems but presented dubious solutions, like rent control. In these cases, majorities have voted measures into law discredited by experts and sometimes previously rejected by elected representatives.

The poster child for referendum abuse in Maine is Las Vegas entrepreneur Shawn Scott. He drove the referendum that eventually allowed slots at a Bangor racetrack he owned, which he promptly sold for a $51 million profit.

Like any good gambler, Mr. Scott knows a sucker when he sees one. He was back in Maine this year with a new referendum proposal giving him exclusive rights to establish a racino in York County. Those plans failed because invalid signatures were found on his petitions. But he’s already planning for next year.

Less brash is this year’s referendum Question 2 to raise top-end taxes to increase teacher pay. Yes, the wealthy should pay more to fund social needs, but who decides why education is the beneficiary, as opposed to, say, mental health or drug addiction? Basically, because a well-organized, deep-pocketed union got their question on the ballot first.

Referendums today are rarely “people’s campaigns” in the way most of us understand that term. Petition management companies – available to anyone with the money to pay them – typically drive the petition-circulating process.

One of these firms, National Petition Management, is so sure it can secure the signatures needed to get your question on the ballot that it promises “if your percentage of valid signatures falls under our contracted rate, we’ll make up the difference at our own expense.” These companies helped place several referendums on this November’s ballot.

The idea of paying someone based on the signatures they collect favors big money in politics and doesn’t exactly instill confidence that the process is being conducted in a fair and impartial fashion.

But the whole point, of course, is to get a question on the ballot, where anything can happen. Here, legislation with potentially complex and far-reaching consequences gets presented to voters in a roughly 25-word query packaged in sound bites and verbal triggers.

Anyone with the desire to make a truly informed and responsible decision about a referendum must read the proposed law, something a responsible elected official would do as part of his or her duties. Yet expecting the average voter to slog through a bill like the one to legalize marijuana – 30 pages long – is like counting on an iTunes user to read their service agreement before upgrading.

The point is not to banish popular referendums. Rather, it’s to identify those that are poorly conceived or that serve as a tool for special interests to skirt normal legislative channels.

How can we do this? One way is to bring integrity to the process of collecting petition signatures. Amazingly, courts have looked askance on limiting the practice of paying consultants to hustle signatures. We need creative legal strategies to address this.

Another idea, championed by Massachusetts, requires that petition signatures represent a cross-section of voters from all areas of a state. We should also explore limits on how soon a referendum may be re-introduced if it has once been defeated.

Especially important is providing voters with unbiased and readily accessible data about a referendum question. The state of Oregon, for example, has pioneered the Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, which calls for a randomly selected, diverse group of 24 Oregon citizens to spend five days meeting with experts, sponsors and opponents regarding each referendum question on the ballot.

The group then drafts a Citizens’ Statement on their findings, including key facts about each measure and arguments for and against its passage, which is published in a voters’ pamphlet distributed at every polling place in the state.

Ultimately, mistrust of the political system is driving the rise of referendums. We need leaders motivated by consensus, not ideology, division or filibuster. Maybe that’s too much to expect. But if we can create these changes locally and move forward from there, we might experience the kind of renewal that is grass-roots democracy at its best.


]]> 31, 17 Oct 2016 20:03:00 +0000
Our View: Lack of savings becomes a growing concern for U.S. retirees Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For decades now, each successive generation of Americans has been less prepared for retirement than the one before, the result of a broken system that is leaving seniors with too little income in their golden years.

That’s why new ideas are needed for getting young workers to save even just a little each month, because while a slight majority of millennials say they are confident they’ll have adequate savings when it comes time to retire, the hard numbers say something very different.

According to a GenForward survey released recently, more than 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 30 have no retirement savings whatsoever.

They are part of a generation whose earning power has been clipped by rising college costs, stagnant wages and the Great Recession, so saving has been a low priority. But they are also facing fewer options.

Just 7 percent of the Americans aged 18 to 30 polled by GenForward have access to pensions: employer-based retirement plans with guaranteed and fixed payouts that were commonplace among private-sector workers until relatively recently.

As pensions faded in popularity, along with the union strength that won benefits for workers, employees were left to rely on 401(k) plans, which move the risk from employer to employee and do not offer fixed payouts.

But many workers are finding even those unavailable. From 1999 to 2011, the share of employees being offered an employer-based retirement account fell from 61 percent to 53 percent. The plans were particularly hard to find in the personal-services category – one of the largest sectors, and growing – and for young employees.

With that the case, millenials are looking at a stark future, and they don’t have to look far.

