Feed aggregator

Voting against your self-interest?

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

It is always funny listening to self-described progressives try to rationally comprehend how anyone could possibly not agree with them politically.

They are truly flabbergasted at the prospect that their worldview is not shared. Indeed, I’ve always believed that to be liberal is to believe that after long, thoughtful deliberation, you have arrived at some kind of graduated, advanced state of mindfulness, and that the unwashed masses who do not agree with you are simply unenlightened, ignorant rubes who have not yet reached your higher level of being.

Never was this level of self-delusion on fuller display than in a recent New York Times opinion piece by Alec MacGillis, titled “Who Turned my Blue State Red?

Bangor residents vote on Nov. 3. Ashley L. Conti | BDN

In the column, MacGillis expresses his dumbfounded amazement that poor people do not vote for liberal politicians out of their own self interest.

The very first line he writes encapsulates his bewilderment: “It is one of the central political puzzles of our time: Parts of the country that depend on the safety-net programs supported by Democrats are increasingly voting for Republicans who favor shredding that net.”

MacGillis’ thesis was essentially that poor people aren’t voting, and those one step above them economically are increasingly voting Republican because they don’t like poor people.

Interestingly, to illustrate his point, MacGillis singled out the re-election of Gov. Paul LePage. This, to him, was a maddeningly confusing example of people “voting against their self-interest,” because LePage is a radical welfare reform advocate.

What MacGillis doesn’t seem to understand, though, is that highlighting LePage directly refutes his premise that low voter turnout (driven by poor people not voting) is the driver of victory for anti-social welfare politicians.

Why? Maine had the highest voter turnout in the entire country in 2014. It rivaled presidential turnout.

Confused logic aside, this piece was picked up almost immediately by every liberal in America, affording them the opportunity to wax poetically about those silly poor people who just don’t see the importance of voting for their self-interest by getting off the sidelines and voting for liberal politicians.

For a few days, the liberal wing of the internet was an overflowing avalanche of leftists’ obsession with this article, allowing them to vent their ironically disdainful frustrations with the underclass of America for not supporting liberalism enough. Its for their own good! Don’t they realize this?

One article posted online at the Bangor Daily News highlighted this colored view of reality rather well, saying, “…the people at the very bottom of the ladder — who benefit from Democratic policies — just aren’t voting.”

Benefit? They do?

In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson told us, “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”

We are now 50 years into that war on poverty with U.S. taxpayers spending more than $22 trillion on government programs for the poor in that time period. The result? Fifty years of relatively static, unchanging levels of poverty.

But the self-congratulatory left believes that those at the very bottom of the ladder benefit from Democratic policies.

To the leftist intelligentsia, the way you help the poor is to create a government program, and if you disagree then your policies clearly don’t help the poor.

Strange, because I happen to believe that the current design of government programs incentivizes the perpetual use of those programs and harm the poor by trapping them in poverty.

I happen to believe that our focus as a society should be on fixing our tragically broken education system, as well as private-sector economic development to provide the poor with real opportunities to allow them to escape poverty and aspire to move up in their lives.

But, according to the logic contained in that one sentence, I must hate the poor, and nothing I advocate for will help them in any way. If only I had arrived at that more advanced state of being, I would understand, I guess.

Back to MacGillis’ point, though, it is important to understand that lower income brackets have always been the group that turns out to vote less frequently. That has not changed much in the last century.

What has changed is that the teachers, firefighters, and working-class, blue-collar people who do vote, have been trending increasingly conservative at the same time.

It isn’t because those trending more conservative hate the poor, as MacGillis and all of liberal America seems to believe. It is because they are sick and tired of being used and abused by their government while their hard-earned dollars are wasted turning their less fortunate neighbors into perpetually poor wards of the state.

No one is better off in that system. No one.

Poliquin: Refugees will only be settled where ‘they’re welcome’

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin went on “The Howie Carr Show” on Monday to talk about the Syrian refugee situation and criticize President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

The Republican from Maine’s 2nd District has voted against continuing President Barack Obama’s plan of resettling 10,000 refugees from Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war complicated by the rise of the terrorist Islamic State.

Pressure on Obama’s plan has ramped up after the terrorist attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State earlier this month. While, none of the attackers have been identified as refugees so far, but one of them had a passport (which may well have been fake) in the name of a man who entered Greece with refugees.

Poliquin and many Republicans argue that until the Obama administration can ensure a stiffer screening process, the Syrian immigration program should be halted. However, others have said the screening process, which can take up to two years, is a high hurdle.

Democrat Emily Cain, who is running for her party’s nomination to challenge Poliquin in 2016, was noncommittal on the administration’s plan in a statement last week. Her primary opponent, Joe Baldacci, hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

On Monday, Carr, a conservative talk radio host, asked Poliquin if he feared “a Paris-style event in Lewiston or Portland, given the large number of refugees in those two cities. (Some necessary context: Just over 900 refugees came to Maine, mostly from Iraq and Somalia, between 2011 and 2014.)

Poliquin mostly demurred on the question, saying Maine is “strong on the 2nd Amendment” and “we own a lot of guns up here, so we’re good to go.”

The federal government controls immigration, but Gov. Paul LePage has joined a majority of U.S. governors who have come out against Syrian refugees settling in Maine.

Poliquin said many “stand up strong” to support Gov. Paul LePage and a majority of U.S. governors opposing resettlement in their states “until we can certify they’re not going to hurt us.”

Governors’ opposition is symbolic because the federal government controls immigration, but Poliquin said “based on what I know, refugees from any place will not be resettled in that place or in any place in America unless they’re welcome.”

“Now, I’m not advocating any action, I’m just saying, these folks have to be welcomed in the communities or they’re likely not to be resettled there,” he said. — Michael Shepherd


College students targeted in effort to move Lewiston elections to June

An unsuccessful mayoral candidate and two others are looking to move Lewiston’s November elections to June, the Sun Journal reported yesterday.

It’s being led by Luke Jensen, who finished fourth in this year’s mayoral race, which will be decided in a Dec. 8 runoff between Mayor Robert Macdonald and Ben Chin.

Jensen said it “would be wrong to say that Bates students voting was not a motivating factor in this petition” and that they voted disproportionately related to the rest of the city and could have swung the mayoral race. Chin, a liberal Bates graduate, got support from many students.

I was in Lewiston on Election Day, and this divide between students and older residents was palpable at the city armory, the polling place for many Bates students, lying just off-campus.

While I was there, some voters emerged from the polling place complaining the high volume of students, and a student said that while she waited to cast a ballot, she was told she shouldn’t be voting in Lewiston because she’s from out of state. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list Best of Maine’s Craiglist
  • In Bangor, someone is seeking a dumpster-diving partner. He has a small pickup truck, he “wouldn’t hesitate about slicing into a bag to see inside not afraid of coodies lol” and he’s “not a drinker or a stoner,” but rather, he’s “high on life and drug free.”
  • Someone’s trying to start a “media empire” in Bangor, but they don’t know there’s only one BDN.
  • Someone is posting a series of poems about apples on the “Missed Connections” page. They don’t make sense, with lines like, “Apples offer only brief relief from the human mind” and “Why can’t a person tickle them self? It’s just a touch. I can curl up in my own tail, but I don’t feel it. It’s just my own tail.”
  • However, someone’s offering what seems to be real apples in Portland for free.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Those free apples are just in time for Thanksgiving pies. Apple pie is clearly the best pie and my family will be having it tomorrow, but a Slate writer makes a strong argument why it doesn’t belong at your Thanksgiving table. We’re all about counterpoints here.

