Opinion – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel https://www.centralmaine.com Features news from the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine and Morning Sentinel of Waterville, Maine. Wed, 15 Aug 2018 20:45:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Our View: Riverview fix should be left for next governor, Legislature https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/our-view-riverview-fix-should-be-left-for-next-governor-legislature/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/our-view-riverview-fix-should-be-left-for-next-governor-legislature/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:10:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=951194 For five years, the LePage administration has tried unsuccessfully to fix the problems at the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Center all by itself.

Even now, with its proposed solution — a new residential center to be built in Bangor — not expected to come online until after Gov. Paul LePage has left office, the administration is turning away input and oversight.

As a result, the next governor and Legislature will inherit a half-implemented plan created in secrecy and largely without the help of lawmakers, treatment providers, patients or patient advocates.

As planned, the new facility will open in March. It will house patients who no longer need the hospital-level care provided by Riverview, thus opening much-needed space at the Augusta psychiatric center.

There has been general agreement among policymakers that such a “step-down” residence is necessary. Riverview has been operating without its federal certification since 2013, when news reports and a federal audit revealed a series of serious deficiencies in how the hospital was being operated. A second, less-intensive facility would relieve some of the stressors at Riverview, and lead to improved care for patients.

LePage’s efforts to build such a facility have been hindered by his own unwillingness to collaborate or compromise, and the scattershot tendecies of his administration.

LePage has offered incomplete plans, then reacted angrily when asked to fill in the details. He has refused to consider the concerns of lawmakers who will oversee and fund the facility once it is operating. He has screamed about the urgent need for a new building, then failed to act on it for months at a time.

The governor’s failures have gotten us to this point. After refusing to answer legislators’ valid questions over his plan for a step-down facility in Augusta, LePage took to the proposal to Bangor, where in his estimation — though not the attorney general’s — he can build it without legislative oversight.

Keeping with that theme, the governor isn’t answering questions from the media on the project.

The company selected to operate the new facility, Florida-based Correct Care Solutions isn’t either — a copy of its 2017 proposal obtained by the Associated Press through a open records request was redacted at the company’s request. Blacked out were a list of current and closed lawsuits filed against Correct Care, as well as details on staffing, costs and operations.

That’s no small matter. The rapidly growing for-profit treatment industry in general, and Correct Care specifically, have been under scrutiny for a series of incidents in which profit motivation seemed to have won out over patient care, leading to injuries and poor treatment.

The redacted portions of the proposal may contain suitable answers to the many questions raised by patients, advocates and lawmakers, but we don’t know because we can’t see them, and it’s hard to trust the LePage administration when they’ve been so opaque, on this issue and many others.

All of which raises the question of why the governor is trying to shoehorn this project through in his final months, particularly when the new building is set to open weeks after his successor is sworn in. No new building should be constructed until a new governor and Legislature have an opportunity to review the plans.

Gov. LePage tried and failed to fix this problem on his own. Now it’s time to let others do the work.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/our-view-riverview-fix-should-be-left-for-next-governor-legislature/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/1494482_689920-LePage.jpgGov. Paul LePage has not yet released details of his bills to improve the child protection system, but recently indicated he would seek more money for staff training and computers.Tue, 14 Aug 2018 17:29:49 +0000
Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/todays-editorial-cartoon-1721/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/todays-editorial-cartoon-1721/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=951186 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/todays-editorial-cartoon-1721/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/951186_846873-8-10-Blue-Wave.jpgTue, 14 Aug 2018 17:30:18 +0000 Maine Voices: Absent oversight, condo associations can stymie energy-efficiency goals https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/maine-voices-absent-oversight-condo-associations-can-stymie-energy-efficiency-goals/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/maine-voices-absent-oversight-condo-associations-can-stymie-energy-efficiency-goals/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=951714 Condominium associations illustrate the challenges of representative democracy at the local level. Consider a condo association with three homeowners that has to decide whether and how to pay for the replacement of their leaky roof. Or an 11-unit condo that needs to decide who should pay for a new heating system that will be used directly by just six owners. Or a 21-unit condo that wants to replace its antiquated fuel oil heating system with a modern natural gas system.

These situations present challenges for a condo association’s board of directors. Faced with a dispute about the way forward, the default solution is often to do nothing, which would lead to continued reliance on fossil fuels and an outdated and uneconomic heating system.

Condo associations can be a barrier to improved energy efficiency. Condo associations can block the installation of solar or heat pump systems that need to pass over and through a condo building’s common elements. Rather than fully reckoning with the pros and cons of energy-efficiency projects, condo associations may focus, for example, on the appearance of a rooftop solar installation.

Many condo associations in Maine and elsewhere are major energy wasters, and many Mainers face high heating bills. In Maine and New England, the electricity industry has made major progress in recent years in achieving greater use of renewables to displace fossil fuels; thus, for them, much of the low-hanging fruit has already been captured.

The Maine Condominium Act is very clear on one thing: Condo boards have to act in good faith. Beyond that, however, little useful and practical guidance is provided. Condo associations necessarily have a role to play in regulating the use of a condo’s common elements. Under the Maine Condominium Act, condo associations have regulatory powers that allow them to restrict condo owners’ ability to reduce the carbon footprint of their condo unit if there are impacts on the common areas. The problem is that condo board members are given the duty to deal with situations that are substantively challenging without guidance about how to do so.

Unlike a typical state regulatory agency, such as the Maine Public Utilities Commission, condo associations are given little guidance as to how they are to use their regulatory powers. The Maine Condominium Act delegates regulatory tasks to condo associations with respect to encroachments on common property but provides little guidance as to how condo boards should go about deciding disputes.

In contrast, public utilities commissions must comply with the requirements of the U.S. Constitution, state and federal law, and the commission’s own rules and regulations. Moreover, public utilities commissions use open and transparent administrative procedures, which give parties and interested persons a reasonable opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. None of this is necessarily true for condo associations.

Legislative guidance to condo associations may be needed. Maine has a solar rights law but has not provided guidance or restrictions on condo associations’ authority to block solar or energy-efficiency projects for aesthetic or other reasons if they affect common areas. It is my understanding that many states, including California, Colorado, Hawaii and Texas, have adopted laws that limit condo and homeowner associations’ ability to restrict the installation of energy equipment by homeowners, which can apply to solar systems and to energy-efficiency and renewable-energy equipment.

California, for example, is serious about solar. Starting in 2020, solar will be mandatory in new housing. That state’s recently enacted solar rights law restricts condo associations from prohibiting rooftop solar as a general matter and prevents a condo board from requiring that new rooftop solar projects be approved by a general vote of all condo owners.

For condo associations, a bare-minimum oversight framework should include some degree of due process. Condo associations should give affected homeowners the opportunity to present arguments and evidence, provide written reasons for their decisions and actions and provide an opportunity for parties to request reconsideration of the board’s decision.

To be credible, a condo board should do sufficient due diligence that it can make an informed decision – one that considers the benefits of building upgrades that improve energy efficiency and reduce the building’s carbon footprint, as well as concerns about the impact of these proposals on the common areas of the building. A condo association can condition its decision to require that an individual owner bear the costs of ensuring that impacts on the common areas are minimized.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/maine-voices-absent-oversight-condo-associations-can-stymie-energy-efficiency-goals/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/1170460_686715_solar2-e1490141992632.jpgArundel-based Solar Market installed 144 solar panels in 2011 to power its business and provide heat in the winter. Solar use can reduce a need for costly transmission and distribution grid infrastructure, say advocates.Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:34:09 +0000
George Smith: We can’t take to the woods anymore https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/george-smith-we-cant-take-to-the-woods-anymore/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/15/george-smith-we-cant-take-to-the-woods-anymore/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=951182 Louise Dickinson Rich died in 1991. She received a modest obituary in this newspaper but deserved much more. Her books about living in the Maine wilderness have fired my imagination since I was a teenager.

Rich’s autobiographical book, “We Took To The Woods,” an instant best seller when published in 1942, still serves as a succinct, humorous and profound description of every true Mainer’s fantasy — living deep in the woods undisturbed by modern gadgetry.

Louise, Ralph and their two children lived in the wilderness on the Rapid River between Umbagog and Richardson lakes in the Rangeley region.

Hers was a life without privilege. After describing the untended birth of her son Rufus, Rich wrote that she read a magazine story that reported about people living in homes in America that had no running water, no bathrooms, and no doctor to help with the borning of children.

“I cluck my tongue,” she wrote, “suitably appalled for a moment until true realization hits me between the eyes. My God, I think, that’s us they are talking about! Why — we’re the underprivileged!”

Rich did not believe her children were “hopelessly handicapped because they take baths in washtubs in front of the kitchen range, read by the light of kerosene lamps, and sleep in unheated rooms.” That’s a provocative philosophy today, when kids are thought to be handicapped if they do not have a cellphone and laptop computer.

The standard of living at Forest Lodge was low, by any standard. But the Richs didn’t mind.

She wrote, “You don’t mind cheap clothes if everyone else is wearing clothes just as cheap. There are other things that contribute to health besides a balanced diet. There are fresh air and sunlight and lack of nervous tension. I think, probably, whether you’re better off in the country or in the city depends, in the final analysis, on where you’d rather be. Your best off where you’re the happiest.”

The Richs blissfully avoided the clutter and bustle of life in the organized towns. They were well-informed, with plenty of reading material and time to read.

“We get our news a little late,” she wrote, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if in the long run we have a clearer and more sensible idea of what is going on than those who read every special edition and listen to the special spot-news broadcasts on the radio all day long. Frankly, I don’t see how they can possibly know where they’re at from one moment to the next, and I should think they’d all go raving mad.”

Rich summed it up 65 years ago in words that could be written today: “So we have our 15-minute dose of everything’s going to hell each evening, and the rest of the day we try to forget about it.” Amen.

Life in the wilderness eliminated “spare time” and the choices one faces in filling that time. “Now almost everything we do is useful,” writes Rich. “There is no line of demarcation between work and play.

“It makes it hard to explain what I do with my spare time,” she explains, before launching two pages about smelting.

Reading Rich’s book today makes her life seem almost artificial, a sealed-off existence deep in the Maine woods.

When Rich left the Maine woods to move to the coast, she left many of her things in her house. I stayed in that house once, surrounded by her things, which was awesome, and I took my photo sitting at her typewriter.

Franklin Burroughs, a Bowdoin professor and one of my favorite authors, in his exceptional book, “Billy Watson’s Croker Sack,” writes about a Hemingway character, Nick, whose own wilderness experience is “an artificial experience, one carefully sealed off, in the way that a tennis match or chess game is sealed off, from the rush and confusion of ordinary life.”

Certainly, Louise Dickinson Rich’s life was not ordinary — sealed off, yes, but real, not artificial. Perhaps that is what continues to draw me to her books. Today, any attempt to duplicate her life in the wilderness would be artificial, at least in Maine.

There is no wilderness left here. Roads crisscross the north woods, and tourists raft and canoe down our best rivers to find adventure and escape from their city lives.

Rich’s life offered up so many Maine traditions — a life of carefully baked beans and biscuits, skating and smelting, woodstoves and kerosene lamps, wild berries and wilder animals, hard work, real conversations, and solitude.

In Maine today, we can’t take to the woods like Louise Dickinson Rich, and we are all underprivileged because of that.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or georgesmithmaine@gmail.com. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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Our View: Ignoring climate change puts Mainers in danger https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/our-view-ignoring-climate-change-puts-mainers-in-danger/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/our-view-ignoring-climate-change-puts-mainers-in-danger/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 08:10:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=949582 Policy driven by research works better than science driven by politics.

Witness Maine, which experienced a historic explosion in its tick population, and not coincidentally, a 20-fold increase in Lyme disease diagnoses between 2000 and 2016 — going from 71 cases a year to 1,487. Lyme is spread by a single species of tick that has been common in parts of southern New England, but was unknown to most of Maine just 20 years ago.

Even though science has established a clear link between a warming climate and the spread of tick-borne disease, the state has demonstrated a terminal lack of interest in conducting any research that touches on man-made climate change.

If truckloads of tainted meat were coming over our border and making hundreds of people sick every year, we would expect state government to do something to stop it. If there were a chemical in our water systems that was sending 1,400 people a year to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, we would expect the state to get to the bottom of what could be causing the problem.

But since the tick population explosion is an indirect result of greenhouse gases produced by human activity that trap hot air in the atmosphere, politics gets in the way of finding out what’s going on.

Climate change has become a polarized political issue, and instead of using research to drive response, politicians such as Gov. Paul LePage are using their preconceived notions to shut down research, even though it’s making people very sick. LePage came into office a climate change skeptic, saying during his first gubernatorial campaign that he did not trust “Al Gore science.

That probably got a laugh at the time, but like all jokes in politics, it’s serious at its core. Whatever Gore, an environmental activist and former Democratic vice president, was selling, LePage wasn’t buying. So, the science of climate change was reduced to another bumper sticker argument.

When he became governor, LePage used his bumper sticker as the basis of his policy. A committee preparing plans for coping with climate change, such as coastal flooding and ocean acidification, was scrapped because it had the taint of a Democratic administration. Research into the effect of a warming climate on diseases was eliminated when the climate and health program at the state Center for Disease Control was dumped.

LePage did allow some Lyme prevention research to go on with federal money, but taken out of the context of climate change, it’s not enough. And it doesn’t do anything about the other aspects of a warming climate that are not related to ticks.

Maine cannot save the global climate on its own, but it can do a better job of protecting residents and visitors from the effects of air and water that are growing warmer. Doing that would take policy that’s driven by research and a governor who won’t insist on having it work the other way around.

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View from Away: $1B tax cut for the top 1 percent? That’s rich https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/view-from-away-1b-tax-cut-for-the-top-1-percent-thats-rich/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/view-from-away-1b-tax-cut-for-the-top-1-percent-thats-rich/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=949278 President Donald Trump’s tax package, which included a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, went into effect on Jan. 1. As a result, corporate taxes paid have dropped this year by one-third. And the Office of Management and Budget has hiked its 10-year deficit projection by $1 trillion since January.

The annual deficit, up 20 percent so far in 2018, will reach $1 trillion next year. A level of shortfall once considered catastrophic even during an economic crisis is now the norm even during boom times. But apparently, the administration feels even more fiscal carnage is called for.

While corporations and wealthy stockholders benefited tremendously from Trump’s cuts, many middle-class taxpayers, particularly in areas with high taxes like Long Island, will be devastated by a $10,000 limit to the federal deduction for state and local income and property taxes that will hit home when they file their taxes early next year. Now the Trump administration is considering a plan to create another $100 billion in tax cuts almost exclusively for the wealthy.

