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Monday roundup: How much did your favorite gubernatorial candidate pay for your vote?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Republican Gov. Paul LePage celebrates winning a 2nd term. Sun Journal file photo by Daryn Slover

Did you vote for Republican Paul LePage for governor? If so, he spent almost $6,500 on you and compared to what Democrat Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler spent on their supporters, you were a bargain.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but now that the Maine Ethics Commission has received final campaign finance reports (which will likely be amended slightly in the coming months) and the Secretary of State has certified the Nov. 4 vote, we can calculate the exact spending-to-votes ratio.

Just as in 2010, when he turned away four challengers, LePage was outspent his two major opponents in 2014 but still garnered more votes than any governor in Maine history. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Paul LePage

Money spent: $1,906,349

Votes earned: 294,533

Amount spent per vote: $6,472

Mike Michaud

Money spent: $3,004,273

Votes earned: 265,125

Amount spent per vote: $11,331

Eliot Cutler

Money spent: $2,987,195

Votes earned: 51,518

Amount spent per vote: $57,983

So what’s the takeaway?
  • LePage ran an ingenious campaign that never strayed far from his winning message built around the need for welfare reform and a constant reiteration of his first-term accomplishments.
  • Michaud’s loss proved that all of the money in the world can’t make up for a lack of a clearly articulated vision for Maine and that spending too much time attacking another candidate is a dangerous strategy.
  • Cutler, who nearly defeated LePage in 2010, showed that even though he successfully cast himself in both elections as the candidate who was above political bickering and mostly focused on issues and policy, he couldn’t pick up in 2014 where he left off in 2010. Like Michaud, money didn’t make the difference for Cutler, who put approximately $1.3 million of his own money into the campaign, counting loans and hundreds of smaller “in-kind” expenditures.
Seven stories you need to read if you haven’t already

Maine Briefing 12.22.14: Yuletide and taxes edition

Press Herald Politics -

A brown, soggy Christmas approaches, and yes, Jackson Hole, the skiers here are feeling peanut butter and jealous.

It’s been a sleepy couple of weeks in Augusta, but that will change very shortly.

Gov. Paul LePage will officially begin his second term when he is sworn in at the Augusta Civic Center on Jan. 7. Two days later, he’ll unveil his two-year budget proposal.

We have a general idea of what the governor wants to do over the next four years — welfare, reduce or eliminate the state income tax, reduce the size of state government and tackle Maine’s high energy prices. The question is how.

Some of LePage’s priorities could be advanced in the budget, particularly “right-sizing” government. Reducing the state income tax could be done in the budget, provided that the governor offsets the big loss in revenue with spending cuts. The administration has also submitted a bill that also proposes tax changes (The details of the bill are not yet public.).

In the meantime, speculation continues about how the administration will reduce the state income tax.

Tax cut proselytizer Grover Norquist was in Maine recently and suggested a different mechanism to lower, and eventually eliminate, the income tax. Maine adopted a lite version of the scheme during LePage’s first two years in office. It’s unclear how a more robust version would work without eliminating how Maine’s surplus revenues are currently dedicated (some education funding, etc.).

We already know that the governor is not a fan of municipal revenue sharing, which he has attempted to cut a number of times during his first term and with some success and a lot of blowback from municipalities. That could help pay for a partial income tax cut, but with a big impact on property taxes. LePage has said that local government can only raise property taxes in his attempt to justify cuts in revenue sharing. But unless he can prove that Maine towns are spending lavishly — a tough sell given ubiquitous poor condition of local roads — he may need to strengthen his argument.

One wonders if LePage will take another run at expanding municipalities’ ability to assess fees to nonprofits as a way to mitigate the impact on skyrocketing property tax rates if revenue sharing is cut or eliminated. Nonprofits like hospitals and colleges are exempt from paying property taxes, but some big ones have struck agreements with towns in which they pay towns a fee for impacts on infrastructure costs. State lawmakers have considered — seven times over the past 35 years — ways to extract more out of nonprofits, but with little success.

* The administration continues to reference the state’s unemployment rate, which was 5.7 percent in November, a slight change from the 5.8 percent in October and down 6.4 percent from a year ago.

The number of unemployed declined 5,400 over the year to 40,200.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, of North Berwick, issued a statement Friday noting that Maine continues to experience a “jobs gap.”

Maine continues to lag behind the nation and New England.

“Maine’s economy is not recovering fast enough. We are being eclipsed by our New England neighbors. We must close the jobs gap and work together to put good paying jobs first. If we were keeping pace with the rest of the country we would have at least 16,000 more jobs right now. That’s more than 1,000 jobs for each county in Maine. We should be leading not lagging.”

Colleague Christian MilNeil tweeted some additional context:

More context for employment numbers: Maine’s rate declined to 5.7%, but NH and VT are 4.1% and 4.3%, respectively. #mebiz #mepolitics

— C Neal MilNeil (@vigorousnorth) December 19, 2014

* The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices will hold a meeting today on a number of fairly routine complaints and violations. However, one issue could generate some interest.

During the commission’s last meeting several members discussed whether there should be some rule changes or legislation to address instances in which state employees become active participants in a campaign. The issue surfaced during the bear-baiting referendum after proponents of the ban sued the state when Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wardens appeared in political ads opposing the measure.

The Ethics staff was asked to draft some potential changes to the law that would require campaigns to disclose such activity as in-kind donations. The proposal would simply expand the definition of a contribution. The second proposal — and perhaps the one least likely to gain traction — would require a state agency to register as a campaign committee if the agency spends more than $5,000 to support or oppose a ballot measure.

You can check out the proposals here.

Reading list: “If the people believe there’s an imaginary river out there, you don’t tell them there’s no river there. You build an imaginary bridge over the imaginary river.”

A carefully devised plan” to institute right to work at the local level.

On the radar: This.

Department of Self-Promotion: Here’s a look at whether lobbyists should disclosure their advocacy activity at the municipal level. Currently state law only require State House lobbyists to disclose their advocacy efforts.

Intelligence and Intellect

Dirigo Blue -

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”  Isaac Asimov

Cross-post from SomeThoughtsfromMaine.com by Thomas Czyz

A friend recently posted on Facebook, “Is there anyone that can explain to me how on God’s green earth some of these people get elected?” While to some a legislature’s behavior may range from odd to reprehensible, for others the same legislature’s behavior is appropriate, admired, courageous. The answer may have its roots in understanding the difference between intelligence and intellect.

Richard Hofstadter in his book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” provides the following definitions to intelligence and intellect.

“Intelligence seeks to grasp, manipulate, re-order, adjust … within a fairly narrow, immediate, and predictable range … is unfailingly practical… works within the framework of limited but clearly stated goals and may be quick to shear away questions of thought that do not seem to help in reaching them…”

“Intellect is the critical, creative, and contemplative side of the mind…it examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines… and looks for the meanings of situations as a whole.”

We admire those who through their intelligence get things done, happily when we approve the results and begrudgingly when the results are not to our liking. Seeing the big picture; understanding the impact downstream; connecting the dots are terms we use to describe one with intellect. As with intelligence there is admiration for intellect though not as broadly, and at times with frustration for those who seek a rapid answer or decision that brings closure.

Hofstadter describes how America’s practical culture has never embraced intellectuals. Intellectuals’ education and expertise are viewed as a form of power or privilege; they are seen as arrogant elite who are pretentious, conceited, and snobbish; their cultured view is seen as impractical; emphasis on knowledge and education is viewed as subversive, and it threatens to produce social decadence.

Anti-intellectuals believe the common sense of the common man is more than adequate and superior to formal knowledge and expertise from schools; experience, old-fashioned principles of religion, character, instinct, and morality are more reliable guides to life than education. What is more admired in America than the self-made man?

The roots of anti-intellectualism have been ingrained in our culture since the beginning of our country; have grown and spread influenced by religion, envy, and materialistic motivations. In 1991 sociologist Daniel Rigney reread Hofstadter’s book and in an essay entitled “Anti-intellectualism in the 21st Century” , identified three distinct categories of anti-intellectualism; anti-rationalism, anti-elitism, and unreflective instrumentalism.

Anti-rationalism
Anti-rationalism is the suspicion and hostility toward the value of critical thought and reasoned discourse; with its beginnings during the early years of the Puritans. Today we see conservative religious hostility toward modern science and with it the fear that critical discourse will challenge traditional sources of authority and thus undermine the foundations of absolute belief. Hofstadter acknowledges that critical thinking really does threaten the unexamined traditions of the past.

Anti-rationalism is further demonstrated through slogans, sound bites, and other abbreviated methods of communication easily learned and repeated by uncritical thinkers despite the complexity behind the realities they describe. Anti-rationalism is a strong desire for simple answers in complex times.

Anti-elitism
Anti-elitism expresses mistrust and resentment toward the educated elite; their presumed claims to superior knowledge and wisdom. Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues were intellectuals; however, opposition came from a grass-roots upsurge led by Andrew Jackson, the rough and ready man of the people.

Anti-elitism from the left can be seen in the blue-collar labor movement, whose educations were often earned in the “school of hard knocks”; the perception that the educated elite “thinks they’re better than we are” survives to this day in working-class culture.

From the right, attacks on university faculties began in the McCarthy era of the 1950’s; and continues with the Tea Party movement effectively mobilizing many of the same resentments from the McCarthy era, fueling hostility toward “liberal elitists” who “think they know what’s good for us.”

Unreflective Instrumentalism
Unreflective instrumentalism is the dismissal of thought that does not promise relatively immediate “payoffs “or serves some “practical” end, which typically means money. While practicality is insisted, inquiries very deeply into the meanings of the word “practical” do not occur; is usually held without much reflection.

“Is there anyone that can explain to me how on God’s green earth some of these people get elected?”

Using the budget deficit as an example, budget reduction through social services elimination at the national level may demonstrate intelligence in addressing a deficit; and for some legislators and voters, this is what needs to get done, get tough, problem fixed, move on to the next task.

With intellect, understanding that the need for social services will continue, that funding requirements will be pushed down to the states, with some states better able to absorb the added financial burden than others, and therefore the likelihood of increased state expenses when aggregated will be greater than that in the original national budget. For some legislators and voters, this is the approach in determining a course of action, together with consideration of other revenue sources and other candidates for reduction. This is arduous work and the analysis at times appears never-ending.

Returning to Hofstadter’s book, he states “a great many intelligent people are not intellectuals, and being an intellectual, conversely, does not guarantee intelligence.”