Forty percent of baby boomers have saved nothing for retirement, and only a quarter of Americans aged 55 to 64 will have enough savings. They’ll likely have to rely only on Social Security, with its declining value. Ultimately, 9 percent will face extreme poverty in retirement, and 24 percent will live in near-poverty.

That’s what happens when so many people don’t have the easy option of having retirement savings come, directly and automatically, out of their paycheck. And that’s why California’s plan is so intriguing.

California is now offering a state-run retirement program to nearly 7 million private-sector workers. Officials are still working out many of the details, but the plan will operate much like a 401(k), with little risk to the state, which won’t contribute and won’t have to cover losses.

Eventually, all companies with at least five employees will have to offer their own plan or enroll in the state plan, which will automatically enroll employees and start setting away 3 percent of pay, rising 1 percent annually until it reaches 8 percent, unless the employee opts out.

There is still a lot of unknowns with such a plan, but it would certainly provide a convenient way for everybody to save for retirement, not just those workers whose employers are among the shrinking number offering plans. Done correctly, it could replace the pensions lost to history, and Maine officials should keep an eye on it.

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Podcast: The Editorial Board: Question 5 – Ranked Choice Voting Mon, 17 Oct 2016 15:51:41 +0000 Kyle Bailey, campaign manager for the Ranked Choice Committee debated state Representative Heather Sirocki over Question 5, an act to establish ranked choice voting, at a meeting of the Press Herald editorial board.

Related: Our View: Ranked-choice voting is right for Maine

Subscribe to the Press Herald Podcast on iTunes

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Maine Voices: Effort to legalize marijuana is full of smoke and mirrors, Cumberland DA says Mon, 17 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Even if you think marijuana should be regulated and taxed like alcohol, you should vote “no” on Question 1.

Why? Because a “yes” vote will enact L.D. 1701, 30 pages of legislation that does not treat marijuana like alcohol.

Instead, it creates a profit-driven industry that will aggressively market product, increase consumers and continuously push more potent (and, therefore, more addictive) products, while insisting they are not harmful. Think Big Tobacco 2.0. On steroids. And it will obliterate medical marijuana in Maine, as it has in Washington state and Colorado.

Let’s take a look at what Question 1 will actually do instead of what the proponents want you to believe it will do.

The legislation completely legalizes pot use for kids by repealing the section of the law that prohibits it. Right now, adults 21 and over may possess up to 2½ ounces (that’s 150 joints) of pot and face a civil penalty only (i.e. fines).

Question 1 will make it legal for people over 21 and under 21 to possess and use up to 150 joints of pot. This law does not protect kids – it set them up as a huge new market for commerce.

The legislation establishes pot shops. Colorado now has more pot shops than Starbucks, McDonald’s or even pharmacies. Under the would-be law, pot shops are supposed to sell only to persons over 21, but there is no penalty for selling marijuana and marijuana products to youths. This law treats the marijuana retailer differently from an alcohol or tobacco retailer, who could lose their license for allowing sales to children.

The legislation does nothing to protect the public from impaired drivers. Unlike with alcohol, there is no prohibition against driving while smoking or consuming marijuana. And although operating while impaired by marijuana would be a crime, it’s not enforceable because there is no marijuana corollary to the blood alcohol test threshold of .08.

Marijuana hits all three parts of the brain (as opposed to alcohol’s one), and there is no standard metabolism rate. There is no known number of nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol in the blood that proves impairment. So if somebody tests at 5 nanograms or 8 nanograms of THC, that means, well, nothing.

The legislation wreaks havoc on employers. It specifically prohibits an employer from penalizing an employee for using marijuana in a location other than the employer’s property.

This is in contrast to the medical marijuana law, which provides limits on the use of marijuana by employees. Because of the conflicts with the medical marijuana law and federal law, it will be impossible for employers to know how to respond to a stoned employee or a problem employee who happens to use marijuana.

This bill gives landlords no rights to impose (and tenants no rights to enjoy) smoke-free policies. The medical marijuana law allows a landlord to restrict smoking on their property if they adopt a 100 percent smoke-free policy. This bill specifically allows the smoking of marijuana in any “nonpublic” place.

 This bill gives the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry a mere nine months to set up a huge regulatory bureaucracy; develop rules, policies and protocols, and train law enforcement in the investigations, searches, etc., necessary to enforce the new laws.

The Department of Agriculture, of course, has no experience, let alone expertise, in substance abuse, the law of search and seizure, commercialization of drugs or training law enforcement. It’s like asking the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules and enforce a whole new tax code.