The Trump plan under consideration involves reinterpreting the word “cost” in the IRS code so that people selling assets can adjust their taxable profits on capital gains downward by indexing for inflation. Former President George H. W. Bush considered such a change through regulation more than 25 years ago, but deemed an end run around Congress to be illegal. Trump would need 60 Senate votes to pass it, which is unlikely.

Analysis has concluded that more than 84 percent of the benefit would go to the top 1 percent of earners. More than 63 percent of that $100 billion would go to the richest 325,000 taxpayers in the country. It’s a very bad idea.

Editorial by Newsday

Visit Newsday at www.newsday.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Maine Compass: State’s ballot question system exploited regularly by outside interests https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/maine-compass-states-ballot-question-system-exploited-regularly-by-outside-interests/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/maine-compass-states-ballot-question-system-exploited-regularly-by-outside-interests/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=949274 For critics of the system, this likely comes as no surprise. However, it’s time supporters face this simple fact: Our process is controlled by outside interests, not real Maine people.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center will soon release a report that analyzes the funding behind each ballot initiative considered by Maine voters between 2009 and 2017.

The report also examines the checks and balances on Maine’s system relative to what other states with initiative and referendum processes employ. It will provide the most accurate estimates to date regarding the real amount of money contributed to our ballot question campaigns, and where it all came from.

Entities such as the National Institute on Money in Politics and the Maine Ethics Commission, which operate FollowTheMoney.org and MaineCampaignFinance.com, respectively, publish similar findings on their websites; however, their estimates “double count” funds.

Double-counted funds are committee-to-committee transfers of money among political action committees and ballot question committees that are officially registered to support or oppose an initiative.

These transfers should not be included in final fundraising estimates because the money being transferred was originally contributed by a different person or entity.

In addition, such transfers can artificially enhance total fundraising estimates and the percentage of funds contributed from sources inside Maine.

What we’ve found performing this analysis is that, between 2009 and 2017, more than $81 million was contributed to groups supporting or opposing ballot question campaigns. About 71 percent of these funds came from donors outside of Maine, while only 23 percent was contributed from sources within our borders.

On average over the period, Maine voters saw six ballot questions per year for which supporting and opposing groups raised a combined $9 million; $2.1 million from in-state sources and $6.5 million from away. All remaining funds were nonitemized, meaning they were contributions for which the Maine Ethics Commission does not require committees to report detailed information about the contribution, including donor state data.

In addition, groups that supported ballot initiatives during this period routinely outperformed their opposition. Supporting groups accepted a far greater share of contributions from out-of-state sources, and significantly out-fundraised the opposing campaigns.

This is noteworthy because ballot questions and veto referendums must be crafted so that a “yes” vote signifies support of the measure; therefore, petitioning organizations are always considered the “supporters” of an initiative. In other words, the groups that bring these issues to ballot are the ones lining their pockets with outside money to see them enacted.

In fact, groups supporting ballot initiatives received more than 75 percent of the $81.3 million raised by all groups over this period. This 3-to-1 advantage in fundraising reflects a difference of more than $42 million, or nearly $5 million more per cycle.

Groups that opposed ballot initiatives over this period received a far greater share of contributions from in-state sources than did supporting groups (40 percent versus 18 percent); however, the majority of their funding (53 percent) still originated from outside Maine.

The proportion of funds contributed from outside sources has also increased in recent years. In 2016 and 2017, this surged to 80 percent and 87 percent, respectively.

In 2013, groups participating in ballot initiatives received a collective $1,250 from outside sources, the only year in which out-of-state entities contributed less than $1.5 million.

The 2013 ballot featured only bond issues; not a single initiative or veto referendum appeared on the ballot that year.

Why weren’t outside interests ginned up for the bond questions in 2013? If this is not a tell-tale sign of abuse, I’m not sure what is.

Maine’s ballot initiative system is exploited regularly by outside interests who use groups like the Maine People’s Alliance as lackeys to do their bidding.

It’s time to put this “the will of the people” nonsense to rest.

Sure, people wanted these initiatives to appear on our ballot. They just don’t live in Maine, that’s all.

Jacob Posik is a policy analyst for The Maine Heritage Policy Center.

]]> https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/maine-compass-states-ballot-question-system-exploited-regularly-by-outside-interests/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2015/04/616796_506666-bear.jpgThe campaign over bear hunting methods last year has led some lawmakers to propose exempting wildlife management from referendum votes.Mon, 13 Aug 2018 14:24:20 +0000 Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/todays-editorial-cartoon-1720/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/todays-editorial-cartoon-1720/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=949266 ]]> https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/14/todays-editorial-cartoon-1720/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/949266_846873-8-1-KIM-ICBM-Product.jpgMon, 13 Aug 2018 14:16:54 +0000 Sen. Collins: Russia’s ability to divide America is far from fiction https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/sen-collins-russias-ability-to-divide-america-is-far-from-fiction-2/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/sen-collins-russias-ability-to-divide-america-is-far-from-fiction-2/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 15:37:12 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/sen-collins-russias-ability-to-divide-america-is-far-from-fiction-2/ Published in 1907, Joseph Conrad’s novel “The Secret Agent” tells the story of a cell of foreign operatives who plot to blow up a London monument. The high-profile bombing was not intended to kill, but rather to damage the confidence the British people had in the institutions of their government and society.

Although the author does not specify who the terrorists work for, the fact that the cell leader is named Mr. Vladimir provides a powerful clue. Indeed, from the reign of the czars through the Soviet era to today, Russia has a long and troubling history of attacking its geopolitical rivals by interfering in their internal affairs in order to foment suspicion and strife.

In our time, the weapon of choice is not a bomb but social media. As Noel Gallagher described in her Aug. 2 Portland Press Herald story, nearly 4,000 Russian-controlled troll accounts have swamped Twitter and other social media with more than 3 million deceptive messages targeting political leaders since the spring of 2015. As a centrist who strives to bring the Senate together on common ground, I am not surprised to have been the target of 273 of these attacks.

On the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have questioned government and private-sector experts on Russia’s concerted campaign to undermine the fabric of our elections. While these efforts did not change the outcome of the 2016 election, they were a nefarious attack against our country.

During that election, an estimated 150 million Americans were exposed to deceptive social media content created by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency. Moreover, 29 million people received news feed content from the Kremlin-directed IRA’s 80,000 posts on Facebook pages it created. According to the Intelligence Community, Moscow’s campaign blended covert operations — such as hacking — with other efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media trolls.

At a recent Intelligence Committee hearing, Dr. John Kelly of the social-media analysis company Graphika, confirmed my belief that Russia’s ultimate goal is to undermine our faith in democracy and the bonds that unite us as Americans. Part of this effort, he said, includes attempts to sway particular events or elections with disinformation.

The Russians are trying to exacerbate growing political and social divisions in our country. It is telling that Russia’s efforts are not aimed at one candidate or one political party — Republicans and Democrats alike are being attacked. In fact, the Russian attacks go beyond one country. In addition to the United States, we’ve seen Russian influence efforts in western elections in nations such as France, Germany and Great Britain.

This is not just about the 2016 election. There is every indication that Russian social media attacks actually increased in 2017 and that its efforts will continue through the 2018 election and beyond.

In addition to educating the public and the news media on how to better guard against this manipulation, it is essential that government take decisive action to protect our elections.

To that end, I have cosponsored the bipartisan Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which sends a powerful message to any foreign nation that attacks on American candidates, campaigns or voting infrastructure will produce severe consequences.

This legislation will swiftly impose harsh sanctions on Russia if it attempts to undermine our electoral process again. It would also direct the administration to develop a plan to prevent interference by any foreign country.

Our elections are administered by the states, so it is crucial that our defenses are strengthened at that level. The FY18 Omnibus provided $380 million for election security, and Maine has been awarded $3.3 million of this funding to help secure election systems.

The Secure Elections Act I co-sponsored would bolster state cybersecurity defenses and provide security clearances to state officials so they can address threats found in classified channels. Notably, no chief state election official had a clearance nearly eight months after the 2016 election.

The Department of Homeland Security has sponsored up to three officials per state for clearances, but as of this March only 20 out of the 150 had full clearances. One expert I questioned said that Russian actors have scanned election systems in all 50 states for vulnerabilities.

Ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Protecting its integrity requires all of us — citizens, the news media and government leaders — working together. The attack by Mr. Vladimir and his conspirators was fiction, but the threat it described is all too real.

Sen. Susan Collins is Maine’s senior senator, a Republican and a member of the Intelligence Committee.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/sen-collins-russias-ability-to-divide-america-is-far-from-fiction-2/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/1488186_292310-KingCollins-1.jpgA Portland Press Herald story about Russian trolling targeting Maine Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins sparked suspicions among commenters about each other. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Mon, 13 Aug 2018 11:39:40 +0000
View from Away: Fleeting mistakes live forever online https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/view-from-away-fleeting-mistakes-live-forever-online/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/view-from-away-fleeting-mistakes-live-forever-online/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 08:10:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946126 “I am forever grateful that I got to be young and stupid before virality was invented.” So said Lydia Polgreen, editor in chief of HuffPost, in a tweet on Aug. 2. By the next day, it had been retweeted hundreds of times and “liked” by thousands of readers.

Sean Newcomb may wish he had been born a generation ago. The Atlanta Braves left-hander, age 25, came within a strike of pitching a no-hitter — and was barely done when he was confronted with Twitter posts he had put up in 2011 and 2012 using racial and homophobic slurs. Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner was busted for making similar tweets when he was in high school. These came to light not long after Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader had been exposed for doing much the same at age 17.

All apologized, with Hader saying, “I was young, immature and stupid. There is no excuse for that to happen.” All three will have considerable work to do rehabilitating their reputations and making amends for their nasty online remarks. Being in high school when you expressed bigoted sentiments certainly does not relieve you of the obligation to show that you’ve reformed.

But these incidents are evidence of the hazards of living in an age when youthful stupidity can attain immortality. Likewise for not-so-youthful stupidity, as tech journalist Sarah Jeong, a Korean-American who was born in 1988, was reminded. Shortly after she was hired by The New York Times, she found herself called to account for caustic tweets aimed at white people. Jeong, who said she was “counter-trolling” harassers, also apologized.

When news breaks of youngsters being embarrassed or ruined by stupid things they said or did online, a lot of their elders say, “There but for the grace of the World Wide Web go I.” A few decades ago, kids could graduate from high school without fear that their worst decisions or utterances would haunt them for life. Then, a brief lapse of judgment could be just that — brief, and soon forgotten. But the internet never forgets.

Each such revelation is a reminder that humans are universally fallible but often capable of reform. So citizens of the 21st century may need to fashion some informal new customs for the treatment of such sins and missteps. And we suspect there will be a shift toward a slightly more charitable treatment.

That’s what happened once politicians found they could no longer expect journalists or others to keep quiet about their sexual shenanigans. When Sen. Gary Hart was accused of having an extramarital affair in 1987, the scandal torpedoed his pending presidential campaign. Bill Clinton’s presidency survived the exposure of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, though barely. By 2016, Donald Trump’s history of philandering appeared to have no effect on his electoral fortunes. Once offenses are known to be common, they are less likely to be deemed unforgivable.

In a world where mistakes never disappear, many if not most of us are vulnerable to being harshly judged for fleeting conduct that does not show us at our best. The general ethos may evolve away from “an eye for an eye” and toward “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Until then, two suggestions: Think twice, at least, before putting anything online. And consider deleting your old tweets. Someday you may be glad you did.

Editorial by the Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Our View: Stagnant workforce means no new jobs https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/our-view-stagnant-workforce-means-no-new-jobs/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/our-view-stagnant-workforce-means-no-new-jobs/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 08:10:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=947038 A lot can change in a decade in any economy. But when the state’s economists look into the future they are not projecting much change at all.

A report issued this month by the Department of Labor predicts that the state will have virtually zero growth in jobs during the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026.

The department sees what we have known for a long time. As the state’s population ages and the birthrate drops, Maine’s economy will struggle to tread water. The chicken-and-egg problem of workforce development – companies will not invest if they don’t think they will be able to hire workers and workers don’t move to a place where there are no jobs – means that the state will have few options available to change the cycle.

The Labor Department did propose any game changers. It projects that with a shortage of young workers, the Mainers who live and work here now will stay on the job longer. That might work for some people in their 70s, but it won’t for everybody. Some people won’t be able to continue working after reaching retirement age because of their health and others won’t want to.

There are several organizations that are not accepting the state’s dour projections. A group called MaineSpark seeks to increase the number of Mainers who have specialized training needed to fill vacancies in high paying fields. Maine Works is an ongoing collaboration with the Maine State Chambers of Commerce and Maine Development Foundation, and has identified under employed groups, like disaffected youth and people with disabilities, who would participate in the workforce if they had the chance.

But every economist who has looked at this issue comes to the same conclusion: Maine needs reinforcements.

Even if we trained every Maine teen for high skill work, and somehow managed to prevent any of them from leaving the state, we would still be losing more workers to retirement than we would be adding.

Just as immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries enabled the growth of Maine’s mills, we will need people from away who want to come to the state and raise families.

Ten years of stagnation is not a plan. It’s time for leadership from Augusta committed to welcoming the newcomers we desperately need.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/our-view-stagnant-workforce-means-no-new-jobs/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/09/749170_125293-ELECTRICAL-INSTRUCTI.jpgCianbro employees work Thursday at the company's new workforce development facility in Pittsfield.Mon, 13 Aug 2018 10:53:06 +0000
View from Away: GAO report shows just how reckless Trump is with a border wall https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/view-from-away-gao-report-shows-just-how-reckless-trump-is-with-a-border-wall/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/view-from-away-gao-report-shows-just-how-reckless-trump-is-with-a-border-wall/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946114 No one should assume that President Donald Trump, who was elected in large part on pledges of tougher enforcement of immigration laws, will ever back down on his promise to build “a big, beautiful wall” on parts of the U.S.-Mexican border that don’t already have walls or fences — even though he’s made little progress to date. U.S. Customs and Border Protection built several prototype walls last year near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego County, but the president has so far been unable to secure the $18 billion for his plan he sought from Congress in January. This ridiculously led him to warn last week that he would shut down the federal government if lawmakers didn’t heed his requests.

That threat seems doubly ridiculous in light of a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report released last week that provided ample reasons to explain why even Republicans who support an immigration crackdown should have their doubts about building a border wall. The 43-page analysis found that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had not undertaken basic planning steps to evaluate such factors as the cost-effectiveness and practicality of where to begin constructing the wall, given the different terrains near the border, or to establish metrics that could be used to determine where less expensive methods than walls could be used to increase border security. The GAO warned that because DHS is proceeding with the wall project without key information, the agency faces an increased risk that it “will cost more than projected, take longer than planned or not fully perform as expected.”

