Thumbs Up — Mercury descending

In what John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council described as a “generational achievement,” the federal Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 21 released standards designed to reduce mercury pollution from power plants.

The EPA will impose numerical emission limits for all existing and future coal plants and propose a range of “widely available, technical and economically reasonable practices, technologies and compliance strategies,” to meet the new standards.

The newly proposed rules represent an appropriate step to safeguard public safety now and in the future. As the “tailpipe of America,” Maine will benefit greatly. The state’s congressional delegation will represent its constituents well by supporting the new guidelines.

Thumbs Down — Free and cheap

“News as Viewed from A Crow’s Nest” is a compendium of asinine cheap shots compiled by cowards who hide behind the First Amendment to lob ethnic slurs, KKK references and false accusations at Freeport officials.

Despite being mean-spirited,insulting and vapidly humorless, the anonymous vipers responsible for the “Crow’s Nest” were “doing nothing more than engaging in First Amendment speech,” according to Margie Berkovich, an investigator from the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Berkovich appropriately took a broad view in interpreting the constitutional right to “free speech,” but chicken-hearted application of that right by people who lack the integrity to identify themselves undercuts those of us who use the First Amendment as a tool to promote open government and serve public interests.

This isn’t a matter of whistle blowers providing information anonymously to shield themselves from retribution. Rather, the ‘Crow’s Nest’ oozes from a gutless individual or faceless cadre that aims to influence public opinion from the shadows.

If the creators of the ‘Crow’s Nest’ aren’t willing to make themselves known, the Freeport Town Council should call their bluff and ban it from municipal property. If aggrieved, the responsible parties could then make the case that their First Amendment rights were violated by seeking recourse in public.

Thumbs Up & Down — Campaign creep

The democratic process represents the best form of government. But does our version of it have to put voters through a quadrennial endurance test?

Iowa holds Republican and Democratic party caucuses Tuesday in anticipation of the Nov. 6 election. New Hampshire primary voters head to the polls on Jan. 10. From there, the presidential nomination process lurches through months of primaries and caucuses, in preparation for the marathon Battle Royale that will culminate on Election Day.

Other democratic nations compress the campaign process to three months or less. If voters insist that the U.S. did so too, perhaps we could refocus the process to one in which citizens elect leaders rather than the current system in which power brokers buy shares of government.

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