Does this imply that in some cases a legislator who demonstrates intelligence is incapable of seeing “the big picture” and its broad long-term effects? That a legislator who demonstrates intellect is incapable of transforming thought into action and getting things done? Are voters with similar characteristics, the ones that help get these legislators elected?

http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Intellectualism-American-Life-Richard-Hofstadter/dp/0394703170

http://open.salon.com/blog/danagram/2011/02/25/anti-intellectualism_in_the_21st_century

LePage delivers on deal with state employees as vow to ‘right-size’ government looms

Press Herald Politics -

Gov. Paul LePage emailed state employees this week to thank them for a successful charitable drive that began in September. Since they met the goal of raising $300,000, LePage said, he would also hold up his end of a deal he made with the employees early this year: He would close state offices the day after Christmas.

Two days later, LePage sent another email with more good news for state employees:

“In addition to this time off, I am pleased to announce my decision to administratively close these same State offices and facilities at noon on (Christmas Eve),” he wrote. “It is my hope that closing these location early on Christmas Eve will give you and your family additional time to travel and enjoy the traditional observances of the holiday.”

Awww. Nice gesture, right? Especially given the combative history between LePage and the Maine State Employees Association, the union representing state workers. The battles between the two sides are numerous, from protests sparked by the removal of a labor mural at the Maine Department of Labor, to LePage referring to middle management in state government as “corrupt,” to the tension surrounding the governor’s unusual decision to call a civil emergency in 2013.

The truth is, the two sides have been adversaries since LePage was elected in 2010. The MSEA has not only opposed the governor on policy initiatives, but the union has also given money to political action committees that attempted to defeat him in this year’s election. The animosity is rooted in the simple fact that the governor has repeatedly said that state government is too big, too wasteful.

Now that he’s been reelected, LePage has vowed to “right-size” state government. That’s a nice way of saying that he plans to shrink it, and that likely means a reduction of government jobs. How LePage plans to achieve this is unclear, but it will likely be revealed when he presents his two-year budget proposal Jan. 9.

For context, below is an interactive of state government employment from the Maine Center for Workforce Research and Information. The blue line represents the overall level of state government jobs. The other lines show specific employment sectors, such service providers and educational services. You can toggle the interactive to show specific date ranges since 2001. You can also toggle the graphic to show wages paid since 2001.

 

 

Learn About Tableau

Kidnapped, tortured Canadian engineer rendered through Bangor

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Maher Arar l Photo: maherarar.ca (by Bill Grimshaw) via The Rendition Project

Imagine you’re an engineer with a degree from McGill University in Montreal.

You’re on your way home from a family trip abroad and you stop at JFK Airport in New York. Suddenly your life changes.

You’re seized by the CIA and shuttled about, eventually ending up in in Syria where you are tortured and “imprisoned for nearly a year in an underground cell the size of a grave.”

In a powerful piece worth reading, journalist Marie Tessier, a Bangor resident, notes that the plane carrying Arar came through Bangor International Airport.

The plane with the tail number N829MG was a corporate-style jet with leather seats and a screen read-out to illustrate the plane’s location as it hopped its way from Bangor to Rome, then the Middle East. It carried federal agents who had boarded at Dulles Airport near Washington, and Mr. Arar, a prisoner of the U.S. government.

Though he is a Canadian citizen who worked for years in the United States without incident, and the only evidence against him was that he has Canadian friends from Syria, he was a prisoner, without right of counsel or hearing. . . His wife, Monia, tending his 5-year-old daughter and 7-month-old son, knew only that he disappeared en route to Canada. [source]

After being rendered through Bangor, Arar eventually ended up in Syria, where he was held for over ten months.

This is how this completely innocent man described his initial treatment in Syria:

The beating started that day and was very intense for a week, and then less intense for another week. That second and the third days were the worst. I could hear other prisoners being tortured, and screaming and screaming. Interrogations are carried out in different rooms.

One tactic they use is to question prisoners for two hours, and then put them in a waiting room, so they can hear the others screaming, and then bring them back to continue the interrogation.


The cable is a black electrical cable, about two inches thick. They hit me with it everywhere on my body. They mostly aimed for my palms, but sometimes missed and hit my wrists they were sore and red for three weeks. They also struck me on my hips, and lower back. Interrogators constantly threatened me with the metal chair, tire and electric shocks. . .


They used the cable on the second and third day, and after that mostly beat me with their hands, hitting me in the stomach and on the back of my neck, and slapping me on the face. Where they hit me with the cables, my skin turned blue for two or three weeks, but there was no bleeding. At the end of the day they told me tomorrow would be worse. So I could not sleep.
 [source]

Like many people who are tortured, Arar gave a false confession.

Arar had moved to Canada from Syria with his family in 1987 when he was 17. In 1991, at age 21, he became a Canadian citizen. Arar arned bachelors and masters degrees in Canada. He was a telecommunications engineer when this rendition happened.

Eventually he got out of this horrible situation due to the efforts of a Canadian consular official.

When I wrote about the interrogation report earlier this week, in a piece that noted that a substantial number of those tortured were innocent (one of whom died due to his treatment), some commenters said the program was necessary.

The Senate report and many others, such as Sen. John McCain, say that torture does not yield useful information. People, whether innocent or guilty, make false confessions.

Those waste intelligence agencies’ time — like the “wild-goose chase for black Muslim Al Qaeda operatives in Montana” mentioned in reporter Jane Mayer’s devastating piece on CIA failures.

One thing that’s unquestionable is that torturing innocent people does not keep anyone safe.

Without safeguards to ensure people are those one wants to interrogate (and, if this is legal, that means without torturing them), innocent people will suffer.

Defenders of torture and rendition disdain those legal safeguards, which have long been part of our traditions and which we tout to other nations. Yet those protect us from government taking people’s freedom and inflicting punishment without some sort of due process.

As you can see below, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally apologized to Mr. Arar. The Canadian government also gave him $10 million in compensation.

The U.S. government has neither apologized to or compensated Arar for this nightmare. We can only hope that some day President Obama will follow Harper’s example.

Casale out: Democratic Party continues to shed its top leaders

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

“All this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.”

OK, I admit it: That’s a line from “Battlestar Galactica.” Forgive the unabashed nerdery, but the phrase came to mind this morning. That’s because the Maine Democratic Party’s executive director, Mary Erin Casale, announced today she is stepping down. The announcement comes just weeks after party chairman Ben Grant resigned.

Grant and Casale’s resignations come after Democrats suffered major electoral defeats this year, losing the 2nd Congressional District, the Blaine House, and the Maine Senate.

If that sounds familiar, it’s for good reason.

Four years ago was also a bad year for the Democrats, when they lost both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s race. And, as is happening now, the party reacted by shedding its top leaders. It was Casale who took the reins when Arden Manning left not only the party but the country after 2010′s drubbing, and Grant who took over for then-Chairman John Knutson.

And so the cycle continues.

Both Grant — who has since been replaced by Phil Bartlett — and Casale said their departures were not a result of the party’s failures at the polls this November, but reflected decisions that had been made long before the election.

“I have been at the party for a while, since 2009,” Casale said in an interview this morning. “It’s a rewarding job, but it’s also encompasses so much of your life. I thought this was a really good time to give the next person the time.”

Casale said that leaving now means the next executive director will have time to “come into their own” before 2016.

In early 2011, when Casale took the executive director’s post, the party was in need of leaders who could reassemble the Democratic coalition and re-energize a base that felt deflated after being steamrolled by Paul LePage and the Republican wave that accompanied him into office.

Casale and Grant worked to shore up the party — both with voters and internally. Electoral victory came in 2012, when Maine went not only for President Barack Obama, but Democrats in both U.S. House Districts. The party also took back control of the House and Senate.

This year, however, belonged to LePage. And U.S. Rep.-elect Bruce Poliquin. And the Republican candidates across the state who took control of the Senate and chipped away at the Democrats’ majority in the House.

“I’m actually very proud of a lot of the work we did at the party, structurally, and where we are professionally,” Casale said. “Obviously the outcome of the last election is not what I wanted. … But it still feels like the right time to me. It’s the right decision personally. It’s not political.”

Maine Democratic Party’s finance director, Jeremy Kennedy, will serve as interim executive director until Casale’s replacement is officially announced in January.

Casale has said she isn’t sure what lies ahead for her, though she’s considering several offers both inside and out of Maine. She said she’d be around to help the next executive director, if necessary, and will continue to be involved in Democratic politics.

Here’s a feel-good footnote: In a rare moment of bipartisan camaraderie, Casale was wished well by her Republican counterpart, Jason Savage.

As Mary Erin Casale's GOP counterpart, I wish her well. She's right re: demands of ExDir job. 5 yrs=long time in 24/7/365 role. #mepolitics

— Jason Savage (@jsavage207) December 18, 2014

LePage team preparing for inauguration festivities

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage shakes hands with members of the VIP section as he walks toward the stage during his first BDN file photo by Kevin Bennett.

In 21 days, thousands of attendees will cram themselves into the Augusta Civic Center — after a rigorous security screening — to see Gov. Paul LePage inaugurated for his second term of office.

The ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 7. LePage will be sworn in by the newly minted Senate President, Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, before a special joint session of that Maine Legislature.

Several hours later, the Civic Center play host again for a night of drinking, dancing, schmoozing and celebrating. As he did four years ago, LePage has eschewed the typical black-tie gala that had been associated withe inaugural parties for years, opting instead for a an informal event more in keeping with his no-frills image.

LePage’s immediate predecessors, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci and independent Gov. Angus King, both held formal balls the day after inauguration ceremonies. LePage, for a second time, is opting to be sworn in and host his party on the same day.

Invitations to supporters and other dignitaries were sent out this week, said Brent Littlefield, a longtime political adviser and campaign strategist for LePage, who is helping organize the events. People without invitations can request tickets online at lepageinaugural2015.com.

“We’ll attempt to get as many people in as we possibly can,” Littlefield said.

As was the case in 2011, members of LePage’s inner circle established a nonprofit organization, LePage Inaugural 2015, to handle fundraising and organizing for the inauguration, transition and other associated events. All funds related to those enterprises are being raised privately, with LePage once again declining $5,000 in authorized state funds.

LePage Inaugural 2015′s website includes a link for contributing to the cause, and LePage will hold a fundraiser in Augusta the night before the inauguration. Admission to the VIP donor reception costs a whopping $3,000 per individual, according to an invitation publicized by the Sunlight Foundation.

Littlefield said LePage Inaugural 2015 intends to disclose its donors, as the transition team did did four years ago. Included among those were were LePage’s former employer, Marden’s discount stores, Iberdrola USA, several Maine banks and the insurance firm Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, according to published reports.

Gov. Paul LePage, left, acknowledges Maine’s former governors, Democrat John Baldacci, Independent Angus King, Republican John McKernan, and Democrat Joseph Brennan, as well as Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufly during his first inaugural address in 2011. BDN file photo by Kevin Bennett.