This report should surprise no one who has been paying attention to the Trump administration, which on its 500th day in June had not put forth candidates for 204 of 665 key federal jobs requiring Senate confirmation. While the president likes to blame Democrats for thwarting him, sweating the details hasn’t seemed especially important to him.

But even Trump’s biggest fans should expect more out of him. If the president wants better border security, he should strive to do so in a way that gives taxpayers the most bang for their buck. This is no way to launch a multibillion-dollar project, and it gives credence to the theory that Trump isn’t really serious about a border wall beyond delighting in using it as a divisive talking point.

Editorial by The San Diego Union-Tribune

Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/view-from-away-gao-report-shows-just-how-reckless-trump-is-with-a-border-wall/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/03/1346990_Trump_California_30289.jpg-.jpgPresident Trump inspected eight border wall prototypes on Tuesday at Otay Mesa Port of Entry, south of San Diego. The White House has requested $18 billion for the project.Fri, 10 Aug 2018 15:59:53 +0000
Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/todays-editorial-cartoon-1719/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/todays-editorial-cartoon-1719/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946086 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/todays-editorial-cartoon-1719/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/946086_846873-8-10-Sharks-and-Beac.jpgFri, 10 Aug 2018 16:02:29 +0000 Rep. Colleen Madigan: Maine cities like Waterville deserve more state funding aid https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/rep-colleen-madigan-maine-cities-like-waterville-deserve-more-state-funding-aid/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/rep-colleen-madigan-maine-cities-like-waterville-deserve-more-state-funding-aid/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946098 Property taxpayers in Maine have a heavy burden to bear. This is especially true in Waterville. To start with, we are a small city geographically speaking, at only 13.5 square miles. Of that area, we have a large number of nonprofits, including two hospitals and two major colleges and numerous churches. Between the nonprofits and park land, about 32 percent of the city is not taxable.

Taking those points into consideration makes any state aid the city gets really important. One of the biggest sources of state aid is General Purpose Aid to Local Schools, which came to about $13.3 million for the 2017-18 school year. This aid, as the name suggests, has to go to offset the cost of education.

Also critical to the city is a program called Municipal Revenue Sharing. This is state aid that can be used for any city expenditure, like the fire department, police department or the library. It is hard to overstate the importance of revenue sharing to a city like Waterville.

First enacted in 1972, revenue sharing was designed to take a percentage of income and sales taxes received by the state and divert them directly back to Maine’s cities and towns. The sales taxes include the money that we all pay when we go to lunch at Applebee’s, buy our kid’s school clothes at Wal-Mart or shop at a downtown local business. Revenue sharing helps make sure that some of the tax money that we have already paid gets back to the towns where we live to support local services like our fire and police departments. It helps keep well-paying jobs here.

In 2000, the Legislature recognized that service center communities like Waterville, where people come to from surrounding communities to work, shop, seek health care and go to college, face additional burdens. They enacted “Revenue Sharing 2” to help service centers deal with their additional financial stress. Around 5 percent of state sales and income taxes flowed back to Maine’s cities and towns to help maintain necessary services and lower local property taxes.

Until the Great Recession in 2008, this worked well. Revenue sharing gradually increased each year, reaching a peak in 2007 of almost $3 million. These payments have since plummeted. Our current governor even tried to eliminate the program, calling it “welfare for cities.” (Interestingly, when he was mayor of Waterville, Paul LePage cried out loudly when then-Gov. Baldacci first proposed cutting revenue sharing in response to the budget crisis brought on by the recession. Funny how things change.)

The Legislature refused to go along with the attempt to do away with revenue sharing and kept it in place despite Gov. LePage’s veto, but it is a mere shadow of what is used to be. Payments to Waterville reached a low point in 2014 at just over $1 million and haven’t moved much since then.

Any cuts to revenue sharing must be made up either through cuts to already-strained services or through higher property taxes. We can’t keep shifting property taxes onto those who can least afford it, like seniors on fixed incomes.

I think the program should be fully funded again as part of an effort to make our tax system fairer. All of Maine’s property taxpayers face too high a burden, and this is especially true in places like Waterville, with our role as a service center and high level of tax-exempt property.

Property taxpayers need all the help we can get from the state. Revenue sharing is a great way of providing it.

Colleen Madigan is a Democrat serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives and represents part of Oakland and part of Waterville. She previously served a term in the Maine State Senate. She serves on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/rep-colleen-madigan-maine-cities-like-waterville-deserve-more-state-funding-aid/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/06/866979_726942-20180619-City-Coun2.jpgWaterville Mayor Nick Isgro blames the City Council and the city manager for a proposed 8.3 percent budget increase, but former eight-year Rep. Marilyn Canavan said at Tuesday's meeting that the lack of state revenue that is supposed to be shared with the city is the problem. Those funds have decreased considerably since the Great Recession, particularly under the administration of Gov. Paul LePage, who fought for Waterville's share when he was the city's mayor. Canavan demonstrated that the city has lost $1.4 million in revenue sharing annually over the last 10 years.Fri, 10 Aug 2018 16:15:51 +0000
Commentary: Beach reading for wonks https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/commentary-beach-reading-for-wonks/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/commentary-beach-reading-for-wonks/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946110 August is supposed to be the month you manage a vacation escape from the real or surreal world, including Trumpmania.

But for those who can’t let go and still schlep wonky books to the beach, here are my picks for relevant reading this summer, with a focus on democracy, Russia –– and Shakespeare.

If the subject matter seems too depressing, you can always retreat to your favorite mystery novel. Given the state of the world and our country, you may want to read on.

Because readers often ask me what to read about Vladimir Putin’s Russia and/or election meddling, here’s a Russia list that goes beyond the headlines.

–– “Nothing is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia,” by Peter Pomerantsev. This 2014 book (out in paperback) by a Russian-born British journalist reads like fiction but brilliantly portrays the dystopian Putin era, with a cast of oligarchs, Mafioso and lost souls. “Surreal” is the operative word as Pomerantsev takes a job in the Russian TV industry and describes from the inside how state-controlled media mix fact and fiction to manipulate Russian minds. Funny, frightening, and too close for comfort.

–– “Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice,” by Bill Browder. This American-born financier, once a major investor in Russia, fought rampant government corruption under Putin. In revenge, Kremlin cronies arrested his Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered in prison. Browder crusaded for a U.S. law, the Magnitsky act, which sanctioned those responsible for the murder. Putin has been trying –– via the famous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and at the Helsinki summit with Trump –– to get the Magnitsky sanctions lifted. This thriller describes Browder’s fight for justice for Magnitsky and describes how Putin’s kleptocracy works.

–– “Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News,” by Clint Watts. A former FBI special agent and cybersecurity specialist, Watts lays out in gripping detail how Putin’s Russia manipulated U.S. social media, and how others can do likewise. You may think you’ve read everything about Russian meddling, but Watts’ book can still surprise you. It is a primer on the present and future of information warfare, the lack of effective pushback under Trump, and what needs to be done.

–– “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. This book is a useful backgrounder for those who want to keep straight the cast of characters and history of the Mueller investigation. I still remain dubious that Russian meddling decided the 2016 election. But Putin clearly favored Trump and masterfully exploited America’s internal weaknesses, and these investigative reporters lay out all the details.

–– Turning to the home front, the deep dilemma of our times is dissected in “The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump” by Michiko Kakutani, the former chief book critic of the New York Times. At a time when objective reality seems a quaint concept, when social media blare bizarre conspiracy theories that many Americans take as gospel, and when a U.S. president damns real facts as “fake” while promoting fake news and falsehoods, we are in big trouble. The death of truth does indeed threaten democracy. As Kakutani puts it: “Without commonly agreed-upon facts there can be no rational debate over policies.” Her book offers no miracle cure but does offer a fascinating and erudite look at how and why “truth” has become an endangered idea.

Of the several other current books on threats to democracy, I found “How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, the most intriguing. Its main focus is on the importance of democratic norms that form the basis of our system –– and are eroding. Other countries may enshrine democratic principles in their constitutions but that doesn’t mean they are followed. What makes America different, these Harvard professors argue, is that its democracy developed norms of tolerance and of institutional forbearance, which allowed Congress and the courts to function. When those norms are attacked and die, democracy can’t function.

Finally, if real politics sicken you, you can turn to “Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics” by Stephen Greenblatt, who examines the bard’s historical plays and the psyches of bad or mad rulers such as Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, and Coriolanus. With unmentioned reference to now, this Harvard University Shakespeare scholar describes how cynicism, opportunism, and demagoguery in Shakespeare’s England fueled populist anger and led to the rise of tyrants. The comparisons may be a bit forced –– one can use Shakespeare to illustrate almost any aspect of human nature –– but the quotes are fun and the psychological insights are all too relevant.

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may write to her at: Philadelphia Inquirer, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101, or by email at trubin@phillynews.com.

Visit Trudy Rubin at www.philly.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/13/commentary-beach-reading-for-wonks/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/993312-20180803_beach_04-1.jpgPORTLAND, ME - AUGUST 3: People visit East End Beach on a hot Friday afternoon. The beach has a warning for beach-goers as bacteria levels monitor high again Friday, August 3, 2018. (Staff photo by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer.)Fri, 10 Aug 2018 16:01:15 +0000
Nation founded on religious principals https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/nation-founded-on-religious-principals/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/nation-founded-on-religious-principals/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945342 The atheist Tom Waddell, president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, in his diatribe of Aug. 3, says that the United States has a secular heritage. If he were to review the founding documents, he would find the Christian God and principles on practically every page. This includes The Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution (which had deficits corrected by amendments). Separation of church and state was mentioned only by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists to assure them that the government would not interfere in their religion. The U.S. Constitution reflects the Mayflower Compact. The early settlers to this country came here so that they could practice their Christian religions in peace and to get away from state-run churches. They wanted to freely be able to depend on Almighty God.

The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution “prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech…” In other words, we are free to express our Christian beliefs and mention God in government circles or anywhere else.

Atheists DO have a god. He and his angels, the demons, are mentioned in many places in the Bible. He is called the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), Satan, the devil, Beelzebub, etc.

Mr. Waddell wanting to give the invocation for the session of Legislature to ask the Devil to bless the work of our Legislature when the Devil tries to do the opposite is utterly ridiculous.

For the KJ to fill Godly M.D. Harmon’s spot on the editorial page with an atheist is also ridiculous!

Albert Boynton

Whitefield

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Memo for Trump makes all delightfully murky https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/memo-for-trump-makes-all-delightfully-murky/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/memo-for-trump-makes-all-delightfully-murky/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945346 I received this from an anonymous “fake” source recently.

To: POTUS

From: SHS

Re: Next Press Briefing

Sir.

Consider using one of these statements to walk back your Helsinki remarks with Vlad:

• “I didn’t say, ‘I don’t see why it would be Russia,'” or

• “I said, ‘I don’t see why it wouldn’t be Russia,” or

• “I don’t see why I wouldn’t say Russia would not,” or

• “Why should I say why it wouldn’t be Russia or not?” or

• “I do see why it wouldn’t or couldn’t be Russia; why would I say that?”

This should confuse the hell out of the fake media; indeed, it confuses me.

BTW, throw in a reference to Hillary … Benghazi … or Boris or any other “Red” herring.

BTW, “red herring” is a common phrase and has nothing to do with Vlad or Russia.

So you are good to go!

Brian Kent

Litchfield

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Sen. King a supporter of quality public education https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/sen-king-a-supporter-of-quality-public-education/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/sen-king-a-supporter-of-quality-public-education/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945350 I am writing in support of U.S. Sen. Angus King’s positions on supporting quality public education for all students.

As a speech pathologist who has spent most of my career working with preschool and school-aged students with disabilities in public schools, I have witnessed first hand the significant gains students can make with high quality education.

Senator King consistently supported high-quality public education when he was governor of Maine and does now as our Senator from Maine. Senator King has a comprehensive understanding of the need for high-quality public education for all students. He supports on-going teacher training, Title I services for at-risk students, funding for after school and summer school programming for at-risk students and quality special education for all students with disabilities.

Our children are the future for Maine and they deserve a Senator who will strongly advocate for quality public education for all students. I hope you will join me in voting to re-elect Sen. King on November 6.

Pamela Rasmussen

Waterville

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Collins must vote no on Kavanaugh nomination https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/collins-must-vote-no-on-kavanaugh-nomination/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/collins-must-vote-no-on-kavanaugh-nomination/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945354 Susan Collins must block the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh’s record indicates that his votes would turn the clock back on reproductive rights and many other civil and human rights that this country has fought long and hard for. Though it has been over 45 years since Roe v. Wade made legalized abortion law, our government continues to limit access to abortion services — which are legal. In 1978-79 I worked in Louisiana at a women’s health clinic that provided abortion services, contraceptive care and well woman care six days a week. Access was easy, services were private, legal and safe. Now, in 2018 in Maine, abortion services are limited to certain days and certain clinics. Access is becoming more and more limited especially with the Title X gag rule being proposed by the Trump administration. We must be able to rely on the Supreme Court to maintain our well established laws of privacy and constitutional rights. Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court will take us back to a time when our privacy was not protected and our right to make decisions about the most intimate parts of our lives did not exist. Abortion will not go away regardless of who sits on the Supreme Court. Access to safe and healthy abortion will.

Susan Collins must ask the tough questions during the confirmation hearings. We need her to vote no to the Kavanaugh nomination. She needs to hear from all of us so that our personal liberties and our right to privacy guaranteed by Roe v Wade are not eroded. Call her; write her. I hope she is listening.

Elayne Richard

Fairfield

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Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/todays-editorial-cartoon-1718/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/todays-editorial-cartoon-1718/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946074 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/todays-editorial-cartoon-1718/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/946074_846873-8-10-Election-wave.jpgFri, 10 Aug 2018 16:01:52 +0000 Corporations have too much sway in elections https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/corporations-have-too-much-sway-in-elections/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/corporations-have-too-much-sway-in-elections/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945358 On July 28 the Morning Sentinel published an op-ed by Jay Ambrose headlined “The socialists are coming.” Ambrose is a minion of and mouthpiece for a giant publishing corporation, Tribune News Service, owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group. He submits this type of propaganda to many other newspapers around the country owned by Sinclair.

Big media corporations will increasingly be using these smear tactics to sway voter opinion in an effort to prevent progressives from taking control of the U.S. Congress in the November mid-term election.

In his book, “Unequal Protection,” Thom Hartmann describes how corporations have successfully thrown off the shackles of being just “artificial persons,” as they are legally known, and have become “persons” with the helping hands of the conservative leaning Supreme Court. Increasingly, corporations have acquired constitutional protections intended for natural persons and now spend unlimited money on elections, smear candidates they oppose with lies, and are fully protected by the constitution.