But no matter what kind of pie you’re eating (and I guess if you’re not even eating pie at all), Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. The Daily Brief will pick back up on Friday. — Michael Shepherd 

Collins, King rank among most popular U.S. senators in poll

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Maine really likes its U.S. senators, according to a national survey from Morning Consult.

Susan Collins, a Republican, scored an approval rating of 78 percent in a poll of 654 Mainers, the second-highest mark in the country, only behind independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who received an 83 percent rating.

Independent Angus King’s mark wasn’t too shabby, either: His approval rating of 65 percent among Mainers was good for 10th place among all U.S. senators in the survey, which polled nearly 77,000 voters between May and November.

These scores were higher than other recent marks: Collins was measured at 61 percent job approval and King at 49 percent in a recent Critical Insights poll.

While the senators fared well in Morning Consult’s poll, Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, wasn’t so lucky. He registered an approval rating of just 39 percent, which was fourth worst among his gubernatorial peers.


Will we learn more about possible plans for a Katahdin-area monument?

Speaking of Collins, she’ll will be in Lewiston on Tuesday for a tour of the city’s riverfront for a discussion of the city’s Riverfront Island Master Plan, a roadmap to redeveloping much of the area along the Androscoggin River around the Bates Mill Complex.

Collins is expected to take questions from the media after a walking tour with Mayor Robert Macdonald and other city officials.

It comes a day after a big announcement from Collins, King and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican: They said President Barack Obama is considering using his authority to create a national monument in the Katahdin region, which they told him in a lengthy letter has caused them to have “serious reservations.”

The White House declined comment on the letter on Monday, but maybe we’ll find out more from Collins today. — Michael Shepherd


Rally to support Syrian refugees set for Wednesday in Augusta

A group of activists say they’ll be outside the Blaine House and State House on Wednesday afternoon “for a vigil to express welcome to and solidarity with Syrian and other refugees fleeing war and oppression.”

The rally, announced by Resources for Organizing and Social Change in Augusta, is in response to Gov. Paul LePage’s announcement last week that he’ll oppose any effort to settle Syrian refugees in Maine.

The Republican joined a majority of governors in that position, but because the federal government controls immigration, their position is largely symbolic.

It follows criticism of LePage from the Maine Council of Churches, which sent a letter to the governor on Friday saying it “strongly decries” his pronouncement and “we must not compound the tragedy of this week’s attacks by making refugees and Muslims the target of violent rhetoric in a backlash of hatred.” — Michael Shepherd


Reading list Climate talk at Allagash Brewing tonight

Nothing says Portland, Maine, quite like a climate change discussion in a craft brewery.

That’s what will happen today at 6 p.m., when Portland Mayor-elect Ethan Strimling and groups including Environment Maine and the Sierra Club will have a public discussion at Allagash Brewing Company.

They’ll “discuss what Portland and communities across Maine are doing to address climate change, and can be doing more of” ahead of international climate talks in Paris this month, according to a press release from Environment Maine. — Michael Shepherd

Maine again looks to ban soda, candy purchases with food stamps

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has called a Monday news conference to announce another proposal to ban soda and candy purchases with food stamps, a long-standing goal of the governor, who has floated similar changes since 2013.

It’s an uphill battle: Federal law doesn’t allow states to regulate purchases under the federal and state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, so Maine has to ask the federal government to make the change.

A bill in the Maine Legislature directing the administration to pursue the waiver died earlier this year, but the Maine Department of Health and Human Services can request a waiver without legislative approval.

The administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, hasn’t taken kindly to similar measures, rejecting a 2011 request from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban soda purchases with food stamps, according to the New York Times. An anti-poverty advocate there cheered that decision, saying Bloomberg’s proposal “was based on the false assumption that poor people were somehow ignorant or culturally deficient.”

In a statement, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said at the news conference, Commissioner Mary Mayhew will discuss the administration’s attempt to “focus more on nutrition in the Supplemental ‘Nutrition’ Assistance Program.” — Michael Shepherd

Democrats hit Poliquin (again) on college funding

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Friday that they’re launching a round of digital ads against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin on college funding.

It’s an issue that Democrats have pushed hard since Poliquin’s March vote for a House Republican budget proposal that would freeze the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,775 for 10 years. Pell Grants go to low-income students.

After that, the campaign arm for House Democrats placed a critical ad in the University of Maine’s student newspaper and Maine Democrats hit Poliquin again for it at an Orono news conference in August.

It’s all part of the game in one the most targeted House races in the country. Democrat Emily Cain, who lost to Poliquin in 2014, is facing Joe Baldacci in a primary for the 2016 nomination. Independent Mike Turcotte has also entered the race.

Poliquin’s office has pushed back against this narrative, releasing a list of talking points on his budget vote, saying his vote to freeze grants would shield the program from a shortfall projected for 2017.

It’s an argument that should continue to play out as this campaign goes forward. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • When I think of a “chaise lounge,” I think of this. I don’t think of this, but whatever, it’s free on the curb in Portland.
  • A man ran into a woman a few times at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Auburn on Friday, “lastly in the parking lot talking about the weather.” She was “cute and driving a Toyota 4 wheeler” (that might be a 4Runner unless they make ATVs) and carrying a container of “spring mix.” The man described himself as “blond, whatever.” He’s selling himself short, but he wants to get in touch.
  • There’s a Mountain Dew cooler available in Limington. It’s “awsome for ur pary hosting” and you can “fill it up wirh ice n ur favorite beverages n enjoy frosty drinks through out ur activities.” Strong pitch, but the asking price is $75. — Michael Shepherd

Looks like Lockman is mixed up about talking politics in church

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

“Shield of the US Episcopal Church” by Zscout370 – Licensed under Public Domain

I’ve written before on Rep. Lockman’s claims that candidate Ben Chin, a lay Episcopal minister, is “an anti-Christian bigot.”

Now it appears he is mixed up about whether Chin was allowed to talk politics from the pulpit of a church.

Rep. Lockman recently talked about this during a radio interview after host Ric Tyler raised the question of whether such discussions threatened the tax-free status of Chin’s church.

After Tyler contended the Episcopal Church “risked its tax free status,” Lockman replied, “One would think so.”

Both also discussed the separation of church and state and wondered why that did not apply in Chin’s case.

But separation of church and state doesn’t mean religious leaders can’t speak out. The two parts of the First Amendment that concern religion are the Free Exercise clause and the Establishment Clause. Those mean that the government can’t regulate religious observances and otherwise interfere with religion, nor establish an official church.

The Constitution also states there cannot be a religious test for public office that would limit office holding to members of a particular religion or religions.

It is perfectly legal to talk about political issues in a church and other houses of worship.

Let’s start with one example.

In 2009, numerous Maine churches not only discussed their opposition to marriage equality but raised money for the effort.

As the Bangor Daily News reported back then:

Protect Marriage Maine has been in contact with about 800 churches across the state and expects 150 to 200 to participate in the Father’s Day collections, Conley said. They include Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Church of God, Wesleyan, Evangelical Free, Advent Christian and other denominations. . . 

Conley also has obtained endorsements from well-known gay-marriage opponents who recorded video and audio clips to be played at churches taking part in Maine’s collection-plate drive, he said. . .

Conley said he realized churches should play a central role in the Maine campaign after being in North Carolina earlier this month when voters approved an amendment to the state constitution affirming that marriage may only be a union of a man and a woman.