Naomi Schalit of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting used the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to dig up the full list of donors to LePage’s first transition and inauguration efforts. She also had this insight, which I thought was worth sharing:

Inauguration events are the perfect vehicle for those who want to influence state government, said Pete Quist, research director at the National Institute for Money In State Politics. Unlike giving to a candidate, “you know you’re dealing with a winner.” Added benefit to insiders: In Maine, there aren’t limits on contributions, as there are with political candidates and campaigns.

Littlefield said he was unsure exactly how many attendees would be present for the inauguration and the party, but the events drew crowds of roughly 5,000 and 4,000, respectively, last time around.

LePage Inaugural 2015′s website states that Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court, the governor’s cabinet, foreign dignitaries and members of the armed services will be invited to attend.

LePage will have at least one duty before the festivities begin — perhaps the last official act of his first term. Before the inauguration, lawmakers will convene the Legislature at the State House in Augusta. LePage will need to administer the oath of office to Sen.-elect Cathy Breen, D-Yarmouth.

Political royalty, but no path to victory

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Reuters photo by Jonathan Ernst.

So, Jeb Bush is running for president.

I know, I know. He said he was “actively exploring” a run for president, and as such would be setting up an “exploratory committee” to do that exploring, so there is a possibility that he may do his due diligence and find it isn’t a good idea to run.

I trust, though, that like the great explorers of old, he will find what he is looking for. After all, who was the last person to set up an exploratory committee for president who did not ultimately come to the conclusion that the American people were clamoring for their leadership?

That sound you hear is crickets loudly chirping.

With Hillary Clinton currently occupying the mantle of Democratic nominee in waiting, we are faced with the horrifying possibility of seeing a 2016 presidential contest be a titanic struggle of political royalty. Bush 3.0 v. Clinton 2.0. Aristocracy: The Next Generation.

Are there any descendants of John Adams who want to make a go at this? It was a long time ago, but we had John and his son John Quincy. Or how about the Harrisons? William Henry and his grandson Benjamin occupied the White House, and they have to have some progeny left in this country. Somebody? Anybody?

There are 320 million people in this country, and Bush v. Clinton again? Who wants to take bets whether 2024 will see George P. Bush face off against Chelsea Clinton. You laugh now, but save this column and dust it off. You never know.

Fortunately for us, though, I can’t fathom any realistic scenario in which Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee. And while we are at it, Hillary Clinton is going to have many of the same problems she had in 2008 if a progressive who sets the hearts of the grassroots aflutter were to run against her. You’re move, Liz Warren.

But back to Jeb. Can somebody tell me what the argument for his candidacy is?

Let’s say you want a somewhat moderate, establishment figure who you believe can compete for centrist voters in a general election. Let’s be honest, Chris Christie is a much better option. He’s more conservative than Jeb is, can raise more money, appeals to the middle better, and has a gruff style that appeals to many people across all parties.

Let’s say you want a deeply conservative, combative, ideologically pure candidate. Well, in that instance, you’ll have a number of people to pick from, probably Ted Cruz or Rick Perry, or just anyone from the state of Texas, I suppose.

Maybe you want a movement guy who took on entrenched interests and actually won. Perhaps a person with executive experience. Scott Walker is your guy in that case. A midwestern, blue-collar, reform-minded governor who almost single-handedly brought labor unions to their knees? Yes, please.

Let’s say you want a technocratic governor with demonstrated reforms and broad appeal. In that case, Bobby Jindal is staring you in the face, and he has a much better story to tell and would represent a real fresh face for the GOP.

Are you an intensely socially conservative human being who believes the fight needs to be brought to the left on issues of culture and society? I don’t think anyone in the primary would crowd out Rick Santorum here.

So what is Jeb’s constituency? Disaffected liberal-establishment Republicans? Is there a group that is currently despised more by the conservative grassroots than that particular combination? You tell me if that is a large, powerful force in the Republican Party.

I suppose a lot can change from today to the day the Republicans nominate their candidate, but unless something drastic happens, Jeb Bush will not be representing the Republican Party in the election of 2016.

So, I guess that means we are all spared one more round of Bushes and Clintons. Hey, a guy can hope, right?

Reject moral relativism in the face of terrorism and threat

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

How would you respond if an “intellectually challenged” American with no involvement in violence was held by another country and tortured so a tape of him crying could be used to try to get a family member to supply information?

What would you feel if an American imprisoned by non-Americans was told that his mother would be raped or killed in front of him if he didn’t talk?

How might you react if another American, picked up as a matter of mistaken identity, was doused with cold water, left chained to an unheated floor in a tiny space, became hypothermic and died?

These incidents are outlined in the Senate report on interrogation, done by Americans to others. The report was based on over 6 million pages of CIA documents as well as testimony to the Intelligence Committee and internal CIA interviews.

What happened wasn’t “just” waterboarding — a practice for which Americans hanged Japanese World War II soldiers.

Imprisoned people were made to stand on broken limbs, wear diapers, stay awake for a week so they suffered hallucinations, receive “rectal hydration” via an intravenous tube, and suffer food placed in the rectum.

Of the 119 detailed, at least 26 had no connection to terrorism — including the “intellectually challenged” man, the one who died from hypothermia, and two held solely on the “fabricated” word of another person who was tortured.

One innocent prisoner was held for 19 months in solitary confinement. Describing that time, he said, “Whenever I saw a fly in my cell, I was filled with joy. Although I would wish for it to slip from under the door so it would not be imprisoned itself.”

No one has questioned these things happened, not even the strongest defenders of the interrogation program.

We would all be angry and appalled if they were done to Americans. They are actions of profound damage, injuring people’s bodies, psyches and human dignity.

Unless you espouse moral relativism, if these are wrong when experienced by Americans, they are wrong when done to others.

We lose our moral standing to criticize similar actions elsewhere when we do them ourselves.

Bringing hidden actions into the light forces us to think about what limits we place on government and what we stand for.

We are tested the most when horrific things, like the September 11 attacks, happen.

Americans in wartime have sometimes shown a disregard for civil liberties. Japanese-Americans were sent to detention camps during World War II.

Yet our traditions and laws bar cruelty toward prisoners, going back to the Magna Carta of 1215 and our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Our nation endorsed Geneva Conventions on humane treatment of prisoners in 1929 and 1949.

When President Ronald Reagan asked the Senate to ratify the Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1988 he said it would “demonstrate unequivocally our desire to bring to an end the abhorrent practice of torture.”

Defenders’ emphasis on effectiveness promotes a morality where the ends justify the means.

In any case, CIA Chief John Brennan acknowledged torture’s effectiveness was, at best, “unknowable.”

The Senate report meticulously reviewed 20 situations touted by the CIA and found that evidence from other sources stopped terrorism. For instance, torture didn’t lead to capturing the mastermind of a Bali bombing; “signals intelligence, a CIA source, and investigations by the Thai authorities” did.

Even worse, lies, extracted by torture, found their way into Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations about Iraq’s purported, nonexistent, weapons of mass destruction. More American soldiers died in Iraq than Americans killed on September 11.

As Sen. John McCain, himself the victim of torture, said, “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.

“Most of all,” said McCain, “I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”

Collins versus Cruz on the Senate floor

Rebekah Metzler -

It should come as no surprise the governing philosophies of Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Ted Cruz are disparate. But what is surprising is the level of candor Collins offered during the most recent escapades of the Texas senator.

Cruz, alongside Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, staged a revolt during votes on the massive government spending bill, forcing senators to linger over the weekend.

Ostensibly, the move was an attempt to “defund” the government’s ability to enforce President Barack Obama’s recent immigration action that will allow more immigrants here illegally avoid deportation and become legal parts of the workforce – both to collect paychecks and pay taxes. But in reality, all the protest accomplished was enable outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, schedule votes on a series of Obama administration nominations that had been bottlenecked.

“I’m not happy with the strategy that [Cruz] has come up with,” Collins, a Maine Republican, said Saturday after chastising Cruz in a private conversation on the Senate floor, according to Politico.

“I think it’s counterproductive and will have the end result of causing nominees who I think are not well-qualified to be confirmed. So I don’t understand the approach that he is taking. I think it’s very unfortunate and counterproductive,” she said.

Traditionally, Senate colleagues are loathe to speak ill of each other, even if they are in the other party. It used to be considered unthinkable that a sitting member would campaign against an incumbent in their own state. But that has gone out the window in more recent election cycles. But it’s a sentiment Collins has continued to value. So her sharp, public words about Cruz are notable.

But lest anyone try and use this as a sign of her moderate inclination, let’s be clear about why she was upset. What she’s frustrated with is how Cruz’s shenanigans allowed Reid to push through stalled Obama nominees. She finds him “counterproductive” because of the progress it allowed Democrats to make, not because she supports the president’s immigration action or believes funding should flow freely to enable it.

The split in philosophy between Cruz and Collins also speaks to something else – the driving motivations of each. Cruz is gunning for a 2016 presidential nomination and a conservative, grassroots army of support. He is determined to remain the champion of the far right, even if it makes him Don Quixote during his Senate tenure. Collins, meanwhile, genuinely wants to broker deals in the Senate to change public policy. That means maintaining relationships on both sides of the aisle and taking advantages of moments of compromise, not exploiting them.

Christmastime: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Dirigo Blue -

Each year, around the Christmas Holiday, I read The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. It is the only Holmes story set at this time of year, and it seems fitting that since celebrating Christmas became popular during the Victorian Era, to read a contemporary story.

I hope that you enjoy it too.

I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack within his reach upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden chair, and on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked in several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the purpose of examination.

“You are engaged,” said I; “perhaps I interrupt you.”

“Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one” — he jerked his thumb in the direction of the old hat — “but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.”

I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows were thick with the ice crystals. “I suppose,” I remarked, “that, homely as it looks, this thing has some deadly story linked on to it — that it is the clue which will guide you in the solution of some mystery and the punishment of some crime.”

“No, no. No crime,” said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. “Only one of those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles. Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal. We have already had experience of such.”

“So much so,” l remarked, “that of the last six cases which I have added to my notes, three have been entirely free of any legal crime.”

“Precisely. You allude to my attempt to recover the Irene Adler papers, to the singular case of Miss Mary Sutherland, and to the adventure of the man with the twisted lip. Well, I have no doubt that this small matter will fall into the same innocent category. You know Peterson, the commissionaire?”

“Yes.”

“It is to him that this trophy belongs.”

“It is his hat.”

“No, no, he found it. Its owner is unknown. I beg that you will look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual problem. And, first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson’s fire. The facts are these: about four o’clock on Christmas morning, Peterson, who, as you know, is a very honest fellow, was returning from some small jollification and was making his way homeward down Tottenham Court Road. In front of him he saw, in the gaslight, a tallish man, walking with a slight stagger, and carrying a white goose slung over his shoulder. As he reached the corner of Goodge Street, a row broke out between this stranger and a little knot of roughs. One of the latter knocked off the man’s hat, on which he raised his stick to defend himself and, swinging it over his head, smashed the shop window behind him. Peterson had rushed forward to protect the stranger from his assailants; but the man, shocked at having broken the window, and seeing an official-looking person in uniform rushing towards him, dropped his goose, took to his heels, and vanished amid the labyrinth of small streets which lie at the back of Tottenham Court Road. The roughs had also fled at the appearance of Peterson, so that he was left in possession of the field of battle, and also of the spoils of victory in the shape of this battered hat and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose.”