There are reportedly six corporations that own 90 percent of all media in this country, and those six corporations can and do control the message nationwide. It is a fact that they who own the media, control the message.

Nothing in our political lives as citizens and voters is as important as eliminating the influence of corporations in our government. Although amending the U.S. Constitution is a huge mountain to climb, there is no other way to fully wrest control of government from corporation control. Until that happens, corporation “persons” will continue to influence our elections with money, write bills for our legislators to pass and control members of Congress we put in office for them through our elections in which their millions of dollars determined the winners. Let’s not let corporate minions like Jay Ambrose control the message for Maine voters.

Jim Chiddix

Waterville

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Federal workers can’t fix Social Security https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/federal-workers-cant-fix-social-security/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/federal-workers-cant-fix-social-security/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945362 In his letter to the editor, Paul Anderson suggests having government employees enroll in the Social Security system to “fix this mess” (“Fix Social Security in one easy step,” July 31).

While I can’t speak for state or municipal employees, federal employees have been contributing to Social Security, at the same deduction rate as other workers, since 1983. Obviously, the contributions of approximately 2.7 million federal workers over 35 years hasn’t fixed anything.

I venture to say there is no easy fix for the Social Security system. Many economists have advocated a gradual increase in deductions and decrease in benefits to Entitlement programs, but Congress has declined to act.

As for phasing out government pension plans, you get for you pay for. The federal government does have a fixed-benefit pension and voluntary 401K-type plan in addition to Social Security. I worked for the federal government for just under 40 years, with 31 years in fleet support for the U.S. Navy.

That meant making sure the sailors we send in harm’s way had the best combat systems available to defend themselves. My co-workers were extremely intelligent and dedicated, but rightfully expected due compensation for their work. Government salaries are below those of comparable positions in private industries. Such benefits as a good pension, health insurance and leave policies are critical to maintaining a high-quality workforce.

For those wanting more information, check out the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website on the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS).

Joseph Blackwell

Waterville

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Commentary: The meeting wasn’t ‘totally legal’ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/commentary-the-meeting-wasnt-totally-legal/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/commentary-the-meeting-wasnt-totally-legal/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945418 Exposing a long-standing lie blunt even by his standards, President Donald Trump last week confessed by tweet that the purpose of the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between his campaign and a Kremlin-linked lawyer was “to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics.”

It was left to his lawyer Jay Sekulow to try to clean up the mess. Addressing whether the meeting constituted a criminal violation, Sekulow told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that “you have to look at what laws, rules, regulations, statutes are purportedly violated here.”

So let’s do that. Meeting with a foreign power to get assistance with a presidential campaign is not totally legal; special counsel Robert S. Mueller III almost certainly could indict Donald Trump Jr. today for what is publicly known about the meeting; and the president should be deeply concerned about his own liability.

Mueller’s February indictment of the Internet Research Agency, and associated Russian entities and individuals, charged a conspiracy to influence the election to damage Hillary Clinton, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and support Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump — let’s call it an electioneering conspiracy. The indictment charged violations of 18 U.S. Code § 371 — conspiracy to commit an offense against or to defraud the United States.

Under the “defraud clause,” as precedent and the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual make clear, the statute criminalizes “any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of government,” even if the object of the conspiracy is not a criminal offense. According to Mueller’s indictment, the conspiracy sought to defraud the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice — the agencies charged with preventing foreign nationals from making contributions, donations or expenditures (which can include not just money, but any “thing of value”) that would influence U.S. elections.

Conspiracy law, it’s important to note, punishes the act of agreeing to a forbidden goal regardless of whether that goal is achieved. So long as the government can establish that targets agreed to pursue the conspiratorial objective, they may be prosecuted as co-conspirators. Conspirators need only agree to help bring about the object of a conspiracy even if they are not aware of all the details of the conspiracy itself. For example, in “chain conspiracies” usually involving narcotics, lower-level buyers and sellers are included in larger distribution conspiracy so long as they have some understanding of the existence of the larger plot.

The Trump Tower meeting clearly fits established definitions of “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” In early June, Trump Jr. received an email explaining that a Russian government official wanted to provide his father’s campaign with incriminating documents and information about Clinton as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. replied, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” The June 9 meeting was confirmed two days earlier, on June 7. That night, Trump announced he would “give a major speech” in the next week to discuss “the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”

On the face of it, Trump Jr. was approached by a foreign government seeking to influence an American election. Trump Jr. welcomed the possibility of influence, and candidate Trump’s actions, while circumstantial, indicate that he intended to make use of that information. It is irrelevant, in conspiracy law, that Trump Jr. found the information ultimately worthless, or as Trump said, that “it went nowhere.”

Michael Cohen’s allegations last week must have deeply terrified the president and those looking out for his legal interests. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and “fixer,” reportedly is willing to tell Mueller that he was in the room when Trump heard about and approved the June 9 meeting. That would potentially place the president at the center of the decision to join the electioneering conspiracy. Trump’s later documented effort to dictate a false statement about the meeting looks like an attempt to cover up his culpability. A prosecutor and jury are entitled to view a cover-up as evidence of participation in the conspiracy.

More than one year after telling the world that the June 2016 meeting was about adoptions, Trump and his eldest son stand stripped of their false cover. There is no more denying that the meeting sought to enlist the help of a hostile power to swing the election Trump’s way. The effort and the false statements about it were plainly deplorable. Whether they also were illegal turns on questions of law that Trump cannot obfuscate or control. They are what they are. Mueller already has laid the legal predicate for the Trumps’ guilt. Trump is at last playing in a legit game, and his hand is weak.

Harry Litman, a former deputy assistant attorney general, teaches constitutional law at UC San Diego. David Lieberman, a former Massachusetts assistant attorney general, is a lawyer with the Whistleblower Law Collaborative.

©2018 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/commentary-the-meeting-wasnt-totally-legal/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/05/Trump_US_Colombia_30733.j2.jpgPresident Donald Trump listens in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 18, 2017, during his meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. (Associated Press/Susan Walsh)Fri, 10 Aug 2018 15:36:09 +0000
Court not the place for someone reliably partisan https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/court-not-the-place-for-someone-reliably-partisan/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/court-not-the-place-for-someone-reliably-partisan/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945366 There is a role in a democracy for reliable partisan operatives to carry out the wishes of their masters, arguing for their policies, right or wrong, as best they can. Policy makers need functionaries to be effective.

Brett Kavanaugh has spent years in just such a partisan role. As part of the Starr Commission, he did the bidding of the right. In arguing Bush v. Gore, he did the bidding of the GOP, and in the Bush White House, likewise.

It is not wise to fill the court with people who are this deeply reliably partisan. It can lead to an undermining of the legitimacy and efficacy of the judiciary, as decisions like Bush v. Gore illustrate.

At a time when divisions between Republicans and Democrats are more contentious than ever, we should all call upon the Senate to come together around putting people on the court who can heal the divides we experience and get our democratic process back on a more sound footing.

Jeanne K. Strole

Winthrop

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/court-not-the-place-for-someone-reliably-partisan/feed/ 0 Fri, 10 Aug 2018 15:47:26 +0000
Commentary: Here’s what the fall of the American empire would look like https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/commentary-heres-what-the-fall-of-the-american-empire-would-look-like/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/commentary-heres-what-the-fall-of-the-american-empire-would-look-like/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945422 So what would the decline of America look like? I don’t ask the question because I think it’s happening (yet?), but because even the most inveterate optimist should be interested in the dangers, if only to ward them off.

Here’s the cleanest tale of hypothetical decline I could come up with, keeping away from the more partisan or hysterical scenarios, or those involving a catastrophic deus ex machina.

Imagine that the United States gets through the presidency of Donald Trump without a crippling constitutional crisis. Still, the shrill public debate — which will continue well past Trump’s time in office — will continue to prove unequal to the task of addressing the nation’s most pressing problems.

In recent years, the underlying rate of productivity growth often has been about 1 percent, and rates of economic growth are not even half of what they used to be. Meanwhile, America will have to increase taxes or reduce spending by about $2,200 per taxpayer per year to keep the national debt-to-GDP ratio from rising ever higher, and that figure predates the Trump tax cuts. To fund that shortfall, the U.S. will cut back on infrastructure maintenance. At least one-third of this country will end up looking like — forgive the colloquial phrase — “a dump.” The racial wealth gap will not be narrowed.

Aging and entitlements will force the president, whether Democratic or Republican, to look for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The spending cuts will diminish the range of the military, and the tax hikes will ensure that economic growth doesn’t pick up. The integrity of Medicare and Social Security will be (mostly) protected, but the U.S. will lose the ability to project power around the globe.

Over a period of less than five years, China will retake Taiwan and also bring much of East and Southeast Asia into a much tighter sphere of influence. Turkey and Saudi Arabia will build nuclear weapons and become dominant players in their regions. Russia will continue to nibble at the borders of neighboring states, including Latvia and Estonia, and NATO will lose its credibility, except for a few bilateral relationships, such as with the U.K. Parts of Eastern Europe will return to fascism. NAFTA will exist on paper, but it will be under perpetual renegotiation and hemispheric relations will fray.

One area of major technological advance will be drugs, and I don’t mean beneficial pharmaceuticals. The opioid crisis eventually will subside, but new waves of ever more powerful addictive substances will arise. Easy home lab production will make interdiction at the border fruitless. More than 80,000 Americans already die from alcohol every year, and more than 60,000 from drug overdoses. Total losses from addiction will rise.

Other technologies will indeed provide a bounty, but not all of it will be positive. Artificial intelligence and facial and gait surveillance will lead to unprecedented invasions of privacy, causing another 1 or 2 percent of Americans to decide to “live off the grid.” The impact of assassin drones will be curbed — by filling the skies with police drones. Public crimes will plummet, but public spaces in major cities will have a depressing sameness, due to the near-total absence of spontaneous behavior. Advances in recording technologies will make most conversations in public, and many in private, remarkably bland.

Driverless cars will be “the next big thing,” but they’ll make roads more crowded. The elderly will insist on their driverless car rights, and defeat economists’ proposals for new congestion charges. Americans will spend another hour a day in their cars, although texting and watching TV, rather than driving.

The very worst fears about climate change won’t come true. But a nagging succession of storms, plus required adjustments along the coasts to accommodate a rise in sea level, will eat up about 0.5 percent worth of economic growth. So when America does occasionally approach 3 percent growth, in terms of living standards it may feel more like 2 percent.

Shall I present my own petty gripes? Due to the limited selection on Netflix streaming, fewer and fewer people will watch the great movies of the past, thereby neutering the durability of the 20th century’s greatest art form. And live performances of classical music — another of the West’s most significant and beautiful achievements — will cease to be regular in all but a few major U.S. cities.

So what in this description sounds so implausible? Is it that you think productivity growth will come in at 3 percent? That it will all be worth it because advances in medicine will allow us to stick around in decent form until age 135? That technological breakthroughs will extend the reach of the U.S. military further yet? That the Mars colony will be awesome?

Just how lucky are you feeling?

Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.” Readers may email him at tcowen2@bloomberg.net

©2018 Bloomberg News

Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/commentary-heres-what-the-fall-of-the-american-empire-would-look-like/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2016/11/727586_653057-JoaquinFriday-e1480426184563.jpgScientists say severe weather, such as deadly Hurricane Joaquin, is intensified by climate change. A reader urges helping young people to actively address their worries about this.Fri, 10 Aug 2018 15:37:59 +0000
Greed drives Trump, Putin at our expense https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/greed-drives-trump-putin-at-our-expense/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/greed-drives-trump-putin-at-our-expense/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945390 With all the media coverage about Russian interference in our last presidential election, we know some things for sure. We know they did it with orders from the top because Russia is a one-man rule nation with cooperation from the billionaires who surround their billionaire leader. This money trail is where our media falls short, stopping short of looking at the money and control these greedy men, and a few women, want for themselves and their friends.

Make no mistake. Greed has no national loyalty. Its only loyalty is to itself. Both of the actors on center stage (Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin) surround themselves with obscene wealth and taking too much because they can. And, of course they only want more. That is the nature of greed. Look at Trump and his cabinet for proof. Look at what is happening here where the so-called “tax cut” passed by Republicans showered its generosity on the top 1 percent and threw crumbs to hardworking people. And they got those crumbs back anyway. Look at the price of gasoline. Look at the fact that, despite growing national income and a shrinking unemployment rate, the value of wages has not risen in 30 years or more.

Pay attention to the details, my friends. Connect the dots that mass media seems blind to. This is the same old song on a different day. Follow the money.

Stephen R. Aucoin

Waterville

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The View From Here: Are you ready for your test? https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/the-view-from-here-system-must-endure-bad-leader/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/the-view-from-here-system-must-endure-bad-leader/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=947810 If you are like me, you have probably been spending a lot of your time wondering if everything is really as bad as it looks.

To test it, I came up with this question for my friends. You can play along at home, it goes like this:

Imagine that you turn on the TV tomorrow and instead of Al Roker or whoever you were expecting, it’s Secretary of Defense James Mattis. He’s looking into the camera and calmly explaining that the president and vice president are not well, and they won’t be coming back from their weekend retreat in New Jersey. In their absence, the government will be run by an emergency committee made up of senior military and intelligence officials who will keep things operating until the country is back on track.

It slowly dawns on you. It’s a coup.

What would you do? Would you be out in the street, facing down tanks, demanding a restoration of our democratically elected leaders even if we’re talking about Donald Trump?

The answer I get almost all the time from my liberal friends – people who have gone to marches protesting administration policy – is probably not. The generals seem a lot smarter than the president, and more rational. The coup plotters might have prevented Trump from doing something terrible, like a unilateral nuclear attack. Any system that produced this president is broken.

That was my reaction, too, at first. But the more I think about it, the more this response scares me to death. If democracy and rule of law become less important than the identity of the current occupant of the White House, then the system is too fragile to withstand a serious shock, and serious shocks are always just around the corner. We know they’re coming, but how will we respond? (Gold star for my wife who immediately recognized that protesting a coup is always the right thing to do.)

Before we go any further, this game is not my prediction of the future. When Mattis was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps at the age of 19, he took his first oath to support and defend the Constitution, and it contains much more effective remedies for a bad president than a coup – first among them an election every four years.

A military take-over is not part of my experiment because I think it’s what’s going to happen, but because most people would consider that it on its face to be a terrible thing, no matter their politics. It would probably be the end of American self-government, the end of civil liberties, the end of freedom. Standing by and doing nothing about a coup is the kind of thing most people, liberal or conservative, would consider to be shameful, even immoral. But somehow adding the name of a president – maybe the worst president ever – makes it more complicated. It turns it into a choice between two bad options, which is the frame that lets people rationalize doing what they know is wrong.