“I was impressed with the coordination I saw among the faith community in North Carolina,” he said.

Those conservative churches were well in their rights to take these very active positions, as were other houses of worship that supported marriage equality in 2009. 

Whatever their view of same-sex marriage, it was not only legal for them to take positions, but also well within the norms of religious practice.

Great civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. discussed political issues quite frequently, including from the pulpit. Moreover, King was often critical of his fellow ministers for their lack of support for civil rights issues.

Catholic leaders have long weighed in on public issues, whether in their opposition to abortion, the death penalty or major cuts in social programs.

When Pope Francis visited the United States he warned “clergy members, nuns and brothers that taking a business-inspired approach to their ministries can dampen their spirit of ‘generous self-sacrifice.’”

Any look back in American politics will find many churches and synagogues and mosques where political positions are taken. IRS regulations for tax-free institutions do prohibit candidate endorsements but they certainly do not prevent churches from taking positions on public policy.

Limiting what they could say would in fact limit their First Amendment rights.

Whatever one thinks of what Chin preached, all houses of worship and religious leaders — whether conservative, liberal or whatever — have the right to bear witness on the concerns they have about public issues.

Brunswick Republican files to challenge Pingree in 2016

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

A Republican has launched an uphill 2016 challenge against U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District.

Mark Holbrook, a clinical professional counselor from Brunswick, filed paperwork to run with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. He’s the first Republican to announce a run against Pingree, who cruised to an easy win against two political newcomers in 2014.

Holbrook also has launched a website saying he “decided to get involved in politics because I was unwilling to continue to sit on the sidelines and watch the continued erosion of our freedom by out-of-control bureaucrats and government over-reach.”

Holbrook ran for the Maine House in 2014, but lost resoundingly to Democrat Ralph Tucker.

It’s difficult to overstate how much of a challenge this race will be for any Republican, especially an unknown like Holbrook: Pingree is a four-term incumbent in a safe Democratic district and a fundraising juggernaut with $242,000 in her campaign account by September’s end. — Michael Shepherd

Lewiston mayoral candidates debate ahead of Dec. 8 runoff

Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald and his opponent, Ben Chin, debated on Thursday for the first time in their runoff contest, which will be decided on Dec. 8.

The two-hour debate between the conservative mayor and the liberal activist focused on ways the city can improve its reputation, taxes and housing, according to the Sun JournalChin outpolled Macdonald on Election Day, but with only 44 percent of votes, falling short of the majority needed to win the office outright.

The race has been dominated by two events that have made national headlines: Macdonald’s call for an online registry of welfare recipients and signs against Chin that were denounced as racist that were put up by local landlord Joe Dunne, whom Chin has called a slumlord.

Macdonald defended Dunne on Thursday, saying he “has a big heart” and takes in people he doesn’t have to, but Chin said he has met with tenants who go without heat or other necessities and that the city must discourage a housing business model where “the only way to make money is by not filling their oil tank in the winter.”

The mayor said that Lewiston’s high property taxes “are killing businesses” and that he’ll continue to pursue welfare reform, and “If you feel that that’s the direction you want to go, I’d appreciate your vote on Dec. 8.”

Chin said the city must grow its property tax base and that he’d work to unite Lewiston, calling “division, and politics based on it, are our great enemy.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list King staffers join ‘Facial Hair Caucus’

The most famous mustache in Maine politics certainly belongs to independent U.S. Sen. Angus King. But for November, some of King’s staffers joined him in “the Facial Hair Caucus,” memorialized in this Instagram photo.

It was taken next to the junior senator’s bust of Civil War general, governor and all-around cool guy Joshua Chamberlain, who had an excellent mustache himself. King’s a huge Chamberlain fan, as you’ve probably heard. (He talks about him often.)

Will we still be talking about King’s ‘stache in 100 years? I’m not sure, but his staffers might learn the same lesson that their boss has: It’s hard to beat the greats. — Michael Shepherd

Independent candidate joins race to unseat Poliquin in 2nd Congressional District

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning, folks.

It’s been since June that a significant number of lawmakers walked the halls of the State House but with the Senate convening today for some confirmation hearings and other business, the otherwise echoey third floor will be buzzing again with voices and the sound of the bell that tells senators to take their seats and vote.

Few holdups are expected as the Senate votes to confirm 24 gubernatorial appointments, including judges and members of a range of boards and commissions. For all the details, check out my colleague Michael Shepherd’s recent article advancing today’s events. — Christopher Cousins 

Independent announces 2nd congressional district campaign

Mike Turcotte of Bangor. BDN photo by Nick McCrea


Mike Turcotte, an adjunct ethics professor at Eastern Maine Community College, is expected to announce today his candidacy for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which is currently occupied by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Turcotte, who lives in Bangor and has lived in Maine since 2004, is scheduled to make his announcement at 10 a.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Turcotte is known in political circles for his brief involvement in the 2014 race for Republican Susan Collins’ U.S. Senate seat.

Turcotte took aim at first-term Poliquin in a news release on Wednesday.

“As many Mainers have begun to realize the incumbent, Bruce Poliquin, has more interest in representing his own self-interests than those of his constituents he was elected to serve,” said Turcotte. “Instead of blaming others for our problems, my focus will be on improving the 2nd District’s economic vitality.”

Turcotte criticized Poliquin for a pledge he signed earlier this year with the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Patriot Program, which in exchange for election support requires candidates to sign a contract stating their short-, intermediate- and long-term goals.

Liberal groups have complained about the pledge and said its participants are improperly coordinating their legislative strategies with the NRCC, a charge that Poliquin has brushed aside.

Turcotte won’t be the only candidate with Poliquin in his sights. Democrats Emily Cain of Orono and Joe Baldacci of Bangor are vying for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 general election. In November 2014, Poliquin claimed the seat that became open when Democrat Mike Michaud decided to run (unsuccessfully) for governor. By winning 47 percent of the vote in a three-way race against Cain and conservative independent Blaine Richardson, Poliquin became the first Republican in two decades to represent the 2nd District. — Christopher Cousins 

Reading list Stephen King’s books vs. his movies

Usually the book is better than the movie. That’s my opinion, with very few exceptions, but I’ve always been kind of a book guy.

The BDN’s Seth Koenig has written an interesting blog about some data crunchers at Reddit who compared ratings of movies originated by Stephen King to ratings of his books.

I’ve read most of King’s books and seen the majority of the movies they inspired. It’s not surprising to see Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Stand By Me and The Green Mile ranked high, but I’m a little surprised about the middling Dolores Claiborne.

Of course, these ratings could soon be skewed with movie adaptations of King’s “The Dark Tower” series, which has King fans all over the world anticipating the first movie’s scheduled January 2017 release.

There have been rumors in recent days that Matthew McConaughey is considering the role of Walter Padick, who is the nemesis of The Dark Tower’s beloved hero, Roland the Gunslinger. (I tried to name one of my children Roland but my wife wouldn’t let me. True story.)

I might be OK with McConaughey in that role but Hollywood should know that the legions of King fans will be watching closely to see who is chosen to play Roland. If McConaughey were chosen for that role, I wouldn’t be nearly as supportive. — Christopher Cousins


Making sense of Syrian refugees

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

How do you balance compassion and rational self interest?

Not an easy game to play, and virtually no one talking about the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, and what to do about the Syrian war, ISIS, and millions of refugees displaced by that war, is talking sense.