This new regulatory and licensing structure will divert scarce police resources from crime to regulatory enforcement. It will also divert scarce court resources with endless licensing appeals.

Now for the cost: This bill will not save money or resources. The tax revenue imagined by the proponents will be outstripped, by a factor of at least 10 to 1, by the costs generated by the law. That’s the way it is with cigarettes and alcohol, and will be with marijuana.

The “yes on 1” campaign rhetoric is characterized by smoke and mirrors and downright dishonesty. That’s because the motive behind this effort is Big Marijuana commercialization at a time when we are already in the center of a gargantuan, devastating and overwhelming substance abuse public health crisis in our state.

Let’s take the time to develop a smart and sensible approach to marijuana based on public health and not on what’s best for Big Marijuana. Vote “no” on 1.


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Our View: LePage puts local spin on Trump’s low tactics Mon, 17 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Gov. LePage has said that Donald Trump should pay him “for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.” But if things keep going the way they are, Trump should ask for some payment of his own.

During a week when many conservatives were seen speeding away from the trash fire that is the Trump campaign, LePage not only stayed put along Trump’s side but continued to throw gasoline on the blaze as well, aping some of the candidate’s most ridiculous and damaging attacks while putting a local spin on others. It’s a further sign that inflammatory and divisive politics are becoming normalized, and it shouldn’t be tolerated, in Maine or anywhere else.

The bulk of the comments came at a news conference last Tuesday, which LePage called to clarify remarks made a day earlier in which he said the United States needed Trump’s “authoritarian power.”

While explaining that he meant the moment called for Trump’s “authoritative persona,” and standing behind Russian nesting dolls depicting Bill Clinton and a series of women involved in Clinton’s scandals, LePage rambled in a way that can only be described as Trumpian. He even – oddly – inserted a harsh remark critical of Sen. John McCain.

But that’s not the worst of it.

After praising Trump’s “powerful personality,” LePage called President Obama a “dictator” for issuing executive orders, which Obama has used to protect LGBT and employee rights, designate a national monument in Maine’s Katahdin region and forward immigration reform.

When asked how this differed from LePage’s own use of executive authority – which has brought us endless vetoes and baseless, worthless investigations – the governor said he acts with the best interests of Maine people in mind, while Obama is only interested in his own legacy.

That is very much in kind with LePage’s statements the next day, when he said at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Lewiston that two proponents of increasing the minimum wage “should be sent to jail,” echoing Trump’s frequent comments on Hillary Clinton. The next day, he called the measure “attempted murder.”

There are no reasonable disagreements in Paul LePage’s world. There are only good people and bad people, and the only way to be a good person is to agree with him. The others don’t just have a different point of view – they have a nefarious agenda. The issue shouldn’t end with a vote on the merits, but with the opposition behind bars.

If demonizing opponents is Step 1 in the playbook, then delegitimizing the media is Step 2. Trump rails about media unfairness and a rigged process. LePage does the same, telling reporters, “I have no respect for you at all … your life is to destroy people instead of doing good things.”

It may be strategy, it may be delusion, but it clearly gives angry supporters an excuse for ignoring the very valid criticisms of both politicians. In the case of the Trump candidacy, it makes possible a scenario in which millions of Americans don’t accept a Clinton victory Nov. 8. It makes post-election violence a possibility, and a post-election mess a near certainty.

That’s the end result of all this bombastic, inflammatory and fact-challenged nonsense – an America that is less stable and utterly incapable of coming together.

There’s no hope that LePage will stop acting like Trump. We can only hope that other Mainers seeking elected office don’t see it as a reasonable way to gain power.

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Commentary: How will Portland deal with its impending growth? Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Portland will grow in the coming years as more people flock to cities, driven by well-established and worldwide trends. Cities today attract the young, the empty-nesters and the globally displaced, plus service- and knowledge-based businesses. The northward spread of economic activity from Boston and the warming effects of climate change will bring even more.

The question is not whether Portland will grow, but how well it will manage the growth that is now certain to come. Will this growth be haphazard, driven solely by market forces and the desire for profit? Or will it be intentional as well, responsive to longstanding traditions and public values, and lead to a more attractive and successful city? Will Portland become a city of the rich and poor, squeezing the middle class out to the suburbs and making itself auto-dominated? Or will it return to its roots as a livable, walkable city of connected neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive character?

A more populous and attractive city for its residents to live and for businesses to locate will go a long way in helping the city deal with its aging infrastructure. Its current Capital Improvement Plan estimates the replacement value of the city’s capital assets at some $830 million. If these were scheduled for replacement over a reasonable 45 to 50 year period, it would require roughly 50 percent more in annual borrowing than is proposed in the plan – and burdensome property tax increases for all.