If any conservatives are still reading, you are probably clucking your tongue and shaking your head about how this exposes liberal hypocrisy. You’re right, most of my friends are liberals and we are biased. It’s human nature to be biased. People will usually forgive their friends for doing the same things that would outrage them if they were done by a stranger. If any Republicans want to understand how that works, just look at who used to think that marital infidelity was a disqualification for high office but now think it’s no big deal.

People on the far left would probably say that this experiment shows that liberals don’t really believe in anything, which hurts, but is partly true. American liberalism, as it comes to us from the New Deal is not an ideology but a series of compromises, sometimes involving values like equality and justice that are always in conflict. (If something is fair but unequal, should you make it equal but unfair? What about a little less fair but more equal? How much is too much?)

To me, the coup question is a reminder that you never know when you are going to be tested and you don’t get to choose the question when it comes.

We live in a time where it feels that society could easily slip into chaos. When that happens conventional morality does not apply, or it least it’s not enforced. During a war, even killing can be acceptable, but after the war is over, there are always people who have trouble answering for what they did or didn’t do.

There is an old labor movement song called “Which Side Are You On?” It’s a good question for a confusing time, and one we will all probably have to answer some day.

 

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/the-view-from-here-system-must-endure-bad-leader/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Sun, 12 Aug 2018 09:03:03 +0000
Trump seems to admit collusion https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/trump-seems-to-admit-collusion/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/trump-seems-to-admit-collusion/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945394 President Trump has now admitted that there was collusion between his campaign and the Russians, to affect the 2016 campaign. You okay with that?

Powers McGuire

Augusta

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Cynthia Dill: Dillon Bates should not resign his House seat without due process https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/cynthia-dill-dillon-bates-should-not-resign-his-house-seat-without-due-process/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/cynthia-dill-dillon-bates-should-not-resign-his-house-seat-without-due-process/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=947822 I view the world through the lens of a civil rights lawyer who has litigated sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination cases in state and federal courts for more than 20 years. Justice and due process demand a system that is rigorous and legal claims that are tested through cross-examination and the rules of evidence in search for the truth.

And that’s how I approached the news that The Bollard, an alternative monthly magazine in Portland, has once again outed a powerful man, House Rep. Dillon Bates, D-Westbrook, who is alleged to have had inappropriate relationships with young women whom he met when he was a teacher and coach.

Rep. Dillon Bates

Some of Bates’ colleagues in the Legislature, and the editorial board of this newspaper, have called on Bates to resign his seat in the Maine House based on the public allegations alone.

But without diminishing the importance of victims’ accounts in any way, that’s not what he should do. He should stay in the Legislature and demand the due process any of us would want and let the search for truth continue.

I am not defending Bates – if he has committed a crime or abused or harassed students, he should absolutely be held accountable under the law. If he is a predator, he should be prosecuted and forever be banned from working with children. I applaud the courage of all victims to report offenses committed against them and understand the desire and sometimes need to remain anonymous. This commentary is on due process and accountability of public officials.

Everyone agrees that if he is found guilty of preying on teenage girls and abusing his position of authority, Bates should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Everyone agrees victims of harassment should not be retaliated against or shamed. Everyone wants due process and consequences for bad acts.

Where reasonable people disagree often is what constitutes fair process in the court of public opinion. The editorial board of this paper wrote Friday:

“Bates should resign now. Bates has not been charged with any crimes, but, if he were, he would be entitled to the presumption of innocence. But while he has a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in court, he does not have a right to serve as a legislator. That is a position of honor, and it’s important that anyone who holds it abide by the highest ethical standards.”

I see things a little differently. I think Bates has a right to serve until two-thirds of his fellow members vote to expel or otherwise punish him pursuant to the Article IV, Part 3, section 4 of the Maine Constitution. If, as the Press Herald reported, Bates’ lawyer said publicly the allegations against him are “baseless” and “without a shred of evidence,” I disagree that Bates should resign his House seat. If he’s done nothing wrong, he should appear at the next special session of the Legislature and vote to approve an investigation by the House Ethics Committee of the allegations against him, as Republican lawmaker Rep. Paula Sutton of Warren has requested.

The issue for the Maine House is bigger than the personal culpability of Dillon Bates – it’s the tolerance of and reaction to public allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by the institution that will make a meaningful difference.

There’s too much sexual harassment and how we address it is critical.

Outing bad men in the press and trying them on social media is not enough, according to a major study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The strongest predictor of unlawful harassment is “organizational climate,” or the culture of an organization.

Setting Bates’ legal issues aside until an actual criminal or civil proceeding is commenced – in his public life, Bates can’t have it both ways. He can’t refuse to resign and refuse to participate in a hearing held by a bipartisan ethics committee.

If he does, he should be removed or publicly censured by vote of his colleagues. If he chooses to serve out his term, the Maine House should immediately call a special session and vote to fully and fairly investigate the serious allegations of misconduct publicly brought against one of its members and seek subpoena power and collect evidence in order to make an informed and fair decision.

Setting a precedent of intolerance of harassment – and fair process – will best serve the posterity of the institution and the people it serves.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

https://www.dillesquire.com

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/cynthia-dill-dillon-bates-should-not-resign-his-house-seat-without-due-process/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846-1.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:33:13 +0000
Jim Fossel: Poll kicks sand in the idea that a blue wave is coming https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/poll-kicks-sand-in-the-idea-that-a-blue-wave-is-coming/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/poll-kicks-sand-in-the-idea-that-a-blue-wave-is-coming/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=947830 If you’re a Maine Democrat, the recently released poll of the gubernatorial race has probably given you a bad case of déja vu.

Yet again, what appears to be a very winnable race may be affected by independent candidates whose voters should be going toward your camp. To be sure, neither Terry Hayes nor Alan Caron appear to be a threat to win the race as Eliot Cutler was, but at this point in 2010 polls had him a distant third. Together, the two independent candidates are garnering less than 7 percent right now – but that’s more than enough to affect the race when a poll shows it’s almost tied.

Now, you could be heartened by that tie if you’re a Democrat. Eight years ago, the one poll released in August gave Paul LePage a comfortable (if hardly insurmountable) lead over Libby Mitchell, so a tie is certainly an improvement. It may not be much of one, though. 2010 was, after all, a big year for Republicans, as they swept to historic victories across the country at all levels. If the majority of analysts and prognosticators are right, 2018 will indeed be a good year for Democrats, meaning that in a swing state like Maine you should be doing way better than a tie right now.

There are a couple possible explanations for this: 2018 won’t be that great a year for Democrats nationally, it won’t be in Maine, or the one poll we’ve seen is wrong.

Democrats have been doing well nationally so far in special elections. That’s not a sure sign of a coming wave election by any means, but certainly you’d always rather over-perform in those races than under-perform. Though Trump’s approval ratings remain low, he’s retaining the support of his base and the economy is doing well, so that may be less damaging for GOP prospects as a whole than one might imagine.

There may be reason to believe that even if a Democratic wave is coming, it won’t be crashing down on Maine’s shores. The one poll we’ve heard of in the 2nd Congressional District was a thinly sourced internal poll, rather than a fully released public one, so it should be taken with a Katahdin-sized amount of salt – but it showed a very close race between Poliquin and Democrat Jared Golden. Again, if you’re a Maine Democrat, that story may be sounding slightly familiar: In both 2014 and 2016, leaked internal polls portrayed the race as close between Poliquin and Emily Cain, and each time he ended up coasting to victory. Coming up with a poll that shows the same thing as previous years shouldn’t be all that impressive if a national wave really is coming – indeed, it should be more a cause for concern than celebration amongst Democrats.

Now, it could well be that the Suffolk University poll is somehow flawed, and there are reasons that may be the case. As is not uncommon in public polls done by out-of-state firms in Maine, the southern part of the state appears to be over-represented: 225 of the poll’s 500 respondents come from the “southern/coastal” region, while the rest is split up between the midcoast, the “east,” and the “north.” They don’t break it apart by typical Maine regions like “Down East” or “western Maine,” but it’s never good news for a Democrat when they’re not leading in a poll that over-represents southern Maine. It’s the only region identified in the poll where Janet Mills has a solid lead over Shawn Moody, and it’s not nearly large enough to counteract his strength elsewhere.

One could argue that, since western Maine isn’t broken out as a separate region, it may be underrepresented as well, which could hurt Mills’ showing in the poll. However, that’s likely mitigated by the over-representation of Democrats – more of them were polled than independents. Furthermore, any under-representation of western Maine may also hurt Terry Hayes in the poll just as much as Mills, since that’s also where she’s most well-known.

Regardless of whether Maine is an aberration or a bellwether as far as the national elections, the polls we’ve seen can’t please Maine Democrats. So far they’ve shown no indication of a big wave in the Pine Tree State and that Democrats haven’t been able to reverse their fortunes from recent years. In what may be a rough year for the GOP, this should leave Maine Republicans at least cautiously optimistic, if not exactly jumping for joy.

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

jwfossel@gmail.com

Twitter: @jimfossel

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Our View: Lawsuits are needed to learn the truth of opioid crisis https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/our-view-lawsuits-needed-to-learn-the-truth-of-opioid-crisis/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/12/our-view-lawsuits-needed-to-learn-the-truth-of-opioid-crisis/#respond Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=948206 Skeptics appear to be in the majority in Franklin County when the topic is the hundreds of lawsuits that state and municipal governments are filing against the pharmaceutical industry for its role in the opioid epidemic. Two of the three members of the county commission were not ready last week to climb on board one such suit, which already lists as plaintiffs Maine’s state government, represented by Attorney General Janet Mills, and 11 of its 16 counties.

“Where is this going to end?” Commissioner Terry Brann asked Tuesday. “Are we going to sue the auto manufacturers because of accidents? Are we going to sue the alcohol industry… ? I don’t see any difference.”

Those are good examples of why these cases should proceed.

We have a long history of consumer protection litigation in this country, and despite a few well publicized excesses, these cases have compensated people who were harmed, held wrongdoers accountable and made the country a safer place. This history is what makes these opioid lawsuits a solid strategy.

There have been many lawsuits against auto makers for selling unsafe products like the Corvair or the Pinto, and victories by consumers have led to safer cars and trucks, saving thousands of lives every year. While the alcohol industry has not been considered liable for what people do while under the influence of its product, the tobacco industry has. In a landmark 1997 settlement, the attorneys general of 46 states were able to uncover evidence that the companies knew that cigarette smoking was linked with lung cancer and nicotine was addictive, but kept that information to themselves.

That funneled billions of dollars back to the states to help prevent kids from starting to smoke and convince adult smokers to quit. It also saves thousands of lives every year.

Considering the depth of the opioid epidemic, the pharmaceutical industry should have to face the kind of scrutiny in court that has been applied to other industries. The history of this epidemic raises troubling questions.For centuries, opium has been known to block acute pain, and chronic pain has existed since the beginning of time.

But for a variety of reasons, opioid drugs were not considered the best treatment for long-term pain until fairly recently. It changed in the 1980s when the pharmaceutical industry began to promote newly packaged pain killers to doctors and backing their pitch with industry-funded research that claimed that the drugs’ dangers had been overblown. Addiction was uncommon, the industry reported, and withdrawal could be easily managed.

Opioid sales soared throughout the next two decades. And so did demand for treatment and overdose deaths.

It turned out to be true that most people treated with the drugs did not become addicted to them, just as most Pinto owners did not die in explosions and most smokers do not get lung cancer. But 80 percent of heroin addicts report that their first experience with opioids came as pain patients under a doctor’s care. And roughly 25 percent of pain patients misuse their medication, either by abusing it themselves or selling it. As the epidemic spread, the industry did not blow the whistle on the troubling trends it must have seen. Companies were selling millions of bottles of pain killers, far in excess of what could be reasonably expected to be used for legitimate pain relief. The Washington Post and 60 Minutes uncovered government records that showed a single pharmacy in Brighton, Colorado, a town of 38,000 people, received 1.6 million orders for the pain pills. Almost none of these sales were flagged as suspicious by the supplier, McKessen Corp., even after the company was warned by the Drug Enforcement Administration and fined $13.2 million as a result of a previous investigation.

With approximately 620,000 overdose deaths between 1999 and 2016, there are some questions that the companies need to answer: What did they really know about their products? What did they do when they saw that things were not working out as planned? Could they have prevented this epidemic or at least slowed its growth?

Those are the kind of questions that can be answered through a lawsuit, where records can be subpoenaed and examined by neutral fact finders.

As for Commissioner Brann’s question, “Where is this going to end?” it’s too soon to say.

But it could end with accountability for bad actors, safer products that are handled more responsibly, money to help states pay expensive treatment bills – and thousands of lives saved every year.

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View from Away: In Afghanistan, 17 years of war and a culture of democracy https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/view-from-away-in-afghanistan-17-years-of-war-and-a-culture-of-democracy/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/view-from-away-in-afghanistan-17-years-of-war-and-a-culture-of-democracy/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 08:10:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945302 America’s nearly 17-year war in Afghanistan, the longest in our 242-year history, isn’t mentioned much in the news these days. We suspect that’s because U.S. casualties have dropped considerably since 2015, when President Barack Obama chose to scale back our military presence in the country rather than pull out entirely, as he had promised during most of his presidency.

Indeed, with U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan averaging about 17 a year since 2015 — down from a high of nearly 500 in 2010 — a surprising number of Americans are unaware the war is still being waged. According to a recent poll by Rasmussen Reports, 42 percent of likely U.S. voters were either unsure or didn’t know America was “still at war” there.

Some of that confusion likely stems from the Obama-era name change of the U.S. mission in the country. At the start of 2015, Operation Enduring Freedom became Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Along with that change came a substantial reduction in troops — and later, promises from Republican candidate Donald Trump to pull out of Afghanistan entirely.

But last year, President Trump, like his predecessor, chose to maintain and then ramp up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The great majority of the roughly 15,000 U.S. troops on the ground there today — a nearly 50 percent increase since Trump took office — are there to train Afghan military and security personnel as part of what the Pentagon calls Security Force Assistance Brigades.

Along with the increase in personnel has come an apparent change in strategy by the Trump administration. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during a visit to Afghanistan in March, the U.S. and its coalition allies are “working to achieve a reconciliation — a political reconciliation, not a military victory.” He went on to say that “the victory will be a political reconciliation.”

To that end, the administration has increased training of Afghan security forces and intensified aerial bombardment of Taliban-controlled territories and ISIS strongholds, even as it has signaled to the Afghan and Taliban leadership that a political reconciliation in which they work together to quell the growing ISIS presence in the country is mutually beneficial.