A Syrian refugee carries a bag she received as aid for the winter from the United Nations refugee agency northern Lebanon on Wednesday. Omar Ibrahim | Reuters

Though entirely justified in expressing skepticism about Syrian refugees in the United States, the right has taken legitimate concern about the security situation presented by a mass influx of refugees into the United States, and the potential for infiltration by terrorist sleeper cells from ISIS, and gone entirely overboard.

The Republican presidential candidates, for instance, abandoned all useful rhetoric and engaged in a ridiculous game of one-upmanship to prove who among them was the most skeptical of refugees post-Paris. This culminated with Chris Christie saying he wouldn’t accept a five-year-old child from Syria into the United States.

Predictably, of course, the left went into even more incomprehensibly stupid (and predictable) directions as well. The mass slaughter at the Bataclan wasn’t even over yet before liberals began chastising anyone for even mentioning refugees in connection with the attack.

Then, of course, we had to sit through sanctimonious lectures about how those opposed to refugee acceptance were racists who are morally equivalent to those who denied Jewish refugees safe haven in World War II.

Naturally, some Democratic lawmakers — like Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky — have decided that this horrendous tragedy, perpetrated by Islamo-fascist terrorists intent on destroying the west, is a great way to make a point about gun control.

So let’s do something useful and try to bring something resembling rational thought to the situation.

First, for anyone who is interested in learning more about the conflict in Syria, and what ISIS wants, I suggest a short video titled “Syria’s war: A 5-minute history” from Vox, and an article from The Atlantic titled, “What ISIS Really Wants.” In the aftermath of Paris, both have been highly shared on social media by liberals and conservatives, so you know they offer generally insightful information untainted by partisanship.

Whatever the causes of the war, and whatever ISIS truly wants, the fact of the matter remains that millions of people from the region are fleeing the hellhole that is Syria today, and millions of them are ending up in Europe.

In the United States, we are currently debating the wisdom of resettling 10,000 refugees from Syria. In Germany alone, there will be an estimated 1.5 million asylum seekers in 2015.

At least one of the Paris terrorists appears to have entered Europe embedded in the avalanche of Syrians fleeing war. This isn’t much of a surprise, as ISIS has itself been open about the fact that they will use means such as this to smuggle jihadis into Europe.

Let’s be honest here, it is not inappropriate to be concerned about the influx of refugees, into Europe or to America. The problem isn’t the refugees. It never was and never will be. We’ve heard an unending commentary suggesting that “no refugee has committed a terrorist act” after coming to the country.

True. But also not the point. The point — and this is much more true of Europe than the United States — is that the mass refugee resettlement, in short and explosively large waves, is a veil by which non-refugees will cloak their entry to commit acts of terrorism.

Why? Because there is simply no way of truly vetting millions of people who are flooding into your country the way a traditional asylum program would.

Here in the United States, the problem is less threatening, with a much smaller number of refugees — again, 10,000 – being allowed in. But that does not mean the potential threat is non-existent.

Governors and senators — of both parties by the way, including most recently Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate — are right to register skepticism about the vetting process and importing Syrian refugees into the United States, given the inept leadership of the president on all issues related to Syria, ISIS and immigration broadly.

They should demand transparency and accountability in the asylum program before these folks are allowed into the country.

But should they be allowed to come? Should we have a refugee program, and should Syrians fleeing death at the hands of ISIS be let in? The answer to that is yes. We are a compassionate nation, and refugees — legitimate refugees — will be forever changed by that compassion, and tasting their first real taste of freedom.

However, we cannot responsibly do that before the threat to our national security is taken more seriously by this administration, and the behavior of the president since the Paris bombing has done nothing to convince me that will happen any time soon.

Sorensen, Quintero get new jobs as Maine DHHS, Eves shift spokespeople

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

There’s some change on the Maine political media relations front this week, with two mouthpieces — one Republican and one Democrat — taking new jobs.

Gov. Paul LePage has hired David Sorensen, who was the spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for the past year, as a policy adviser, while Jodi Quintero, who spoke for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, will move to Washington, D.C. to join PATH, a global health policy group.

Sorensen was the face of a major political shift at DHHS in 2015, bringing an aggressive brand of messaging to the LePage administration’s battle with Democrats over welfare. He served stints as spokesman for the Maine Republican Party during the 2012 and 2014 elections around his time as communications director for Maine House Republicans. His role now will likely be less public.

Media requests for DHHS are now being directed to John Martins, who spoke for the department before Sorensen and has been doing outreach for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Martins is a holdover from the administration of former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci with a less partisan style.

Quintero, who has worked for legislative Democrats since 2009, will join her husband, Chuck, who recently got a job with the U.S. Department of Energy, in Washington. She has been replaced by Lindsay Crete, who most recently worked for New Hampshire Kids Count, a Concord group focused on child advocacy.

Collins, King oppose GOP bid to roll back Obama emissions rules

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to roll back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, with Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, opposing the measure.

The Senate voted 52-46 against the plan in a little-used procedure that can block executive orders with a majority vote, according to the Associated Press. But though a similar measure will likely pass in the House, both are still subject to Obama’s veto.

The plan, which aims to to reduce emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030, is dividing states in the South and Midwest reliant on coal-fired power and states that aren’t. States including West Virginia and Texas have led a court fight against the rules, while Maine has joined California, New York and other states in backing them.

Therefore, the opposition from Collins and King isn’t a shock. Collins did stick with Republicans in a ceremonial bid to kill an earlier version of the plan in March, but she praised changes that made it “more flexible” by August.

Environmental and health groups, including the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association, praised the Maine senators’ Tuesday votes.

“The CPP will protect our air and water from fossil fuel pollution while promoting the necessary transition to a clean energy economy, bringing good jobs and more opportunities to Mainers from advanced energy technologies like solar and wind,” said Glen Brand, director of the Sierra Club’s Maine chapter. — Michael Shepherd

LePage takes Las Vegas

Gov. Paul LePage is in Sin City for the annual conference of the Republican Governors Association, which starts today and ends tomorrow at the Wynn Las Vegas.

The meeting comes as 30 Republican governors — including LePage — are fighting President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.

They said those refugees aren’t welcome in their states after the Friday attacks in Paris that killed 129, even though their stances are mostly symbolic, because the federal government has authority over immigration.

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, said Monday that the governor will discuss that issue with his colleagues. The governors are also set to replace the association’s chairman and vice chairwoman, according to the Las Vegas Sun— Michael Shepherd

Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • If you know someone who loves “dinosaurs AND puzzles,” a conscientious poster in Westbrook says, you’re in luck. There’s a reason they’re giving this dinosaur puzzle book away — a few missing pieces. But, “Unless the dinosaur-and-puzzle-loving person in your life is also a staunch stickler for details, a few missing puzzle pieces shouldn’t be a problem, right?” Fair point.
  • Last week, a “drunk fisherman” lost his red bike on the Portland waterfront. It wasn’t locked, so “the drunk fisherman possibly deserves to lose it,” but it’s his only form of transportation and he’d really like it back. Hey, we’ve all been there, man. Let’s help the guy out. — Michael Shepherd

What happened in Lewiston was more than a game

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

To win a game by 1-0 is more than close. To get there at the finish, the players, coaches and crowd must have felt the tension all the way through, even as the young men kicked and passed and aimed and blocked.

For the Lewiston High School boys, taking the Maine state soccer championship was a triumph for both them and their city.