“Which surely he restored to their owner?”

“My dear fellow, there lies the problem. It is true that ‘For Mrs. Henry Baker’ was printed upon a small card which was tied to the bird’s left leg, and it is also true that the initials ‘H. B.’ are legible upon the lining of this hat, but as there are some thousands of Bakers, and some hundreds of Henry Bakers in this city of ours, it is not easy to restore lost property to any one of them.”

“What, then, did Peterson do?”

“He brought round both hat and goose to me on Christmas morning, knowing that even the smallest problems are of interest to me. The goose we retained until this morning, when there were signs that, in spite of the slight frost, it would be well that it should be eaten without unnecessary delay. Its finder has carried it off, therefore, to fulfil the ultimate destiny of a goose, while I continue to retain the hat of the unknown gentleman who lost his Christmas dinner.”

“Did he not advertise?”

“No.”

“Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?”

“Only as much as we can deduce.”

“From his hat?”

“Precisely.”

“But you are joking. What can you gather from this old battered felt?”

“Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you gather yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn this article?”

I took the tattered object in my hands and turned it over rather ruefully. It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round shape, hard and much the worse for wear. The lining had been of red silk, but was a good deal discoloured. There was no maker’s name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the initials “H. B.” were scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the brim for a hatsecurer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was cracked, exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discoloured patches by smearing them with ink.

“I can see nothing,” said I, handing it back to my friend.

“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences.”

“Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer from this hat?”

He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar introspective fashion which was characteristic of him. “It is perhaps less suggestive than it might have been,” he remarked, “and yet there are a few inferences which are very distinct, and a few others which represent at least a strong balance of probability. That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him.”

“My dear Holmes!”

“He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect,” he continued, disregarding my remonstrance. “He is a man who leads a sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream. These are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat. Also, by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas laid on in his house.”

“You are certainly joking, Holmes.”

“Not in the least. Is it possible that even now, when I give you these results, you are unable to see how they are attained?”

“I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that I am unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce that this man was intellectual?”

For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came right over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. “It is a question of cubic capacity,” said he; “a man with so large a brain must have something in it.”

“The decline of his fortunes, then?”

“This hat is three years old. These flat brims curled at the edge came in then. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at the band of ribbed silk and the excellent lining. If this man could afford to buy so expensive a hat three years ago, and has had no hat since, then he has assuredly gone down in the world.”

“Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how about the foresight and the moral retrogression?”

Sherlock Holmes laughed. “Here is the foresight,” said he putting his finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer. “They are never sold upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a sign of a certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his way to take this precaution against the wind. But since we see that he has broken the elastic and has not troubled to replace it, it is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly, which is a distinct proof of a weakening nature. On the other hand, he has endeavoured to conceal some of these stains upon the felt by daubing them with ink, which is a sign that he has not entirely lost his self-respect.”

“Your reasoning is certainly plausible.”

“The further points, that he is middle-aged, that his hair is grizzled, that it has been recently cut, and that he uses limecream, are all to be gathered from a close examination of the lower part of the lining. The lens discloses a large number of hair-ends, clean cut by the scissors of the barber. They all appear to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odour of lime-cream.

“This dust, you will observe, is not the gritty, gray dust of the street but the fluffy brown dust of the house, showing that it has been hung up indoors most of the time, while the marks of moisture upon the inside are proof positive that the wearer perspired very freely, and could therefore, hardly be in the best of training.”

“But his wife — you said that she had ceased to love him.”

“This hat has not been brushed for weeks. When I see you, my dear Watson, with a week’s accumulation of dust upon your hat, and when your wife allows you to go out in such a state, I shall fear that you also have been unfortunate enough to lose your wife’s affection.”

“But he might be a bachelor.”

“Nay, he was bringing home the goose as a peace-offering to his wife. Remember the card upon the bird’s leg.”

“You have an answer to everything. But how on earth do you deduce that the gas is not laid on in his house?”

“One tallow stain, or even two, might come by chance; but when I see no less than five, I think that there can be little doubt that the individual must be brought into frequent contact with burning tallow — walks upstairs at night probably with his hat in one hand and a guttering candle in the other. Anyhow, he never got tallow-stains from a gasjet. Are you satisfied?”

“Well, it is very ingenious,” said I, laughing; “but since, as you said just now, there has been no crime committed, and no harm done save the loss of a goose, all this seems to be rather a waste of energy.”

Sherlock Holmes had opened his mouth to reply, when the door flew open, and Peterson, the commissionaire, rushed into the apartment with flushed cheeks and the face of a man who is dazed with astonishment.

“The goose, Mr. Holmes! The goose, sir!” he gasped.

“Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off through the kitchen window?” Holmes twisted himself round upon the sofa to get a fairer view of the man’s excited face.

“See here, sir! See what my wife found in its crop!” He held out his hand and displayed upon the centre of the palm a brilliantly scintillating blue stone, rather smaller than a bean in size, but of such purity and radiance that it twinkled like an electric point in the dark hollow of his hand.

Sherlock Holmes sat up with a whistle. “By Jove, Peterson!” said he, “this is treasure trove indeed. I suppose you know what you have got?”

“A diamond, sir? A precious stone. It cuts into glass as though it were putty.”

“It’s. more than a precious stone. It is the precious stone.”

“Not the Countess of Morcar’s blue carbuncle!” I ejaculated.

“Precisely so. l ought to know its size and shape, seeing that I have read the advertisement about it in The Times every day lately. It is absolutely unique, and its value can only be conjectured, but the reward offered of 1000 pounds is certainly not within a twentieth part of the market price.”

“A thousand pounds! Great Lord of mercy!” The commissionaire plumped down into a chair and stared from one to the other of us.

“That is the reward, and I have reason to know that there are sentimental considerations in the background which would induce the Countess to part with half her fortune if she could but recover the gem.”

“It was lost, if I remember aright, at the Hotel Cosmopolitan,” I remarked.

“Precisely so, on December 22d, just five days ago. John Horner, a plumber, was accused of having abstracted it from the lady’s jewel-case. The evidence against him was so strong that the case has been referred to the Assizes. I have some account of the matter here, I believe.” He rummaged amid his newspapers, glancing over the dates, until at last he smoothed one out, doubled it over, and read the following paragraph:

“Hotel Cosmopolitan Jewel Robbery. John Horner, 26, plumber, was brought up upon the charge of having upon the 22d inst., abstracted from the jewel-case of the Countess of Morcar the valuable gem known as the blue carbuncle. James Ryder, upper-attendant at the hotel, gave his evidence to the effect that he had shown Horner up to the dressing-room of the Countess of Morcar upon the day of the robbery in order that he might solder the second bar of the grate, which was loose. He had remained with Horner some little time, but had finally been called away. On returning, he found that Horner had disappeared, that the bureau had been forced open, and that the small morocco casket in which, as it afterwards transpired, the Countess was accustomed to keep her jewel, was lying empty upon the dressing-table. Ryder instantly gave the alarm, and Horner was arrested the same evening; but the stone could not be found either upon his person or in his rooms. Catherine Cusack, maid to the Countess, deposed to having heard Ryder’s cry of dismay on discovering the robbery, and to having rushed into the room, where she found matters as described by the last witness.

Inspector Bradstreet, B division, gave evidence as to the arrest of Horner, who strug gled frantically, and protested his innocence in the strongest terms. Evidence of a previous conviction for robbery having been given against the prisoner, the magistrate refused to deal summarily with the offence, but referred it to the Assizes. Horner, who had shown signs of intense emotion during the proceedings, fainted away at the conclusion and was carried out of court.

“Hum! So much for the police-court,” said Holmes thoughtfully, tossing aside the paper. “The question for us now to solve is the sequence of events leading from a rifled jewel-case at one end to the crop of a goose in Tottenham Court Road at the other. You see, Watson, our little deductions have suddenly assumed a much more important and less innocent aspect. Here is the stone; the stone came from the goose, and the goose came from Mr. Henry Baker, the gentleman with the bad hat and all the other characteristics with which I have bored you. So now we must set ourselves very seriously to finding this gentleman and ascertaining what part he has played in this little mystery. To do this, we must try the simplest means first, and these lie undoubtedly in an advertisement in all the evening papers. If this fail, I shall have recourse to other methods.”

“What will you say?”

“Give me a pencil and that slip of paper. Now, then:

“Found at the corner of Goodge Street, a goose and a black felt hat. Mr. Henry Baker can have the same by applying at 6:30 this evening at 221B, Baker Street.

That is clear and concise.”

“Very. But will he see it?”

“Well, he is sure to keep an eye on the papers, since, to a poor man, the loss was a heavy one. He was clearly so scared by his mischance in breaking the window and by the approach of Peterson that he thought of nothing but flight, but since then he must have bitterly regretted the impulse which caused him to drop his bird. Then, again, the introduction of his name will cause him to see it, for everyone who knows him will direct his attention to it. Here you are, Peterson, run down to the advertising agency and have this put in the evening papers.”

“In which, sir?”

“Oh, in the Clobe, Star, Pall Mall, St. James’s, Evening News Standard, Echo, and any others that occur to you.”

“Very well, sir. And this stone?”

“Ah, yes, I shall keep the stone. Thank you. And, I say, Peterson, just buy a goose on your way back and leave it here with me, for we must have one to give to this gentleman in place of the one which your family is now devouring.”

When the commissionaire had gone, Holmes took up the stone and held it against the light. “It’s a bonny thing,” said he. “Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil’s pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody deed. This stone is not yet twenty years old. It was found in the banks of the Amoy River in southem China and is remarkable in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save that it is blue in shade instead of ruby red. In spite of its youth, it has already a sinister history. There have been two murders, a vitriol-throwing, a suicide, and several robberies brought about for the sake of this forty-grain weight of crystallized charcoal. Who would think that so pretty a toy would be a purveyor to the gallows and the prison? I’ll lock it up in my strong box now and drop a line to the Countess to say that we have it.”

“Do you think that this man Horner is innocent?”

“I cannot tell.”

“Well, then, do you imagine that this other one, Henry Baker, had anything to do with the matter?”

“It is, I think, much more likely that Henry Baker is an absolutely innocent man, who had no idea that the bird which he was carrying was of considerably more value than if it were made of solid gold. That, however, I shall determine by a very simple test if we have an answer to our advertisement.”

“And you can do nothing until then?”