As part of this new offensive, U.S. forces are targeting the Taliban’s cash crop — poppies — which are used to make heroin and other narcotics. As Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in November, “This is not a war on drugs, this is a war on Taliban revenue.” These airstrikes, he added, are “allowed under the authorities that I was granted under the new U.S. strategy. I could not do that previously.”

Whereas Trump’s foreign policy elsewhere in the world seems to lack coherence, and even works against U.S. interests at times, his administration’s approach to Afghanistan has been focused and, dare we say it, productive.

In June, the Taliban accepted the Afghan government’s request for a three-day cease-fire during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan. During the cease-fire, Taliban fighters laid down their arms, peacefully entering Kabul and other major cities. Images of Taliban praying and celebrating alongside security forces and civilians soon went viral. Selfies taken by Afghan women alongside Taliban fighters were especially poignant, given the oppression and violence toward women condoned by many Taliban leaders.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Afghanistan and publicly instructed U.S. diplomats to engage in direct talks with the Taliban. At the same time, top U.S. officials have intensified pressure on neighboring Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven for Taliban fighters and commanders.

Last week, a senior U.S. diplomat reportedly met with Taliban leaders in Qatar for talks. The State Department will not confirm that “peace talks” are in progress, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it is the administration’s view that “if you can get a cease-fire that lasts a few days, perhaps you could get another one that lasts a bit longer, and that gives the people of Afghanistan hope.”

It would be Pollyannaish to say an end is in sight to a 17-year conflict in which more than 2,400 U.S. military and civilian personnel have given their lives. But we agree with Nauert: There is room for hope.

As Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Hamdullah Mohib, told our editorial board during a recent visit to Dallas, there’s a burgeoning culture of democracy and tolerance in the country. Of the nation’s 12 million eligible voters, 9 million have registered for parliamentary elections in October.

“We’d like to thank America — especially the people of Texas,” the ambassador told us. “We are a different place because of your support.” Just 18 when the war began, the ambassador spoke for his nation and his generation when he said, “America will always have an ally in Afghanistan.”

Editorial by the The Dallas Morning News

Visit The Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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View from Away: President Donald Trump’s racism can’t be the norm https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/view-from-away-president-donald-trumps-racism-cant-by-the-norm/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/view-from-away-president-donald-trumps-racism-cant-by-the-norm/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945290 President Donald Trump always has a nasty nickname or insult ready when he perceives an enemy. For detractors who are black, Trump usually goes after their intelligence, tapping into a traditional racism that, unfortunately, resonates with some supporters.

Trump has called Rep. Maxine Waters “a real low-IQ individual.” He tweeted that HBO host Bryant Gumbel is “really dumb.” He called former MSNBC host Touré “a really stupid guy.” And now he’s come after CNN host Don Lemon and basketball superstar LeBron James, tweeting, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”

James’ foundation is contributing about $2 million a year to help establish an elementary school in Akron, Ohio. The school for some of the city’s neediest children will offer a longer-than-usual school day and year, counseling, health checkups, food pantries, clothing and tutoring. James also will pay tuition at the University of Akron for students who graduate high school. And every student gets a bike.

But on Lemon’s show last week, James said Trump was using sports to divide the nation, referring to Trump’s attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. James also called Trump a “bum” last year when the president rescinded a White House invitation to the NBA’s Steph Curry after Curry, who is black, made it clear he would not go. And Lemon has called Trump a racist.

Trump might like Michael Jordan because Jordan is legendary for never commenting on social issues, but “Mike” praised James after Trump’s attack for his work in the community. Melania Trump lauded James and signaled that she’d be open to visiting the Akron school.

Trump responds to opponents aggressively; that’s his prerogative. But consistently degrading the intellect of black people who disagree with him — while rarely doing so to his white detractors — is racist. Just as Trump’s attacks on the physical appearance of female opponents, a strategy he almost never employs against men, are sexist.

Trump won’t improve because his strategy is attacked. But the nation will suffer if it isn’t.

Editorial by Newsday

Visit Newsday at www.newsday.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/todays-editorial-cartoon-1717/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/todays-editorial-cartoon-1717/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945294 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/todays-editorial-cartoon-1717/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/945294_846873-8-8-Democrats-Go-Lef.jpgFri, 10 Aug 2018 15:42:36 +0000 Commentary: US plays key role in Yemen abuses https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/commentary-us-plays-key-role-in-yemen-abuses/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/commentary-us-plays-key-role-in-yemen-abuses/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=945306 In mid-July, Amnesty International released a report documenting the plight of dozens of families in southern Yemen. Its title: “God Only Knows If He’s Alive.”

The report gives one testimonial after another from people whose loved ones have been tortured, killed or imprisoned by Yemeni security forces reporting to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that, with U.S. support, has been bombarding and blockading famine and disease-ravaged Yemen for three brutal years.

“Shouldn’t they be given a trial?” asks one woman, whose husband has been held incommunicado for more than two years. “Why else are there courts? They shouldn’t be disappeared this way — not only are we unable to visit them, we don’t even know if they are dead or alive.”

The Amnesty report implicates UAE-backed local forces in Yemen, as well as the UAE military, in the torture and other mistreatment of detainees. Of seven former or current detainees interviewed by Amnesty, five said they were subjected to these abuses.

“All seven witnessed other detainees being tortured,” the report adds, “including one who said he saw a detainee held in a cell next to him being carried away in a body bag after he had been repeatedly tortured.”

In June 2017, Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press exposed a network of clandestine prisons operated by the UAE in Yemen. Their reports described ghastly torture inflicted on prisoners and noted that senior U.S. military leaders knew about torture allegations.

A year later, there has been no investigation of these allegations by the Yemeni government, the UAE or the United States. The report calls on the U.S. to “facilitate independent oversight, including by the U.S. Congress, over U.S. military or intelligence cooperation with Yemen and UAE forces involved in detention activities in Yemen.” It also calls for investigating any involvement of U.S. military or intelligence personnel in detention-related abuses in Yemen.

The U.S. continues to sell weapons to the UAE and its coalition partner, Saudi Arabia, despite several congressional debates and a few increasingly close votes demanding a full or partial end to U.S. weapons sales.

Since March 2015, a coalition of nine countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE — and relying on U.S. logistical aid — has bombarded Yemen while blockading its major port, despite Yemen’s status as one of the poorest countries in the world.

Targeting transportation, electrical plants, sewage and sanitation facilities, and schools, the vicious bombing has led to starvation, displacement, and the spread of diseases including cholera.

Many thousands of Yemenis, subjected to consistent bombing and threats of starvation and famine, have fled their homes and the country. For example, close to 500 Yemenis have traveled nearly 500 miles to reach a visa-free port on South Korea’s Jeju Island.

U.S. citizens bear responsibility for their government’s role in these abuses.

The Yemenis mean us no harm and have committed no crime against us. Ending arms sales to the UAE and Saudi monarchies, a move supported by both sides of the political aisle, will signal to the UAE and Saudi Arabia the U.S. will no longer assist their efforts to prolong war and siege in Yemen.

Conscious of the nightmare faced by Yemenis whose husbands, brothers, fathers and sons have disappeared or been detained by shadowy military enforcers, Americans should work toward implementing each recommendation in Amnesty’s devastating report.

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). This column was written for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Maine Voices: Proposed gag rule would hit hardest the most vulnerable women https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/maine-voices-proposed-gag-rule-would-hit-hardest-the-most-vulnerable-women/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/maine-voices-proposed-gag-rule-would-hit-hardest-the-most-vulnerable-women/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946758 Title X, a crucial part of our health care system, is under attack. If successful, the Trump-Pence administration will undermine health care for millions of Americans, undermining our economy in the process. Maine’s congressional delegation must stand up for patients and the economy and oppose the administration’s efforts.

The proposed “gag rule” would ban Title X health-care providers from giving patients full and accurate information about their health care options, specifically information on where and how to access safe and legal abortion. It also imposes new restrictions designed to make it impossible for patients to get birth control or preventive care from reproductive health-care providers and it eliminates the requirement that Title X health centers provide a full range of effective contraception methods.

Since the plan was announced, medical experts and health care organizations have decried the proposal as one that would harm patients’ health. At the Maine Center for Economic Policy, we share those concerns. But we also must raise red flags about the effect the proposed “gag rule” would have on the economic security of women and families.

Economic analysis proves that access to quality health care is good for the economy. Women live that reality every day. I know from experience.

My husband and our two children and I moved into our first home a month ago. Despite some small hiccups like a defective shower head soaking the ceiling and walls (it’s being replaced), it has been great.

This move is a culmination of years of planning. That includes saving for building a home, of course, but also planning when we would start our family and how to space our children.

Those choices were possible because of access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including birth control, cancer screenings and regular checkups. If I had ever needed or wanted an abortion, I would have had access to providers who would either perform it for me or tell me how I could get one.

Access to comprehensive care enabled us to be more financially secure – and ensured I was healthy – before having children. That’s important because starting a family can have dramatic implications for women’s lives.

Having a child affects a woman’s future earning potential, and even her ability to remain in the workforce. An unplanned pregnancy can set back or even derail a woman’s career plans. Only half of teen mothers obtain a high school diploma or equivalent by age 22, compared to 90 percent of young women who don’t give birth in high school.

Access to birth control improves labor-force participation among women. It also enables parents – particularly women – to take better care of their families, pursue their education and maintain employment. Historically, women with access to birth control have earned 8 percent more per year than their peers without access.

When women can choose whether or when to start their families, they are in control of their economic futures. Federal Title X funds allow 4 million low-income people, especially women, to access doctors, nurses and other providers who can provide them with the best possible care.

Here in Maine, more than 22,000 people of all races and backgrounds depend on Title X for vital sexual and reproductive health care.

In addition to allowing people more control over their families and reproductive health, and the economic boost that creates, Title X also produces large-scale savings for federal and state governments. Every dollar invested in public family planning saves $7 in further public expenditures. Savings are achieved primarily through prevention of unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and chronic illness.

In 2014, Title X health centers prevented nearly 1 million unintended pregnancies, as well as preterm or low-birth-weight births, sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer cases. This resulted in annual net savings to the federal and state governments of $7 billion, including $25 million in savings to the state of Maine.

These successes – for individuals, the economy and public dollars – are now jeopardized by the Trump-Pence administration’s proposed gag rule. Maine’s members of Congress must weigh the broad effects such changes would produce and oppose the gag rule.

 

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/maine-voices-proposed-gag-rule-would-hit-hardest-the-most-vulnerable-women/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/1478666_623060_20151124_plannedpare.jpgThe only thing overturning Roe v. Wade will do is end safe legal access to abortion, a reader says.Fri, 10 Aug 2018 19:32:58 +0000
Sen. Collins: Russia’s ability to divide America is far from fiction https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/sen-collins-russias-ability-to-divide-america-is-far-from-fiction/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/11/sen-collins-russias-ability-to-divide-america-is-far-from-fiction/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=946770 Published in 1907, Joseph Conrad’s novel “The Secret Agent” tells the story of a cell of foreign operatives who plot to blow up a London monument. The high-profile bombing was not intended to kill, but rather to damage the confidence the British people had in the institutions of their government and society.

Although the author does not specify who the terrorists work for, the fact that the cell leader is named Mr. Vladimir provides a powerful clue. Indeed, from the reign of the czars through the Soviet era to today, Russia has a long and troubling history of attacking its geopolitical rivals by interfering in their internal affairs in order to foment suspicion and strife.

In our time, the weapon of choice is not a bomb but social media. As Noel Gallagher described in her Aug. 2 Press Herald story, nearly 4,000 Russian-controlled troll accounts have swamped Twitter and other social media with more than 3 million deceptive messages targeting political leaders since the spring of 2015. As a centrist who strives to bring the Senate together on common ground, I am not surprised to have been the target of 273 of these attacks.

On the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have questioned government and private-sector experts on Russia’s concerted campaign to undermine the fabric of our elections. While these efforts did not change the outcome of the 2016 election, they were a nefarious attack against our country.

During that election, an estimated 150 million Americans were exposed to deceptive social media content created by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency. Moreover, 29 million people received news feed content from the Kremlin-directed IRA’s 80,000 posts on Facebook pages it created. According to the Intelligence Community, Moscow’s campaign blended covert operations – such as hacking – with other efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media trolls.

At a recent Intelligence Committee hearing, Dr. John Kelly of the social-media analysis company Graphika, confirmed my belief that Russia’s ultimate goal is to undermine our faith in democracy and the bonds that unite us as Americans. Part of this effort, he said, includes attempts to sway particular events or elections with disinformation.

The Russians are trying to exacerbate growing political and social divisions in our country. It is telling that Russia’s efforts are not aimed at one candidate or one political party – Republicans and Democrats alike are being attacked. In fact, the Russian attacks go beyond one country. In addition to the United States, we’ve seen Russian influence efforts in western elections in nations such as France, Germany and Great Britain.

This is not just about the 2016 election. There is every indication that Russian social media attacks actually increased in 2017 and that its efforts will continue through the 2018 election and beyond.

In addition to educating the public and the news media on how to better guard against this manipulation, it is essential that government take decisive action to protect our elections.

To that end, I have cosponsored the bipartisan Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which sends a powerful message to any foreign nation that attacks on American candidates, campaigns or voting infrastructure will produce severe consequences.

This legislation will swiftly impose harsh sanctions on Russia if it attempts to undermine our electoral process again. It would also direct the administration to develop a plan to prevent interference by any foreign country.

Our elections are administered by the states, so it is crucial that our defenses are strengthened at that level. The FY18 Omnibus provided $380 million for election security, and Maine has been awarded $3.3 million of this funding to help secure election systems.

The Secure Elections Act I co-sponsored would bolster state cybersecurity defenses and provide security clearances to state officials so they can address threats found in classified channels. Notably, no chief state election official had a clearance nearly eight months after the 2016 election.

The Department of Homeland Security has sponsored up to three officials per state for clearances, but as of this March only 20 out of the 150 had full clearances. One expert I questioned said that Russian actors have scanned election systems in all 50 states for vulnerabilities.

Ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Protecting its integrity requires all of us – citizens, the news media and government leaders – working together. The attack by Mr. Vladimir and his conspirators was fiction, but the threat it described is all too real.

 

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Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/todays-editorial-cartoon-1716/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/todays-editorial-cartoon-1716/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=944090 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/todays-editorial-cartoon-1716/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/944090_846873-8-8-NRA-Money-Woes.jpgThu, 09 Aug 2018 17:13:47 +0000 Maine Voices: City Council should reject sending non-citizen voting issue to referendum https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/maine-voices-city-council-should-reject-sending-non-citizen-voting-issue-to-referendum/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/maine-voices-city-council-should-reject-sending-non-citizen-voting-issue-to-referendum/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=944590 I am the proud son of an immigrant father and grandson of immigrant grandparents on both sides, all of whom escaped oppression in Eastern Europe to create a new life in America and, specifically, Portland, Maine.