Lewiston’s Abdulkarim Abdulle, left and Cheverus’ Mackenzie Hoglund during Saturday’s state championship soccer game at Deering High School in Portland. Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal

Beyond brilliant soccer — the Lewiston team held its opponents scoreless through three playoff games; during the regular season, the team scored 113 goals and allowed opponents to score just seven — winning the Maine state soccer championship has a broader meaning.

This is a special team in another way. As Portland Press Herald reporter Glenn Jordan noted, “The majority are from Somalia, or their parents grew up there and wound up in a sprawling refugee complex called Dadaab in Kenya to escape civil war in Somalia.” Eight, said senior Dek Hassan, “knew each other before we came to America.”

But it wasn’t a team of immigrants to Lewiston. It was Lewiston’s team. To see them in the championship game, so many came that extra bleachers were needed to hold people from Lewiston’s old and new communities.

These fellows, from six different countries, played as one.

Lewiston hasn’t always been welcoming to their families, and it’s not the city’s first time with immigrants who didn’t exactly face the easiest reception when they arrived.

Starting in the 19th century, French-speaking immigrants came to Lewiston. At times, anti-Catholic sentiment was strong and hate groups targeted the Franco arrivals.

“Nineteen twenty four,” writes historian Mark Paul Richard, “was the Ku Klux Klan’s most active year in the state of Maine. . . In August, the Klan celebrated a political victory by detonating a bomb in the city of Lewiston, home to Maine’s largest Franco-American population.”

A picture from the following year, 1925, hints at what would become of the Franco children of that day. Fifteen boys from St. Peter’s School in Lewiston look mischievous and serious as they take football stances and hold baseball and football equipment. Like now, sports would be one way they would become part of their broader communities.

Today, Lewiston is in the middle of a different sort of competition, the mayoral runoff between incumbent Mayor Bob Macdonald and challenger Ben Chin.

What could be an honest discussion of the men’s ideas — and Chin has developed ambitious, detailed ideas, under the banner of “A Plan to Renew Lewiston” — has been undermined by odious elements. Racism and hate speech have arrived, escorted in by two of Chin’s critics.

First, Lewiston landlord Joe Dunne put up signs decrying “Ho Chi Chin” with a stereotyped image of an Asian man. In responding, Chin said, “As hard as this day has been for us, it is harder to live in a building right now that doesn’t have heat.” Chin continued, “In the faith tradition I grew up in, you pray for those who persecute you” and then led others in the prayer of St. Francis, which starts, “Lord, make us an instrument of your peace.”

Then Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, went after Chin. Based on his reading of a blog post put up by the Maine GOP that pasted together tidbits from across a sermon Chin gave in Lewiston’s Trinity Episcopal Church, Lockman called Chin “an anti-Christian bigot” and said “Chin hates America, hates Americans, and hates Christians.”

That’s right. Lockman claimed that Chin, a lay Episcopal leader who leads Christian congregations, hates Christians.

The same site that provoked Lockman also claims that Chin offered a “mock prayer” at a political protest at a bank. The Maine GOP chair, who said he doesn’t “condone passing judgment on people’s faith” has refused to take responsibility for attacks on Chin’s faith.

We have our differences, whether in values or religion or background or life experience. Of course we don’t all agree on the best path. But if we want to move forward, we have to stop false attacks and reject vilification.

As Mike McGraw, Lewiston’s soccer coach for a third of a century, said, “Our kids know, if they don’t do it together, if all of the pieces don’t work together efficiently, it doesn’t get done.” McGraw’s musings should stand as a watchword for us all.

Callousness in the face of human tragedy

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Umit Bektas | Reuters

The Portland Press Herald accused Governor Paul LePage of inciting panic and fear for his ridiculous and unconstitutional declaration that he would prevent Maine from accepting Syrian refugees. Senate minority leader Justin Alfond called it “morally repugnant.”

What it brings to mind for me is the story of one refugee girl. You may have read it too. I was touched by the incredible humanity she showed in the face of terrible fear as her family was forced from their home by one of the most awful groups of violent thugs in human history.

Unfortunately, she was denied access to refugee resettlement in the United States because of fear of her religion.

Instead, she died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15. Her diary has sold more than 75 million copies.

After every genocide and mass murder and failure of the international community to save innocent lives we say never again, but it always does happen again. It’s happening right now.

If you’ve ever looked back in history and wondered how people in the darkest moments of our past could be so callous in the face of human tragedy, you should be sure to read today’s press releases from LePage and Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Now’s your opportunity to study the phenomenon up close.

How LePage’s public reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks evolved

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re on the heels of another whiplash day brought to us by Gov. Paul LePage on two fronts.

First, as reported by the BDN’s Michael Shepherd, there was the issue of Syrian refugees (here’s your soundtrack), which was ignited with a statement by President Barack Obama that the U.S. should prepare to accept some 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. LePage and his staff released this week’s radio address at about 1:40 p.m., which called that plan “irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, several Republican governors started to say that their states would not accept the refuges. At 4:30 p.m., LePage announced in a press release that he would join with those governors in condemning Syrians coming to Maine because “at least one of the attackers [in Paris] was a Syrian refugee.”

“I adamantly oppose any attempt by the federal government to place Syrian refugees in Maine and will take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening,” said LePage.

For context, Catholic Charities, which manages refugee resettlement in Maine, notes that just one Syrian refugee has resettled in Maine since the beginning of 2014 and that it would likely be at least a year before any other people fleeing the war in Syria would be able to take up residence in Maine.

This morning, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, said in a written statement he agrees with LePage and called on Obama to halt his refugee resettlement program until major immigration reforms can ensure that national security is protected.

“We need to make sure, for certain, that we are not admitting any individuals into our homeland who pose a threat to our communities and way of life,” said Poliquin.

The second LePage statement that caused a stir came during a media event at the State House, where LePage was helping kick off the Salvation Army’s annual kettle drive. I wasn’t there, but LePage reportedly said that a Mainer might have been among the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

This had some of us in the media scrambling for confirmation because that would be a big deal, if it were true. LePage said he’d heard the news from a family member but didn’t elaborate.

Poliquin also reportedly heard the statement, which caused him to check with the State Department.

“We received a response from them indicating that they are not aware of anyone from Maine being killed in Friday’s attacks,” wrote Poliquin in a statement to the media.

I asked LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett about the statement, to which she responded “we do not have official confirmation of a Mainer who was a victim in the terrorist attacks in Paris.”

Is it possible that there is a Mainer among the people who were wounded during the attacks? We don’t know. No one other than LePage has indicated there was. What we do know is that the governor made an unsubstantiated statement in public on a very serious issue. That’s a vast departure from normal protocol from public officials.

Even the Maine State Police, when they find a murder victim riddled with gunshot wounds, won’t tell the media the cause of death before it can be confirmed by the medical examiner. — Christopher Cousins

Pingree and Poliquin announce $3.7 million wind power grant for UMaine

U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, both from Maine, announced Monday that the University of Maine will receive a $3.7 million federal grant to further its study of offshore energy generation technology powered by wind.

The money will flow to the Maine Aqua Ventus project, which is a public/private partnership led by UMaine. Specifically, the grant will help develop a floating offshore wind platform that the consortium has designed. Aqua Ventus was among four parallel projects that were under development in the United States, but the others failed to secure markets for the energy they would produce, according to the press release. The projects face a milestone in May 2016, when the Department of Energy will reassess them to determine which projects will receive further funding.