“Nothing. ”

“In that case I shall continue my professional round. But I shall come back in the evening at the hour you have mentioned, for I should like to see the solution of so tangled a business.”

“Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I believe. By the way, in view of recent occurrences, perhaps I ought to ask Mrs. Hudson to examine its crop.”

I had been delayed at a case, and it was a little after half-past six when I found myself in Baker Street once more. As I approached the house I saw a tall man in a Scotch bonnet with a coat which was buttoned up to his chin waiting outside in the bright semicircle which was thrown from the fanlight. Just as l arrived the door was opened, and we were shown up together to Holmes’s room.

“Mr. Henry Baker, I believe,” said he, rising from his armchair and greeting his visitor with the easy air of geniality which he could so readily assume. “Pray take this chair by the fire, Mr. Baker. It is a cold night, and I observe that your circulation is more adapted for summer than for winter. Ah, Watson, you have just come at the right time. Is that your hat, Mr. Baker?”

“Yes, sir, that is undoubtedly my hat.”

He was a large man with rounded shoulders, a massive head, and a broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of grizzled brown. A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight tremor of his extended hand, recalled Holmes’s surmise as to his habits. His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in front, with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded from his sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke in a slow staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and gave the impression generally of a man of learning and letters who had had ill-usage at the hands of fortune.

“We have retained these things for some days,” said Holmes, “because we expected to see an advertisement from you giving your address. I am at a loss to know now why you did not advertise.”

Our visitor gave a rather shamefaced laugh. “Shillings have not been so plentiful with me as they once were,” he remarked. “I had no doubt that the gang of roughs who assaulted me had carried off both my hat and the bird. I did not care to spend more money in a hopeless attempt at recovering them.”

“Very naturally. By the way, about the bird, we were compelled to eat it.”

“To eat it!” Our visitor half rose from his chair in his excitement.

“Yes, it would have been of no use to anyone had we not done so. But I presume that this other goose upon the sideboard, which is about the same weight and perfectly fresh, will answer your purpose equally well?”

“Oh, certainly, certainly,” answered Mr. Baker with a sigh of relief.

“Of course, we still have the feathers, legs, crop, and so on of your own bird, so if you wish –”

The man burst into a hearty laugh. “They might be useful to me as relics of my adventure,” said he, “but beyond that I can hardly see what use the disjecta membra of my late acquaintance are going to be to me. No, sir, I think that, with your permission, I will confine my attentions to the excellent bird which I perceive upon the sideboard.”

Sherlock Holmes glanced sharply across at me with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

“There is your hat, then, and there your bird,” said he. “By the way, would it bore you to tell me where you got the other one from? I am somewhat of a fowl fancier, and I have seldom seen a better grown goose.”

“Certainly, sir,” said Baker, who had risen and tucked his newly gained property under his arm. “There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museum — we are to be found in the Museum itself during the day, you understand. This year our good host, Windigate by name, instituted a goose club, by which, on consideration of some few pence every week, we were each to receive a bird at Christmas. My pence were duly paid, and the rest is familiar to you. I am much indebted to you, sir, for a Scotch bonnet is fitted neither to my years nor my gravity.” With a comical pomposity of manner he bowed solemnly to both of us and strode off upon his way.

“So much for Mr. Henry Baker,” said Holmes when he had closed the door behind him. “It is quite certain that he knows nothing whatever about the matter. Are you hungry, Watson?”

“Not particularly.”

“Then I suggest that we turn our dinner into a supper and follow up this clue while it is still hot.”

“By all means.”

It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters and wrapped cravats about our throats. Outside, the stars were shining coldly in a cloudless sky, and the breath of the passers-by blew out into smoke like so many pistol shots. Our footfalls rang out crisply and loudly as we swung through the doctors’ quarter, Wimpole Street, Harley Street, and so through Wigmore Street into Oxford Street. In a quarter of an hour we were in Bloomsbury at the Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at the corner of one of the streets which runs down into Holborn. Holmes pushed open the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer from the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord.

“Your beer should be excellent if it is as good as your geese,” said he.

“My geese!” The man seemed surprised.

“Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to Mr. Henry Baker, who was a member of your goose club.”

“Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them’s not our geese.”

“Indeed! Whose, then?”

“Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden.”

“Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?”

“Breckinridge is his name.”

“Ah! I don’t know him. Well, here’s your good health landlord, and prosperity to your house. Good-night.

“Now for Mr. Breckinridge,” he continued, buttoning up his coat as we came out into the frosty air. “Remember, Watson that though we have so homely a thing as a goose at one end of this chain, we have at the other a man who will certainly get seven years’ penal servitude unless we can establish his innocence. It is possible that our inquiry may but confirm his guilt but, in any case, we have a line of investigation which has been missed by the police, and which a singular chance has placed in our hands. Let us follow it out to the bitter end. Faces to the south, then, and quick march!”

We passed across Holborn, down Endell Street, and so through a zigzag of slums to Covent Garden Market. One of the largest stalls bore the name of Breckinridge upon it, and the proprietor a horsy-looking man, with a sharp face and trim side-whiskers was helping a boy to put up the shutters.

“Good-evening. It’s a cold night,” said Holmes.

The salesman nodded and shot a questioning glance at my companion.

“Sold out of geese, I see,” continued Holmes, pointing at the bare slabs of marble.

“Let you have five hundred to-morrow morning.”

“That’s no good.”

“Well, there are some on the stall with the gas-flare.”

“Ah, but I was recommended to you.”

“Who by?”

“The landlord of the Alpha.”

“Oh, yes; I sent him a couple of dozen.”

“Fine birds they were, too. Now where did you get them from?”

To my surprise the question provoked a burst of anger from the salesman.

“Now, then, mister,” said he, with his head cocked and his arms akimbo, “what are you driving at? Let’s have it straight, now.”

“It is straight enough. I should like to know who sold you the geese which you supplied to the Alpha.”

“Well then, I shan’t tell you. So now!”

“Oh, it is a matter of no importance; but I don’t know why you should be so warm over such a trifle.”

“Warm! You’d be as warm, maybe, if you were as pestered as I am. When I pay good money for a good article there should be an end of the business; but it’s ‘Where are the geese?’ and ‘Who did you sell the geese to?’ and ‘What will you take for the geese?’ One would think they were the only geese in the world, to hear the fuss that is made over them.”

“Well, I have no connection with any other people who have been making inquiries,” said Holmes carelessly. “If you won’t tell us the bet is off, that is all. But I’m always ready to back my opinion on a matter of fowls, and I have a fiver on it that the bird I ate is country bred.”

“Well, then, you’ve lost your fiver, for it’s town bred,” snapped the salesman.

“It’s nothing of the kind.”

“I say it is.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“D’you think you know more about fowls than I, who have handled them ever since I was a nipper? I tell you, all those birds that went to the Alpha were town bred.”

“You’ll never persuade me to believe that.”

“Will you bet, then?”

“It’s merely taking your money, for I know that I am right. But I’ll have a sovereign on with you, just to teach you not to be obstinate.”

The salesman chuckled grimly. “Bring me the books, Bill,” said he.

The small boy brought round a small thin volume and a great greasy-backed one, laying them out together beneath the hanging lamp.

“Now then, Mr. Cocksure,” said the salesman, “I thought that I was out of geese, but before I finish you’ll find that there is still one left in my shop. You see this little book?”

“Well?”

“That’s the list of the folk from whom I buy. D’you see? Well, then, here on this page are the country folk, and the numbers after their names are where their accounts are in the big ledger. Now, then! You see this other page in red ink? Well, that is a list of my town suppliers. Now, look at that third name. Just read it out to me.”

“Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road — 249,” read Holmes.

“Quite so. Now turn that up in the ledger.”

Holmes turned to the page indicated. “Here you are, ‘Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road, egg and poultry supplier.”

“Now, then, what’s the last entry?”

” ‘December 22d. Twenty-four geese at 7s. 6d.’ ”

“Quite so. There you are. And underneath?”

” ‘Sold to Mr. Windigate of the Alpha, at 12s.’ ”

“What have you to say now?”

Sherlock Holmes looked deeply chagrined. He drew a sovereign from his pocket and threw it down upon the slab, turning away with the air of a man whose disgust is too deep for words. A few yards off he stopped under a lamp-post and laughed in the hearty, noiseless fashion which was peculiar to him.

“When you see a man with whiskers of that cut and the ‘Pink ‘un’ protruding out of his pocket, you can always draw him by a bet,” said he. “I daresay that if I had put lOO pounds down in front of him, that man would not have given me such complete information as was drawn from him by the idea that he was doing me on a wager. Well, Watson, we are, I fancy, nearing the end of our quest, and the only point which remains to be determined is whether we should go on to this Mrs. Oakshott to-night, or whether we should reserve it for to-morrow. It is clear from what that surly fellow said that there are others besides ourselves who are anxious about the matter, and I should –”

His remarks were suddenly cut short by a loud hubbub which broke out from the stall which we had just left. Turning round we saw a little rat-faced fellow standing in the centre of the circle of yellow light which was thrown by the swinging lamp, while Breckinridge, the salesman, framed in the door of his stall, was shaking his fists fiercely at the cringing figure.

“I’ve had enough of you and your geese,” he shouted. “I wish you were all at the devil together. If you come pestering me any more with your silly talk I’ll set the dog at you. You bring Mrs. Oakshott here and I’ll answer her, but what have you to do with it? Did I buy the geese off you?”

“No; but one of them was mine all the same,” whined the little man.

“Well, then, ask Mrs. Oakshott for it.”

“She told me to ask you.”

“Well, you can ask the King of Proosia, for all I care. I’ve had enough of it. Get out of this!” He rushed fiercely forward, and the inquirer flitted away into the darkness.

“Ha! this may save us a visit to Brixton Road,” whispered Holmes. “Come with me, and we will see what is to be made of this fellow.” Striding through the scattered knots of people who lounged round the flaring stalls, my companion speedily overtook the little man and touched him upon the shoulder. He sprang round, and I could see in the gas-light that every vestige of colour had been driven from his face.

“Who are you, then? What do you want?” he asked in a quavering voice.

“You will excuse me,” said Holmes blandly, “but I could not help overhearing the questions which you put to the salesman just now. I think that I could be of assistance to you.”

“You? Who are you? How could you know anything of the matter?”

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”

“But you can know nothing of this?”

“Excuse me, I know everything of it. You are endeavouring to trace some geese which were sold by Mrs. Oakshott, of Brixton Road, to a salesman named Breckinridge, by him in turn to Mr. Windigate, of the Alpha, and by him to his club, of which Mr. Henry Baker is a member.”

“Oh, sir, you are the very man whom I have longed to meet,” cried the little fellow with outstretched hands and quivering fingers. “I can hardly explain to you how interested I am in this matter.”