Over the past six months Creative Portland, the Portland Regional Chamber, the Muskie School and the Portland Society for Architecture have examined these issues and conclude that the city faces not one but two great challenges today: workforce development and housing, which are two sides of the same coin.

To be successful, Portland must grow its workforce, broaden its property tax base and create greater housing opportunities for all social classes along its connecting thoroughfares and in select neighborhood centers on and off the peninsula.

Portland must pay careful attention throughout to good urban design, learning from other successful cities.

Successful cities today are powerful magnets for people, offering vast opportunity for employment and upward mobility. They accommodate diverse peoples of all incomes and social classes and ensure the availability of shelter that is affordable to all. To do this, they build mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods that bring together housing, businesses, shops, cultural venues, green space and pocket parks, creating settings where residents can walk to shop, work, play, rest, engage and visit.

Portland’s employers face formidable challenges in replacing the highly skilled workers who will retire over the next few years. This “changing of the guard” will be successful only if Portland can attract and keep the next-generation workforce. Housing prices and rents that are out of reach will drive more workers from the city, worsen traffic congestion, make commuting even more stressful and dangerous, further burden resident taxpayers and persuade employers to locate in places where employees can afford to live.

To address its workforce problem, the city must attract and train workers at all skill levels. Unprecedented collaboration will be required among our secondary schools, colleges, students and employers to ensure a continuing supply of high-skill and high-wage professionals, and to prepare residents for more limited-skill and limited-wage jobs that offer employment entryways for thousands of individuals.

Over the past decade, commuters rather than residents have been the overwhelming beneficiaries of Portland’s job growth. Right now, just 25 percent of Portland’s workforce lives within the city. Each workday, more than 50,000 workers enter and depart the city, turning important parts of the city into transport sluiceways rather than vibrant neighborhoods.

Over the next decade, Portland can and should aim to have half its population live and work in the city. In 1950, Portland was home to 77,000 people; today the city population is 66,000. How could Portland best become a city of 77,000 again – or even 100,000? It would take a new way of thinking about the city’s development.

Why not move forward with the approved plan to reconfigure Franklin Street as a tree-lined boulevard with wide sidewalks for pedestrians and five- or six-story commercial and residential buildings? With Maine Medical Center’s recent expansion announcement, why not refurbish the St. John/Valley Street area as an attractive neighborhood for its current residents, businesses, new hospital employees and light industry?

The Rocky Hill section behind Morrell’s Corner offers yet another exciting possibility for a neighborhood where as many as 5,000 people might live, work and shop without getting into a car and could be connected to the peninsula by improved public transit.

Interstate 295 between Congress Street and Washington Avenue has created a massive physical and psychological barrier that will require imaginative redesign to restore the East Deering neighborhood and reconnect the peninsula to Forest Avenue, the public university and private businesses now compromised by the massive highway.

Why not aspire to remove I-295 between Congress and Tukey’s Bridge altogether, direct through-traffic to the Maine Turnpike’s Falmouth Connector and make the new Congress-to-Washington corridor into a grand boulevard for housing, commerce and green space?

A Maine Department of Transportation traffic analysis for the redesigned Franklin Street indicates that bringing contemporary engineering design standards to these several projects would improve both traffic flow and public safety.

In Boston, the Rose Kennedy Greenway along the site of the late Central Artery has transformed the city’s relationship to the North End and a cleaned-up Boston Harbor. In Dallas, which now boasts a small streetcar system downtown, a movement is afoot to tear down Interstate 345 and replace it with a mixed-use boulevard.

How wonderful a gift to Portland might it be to repair the pain once inflicted upon it along Franklin Street, Spring Street and I-295 by recreating each of these as a lively and pleasurable scene of housing, commerce and personal pleasure?

Portland today teems with possibilities. With imagination and projects shovel-ready for forthcoming federal infrastructure funds, we can make this city even more attractive to new residents, especially those needed to replace retiring workers; to new businesses that will come where talent resides; and to current and future residents who will enjoy a livable city of vibrant, connected neighborhoods.

Portland has been a city of challenge and change from its very beginnings at the foot of India Street nearly 400 years ago. Throughout, its residents have shown resilience and pragmatism in responding. It is time now for us to act, to envision and build a Portland for the coming century that will highlight new and exciting (if familiar) architectural forms, and to advance its acknowledged resiliency and quality of place.

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