This is good news for Maine on two fronts. First, federal funding is flowing this way. Second, Maine’s two congressional representatives, who agree on very little and are basically ideological rivals, are finding ways to work together. – Christopher Cousins

Reading list What I have learned about raking

A couple of weeks ago, my wife posted an article on my Facebook page about scientists from the National Wildlife Federation who say, (are you ready for this?) don’t rake your leaves.

On one hand, I had the urge to plant a grateful smooch on her. On the other, I thought of the leaves in my driveway and across most of my lawn, which at the time were more than ankle deep. According to the article, raking leaves ruins habitats and food sources for butterflies, salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, shrews and earthworms. Prior to my wife posting this article two weeks ago, I assumed NOT raking the leaves would ruin my own habitat, both my lawn next year when I want to mow and also inside the house, when there’s a snowstorm coming the next day and she “reminds” me about the leaves.

I have already spent several days this year raking, a task which, like stacking firewood, I actually enjoy to some degree. That doesn’t negate that overwhelming feeling when you first start to feel the burn in your shoulders and you compare the minuscule corner of the lawn you’ve cleared with all that is left. This year, I’ve already cleared the leaves at my mother-in-law’s house and for a friend who can’t rake because of a shoulder injury. My own leaves are about 20 percent taken care of, but I have a huge lawn. Here’s what I learned:

  • The media is wrong about raking.
  • Don’t even THINK about raking a single leaf until ALL the trees are bare.
  • If your rake is missing tines, it’s worth it to buy a new one, you cheapskate.
  • Rake WITH the wind, not against it.
  • If you’re raking for your mother-in-law or your friend, for free, confirm ahead of time that there’s beer on the premises.
  • Say a prayer for the butterflies, salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, shrews and earthworms. With a straight face.
  • Check for ticks afterward.
  • If your wife says don’t rake, she is testing you. — Christopher Cousins 

Voting irregularities mar Sanford legislative election

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Republican Matthew Harrington’s victory in the race for a legislative seat representing part of Sanford was confirmed in a Friday recount.

However, it came without bipartisan criticism of issues at one polling place, including a Maine Republican Party accusation of voter fraud against a former Democratic state senator. That attack’s validity is unclear, however, and the situation merits some explanation.

At the Nasson Community Center, one of three polling places in the city, 813 names of eligible voters in the race for House District 19 were checked off, but eight more ballots were cast, according to Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

A mix-up by election clerks likely led to that problem: Muszynski said that 11 people who live in neighboring House District 18 voted at the polling place before clerks realized that all voters shouldn’t have been getting ballots for Harrington’s race.

One of the 11 was John Tuttle, a former Democratic state senator. In a statement, Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett said it was “shocking and appalling” that Tuttle “illegally voted” in the election.

But here’s the rub: Muszynski it’s unclear that all 11 people received or cast the wrong ballots and because there was only an 8-vote difference between the names checked off and the ballots cast, they couldn’t all have voted wrong.

Tuttle told the Journal Tribune that he never had the wrong ballot to begin with. Of course, one person’s word isn’t proof, but there’s really no way to know for sure who cast the wrong ballot, Muszynski said.

So, while the Maine GOP’s accusation may have been a reach given the limits of what we can know, this isn’t to say that these mistakes weren’t a factor in the election.

In a statement, Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Jeremy Kennedy said he hopes Dunlap’s office examines the problems “so that the integrity of our electoral process remains intact.” — Michael Shepherd


Maine’s congressional delegation reacts to Paris attacks

European authorities continue to investigate the Friday attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attacks and French warplanes bombed the group’s targets on Sunday.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told WCSH that calling the attackers terrorists dignifies them because it “implies some rational political end.”

“Anyone that stands up in the balcony of a crowded theater and opens fire randomly on innocent people in the audience below, in my book, isn’t a terrorist but is a simple, cowardly thug,” he said.

“We have to acknowledge the painful reality that ISIS, al-Qaida and other extremist Islamic groups are out to get us,” Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, told WGME on Friday. “That is not paranoia, that is the truth.”

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, called for increased security along the U.S. border with Mexico in a statement, “so that we not only deal with the issue of illegal immigration but we also ensure terrorists do not cross our border to do us harm.”

And in a statement to WMTW, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, said after the attacks, “we must strengthen our commitment to fighting terror and hatred around the world.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list ‘This is how a team plays’

If you want to start your Monday on an uplifting note, I offer this trailer for a documentary on the Lewiston Blue Devils boys’ soccer team, which won the Class A state championship this month.

The team, made up of players from six countries and mostly African immigrants, were undefeated season this year. The movie, “One Team,” will come out next year and it’s being produced by Ian Clough, a 2001 graduate of Lewiston High School, according to the Sun Journal. — Michael Shepherd

Maine GOP’s second attack on Chin’s Christianity

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Ben Chin

In all the writing on Republican attacks on Ben Chin’s Christian faith, attention has focused on one example in particular.

Based on his reading of a blog post put up by the Maine GOP selectively quoting a sermon Ben Chin gave in Lewiston’s Trinity Episcopal Church, Lockman called Chin “an anti-Christian bigot” and said “Chin hates America, hates Americans, and hates Christians.” [source]

As Republican strategist Lance Dutson notes, the quote that provoked Lockman to make these claims came about after staff at the Maine Republican Party “went to the website of an Episcopal Church, pulled bits and pieces of multiple sermons from the site, and reconstructed them to create the illusion that a Democratic candidate, Ben Chin, made anti-Christian statements.”

Moreover, notes Dutson:

The Maine Republican Party staffers posted their frankenstein quote without context on a website, inaccurately attributed them as if they were contiguous, and circulated the quotes to question the candidate’s religious leanings. [source]

What’s been overlooked is another case of the Maine GOP attacking the sincerity of Chin’s Christianity.

The same site that includes what Dutson calls a “frankenstein quote” claims that Chin offered a “mock prayer” at a political protest at a bank.

Prayers at political events, including protests, are as old as the republic itself. In the twentieth century, the civil rights movement, often led by religious leaders, used religious imagery and offered prayers.

Yet the Maine GOP, targeting Chin, himself a certified lay minister at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston, claims Chin’s prayer was not real but rather mocked people of faith.

This is a screenshot of that part of the GOP’s anti-Chin post:

The blog post’s language is, in general, overwrought, and somehow finds it meaningful to mention that Chin was wearing a particular item of clothing that probably most people own.

The Maine GOP Chair has refused to take responsibility for attacks on Chin’s faith and said, “I certainly do not condone passing judgment on people’s faith and/or their commitment to America or anything of that nature.”

However, the party’s own website does pass judgment on the sincerity of Chin’s faith by saying he offered a “mock prayer.”

The GOP should listen to voices calling on them to turn away from these attacks.

One voice in particular is the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.

Rev. Lane wrote:

With sadness I’ve followed the attacks on Ben Chin, mayoral candidate in Lewiston. I believe the recent attack on social media by a Maine legislator – one that focuses on Ben’s identification as a Christian – demands a response. Ben is a faithful Episcopalian and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston where he has served in leadership positions and continues to be licensed by me as a lay preacher.

While the Episcopal Diocese of Maine does not engage in advocacy in elections, we adamantly subscribe to the Maine Council of Churches’ Covenant for Civil Discourse. Tenets in the Covenant include acting respectfully towards others, including those in opposition, and to refrain from personal attacks as well as statements that characterize an opponent as evil, among others.

Spirited public discourse is an important part of our civic life. Personal attacks on the character, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs are not. I call on all public officials and those seeking elected office, regardless of party or affiliation, to act in a way that reflects respect for every human being.