Sherlock Holmes hailed a four-wheeler which was passing. “In that case we had better discuss it in a cosy room rather than in this wind-swept market-place,” said he. “But pray tell me, before we go farther, who it is that I have the pleasure of assisting.”

The man hesitated for an instant. “My name is John Robinson,” he answered with a sidelong glance.

“No, no; the real name,” said Holmes sweetly. “It is always awkward doing business with an alias.”

A flush sprang to the white cheeks of the stranger. “Well then,” said he, “my real name is James Ryder.”

“Precisely so. Head attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan. Pray step into the cab, and I shall soon be able to tell you everything which you would wish to know.”

The little man stood glancing from one to the other of us with half-frightened, half-hopeful eyes, as one who is not sure whether he is on the verge of a windfall or of a catastrophe. Then he stepped into the cab, and in half an hour we were back in the sitting-room at Baker Street. Nothing had been said during our drive, but the high, thin breathing of our new companion, and the claspings and unclaspings of his hands, spoke of the nervous tension within him.

“Here we are!” said Holmes cheerily as we filed into the room. “The fire looks very seasonabe in this weather. You look cold, Mr. Ryder. Pray take the basket-chair. I will just put on my slippers before we settle this little matter of yours. Now, then! You want to know what became of those geese?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Or rather, I fancy, of that goose. It was one bird, I imagine in which you were interested — white, with a black bar across the tail.”

Ryder quivered with emotion. “Oh, sir,” he cried, “can you tell me where it went to?”

“It came here.”

“Here?”

“Yes, and a most remarkable bird it proved. I don’t wonder that you should take an interest in it. It laid an egg after it was dead — the bonniest, brightest little blue egg that ever was seen. I have it here in my museum.”

Our visitor staggered to his feet and clutched the mantelpiece with his right hand. Holmes unlocked his strong-box and held up the blue carbuncle, which shone out like a star, with a cold brilliant, many-pointed radiance. Ryder stood glaring with a drawn face, uncertain whether to claim or to disown it.

“The game’s up, Ryder,” said Holmes quietly. “Hold up, man, or you’ll be into the fire! Give him an arm back into his chair, Watson. He’s not got blood enough to go in for felony with impunity. Give him a dash of brandy. So! Now he looks a little more human. What a shrimp it is, to be sure!”

For a moment he had staggered and nearly fallen, but the brandy brought a tinge of colour into his cheeks, and he sat staring with frightened eyes at his accuser.

“I have almost every link in my hands, and all the proofs which I could possibly need, so there is little which you need tell me. Still, that little may as well be cleared up to make the case complete. You had heard, Ryder, of this blue stone of the Countess of Morcar’s?”

“It was Catherine Cusack who told me of it,” said he in a crackling voice.

“I see — her ladyship’s waiting-maid. Well, the temptation of sudden wealth so easily acquired was too much for you, as it has been for better men before you; but you were not very scrupulous in the means you used. It seems to me, Ryder, that there is the making of a very pretty villain in you. You knew that this man Horner, the plumber, had been concerned in some such matter before, and that suspicion would rest the more readily upon him. What did you do, then? You made some small job in my lady’s room — you and your confederate Cusack — and you managed that he should be the man sent for. Then, when he had left, you rifled the jewel-case, raised the alarm, and had this unfortunate man arrested. You then –”

Ryder threw himself down suddenly upon the rug and clutched at my companion’s knees. “For God’s sake, have mercy!” he shrieked. “Think of my father! of my mother! It would break their hearts. I never went wrong before! I never will again. I swear it. I’ll swear it on a Bible. Oh, don’t bring it into court! For Christ’s sake, don’t!”

“Get back into your chair!” said Holmes sternly. “It is very well to cringe and crawl now, but you thought little enough of this poor Horner in the dock for a crime of which he knew nothing.”

“I will fly, Mr. Holmes. I will leave the country, sir. Then the charge against him will break down.”

“Hum! We will talk about that. And now let us hear a true account of the next act. How came the stone into the goose, and how came the goose into the open market? Tell us the truth, for there lies your only hope of safety.”

Ryder passed his tongue over his parched lips. “I will tell you it just as it happened, sir,” said he. “When Horner had been arrested, it seemed to me that it would be best for me to get away with the stone at once, for I did not know at what moment the police might not take it into their heads to search me and my room. There was no place about the hotel where it would be safe. I went out, as if on some commission, and I made for my sister’s house. She had married a man named Oakshott, and lived in Brixton Road, where she fattened fowls for the market. All the way there every man I met seemed to me to be a policeman or a detective; and, for all that it was a cold night, the sweat was pouring down my face before I came to the Brixton Road. My sister asked me what was the matter, and why I was so pale; but I told her that I had been upset by the jewel robbery at the hotel. Then I went into the back yard and smoked a pipe and wondered what it would be best to do.

“I had a friend once called Maudsley, who went to the bad, and has just been serving his time in Pentonville. One day he had met me, and fell into talk about the ways of thieves, and how they could get rid of what they stole. I knew that he would be true to me, for I knew one or two things about him; so I made up my mind to go right on to Kilburn, where he lived, and take him into my confidence. He would show me how to turn the stone into money. But how to get to him in safety? I thought of the agonies I had gone through in coming from the hotel. I might at any moment be seized and searched, and there would be the stone in my waistcoat pocket. I was leaning against the wall at the time and looking at the geese which were waddling about round my feet, and suddenly an idea came into my head which showed me how I could beat the best detective that ever lived.

“My sister had told me some weeks before that I might have the pick of her geese for a Christmas present, and I knew that she was always as good as her word. I would take my goose now, and in it I would carry my stone to Kilburn. There was a little shed in the yard, and behind this I drove one of the birds — a fine big one, white, with a barred tail. I caught it, and prying its bill open, I thrust the stone down its throat as far as my finger could reach. The bird gave a gulp, and I felt the stone pass along its gullet and down into its crop. But the creature flapped and struggled, and out came my sister to know what was the matter. As I turned to speak to her the brute broke loose and fluttered off among the others.

” ‘Whatever were you doing with that bird, Jem?’ says she.

” ‘Well,’ said I, ‘you said you’d give me one for Christmas, and I was feeling which was the fattest.’

” ‘Oh,’ says she, ‘we’ve set yours aside for you — Jem’s bird, we call it. It’s the big white one over yonder. There’s twenty-six of them, which makes one for you, and one for us, and two dozen for the market.’

” ‘Thank you, Maggie,’ says l; ‘but if it is all the same to you, I’d rather have that one I was handling just now.’

” ‘The other is a good three pound heavier,’ said she, ‘and we fattened it expressly for you.’

” ‘Never mind. I’ll have the other, and I’ll take it now,’ said I.

” ‘Oh, just as you like,’ said she, a little huffed. ‘Which is it you want, then?’

” ‘That white one with the barred tail, right in the middle of the flock.’

” ‘Oh, very well. Kill it and take it with you.’

“Well, I did what she said, Mr. Holmes, and I carried the bird all the way to Kilburn. I told my pal what I had done, for he was a man that it was easy to tell a thing like that to. He laughed until he choked, and we got a knife and opened the goose. My heart turned to water, for there was no sign of the stone, and I knew that some terrible mistake had occurred. I left the bird rushed back to my sister’s, and hurried into the back yard. There was not a bird to be seen there.

” ‘Where are they all, Maggie?’ I cried.

” ‘Gone to the dealer’s, Jem.’

” ‘Which dealer’s?’

” ‘Breckinridge, of Covent Garden.’

” ‘But was there another with a barred tail?’ I asked, ‘the same as the one I chose?’

” ‘Yes, Jem; there were two barred-tailed ones, and I could never tell them apart.’

“Well, then, of course I saw it all, and I ran off as hard as my feet would carry me to this man Breckinridge; but he had sold the lot at once, and not one word would he tell me as to where they had gone. You heard him yourselves to-night. Well, he has always answered me like that. My sister thinks that I am going mad. Sometimes I think that I am myself. And now — and now I am myself a branded thief, without ever having touched the wealth for which I sold my character. God help me! God help me!” He burst into convulsive sobbing, with his face buried in his hands.

There was a long silence, broken only by his heavy breathing and by the measured tapping of Sherlock Holmes’s finger-tips upon the edge of the table. Then my friend rose and threw open the door.

“Get out!” said he.

“What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!”

“No more words. Get out!”

And no more words were needed. There was a rush, a clatter upon the stairs, the bang of a door, and the crisp rattle of running footfalls from the street.

“After all, Watson,” said Holmes, reaching up his hand for his clay pipe, “I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies. If Horner were in danger it would be another thing; but this fellow will not appear against him, and the case must collapse. I suppose that I am commuting a felony. but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward. If you will have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin another investigation, in which, also a bird will be the chief feature.”

BDN survey seeks the five best economic development ideas for prolonged focus

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

George Danby cartoon/Bangor Daily News

Do you want to improve Maine? The Bangor Daily News does.

For more than a year, the BDN has been working on a project called MaineFocus with the intention of achieving measurable improvements on what we see as three of the worst problems facing the state: Domestic and sexual abuse, drug abuse and the economy. This is more than a journalism series. It’s a community engagement project that has resulted in dozens of stories, public forums and the building of a diverse MaineFocus brain trust that includes experts from a spectrum of backgrounds. Our hope to identify solutions and then motivate Maine to enact them.

OK, so what’s he point? We need your help. The BDN launched a detailed online survey this week aimed at prioritizing the steps that need to be taken to improve the economy. The survey will identify the top 10 ideas and the BDN will consult with some 50 experts across Maine to cull that list to the five most important. That’s when the real work begins of determining why these ideas haven’t already been implemented and what it will take to bring them to reality.

According to MaineFocus Editor Erin Rhoda, Maine has never launched a long-term statewide strategic economic development plan.

“We want those who live and work in Maine to have an in-depth conversation about the state’s future,” said Rhoda. “Too many times in the past, Maine’s economic development efforts have been disjointed. Worthy initiatives have been under-funded, while less effective initiatives have taken up people’s time and energy.”

The survey — which just a few days after launch has already attracted more than 1,500 responses — is a thought-provoking piece of work in itself. It touches on 20 broad goals and ideas, most of which have been discussed for years, and asks you to rate their importance. It’ll take about five minutes and your feedback will be invaluable. Will you help?

Click here to take the survey, and thanks.

OUI tests for marijuana, right to work and welfare reform among bills proposed by state agencies

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

The State House in Augusta stands lighted against the night sky. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

If the past is any indication, lawmakers in the incoming 127th Legislature will face a barrage of at least 1,700 bill proposals, and perhaps well more than 2,000.

The deadline for lawmakers themselves to submit bills, known as cloture, is Jan. 2, and it will be days after that before the titles are published and weeks or months before the bills are written. They’ll range from the momentous to the ridiculous. Lawmaker bills proposed after cloture will be subject to pre-approval by the 10-member Legislative Council and Gov. Paul LePage can submit bills whenever he pleases.