As chair of the Portland City Council’s Economic Development Committee from 2015-2017, I took the lead in the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity to better integrate Portland’s immigrant population into our economy. Councilor Justin Costa and I worked to develop a city fund to assist asylum seekers before state law was changed to allow state reimbursement.

Although I have the family immigrant experience and have worked as a city councilor to create opportunities for our immigrant residents, I strongly oppose the proposal by Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilor Pious Ali to allow non-citizens to vote in city elections, for the following reasons:

Citizenship should equal privilege to vote. It is a fundamental concept throughout the U.S. that only with citizenship in America can a person have the privilege of voting. Otherwise, the value of citizenship is diminished. Many immigrants work hard to obtain American citizenship, in part to gain voting privilege.

I am sympathetic to the time it takes to become a U.S. citizen, and I understand the argument that some immigrants pay property taxes, and some have children in our schools, but those cannot be the only tests for allowing non-citizens to vote.

Few cities allow non-citizens to vote. The mayor cites that a handful of cities in the U.S. offer non-citizens voting privilege. What he doesn’t say is that it represents a minute percentage of all U.S. cities and towns.

Legal issues are not settled. The legal support for non-citizens voting has not been clearly established and likely will only be determined by the courts, even if the City Council sends the matter to the voters of Portland, and they vote to support the issue. This will trigger an expensive legal battle. As the possible defendant in such a case, the city would spend thousands of dollars to fight this challenge.

Having recently endured a contentious budget fight over spending for schools and city services, devoting significant tax revenues on this issue seems inappropriate.

In addition, there are numerous categories of immigrants. Which ones will be allowed to vote, and which not? How will the city clerk’s office manage this complex issue? I believe that some of these questions should be answered before moving forward with a referendum.

Issue was recently voted upon. We have already had a referendum on this matter just a few years ago, and it was defeated.

Other non-residents cannot vote. There are numerous individuals who pay property taxes in Portland, and others who send their children to Portland public schools yet live outside the city.

They have an interest in city affairs yet cannot vote. Hundreds of people reside in Portland for the summer or for many months a year and pay taxes. Should we also give them voting privilege?

This issue is ill-timed. For this to appear on the council agenda in the summer, just a few months before the November election, means that many members of the public are unaware of it.

An issue this important should be considered more carefully by the council and the public before being sent to referendum less than 90 days before the election.

I urge the City Council to reject this request to send the non-citizen voting issue to referendum in November, with little public discussion and no public demand from the people. And, if the council chooses to move forward with a referendum, I would hope the voters of Portland would say no and maintain voting privilege for citizens.

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Another View: What a columnist calls ‘peace’ means suffering elsewhere https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/another-view-what-a-columnist-calls-peace-means-suffering-elsewhere/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/another-view-what-a-columnist-calls-peace-means-suffering-elsewhere/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=944602 Our military may provide a façade of peace and security here in the U.S., as Marc Thiessen maintained in his June 8 article “Shame on Google…”

However, the U.S. administration is waging ongoing war and instigating oppression here in the U.S. War and oppression do not equal peace and security, may I remind Thiessen and his followers.

One only needs to spend five minutes on Preble Street in Portland to witness the oppression, and one needs to travel to a war zone to understand what our tax dollars and monumental debt are doing to innocent families caught in the crossfire. Thus far, 20 million civilians are dead from U.S. wars since WWII and the U.S. continues to be in 172 countries.

Since 2001, taxpayers’ bill from the military is $4.6 trillion with an additional $32 million every hour that they and generations going forward will never be in a position to pay off unless we vote in elected officials who will shift U.S. policy from one of violence to one of engagement. Such a shift can only occur with democratic electoral reforms (getting big money out of politics, undoing gerrymandered districts, open primaries, an Electoral College that follows the popular vote, automatic voter registration, etc.).

Thank you, Google employees, for taking a stand on no longer building warfare technology. May employees of all other companies take the same stand and push for economic conversion from a military-based economy to a sustainable, community-based one.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/another-view-what-a-columnist-calls-peace-means-suffering-elsewhere/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/1216505_Gmail_No_Ad_Scanning_12942-e1507559896840.jpgGoogle headquarters in Brussels. Google is going to stop reading your Gmail in search of opportunities to sell ads.Thu, 09 Aug 2018 18:58:14 +0000
Our View: Rep. Bates should resign to answer abuse reports https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/our-view-rep-bates-should-resign-to-answer-abuse-reports/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/our-view-rep-bates-should-resign-to-answer-abuse-reports/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=944758 Rep. Dillon Bates, D-Westbrook, has been accused of some of the worst kinds of abuse of power that a teacher or coach can face.

A cloud of suspicion has hovered over the two-term member of the Maine House of Representatives since a story in the alternative monthly magazine The Bollard reported last week that he had at least three inappropriate sexual relationships with teenagers. The story alleges that Bates met them when he was a drama teacher at the Maine Girls’ Academy in Portland, education director at the Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish and cross-country coach at Massabesic High School. Through his lawyer, Bates says that the allegations are “completely baseless,” but he nevertheless has resigned from those positions.

The one job he is stubbornly holding on to, though, is his seat in the Maine House. It is past time for Bates to relinquish that as well. Bates should resign now. Bates has not been charged with any crimes, but if he were, he would be entitled to the presumption of innocence. While he has a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in court, however, he does not have a right to serve as a legislator. That is a position of honor, and it’s important that anyone who holds it abide by the highest ethical standards.

In the political arena, there is no presumption of innocence. Candidates who don’t appear to be above board typically lose their elections.

It might not be fair, but it’s important because people need to have trust in their representatives. The Maine House will suffer if the public believes it harbors powerful people who prey on students under their supervision.

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has called on Bates to resign. So far he has refused. Rep. Paula Sutton, R-Warren, has called for a hearing before the House Ethics Committee. That would require a two-thirds vote in the House, which could not occur until the chamber reconvenes for a special session sometime before the end of the year. If Bates doesn’t resign before then, an ethics investigation would be in order.

Bates should not drag this out for that long. He might maintain his innocence, but he has lost the public’s trust and he cannot adequately represent his constituents while under that cloud.

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View from Away: Is the NRA running out of ammo? https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/view-from-away-is-the-nra-running-out-of-ammo/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/view-from-away-is-the-nra-running-out-of-ammo/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=944106 The National Rifle Association, which for the past few decades has zealously thwarted reasonable gun control in the face of America’s rising tide of firearms deaths, recently claimed in court documents it is in existential financial trouble. Tempting as it is to break open the champagne in celebration, perhaps more important is the question this raises about why American politicians still cower in fear over the NRA’s vote-wielding influence.

The NRA made its financial-distress claim in a lawsuit alleging New York state officials have targeted it with a belligerent regulatory campaign. It’s not the first indication that the 147-year-old firearms lobbying group has problems. Records show it ended 2016 with a $46 million deficit. And recent polling shows most Americans now oppose the organization, having apparently grown weary of mass shootings followed consistently by NRA assertions that gun rights are in danger.

All of which presents a picture of a tiger that doesn’t have the teeth it used to.

In its lawsuit, the NRA claims that New York regulators have, among other things, gotten banks and insurers to stop doing business with it. The NRA claims it has suffered “tens of millions of dollars in damages” and may soon be “unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission” because of the state’s regulation.

NRA lawyers might be exaggerating the financial plight as a legal strategy. But it’s no exaggeration to say the NRA’s $163.5 million in dues income in 2016 is a significant drop from its 2007 peak of $228 million. Though the NRA presumes to speak for all gun owners, its actual dues-paying members total about 5 million — a small fraction of the estimated 70 million to 80 million U.S. gun owners.

Polls suggest most gun owners don’t share the NRA’s hard-line political positions. A study by the American Journal of Public Health in May found that on most gun-control issues, gun owners and non-gun owners were only a few percentage points out of alignment with each other but often far out of alignment with NRA positions. A Monmouth University poll in March found that expanded background checks for all gun sales, including private sales, which the NRA opposes, has the support of 78 percent of gun owners who don’t belong to the NRA — and 69 percent of those who do.

Throughout the gun-control debates of recent years, the NRA’s extreme positions have been anathema to what most Americans — even most gun-owning Americans — believe. If faltering finances are any indication, gun owners are letting their money do the talking about the NRA’s extremist policy positions.

For those legislators in Jefferson City and Washington who have held their tongues in the past, now’s the time to stand up to this paper tiger.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Commentary: Breastfeeding is under unwarranted cultural pressure https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/commentary-breastfeeding-is-under-unwarranted-cultural-pressure/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/10/commentary-breastfeeding-is-under-unwarranted-cultural-pressure/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=944098 As an advocate, scholar and, well, a human, I’ve been following recent stories on breastfeeding — national coverage of the U.S. delegation’s appalling failure to support the World Health Assembly breastfeeding resolution and, more recently, news about the criticism of breastfeeding at a Mora, Minnesota, kiddie pool. While the two issues may appear to be only tangentially related, in fact they stem from the same cultural resistance that inhibits the achievement of national breastfeeding objectives and individual breastfeeding goals.

When people at a pool, restaurant, retail store or other public place order nursing mothers to “cover up” or relocate, yes, they are breaking the law protecting the right to breastfeed. Even more tragically, though, these people are conveying cultural disapproval of a natural act designed to give babies the optimal chance at survival and good health. Media coverage of these incidents, which occur far too often, amplifies its stigmatization, suggesting to other nursing women that they, too, will be publicly ridiculed should they dare feed their hungry children. It is not enough to have legal protection. We also need to embrace and support our nursing mothers.

If you’re not an expectant parent or nursing mother, you might be dismissive of these issues. Here’s the deal: Breastfeeding is not akin to other individual choices. Our ability as a society to support breastfeeding women affects our overall national health, influencing rates of infection, of chronic illness, of days missed from school and work. Moreover, the extent to which we globally help mothers to succeed at nursing affects the nutrition and mortality of children, particularly in lower-income countries (which have been especially targeted by infant-formula companies).

In the midst of the early July coverage of the resolution, President Donald Trump erroneously tweeted: “The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.” This lukewarm “endorsement” is problematic for reasons more than its inaccuracies. At the same time, it underscores public sentiment about breastfeeding that prompted the pool and other public breastfeeding conflicts.

We didn’t used to be squeamish about breastfeeding, nor should we pretend that formula companies need help with promotion. It was the formula companies that spearheaded the shift in public perception. From the first ads for milk substitutes (formula) in the 1860s, these companies have used deceptive practices to successfully persuade women that their “inadequate” milk should be replaced with artificial food. Advertisements, not doctors, prompted the initial breastfeeding decline in early 20th century America, correlating with spikes in mortality among young children. Concerns about this negative influence prompted the American Medical Association’s Committee on Foods to restrict formula companies from direct-to-consumer marketing.

While the U.S. was clamping down on formula marketing, Nestlé and other manufacturers began expanding into developing countries and other regions, with devastating results. You know what happens when formula companies have unrestricted access to vulnerable people? Bottle-fed babies die at alarming rates, while children who survive are severely malnourished. Breastfeeding protects babies and toddlers, providing them with adequate nutrition even in places with contaminated water and food scarcity. And in rare circumstances in which a mother cannot breastfeed, other women can fill in to nurse her baby. A lactating community is a healthy community, full of resources and good nutrition.

It is important to relay all news about breastfeeding issues. And yet, we need to have balance with stories of success and triumphs over adversity. For example, the mothers leading the Mora pool nurse-in should be celebrated for protesting injustice and for offering their support. We also need to go beyond individual experiences to examine how communities and institutions can help breastfeeding mothers feel protected. In other words, identify the “bright spots” (to use a term from authors Chip and Dan Heath for enacting change). The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, for example, offers clean, quiet spaces for nursing mothers.

It’s time to give attention to places that are getting it right, modeling how nursing mothers and their children should be treated. Breastfeeding is not just about the mother-baby dyad. It is a public health issue and must be addressed as such.

Katherine Foss is the author of “Breastfeeding and Media: Exploring Conflicting Discourses That Threaten Public Health” and is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at Middle Tennessee State University.

©2018 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Maine Voices: Prosecution must remain weapon in the war against opioid trafficking https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/maine-voices-prosecution-must-remain-weapon-in-the-war-against-opioid-trafficking/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/maine-voices-prosecution-must-remain-weapon-in-the-war-against-opioid-trafficking/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=942594 Across our country, people are dying from opioid overdoses at an alarming rate because of the prevalence of potent synthetics like fentanyl. In 2016, Maine’s overdose rate of 28.7 per 100,000 population was 10th highest of states. Washington County’s rate of 76.3 was 10th highest of all counties across the country.

The Department of Justice looked at that evidence and provided the Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office with an additional prosecutor to focus on dealers who sell synthetic opioids. We will use that prosecutor to play our part in what must be a group effort to combat the opioid crisis. My office’s primary role in that effort is to enforce federal law criminalizing the unlawful distribution of opioids. We have never prosecuted mere users and we will not be doing so under this initiative. If we are going to resolve this crisis, other components of society must play their part by preventing and treating opioid abuse, and I welcome their help.

We inhabit a large, diverse, complex, fractious society. We have to divide responsibilities and specialize, while maintaining a general understanding of the larger context in which we operate. We are citizens of a democratic republic in which we govern ourselves. In the first instance, that means that each of us is responsible for ourselves to the extent that we are able. Beyond that, it means that we make law through our elected officials and we live under the rule of that law – not the whim of some monarch, the corruption of some local government official, the pandering of some politician, the poorly-conceived notions of some actual or virtual mob, nor the opinion of some commentator.

That law includes criminal law to control our most anti-social inclinations to harm others and ourselves. In that regard, our laws criminalize the abuse of opioids to limit the amount intoxication in society to maintain the order that characterizes our way of life.

In general, we hold people criminally responsible if they understand right from wrong because we value self-determination and believe that it is fair to expect people to behave if they can do so. Intoxication is not a defense to crime in general, and to the distribution of drugs in particular.

We punish people who commit crimes in fairness to people who do obey the law, to create an incentive for them to obey the law, to incapacitate those found guilty from committing further crimes, and in the hope that they will accept responsibility for their misdeeds and resolve not to violate again.

It is all premised on the belief that individually and collectively, people do better the more that they govern themselves.

Opioid addiction is confounding because of the sense that it renders people unable to control themselves.