The full Covenant for Civil Discourse, a statement that all state and national candidates are invited to sign, may be found athttp://mainecouncilofchurches.org/…/covenant-for-civil-dis…/

Recount in contested House election kicks off this morning

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning folks. It’s Friday but it feels like Tuesday, thanks to the holiday on Wednesday. Tuesday doesn’t feel so good but the instantaneous realization that we’re on the cusp of two “stay-home days,” as my 5-year-old calls them, is like an unexpected gift from an old friend.

It’s also a trap for journalists, many of whom are notorious for being able to describe the intricacies of complex news events but don’t know what day it is. Today’s beautiful, haunting soundtrack is here to help.

It looks to be a quiet Friday in Augusta, other than the matter of verifying the winner of a House of Representatives seat in the Sanford-area District 19. The results of the special election on Nov. 3 (look at that, I got the day right!) were close. Republican Matthew Harrington appears to have taken the victory by 14 votes out of more than 1,500 votes cast (I can do math too!) (as far as you know).

Democrat Jean Noon, who sought to replace her late husband, Bill Noon, who died in July, requested the recount. That’s common when the results are so close, though seeing recounts overturn election results is relative rare in Maine.

Stay tuned to the Bangor Daily News and my colleague Michael Shepherd for the recount results. And then have some good stay-home days if you have the weekend off like I do. — Christopher Cousins 

LePage to keynote SEALSfit youth leadership graduation

Gov. Paul LePage is also due for some stay-home days. In recent days he has been in China, a human trafficking summit in Winterport and an energy conference in Boston. This afternoon, he’ll speak at the graduation ceremonies for the SEALSfit youth leadership and anti-bullying program.

The seven-week program, a collaboration between the Portland Police Department and the Maine Leadership Institute, is led by retired Navy SEAL Hans Ruediger along with local, state and county law enforcement officials.

The program, available to teenagers, involves intense physical fitness and interpersonal skills training.

The ceremony kicks off at 4 p.m. at the Portland Police Station. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Apologies to my pal Troy

A few days ago here in the Daily Brief, I gave you an old song about a deadly Maine road for the soundtrack. While the Dick Curless version is pretty good, BDN photographer and accomplished musician Troy R. Bennett improved on the song considerably with his Portland-based Half Moon Jug Band. (Troy, I’m sorry! I didn’t know your version was on YouTube.)

On Thursday, Troy was giving me some grief about that when he mentioned he’s somewhat in mourning over the death of “Philthy Animal” Phil Taylor, drummer of the hugely influential band Motorhead, on Thursday.

“OK, Troy,” I said. “Send me your favorite Motorhead song and I’ll put it in tomorrow’s Daily Brief.”

Here’s what Troy chose. It pretty much rocks.

Let me take this opportunity to point out that Troy and the Half Moon Jug boys have released their fourth album, “Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus.” (It’s more toward Dick Curless than Motorhead. Check out their appearance last week on WCSH’s 207 by clicking here). Tomorrow, the band is celebrating the album with a CD release party at the Mayo Street Arts in Portland.

Buy your tickets here and I’ll see you there.

Troy, are we good now? — Christopher Cousins


Outside spending begins against Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd District

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin greets supporters in Oakland after winning the election in 2014. BDN file photo by Jeff Pouland.

A liberal group linked to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has kicked off outside spending against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd U.S. House District who’s up for re-election next year.

The House Majority PAC, a super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence races, has spent more than $126,000 against Poliquin so far, according to federal election records.

Just less than a year from Election Day in 2016, this is a remarkable amount of money: Outside groups have only begun spending in 15 congressional districts, and only New York’s 11th district — the most conservative part of New York City — has seen more spending so far this year.

The PAC’s spending total so far includes costs for ads airing on television and online and a smaller direct mail campaign. Their first ad against the freshman from Oakland went online last week, and it hits him for his background as an investment manager in New York City and his contribution totals from the financial sector.

All of this attention reflects the 2nd District’s targeted status: Last week, Roll Call named Poliquin one of the 10 most vulnerable House members. Democrat Emily Cain, who lost to Poliquin last year, is facing Joe Baldacci in a primary for the 2016 nomination.

Democrats are counting on the 2016 electorate being different than last year’s was: The 2nd District, though it’s more rural and conservative than the rest of Maine, has voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since 1992.

But Poliquin has acquitted himself well in the fundraising department so far. He raised $1.6 million through September, more than double what Cain and Baldacci brought in, combined.

Brent Littlefield, Poliquin’s political adviser, said Democrats are spending money in the district because they know that Poliquin is “well-liked and appreciated in the district and has carved out an independent voice to fight for jobs,” highlighting swing votes on trade and the Export-Import Bank.

“It’s indicative of, unfortunately, what Maine people are probably going to endure from that side over the next year,” he said.

Advocates: Maine needs more resources, coordination to fight human trafficking

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta. The story of the day will be the meeting of the Maine Legislature’s watchdog committee in its investigation of Gov. Paul LePage’s involvement with Good Will-Hinckley rescinding an employment contract with House Speaker Mark Eves.

Here’s our guide to the cast of characters who will testify today. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. and you can listen in live using the Legislature’s website.

Governor’s Summit on Human Trafficking starts in Northport

LePage’s first Summit on Human Trafficking starts today and will run through Friday in Northport, and ahead of it, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault released a summary of the first-ever assessment of what Maine needs to better fight trafficking.

Human trafficking has been a much-discussed issue in Maine over the past two years. Last year, Maine passed a law vacating prostitution convictions of victims of sex trafficking — when a third party benefits from the sale of a person for sex acts.

Between 2007 and March 2015, a national human trafficking hotline has gotten more than 240 calls from Maine and identified 41 likely trafficking cases and in the first year of a federal grant, 64 people in Cumberland and York counties have been identified and given services as trafficking victims, according to the coalition.

The assessment calls for streamlining language for reporting and discussing trafficking, increasing community awareness, educating school-aged kids about relationships and warning signs of abuse, enhancing services to victims and assigning them mentors, improving data collection and expanding state oversight for labor trafficking.

More data will be provided at the conference and a full report will be released in December, the coalition said.

After clashing with LePage on conservation funding, Katz to get environmental award

Maine Conservation Voters announced that Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, will get the Harrison L. Richardson Environmental Leadership Award at an annual event on Thursday evening.

These sorts of awards often don’t have much significance outside of the groups giving them, but LePage’s move to hold back voter-approved bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program is a lingering controversy in Augusta.

Katz has led the effort to get those bonds released. In June, a bill that he sponsored to do so that failed narrowly in the House after a LePage veto. A bill to be considered this year would extend the life of $6.5 million in bonds that have expired.


Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • Some guy is giving away bacteria and yeast in Westbrook. (OK, to be fair, it’s SCOBY that’s used to make kombucha, a fermented tea drink, but it’s still weird.)
  • Five hermit crabs from Bowdoinham are being offered free to “someone who ALREADY has hermit crabs and knows how to care for them.”
  • A free, cheap dresser that’s falling apart is free in Stetson: “If you want to fix it, come and get it! If you want to smash it up and use it for firewood, come and get it! If you want to paint a target on it and use it for practice, come and get it! I just want the darn thing out of my house.”
  • Someone in Standish who raises quail — which “are better then chickens and multiply faster then rabbits” — wants to barter with you: “I mostly trade newborns but if your item is very good I can trade some quail that are laying and full grown.”
  • A man who was dressed as a vampire on Halloween is looking for the “sexy 50s chick” he talked with at Geno’s Rock Club in Portland that night. He saw her at Whole Foods afterward, so this may be fate, everybody.