I know you just can’t wait but you’re gonna have to.

As an appetizer, the Legislature’s Office of the Revisor of Statutes (that’s the where every one those 2,000 bills will be written by a staff of unsung heroes who are mostly overshadowed by the elected folks) has released a list of bill titles proposed by state departments and agencies. You can view the list for yourself by clicking here, but I’ve highlighted some that I found interesting.

It should be noted that the bills associated with the titles published this week have not yet been written and that in general, their content is kept confidential until the revisor’s office is finished with them. Many of the bills — and their titles — are fluid and will rely on weeks of work and deliberations by legislative committees. That means any assumptions made from the titles themselves should be done with caution.

Here we go.

The Department of Administrative and Financial Services has proposed An Act to Amend Tax Laws, which could contain almost anything related to the state’s tax code. However, it could be where LePage will propose to send municipal revenue sharing funds, which currently go to towns and cities, directly to property tax payers. LePage tried to eliminate municipal revenue sharing altogether during his first term but after being thwarted by the Legislature, has said recently that he’ll propose sending checks directly to Maine citizens.

The Office of the Attorney General will be focused on curbing elder abuse and cracking down on the trafficking of methamphetamine, but also has this interesting title: A Resolve to Ensure the Authority and Independence of the Office of the Attorney General. Could this be in response to LePage’s call to curtail the attorney general’s “veto power” in the departmental rule-making process or to have the position subject to a state-wide election?

Appropriately, the Department of Economic and Community Development has proposed An Act to Expand Opportunities for Economic Development in Maine. Joking aside, there could be a lot of time spent on this bill this session.

The Department of Education will propose amendments to Maine’s charter school laws, which in the past two years have been the focus of failed bids to change charter schools’ funding mechanism to lifting the current 10-charter-school cap. There is also an intriguing bill coming that relates to the collection of students’ body mass index data.

The Department of Environmental Protection will propose a way to reduce carbon emissions from residential heating system — which could be relevant to a wide swath of Mainers — as well as something to do with amending permitting standards in Maine. Streamlining, and from some perspectives, weakening environmental permitting processes in Maine has been a key aspect of LePage’s efforts to spur economic development.

The Department of Health and Human Services appears poised to propose changes to child protective services laws as well as crack down on deadbeat parents, including with a noble-sounding bill titled An Act to Affirm the Obligation to Support One’s Children. There are also a couple of bill titles related to child care providers, including one would establish a web-based background check center for workers. Included in DHHS’s list is An Act to Reform Maine’s Welfare Programs. LePage has said often and loudly, including throughout his gubernatorial campaign, that welfare reform will continue to be a political priority.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will propose restructuring the permitting process for wildlife and exotic species in captivity, which is likely related to a highly publicized and ongoing dispute raised by a Harpswell woman over the collection of animals she keeps at her home, some of which have been seized by state officials. 

The Department of Labor seeks to strengthen employee severance pay protections when jobs are cut in mass layoffs, which is an issue facing current and soon-to-be former workers of the Verso paper mill in Bucksport, which has announced closure plans. The DOL is also proposing two bills that will attempt to make Maine a “Right to Work” state, which means workers would not be required to pay labor union dues as a condition of employment. LePage has said this is one of his foremost goals as governor but has faced withering opposition on this front in the Legislature and across the state.

News flash: If you collect spat, the Department of Marine Resources wants you to have a license for it. Other than being the past participle of spit and a fancy word for argument, I’ve learned very recently that spat are baby oysters. DMR is also working to place Atlantic Surgeon and Atlantic Salmon on the state’s endangered and threatened marine species list.

The Department of Public Safety is looking to establish a chemical test that will determine whether drivers are operating under the influence of marijuana. The department is also cracking down on child abuse and exploitation and will come forward with new rules regarding the use of cell phones and other devices while driving.

And finally, here’s one that seems like it wouldn’t need a bill: The Public Utilities Commission is proposing An Act to Clarify that the Number 9-1-1 is the Primary Number Advertised or Promoted for Emergency Response Services.

Even a kindergartener knows that. Right?

Three cheers for integrity

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Several weeks ago, I was sitting in a room filled with about 30 conservative activists when a phone rang.

The phone belonged to Eric Lusk, the chairman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee, who had been addressing the room. A rather dull hush fell over the former chatter as Eric listened to somebody speak on the other end. Occasionally, he would hold up a finger to indicate he would just be a minute. It took a little while.

After a couple minutes, he hung up and announced to the room that Cathy Manchester had defeated Cathy Breen in the Maine Senate District 25 recount held that day and that Maine Republicans would now have a 21st senator.

The room erupted into applause raising the already high spirits of everyone there.

That celebration, however, would be short lived. Cathy Breen refused to accept the results of the recount, which sent the decision to the Maine Senate, which would then be tasked with declaring a winner in the race itself.

The Senate president has broad authority in such cases, and with Republicans sweeping to a large majority in the 2014 election, it would have been very easy for them to simply declare the recount settled, seat Manchester as the winner of the election and move on.

There was certainly a great deal of pressure to do so. An extra Republican senator would mean the largest majority for the GOP since 1978 and a lot of extra legislative breathing room. There is also more than enough precedent to do so with how frequently Democrats have strong-armed Republicans given their own majorities in the past.

Add to that a lurking sense of well-earned political vengeance. In 2002, Democrat Christopher Hall was seated over Republican Les Fossel while a recount was in dispute. And of course, many in the GOP still harbor anger over the 1992 election-stealing shenanigans by the Democrats in former House District 82, when 600 ballots went “missing” and an aide to Democratic Speaker of the House John Martin would end up pleading guilty to burglary.

Indeed, when was the last time a Republican ended up on the winning side of a hotly contested recount after a Democrat won on Election Day? When was the last time ballots miraculously appeared as if from nowhere to the benefit of a Republican candidate? It seems the Democrats always win these fights, and they almost never feel fair.

So, needless to say, the impulse to simply thrust a mighty fist pump into the air, tell the Democrats to sit down, declare that Manchester had won and move on was great. Yet, that isn’t what Senate President Mike Thibodeau and the new GOP majority did.

There were reports of irregularities in the recount, so they appointed a special committee chaired by one of the most bipartisan members of the Senate, Roger Katz, to fully investigate what happened — something they didn’t have to do.

And it is a good thing they did, too, because the Democrats were working very hard to preemptively cast a cloud over these election results in the event Manchester was declared the winner.

Liberal blogger and former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill suggested the fix may have been in from the state police, rhetorically asking, “Will Cathy Manchester, a former stock car racer and the first woman Chief of Police in Maine, question the possibility of misconduct by the brotherhood of Maine State Police?”

BDN columnist Amy Fried argued that “if there was malfeasance in Long Island, it would be due to election fraud.”

Liberal columnist Mike Tipping opined, “This result seems on its face to be rather shady, and it’s easy to imagine theories of election fraud. In fact, what has me stumped is trying to think of a probable scenario where these ballots are legitimate.”

Democrats went out of their way to use the words “fraud” in connection to this election, pushing a narrative of “materializing ballots” and waxing poetically about “ballot stuffing” and other sinister electioneering, while Thibodeau and others preached patience and caution while promising fairness.

And in the end, a simple miscalculation was uncovered whereby the 21 ballots in question were counted twice.

Occum’s razor was, as it nearly always is, proven correct.

The truth was uncovered by a fair, transparent hearing set up by a leadership that ultimately handed power to the hands of its political adversaries. A very rare, refreshing event, indeed.

Perhaps next time we can spend a little less time speculating about villains who twirl their mustaches in incredibly unlikely scenarios and ultimately wait for the truth to come out.

Perhaps now our friends on the left will recognize the need to take ballot security and election integrity as seriously as the right takes it.

And perhaps, at some future date when the shoe is on the other foot, the integrity shown by the Senate Republicans here might just rub off on future lawmakers.

Senate recount reversal won’t affect elections of secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Republican Cathy Manchester (left) and Democrat Catherine Breen (right) shake hands while former lawmaker Meredith Strang Burgess smiles at them before a committee hearing on the Senate District 25 ballot issue on Tuesday at the State House in Augusta. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

In one moment, Republican Cathy Manchester was the state senator for the Falmouth area and in the next, the seat belonged to Democrat Catherine Breen. Tuesday’s meeting of a Senate elections committee was stunning to behold.

In case you missed it, a quick count of Election Day ballots in two locked metal boxes Tuesday afternoon at the State House revealed that some ballots had been double counted during a recount. A seat that was called for Breen by 32 votes on election night, then for Manchester by 11 votes after a Nov. 18 recount, then for Breen by ruling of the secretary of state, then for Manchester in a Dec. 3 Senate vote, has gone back to Breen by the original margin of 32 votes.

I and probably a lot of other people listened to the web stream for hour, which was relatively dull until those boxes were opened. The BDN’s Mario Moretto was there all day and you can read his report here.

In the days leading up to the Legislature’s swearing in on Dec. 3, there was speculation about how the new balance of power in the Legislature would affect the elections of the state treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state, each of which requires a majority vote of all House and Senate lawmakers. With Breen seated at the time, Democrats were one vote shy of protecting the three Democratic officers and relying on four left-leaning independents in the House. So, the contested vote in Senate District 25 could have mattered.

The question is, does it matter now that it’s flipped Democrat again? The short answer is no, according to Tim Feeley, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

“We aren’t aware of any revote provisions,” wrote Feeley in an email to the BDN Tuesday afternoon. “The Senate determined at the time of the Joint Convention who the members were who could vote.”

Feeley said this wasn’t the first time a lawmaker seated on swearing-in day was later replaced, citing the election of Democratic Rep. Mike Shaw in 2006.

University of Maine School of Law Professor Donald L. Zillman agreed on the grounds that Manchester was seated according to the law — albeit according to a flawed vote tally — at the time the officers were elected.

“However you disagree with the politics of it, there seemed to be a legitimate decision about who should be in the Senate seat,” said Zillman. “I’m just very pleased that they were able to find out the facts. This has been explained and there was no evil conspiracy.”

The votes for constitutional officers were done by secret ballot and the tallies have not been publicly released, but Ericka Dodge, a spokeswoman for Senate Democrats, and House Democrats spokeswoman Jodi Quintero said Tuesday that one vote wouldn’t have made a difference in any of last week’s elections.

 

What place did partisanship play in the ballot mystery?

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Cartoon by George Danby

Poof, the mystery ballots have dematerialized.

Today it was discovered that the 21 mystery ballots for Senate District 25 — where it appeared there were more ballots than voters on the voter roster — did not really exist.

What happened was a mistake, not malfeasance.

One batch of 21 ballot was double counted.

It’s great to have this resolution. The committee figured out what happened. There was an error rather than the other possible option, election fraud.