According to the National Institute of Health and other experts, the current consensus is that opioid dependence is a brain-related medical disorder caused by a variety of mechanisms including a person’s genetics, socioeconomic and psychological factors, and environment. It has a neurobiological aspect in that opioids cause pleasure by binding to receptors in the brain, and continuous exposure induces pathophysiologic changes in the brain. It is associated with high rates of criminal behavior. While a drug-free state may be the optimal goal, other laudable goals can be achieved with treatment, such as decreased drug use, reduced criminal activity and gainful employment. Current preferred practice is medication assisted treatment (MAT) with agonists like methadone that produce a blunted effect and antagonists like Naltrexone that block the effect of opioids.

However, even MAT requires patient commitment. It can’t work if patients continue to abuse drugs or fail to take their medicine as prescribed. Duration and continuity of treatment, involvement of non-pharmacologic support services such as psychotherapy and counseling, and motivation to change are crucial to the success of MAT.

In that regard, it is difficult for MAT to succeed if patients are surrounded by users and dealers who are selling opioids. Synthetic opioids are brought to Maine from away by criminals who are motivated to make money in a relatively undeveloped market for captive consumers.

Those criminals bring with them violence that is relatively unfamiliar here.

They are not deterred by treatment of addicts. So that, even within the context of the disease theory of addiction, law enforcement is an important part of the group effort to address the opioid crisis.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/maine-voices-prosecution-must-remain-weapon-in-the-war-against-opioid-trafficking/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/1330202_Purdue_Pharma_Opioids_8372.jpgFILE - This Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. The maker of the powerful painkiller said it will stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors, a surprise reversal after lawsuits blaming the company for helping trigger the current drug abuse epidemic. OxyContin has long been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller and generated billions in sales for privately-held Purdue. (AP PhotoWed, 08 Aug 2018 23:05:51 +0000
Sen. King fights to enact campaign finance reform https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/sen-king-fights-to-enact-campaign-finance-reform/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/sen-king-fights-to-enact-campaign-finance-reform/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=941694 The vast sums of money currently being contributed to political campaigns are destroying the fundamental democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” Since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations, unions, and some nonprofits can spend unlimited amounts of money supporting political campaigns or advertising “political opinions.”

Understanding how important it is that we at least know who is making these contributions, Maine’s Sen. Angus King sponsored a bill, the Real Transparency Act, to strengthen the reporting requirements of individuals giving $1,000 or more to candidates for federal office.

In addition, he announced his support for an act that would reverse the Trump administration’s recent decision no longer to require “dark money” organizations to report their contributors to the IRS.

I am grateful that I have a senator who represents me in Washington and not those who are wealthy enough to buy elections. I plan to vote to re-elect King on Nov. 6, and I hope other Mainers will too. Thank you, Sen. King.

Linda Wilcox

North Monmouth

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GOP must get back to its senses https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/gop-must-get-back-to-its-senses/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/gop-must-get-back-to-its-senses/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=941698 Voters, wake-up time is here. The Republican Party that we once knew no longer exists. The party holds only a wisp of nostalgia for the values it once held: family strength, moral high ground, fiscal responsibility and keeping America strong in the face of our adversaries.

Now let’s look at the deconstruction of this party. First value: Family. Now it’s OK to break up families because they are immigrants, take away after-school programs, and give tax breaks to the rich, not working families.

Second value: Sense of right and wrong. Republicans politicians have outnumbered Democrats in violating the sanctity of marriage, and sexually harassed those not as powerful as them.

Third value: Fiscal responsibility. Not really. The Republican Party supports President Donald Trump in giving tax breaks to the rich, and in establishing trade policies that alientate our trade partners so goods will be more expensive.

And the ultimate insult to capitalism is getting rid of free trade as we know it. This is a fundamental idea, and Republicans are blowing it out of the water with their lack of a spine to speak against this.

Fourth value: Making America strong. Can you imagine a U.S. president actually believing Russian President Vladimir Putin instead of the American agencies that keep America safe, strong and special? Trump has even gone so far as to share sensitive intelligence information with our adversaries. Talk about being sold to the most corrupt bidder, Putin.

So let’s be frank for a minute and reflect on the dissembling of a political party: the Republicans. We now wait to see which Republican politician will be the leader to shift the party back to its senses.

Jackie Fournier

Mount Vernon

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Time to celebrate, protect Medicare https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/time-to-celebrate-protect-medicare/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/time-to-celebrate-protect-medicare/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=941702 For over half a century, Americans have paid into the Medicare system with the expectation that they will have access to health care in retirement. For those 65-plus, Medicare provides more affordable health coverage where private insurance would price seniors out of the market. It is of paramount importance for Mainers currently on Medicare, and for those who will need it in the future, that the program continues as promised.

In Maine, with long winters and high heating costs, the financial burden of medical care without Medicare coverage could not be afforded on a retiree’s fixed income. In 2015, Maine Medicare beneficiaries had a median personal income of $21,000, barely enough to cover life’s necessities such as food, utilities, transportation, housing and medicine.

In the upcoming election, the future of Medicare is on the line. The 300,000 Mainers on Medicare pay high enough out-of-pocket costs as it is. We need to protect Medicare to ensure the economic stability of our older residents in the years to come. Any additional medical financial strain would only jeopardize their independence. That’s why AARP Maine is working to ensure that you know where the candidates stand on this important issue. You can learn more and take our pledge to vote in November at www.aarp.org/vote.

July 30 marked 53 years since Medicare was signed into law. Before Medicare, older Americans struggled to find health coverage they could afford which left many individuals either uninsured or living in poverty. Let’s celebrate all of the good the program has done to further our health and financial security, which we worked so hard to achieve.

Sammee Quong

AARP Maine Advisory Council volunteer

Augusta

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View from Away: Trump tweets while California burns https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/view-from-away-trump-tweets-while-california-burns/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/view-from-away-trump-tweets-while-california-burns/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=941682 Some Donald Trump tweets are so bizarre that you have to puzzle over them and inject a bit of sense into them before you can finally dismiss them as the wingnut drivel that they are. So it is with the president’s recent tweets on California’s fire and water.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean,” Trump thumbed on Sunday.

He kept at it on Monday.

“Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water — Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.”

It almost sounds like he’s saying that California is burning because all the water that otherwise would be flowing out of fire hoses is instead being flushed into the sea. Or perhaps he’s arguing that the state would be lush and drought-free if only we stopped the rivers from running. Or something.

The argument is so weird that even his supporters in the state’s agriculture industry appear mystified.

What San Joaquin Valley farmers do want is more delivery of river water to their crops. They oppose recommendations by the State Water Resources Control Board to increase flows in the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers in order to stem environmental damage caused by decades of water diversions for agricultural and urban use.

And isn’t it just like Trump to refer to water being “diverted” from rivers to the ocean. That’s where rivers flow — to the ocean. Diversion is when water is removed from its natural course and instead used for irrigation and urban faucets. Californians survive on a moderate level of that diversion but will perish if we overdo it.

There has been no shortage of water for firefighters. Much of the state is in flames because of record heat and drought — a phenomenon that scientists say is at least in part a result of human-caused climate change.

Trump calls climate change a hoax. He rejects the scientific consensus that carbon emissions are making the planet hotter.

Now, adding injury to insult, he is seeking to freeze fuel economy standards and to revoke the Clean Air Act waiver that allows California to require stricter standards on tailpipe emissions than the federal government’s.

Trump ignores climate change and tweets his absurd musings about environmental laws and water at a time when fires have killed nine people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and caused the evacuation of thousands.

Editorial by the Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Rep. Donna Doore: Sen. Collins must protect our healthcare by rejecting Kavanaugh’s nomination https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/rep-donna-doore-sen-collins-must-protect-our-healthcare-by-rejecting-kavanaughs-nomination/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/rep-donna-doore-sen-collins-must-protect-our-healthcare-by-rejecting-kavanaughs-nomination/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=941678 Collins must protect our health care

Some Mainers say Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court comes down to two choices for senators: support President Donald Trump or don’t support President Trump.

I am not one of those people. This decision is far greater than any president or political party. It is a matter of life or death.

My 39-year-old son and millions of other Americans could die if Sen. Susan Collins and other senators make the wrong choice on Judge Kavanaugh, a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I came to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with Collins’ staff and share my family’s story as well as why she should reject Kavanaugh’s nomination.

I went to Washington to tell Collins that a vote for Kavanaugh, whose nomination was pre-approved by an extremist group that wants to take away health care and Medicaid from millions of Americans, is a vote to destroy the Affordable Care Act, eliminate the law’s requirements relating to pre-existing conditions, and end the Medicaid expansion that so many families, including mine, are counting on for access to quality, affordable health care.

My son suffers from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. This condition has drastically changed his life, taking him from a burly logger and heavy equipment operator to a sickly man suffering financial and physical hardships after three surgeries. His medications cost $2,000 a month. He must undergo an infusion every six weeks or else he will die.

At one point, we tried to pay for all his medical bills with our credit cards. We thought about selling our house to pay these bills, but we didn’t because he would have no other place to live.

I’m really concerned about Kavanaugh’s views on the provisions for pre-existing conditions in the health care law. My son isn’t the only one in my household who has a pre-existing health condition. I’m a two-time cancer survivor and my husband, Tom, has diabetes. Tom and I are both fortunate to have health insurance as retired public employees, but what happens to those who don’t have good union jobs?

If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh could decide a legal case like one in Texas that would take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions. These protections, which keep insurance companies from jacking up prices on people who have pre-existing conditions, women, and Americans over the age of 50, are at risk.

The future of vital programs like MaineCare — which makes it possible for over 253,000 Mainers with limited resources to get healthy and stay healthy — is largely dependent on the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Last month, nearly 70,000 Mainers became eligible for MaineCare because of the Medicaid expansion referendum passed by voters.

Kavanaugh’s views on affordable health care and Medicaid are a threat to our parents and grandparents and other members of Maine’s senior population who rely heavily on MaineCare. Our state’s children are also at risk of not being able to go the doctor or get the medications they need because their parents can’t afford it.

I was overcome with emotion while discussing with Collins’ D.C. staff what’s at stake for these families as well as my own. Health care should be a right for all Americans, not a privilege for the wealthy.

Considering how Maine’s working families would be hurt by having a narrow-minded extremist on the Supreme Court, this decision is too important to rush. Collins needs to see Kavanaugh’s full background before his nomination moves forward, not after. How can any conversations or hearings with Kavanaugh be meaningful if the public and senators have not had a chance to thoughtfully review his record? From affordable health care to women’s reproductive health to voting rights, there’s too much at stake for our families for this decision to be rushed.

After examining his full record, Collins must protect the health of Maine families by rejecting Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. Our lives literally depend on it.

Donna Doore, of Augusta, represents Maine House District 85. She is a retiree member of the Maine State Employees Association, Local 1989, of the Service Employees International Union.

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Maine Compass: Rural seniors socially isolated https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/maine-compass-rural-seniors-socially-isolated-social-isolation-has-been-associated-with-increased-mortality-mobility-loss-functional-decline-and-clinical-dementia/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/maine-compass-rural-seniors-socially-isolated-social-isolation-has-been-associated-with-increased-mortality-mobility-loss-functional-decline-and-clinical-dementia/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/maine-compass-rural-seniors-socially-isolated-social-isolation-has-been-associated-with-increased-mortality-mobility-loss-functional-decline-and-clinical-dementia/ Maine holds the distinction of having the second highest percentage of residents over the age of 65 (after Florida), and the nation’s highest percentage of rural residents, according to the latest Census. As a result, Maine is often ahead of the game in considering how best to meet the needs of an aging population.

From transportation to housing to health care, there are innovative initiatives underway in the Pine Tree State that can be a model for the nation on how to meet the evolving needs of the 10,000 individuals turning 65 every day.

However, Maine – and the rest of the country — is suffering an unseen epidemic, one carrying greater health risk than obesity or smoking. The problem is social isolation. And, closely connected to that, is the loneliness that accompanies a lack of meaningful relationships or personal connection with others. Social isolation has been associated with increased mortality, mobility loss, functional decline and clinical dementia.

More than 130 national leaders are convening this week in Portland for the second annual Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging to launch a forward-thinking discussion focused on this emerging public health issue. We will bring together experts and practitioners from diverse backgrounds to identify solutions that may reduce the impact of social isolation and enable better health for those aging in rural parts of Maine and the country.

The reasons for all of us to strive to make a positive impact in the lives of our older rural neighbors are many. A new nationwide poll sponsored by Tivity Health shows that, among rural seniors, nearly two in three believe that loneliness or social isolation in old age have a negative impact on their physical health. A majority report dealing with multiple health conditions, and nearly one in four rate their own health as either fair or poor.

There is a quantifiable cost — according to a study by the AARP Foundation, Medicare spends an estimated $1,608 more annually on each senior who is socially isolated.

Public and private entities have a responsibility to start this dialogue — and to start it now, as our population of older adults grows by thousands every year. According to the latest Census data, the 65 and older population in Maine grew by over 15 percent from 2000 to 2010. By 2020, the number of people over 65 in Maine is expected to outnumber those younger than 65.

Aging in remote areas presents myriad challenges, which become even more daunting when aging alone. Well-stocked grocery stores or good hospitals may be miles away. The cost of many health care services is simply too high. Access to transportation – for everything from getting to the doctor, a grocery store, or the airport — can be extremely limited.

Within rural areas of Maine, these barriers may be more pronounced. The per capita income in rural Maine is about $4,000 lower than the per capita income statewide. The poverty rate is 15 percent, higher than urban areas of the state. And about 7 percent of Mainers in rural areas lack health insurance. All of these point to potential risk factors that become exacerbated when someone is socially isolated.

Fortunately, there are solutions in the works. From volunteer drivers and subsidized ride-share services to rural broadband initiatives and home visit programs, communities are working to address this crisis. Local garden co-ops are connecting seniors with youth, while health care providers and insurers are incorporating social opportunities alongside seniors’ regular checkups.

At Tivity Health, we offer SilverSneakers, the nation’s leading fitness program for older adults. This program, which is provided through participating Medicare Advantage plans, is proven to improve the physical health of seniors and to foster vital social connections.

Our nationwide poll revealed that a majority of rural seniors want their representatives in government, as well as businesses and the private sector, to help out. This week in Portland, we are putting our “collaborative IQ” to work to address social isolation. There are public and private capabilities, programs, and products that can reverse this crisis. Working together, we can ensure that older adults have the opportunity to age with dignity, vitality and purpose regardless of where they live.

Donato Tramuto is president and CEO of Tivity Health, which provides SilverSneakers — the nation’s largest community fitness program for older adults — and is founder of the Tramuto Foundation and Health eVillages.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/08/09/maine-compass-rural-seniors-socially-isolated-social-isolation-has-been-associated-with-increased-mortality-mobility-loss-functional-decline-and-clinical-dementia/feed/ 0 Thu, 09 Aug 2018 21:33:09 +0000