Religious intolerance on Chin’s Christianity should be a step too far for Maine GOP

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Ben Chin

As a proud Jew, it feels a little odd to weigh in on comments about whether someone is a good Christian.

As a citizen who love this country and state, and as a scholar who knows how bias has harmed others and how our Constitution’s very first amendment protects free expression of religion and prohibits any official church, it’s necessary to do so.

What Rep. Lockman has said and how the Maine GOP has provoked it and responded is appalling.

The other day Lockman went after Ben Chin, the top vote getter in the Lewiston mayoral primary, who will be in a competitive runoff with the incumbent mayor.

Based on his reading of a blog post put up by the Maine GOP selectively quoting a sermon Ben Chin gave in Lewiston’s Trinity Episcopal Church, Lockman called Chin “an anti-Christian bigot” and said “Chin hates America, hates Americans, and hates Christians.”

But, as noted by the Maine Beacon, “According to church regulations, the license Chin holds a from the Bishop of the Episcopal Discoese of Maine certifies that he is “trained, examined, and found competent in the Holy Scriptures, the [Book of Common Prayer] and The Hymnal, the conduct of public worship, use of the voice, church history, Christian ethics and moral theology, the church’s doctrine as set forth in the creeds and An Outline of the Faith, appropriate canons, pastoral care, and homiletics.” [source]

Take a moment to take this in.

Not that religious intolerance is ok when aimed at any religion, but it’s pretty stunning when it’s focused on a lay Episcopal leader. Twelve U.S. presidents, including, most recently, George H.W. Bush, belonged to the Episcopal Church. James Madison and George Washington were also Episcopals.

Evidently Rep. Lockman thinks he has the standing to judge whether someone who defines himself as a Christian is actually an “anti-Christian bigot.”

Moreover, Lockman does so based on a section from a sermon that person delivered that included some criticisms of the church.

There’s no evidence that Lockman read the whole sermon, but I have (and you can read it yourself here).

And though I am not a Christian, it is clearly a moving, nuanced statement that is grounded in biblical texts.

Chin preached about conscience and courage:

So if Mark intends us to experience the depraved moral complexities at play for Herod, then the next question is not “what’s the lesson?” but rather a much more practical “what do we do?”.

For when we find ourselves in moral dilemmas, we are not looking for a sermon so much as a solution. I’d say there are two common solutions for the problem of the murderous king: one religious and one political. In the religious solution, the king’s conscience is aroused and he turns to God, perhaps kneeling in prayer, confesses his sins, and pledges his life to Jesus. He rises born again. In other words, the religious solution to the depravity of kings is conversion.

In talking about his efforts to pass a bill that would enable more Mainers to get health care, Chin recounted how he prayed “before I talked to legislators who disagreed with our decision. I prayed before I talked to legislators who agreed with us. It did help me find peace. It did not give me certainty.”

Does this sound like someone who is an anti-Christian bigot? Of course not.

One wonders what Lockman and the Maine Republican Party which, to date has refused to condemn Lockman, and is attacking Chin while claiming they aren’t working with Chin’s opponent, would have said about Martin Luther King’s exhortations from a Birmingham jail.

King wrote:

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings.

Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?” [source]

Would Lockman and the Maine GOP presented the Rev. Dr. King as an “anti-Christian bigot”?

So what will the Maine GOP do now?

Last night Republican strategist Lance Dutson said he was “not endorsing [Chin’s] conclusions, but Chin’s sermons are intelligent examinations of the Christian conscience by a devout Christian.”

Moreover, said Dutson, what GOP leaders Rick Bennett and Jason Savage “have done here is one of the lowest things I’ve ever seen in politics, Maine or national. Depraved.”

Surely, given the proud history of the Maine Republican Party, Dutson is not alone.

The time is not too late for Lockman and his party leadership to do the right thing and call back the smears.

The problem with our special little, millennial snowflakes

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Some day, every impetuous, idealistic, rebellious young person will grow old.

When he does, inevitably there will come a moment when he will sit in his rocking chair, look around, and start complaining about “kids these days,” just as his parents’ and grandparents’ generations had once complained about his.

It’s simply how life works.

When you are young, you are full of life, energy and optimism. You act out and try to craft your own independent identity. You crave new things. You think you know everything because your mind is sharper and faster and more plugged into the world around you than the older people around you.

Once you grow old, you realize what a feckless, vapid person you were in your youth. You didn’t know everything, it turns out. Your parents actually knew something after all. Experiencing life opens your eyes. You mature and finally understand the world around you.

You also look at the next generation of youth and consider them foolish.

This phenomenon has been happening for as long as there have been human beings, but has been most obviously pronounced since the advent of mass media.

I mention this because there is something very disturbing going on with the millennial generation, and talking about it is difficult because the natural assumption is that it is just another round of old people complaining about “those damn kids.”

And while that is certainly part of it, in truth the problems I am talking about are perhaps a more damning indictment of the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, who not only raised the millennials, but created the world around them. In other words, it is everyone’s fault.

We see what is going wrong most recently on the campuses of both the University of Missouri and Yale.

In Missouri, what began as a protest against the perceived outbursts of racism on campus, quickly devolved into a mess of institutional threats to the First Amendment.

At a protest Monday, student activists surrounded a photographer for the student newspaper who was trying to document the event — at a public university — and essentially threatened him, ordering him to leave.

Student protesters raise their arms to block media from taking photos during a protest at the University of Missouri on Monday. Michael Cali | San Diego Union-Tribune via TNS

Worse, though, was Melissa Click, a professor of mass media who was among the protesters. She is heard on a video saying, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”

That’s right, a professor of mass media threatening physical force to eject a journalist from covering a protest at a public university.

Then there’s Yale. After students were warned not to wear “culturally insensitive” costumes for Halloween this year, an absolutely insane set of events began.

Defending the very American notion of free expression and free speech, an email sent by a Yale lecturer asked, “Is there no room anymore for a child to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”

Cue “student activists” organizing in protest. But they didn’t organize to register a contrary opinion. They organized to shut down that opinion, by force if necessary.

What matters is the “safe space” away from anything that might threaten the fragile emotional health of the special snowflake. Controversy is not tolerated. Offense is around every corner.

We’ve seen this repeated time and time again at campuses across the country. We see it every commencement season, when invitations for speakers are protested, frequently forcing speakers to withdraw, because the invitee may be controversial or have a provocative opinion.

The “safe space” away from criticism, offense or disagreement is all that matters.

This is a direct result of how entire generations of people are now being raised. Disturbed by a rise in bullying, depression, drug use, body issues and explosive violence in young people, we as a society made the decision long ago to focus on building up self-esteem.

Our noble goal, to take the sting out of childhood so that kids wouldn’t grow up to feel like outsiders whom nobody loved, resulted in the much talked about rise in participation trophies, the death of competitive play in early youth sports, the removal of games like dodgeball and tag from recess, and the constant drumbeat that “everybody is special.”

But what we have created is a society of intelligent but fragile people.

Self-esteem without merit can poison the soul. Failure is important, because it not only teaches us more than winning, but it provides motivation to grow and learn. Resolving conflict between people who are fighting, rather than running away from that conflict and appealing to an authority figure, is an important part of a healthy society.

We don’t teach these things anymore, and what we are seeing today on so many college campuses is a frightening prospect for the future of this republic.


Subscribe to As Maine Goes aggregator