But all this could have been cleared up far earlier if there hadn’t been partisanship at the recount.

There wouldn’t have been any of this drama if the GOP had agreed to check the ballots again, as requested during the recount.

As the Bangor Daily News reported:

Kate Knox, an attorney representing the Democrats, refused to accept the new results on the night of the recount, citing concerns with Long Island’s ballots as well as nine disputed ballots and 10 missing ballots from Gray and Westbrook.

However, [Republican attorney Bill] Logan would not agree to keep the recount open, and Flynn made the decision to declare the recount finished.

Thinking about this situation, you can imagine how some set of ballots might be put down and then picked up again and counted twice.

(Although it would seem this would be harder to mess up if others were watching. Future recounts should ensure this problem is prevented.)

No matter how understandable the double count is in retrospect, when the numbers didn’t match the initial count nor the number on the voter roster, the simplest thing would have to been to do the count again.

After all, we are not talking about thousands of ballots. By all counts, there were fewer than 200.

If that had happened, everything would have been done right there and then. This wouldn’t have been a news story or a mystery.

Beyond the partisanship at the recount, the Senate majority should have just waited to do the investigation before seating someone whose recount required an investigation.

But they didn’t want to wait. According to a November 28 Press-Herald story, the incoming Senate President, Republican Sen. Mike Thibodeau, suggested that the recount outcome seemed clear.

“It’s unfortunate that folks were disappointed with the outcome of the recount and are unwilling to accept the result,” Thibodeau said. 

The on-line publication of the Maine Heritage Policy Center held:

Despite calls for a full investigation by the Senate, it seems unlikely that such an investigation would uncover much.

If the Senate had waited, the Republican, Cathy Manchester wouldn’t have had to resign and the Democrat, Cathy Breen, wouldn’t have gone through all this. The process was unfair to both of them.

Republicans and Democrats should both take this to heart and not try to resolve contested elections before all the facts are in.

The bipartisan Senate committee deserves all our respect. Now that their main task is complete, perhaps they can recommend procedures to avoid similar problems in the future.

To a mystery solved!

Collins, King: CIA engaged in torture

Rebekah Metzler -

Maine’s two senators, both of whom serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, condemned the Bush-era CIA interrogation practices outlined in a new report made public Tuesday as “torture.”

Neither Republican Sen. Susan Collins nor Independent Sen. Angus King served on the committee when the CIA was using the maneuvers in the wake of 9/11 in hopes of tracking down Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda operatives. Both also offered sharp criticism of the partisan manner in which the report was compiled, with Democrats excluding Republicans from the process.

“Despite these significant flaws, the report’s findings lead me to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred,” Collins said in a statement.

Collins said the report was wrong in its conclusion that none of the torture resulted in quality intelligence, but pointed out that torture doesn’t need to be ineffective in order to warrant a ban.

“The prohibition against torture in both U.S. law and international law is not based on an evaluation of its efficacy at eliciting information. Rather, the prohibition was put in place because torture is immoral and contrary to our values,” she said, putting her at odds with some of her Republican colleagues.

While President Barack Obama banned the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” at the start of his presidency, Collins calls for outlawing waterboarding so his decision cannot be overturned by a subsequent president. She also said there should be greater congressional oversight of the CIA by broadening the number of members privy to certain classified information.

King, who caucuses with Democrats, concurred with Collins that the report could have been more bipartisan in nature, and also condemned the findings.

“Such brutality is unacceptable, and the misconduct on the part of some of the individuals involved in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which is documented in the study, is inexplicable,” he said in a release.

But King also agrees with the report’s conclusion that the techniques bore no fruit in the hunt for Bin Laden.

“Based upon this review, it appears to me that the enhanced interrogation techniques were not effective in producing the type of unique and reliable information claimed by the agency’s leadership, and should never again be employed by our government,” he said.

During an appearance on CNN’s “New Day,” King called the report “chilling.”

“Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work? No,” he said. “This is not America. This is not who we are. What was done diminished our stature and inflamed [Islamist extremists], terrorists around the world.”

Now: The long awaited review of the Long Island mystery ballots

Press Herald Politics -

The locked boxes containing the 192 ballots from Long Island. There are 21 ballots that appeared during the recount that were not present on Election Day according to a voter manifest.

The Senate committee reviewing the controversy over the recount of the state Senate District 25 race between Republican Cathy Manchester and Democrat Cathy Breen began what is expected to be a lengthy review on Tuesday. Close to 30 witnesses, including all of the election clerks involved in the counting of ballots on Long Island, are expected to testify before the committee.

The seven-member committee was appointed by Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau, of Winterport. Republicans have four seats on the committee, Democrats have three.

There’s plenty of background material about the controversy. Here is the first report and here is a second that explains the chain of custody process for ballots prescribed by Maine election law.

Finally, here’s the latest report from colleague Eric Russell about how the residents of Long Island are reacting to having been thrust into the middle of the controversy.

At issue are 21 ballots, all for Manchester, that were discovered during the recount of the race but were not counted on Election Day. The additional ballots brought the total number of votes cast in the town of Long Island to 192 and effectively changed the winner from Breen to Manchester. Before the ballots turned up in the recount, Breen was the apparent winner, 10,930 to 10,898. After the recount, Manchester was in the lead, 10,927 to 10,916. The final total includes ballots from other towns that had been missing or were changed.

There will be live coverage of the hearing on Twitter’s #mepolitics hashtag. I’ll also post multimedia updates below:

Long Island mystery ballot investigation begins

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Editorial cartoon | George Danby

A committee of the Maine Senate today will take up the case of the District 25 election, and in particular the 21 mystery ballots from the town of Long Island that flipped the race in favor of Republican candidate Cathy Manchester during a recount.

Committee chair Sen. Roger Katz, a Republican from Augusta, has promised a full investigation that “preserves the integrity of the state’s election system and thoroughly addresses concerns about any impropriety in how the District 25 ballots were handled and counted.” He hopes that most of their work can be completed in one long sitting today, starting at 9am. Audio from the hearings will be streamed live here.

This openness to an investigation is a reversal from the Republican position early last week, when Senate Leader Mike Thibodeau dismissed concerns about the unexplained ballots and Republican Party Chair Rick Bennett released a statement accusing Democrats and the media of “playing politics” by even mentioning the strange circumstances of the race.

“The Maine Democratic Party and their bloggers and allies, Ethan Strimling, Mike Tipping, Cynthia Dill, and the entire Portland Press Herald, are dishonestly attacking the election process and, apparently, the Maine State Police, by falsely raising the specter of ‘fraud’, despite the fact that the ballot boxes were sealed and kept in the appropriate secure chain of custody per Maine law,” wrote Bennett.

That statement did not mention or fault the several high-profile Republican commentators who had already called for a full investigation, or the more than 3,000 individual Mainers who have signed a petition asking the Senate to get to the bottom of the issue.

Some intrepid reporters aren’t waiting for results from the Senate. Eric Russell, Susan Kimball and Gregory Rec at the Portland Press Herald visited Long Island recently and came back with a very interesting story (with plenty of video for local flavor). They quote Kim MacVane, one of the ballot counters on election night, who says that of 250 ballots sent to the island for the election, one batch of 50 remained unopened and she and the other counters hand-stamped another 29 ballots as cancelled, leaving no possible avenue for the 21 mystery ballots to have been legitimately cast.

Those 29 cancelled ballots, if they can be confirmed by the Senate today, could provide concrete evidence that the extra votes are the result of malfeasance. A canvass of the small number of voters who might have conceivably cast the ballots could lead to a similar result, as I’ve noted previously.

Such evidence would provoke more questions than it answers, and it remains to be seen what other testimony or physical evidence might reveal in this case. Today’s proceedings could be very interesting.

Vintage fish balls with the Secretary of State, and 7 stories you need to read

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat, kept his job last week when the Legislature re-elected him for his fourth two-year term, but that’s not keeping him from returning to his pre-political culinary roots.

Dunlap, who was head cook at the University of Maine for a spell and worked in several kitchens between his hometown of Bar Harbor and Bangor, will whip together a dish from a recipe found in a vintage Maine cookbook stored in the Maine State Archives, a department under Dunlap’s purview as Secretary of State.

Four such cookbooks, all dated between 1938 and 1945, were recently scanned by archivists, and CDs with the recipes are now for sale as an effort to promote the state’s signature foods, according a news release from Dunlap’s office.

Dunlap will cook “fish balls” at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the R.M. Flagg Maine Kitchen Cooking School in Bangor. 

Moves at the State House

Republicans took control of the Senate in November, which means moving into the bigger offices reserved for the majority and hiring the additional staff necessary to run the upper chamber. It also meant a shrinking of staff for Senate Democrats, and a game of musical chairs for the remaining staffers. Here’s a quick run down of who’s going, arriving and moving:

  • Andy Roth-Wells, former chief of staff for the Senate Democrats, is now chief of staff for Dems in the House. He replaces Kate Simmons, who has left the capitol.
  • Michael Levert, who was Senate President Justin Alfond’s chief of staff last year, moved into Roth-Wells’ old job.
  • Jim Cyr will be the spokesman for the new Senate President, Mike Thibodeau of Winterport. Jamie Carter, a legislative aide for the past several years, will take Cyr’s former position as communications director for the Senate GOP.
  • Rob Poindexter, who until recently was a reporter for WABI-TV, is the new communications director for the House Republican Office. He replaces David Sorensen, who has taken a new job with DHHS.
  • Ken Hardy, former policy director for the Senate Democrats, is now legal counsel for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.
  • Heather Priest, former chief of staff for the Senate GOP, was elected secretary of the Senate — the second time she’s held that title. Shawn Roderick, the House GOP’s former senior legislative aide, will be assistant Secretary of the Senate.
  • Former Secretary of the Senate Darek Grant is now the senior legislative aid for the Senate Democrats.
  • Rob Hunt was elected Clerk of the House. He was assistant clerk for several years.
Maine Equal Justice Partners hires new director

After a reported nationwide search for a new executive director, Maine Equal Justice Partners ended up finding the winning candidate within their own offices. The group announced that Robyn Merrill, a five-year employee at MEJP, will now lead the organization.

MEJP is a legal aid organization for impoverished Mainers, but it’s also one of the leading advocates in the State House for welfare programs, so the group — and Merrill –  will doubtless be regular fixtures in the upcoming session as Republicans emboldened by electoral victory attempt once again to pass welfare reform.

Merrill was most recently the group’s senior policy analyst. She’s a 2008 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law and also has a master’s degree in social work from the University of New England. She has also served as a clerk for the Maine Superior Court and with the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, and has worked as a social worker.

Merrill replaces Sara Gagne-Holmes, who left MEJO to be a senior program associate at the John T. Gorman Foundation, a Portland-based advocacy group.

7 stories you need to read

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