Monthly Archives: August 2017

LePage: Removing Confederate statues is like taking down 9/11 memorial | The Hill

[Note: LePage has been nearly as big an embarrassment as Trump. This proves it … again.]

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) on Thursday defended President Trump’s claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, comparing Confederate memorials to those put up to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

In an interview on WGAN radio in Portland, LePage accused counterdemonstrators of “trying to erase history” by calling for the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“I think what they are standing for is equally as bad. They are trying to erase history,” said LePage, a Republican and staunch Trump ally who has garnered a reputation for making controversial and inflammatory statements. “How can future generations learn if we’re going to erase history? That’s disgusting.

“Listen, whether we like it or not, this is what our history is,” he added. “And to me, it’s just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that.”

Read the rest of this story.

Our View: LePage’s remarks on Charlottesville are too little, too late | Portland Press Herald

Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, isn’t known for holding his tongue. It’s deeply troubling, then, that while other elected officials made a point of speaking up, it took LePage nearly three days to make a mealy-mouthed comment on the racist violence that killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.

The violence erupted Saturday afternoon when alt-righter James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of people gathered as a counterprotest to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured in the attack; Fields has been charged with homicide and is being held without bail.

The condemnation from most of the nation’s governors was timely and bipartisan. By Monday afternoon, 39 governors – including every governor in New England – had commented on the tragedy, according to Maine Public Radio.

But Maine’s chief executive didn’t say anything until Tuesday morning, when he told Bangor-based WVOM: “My heart goes out to the families of the injured. I feel it’s a horrific act. It’s an issue that happened in Virginia and I think Virginia authorities should be dealing with it. I just hope it never happens in Maine again because it happened here in 1922.”

We appreciate the nod to Maine’s shameful history (the Ku Klux Klan was a political and cultural force here in the 1920s and helped elected a governor in 1924), but for LePage to say that Saturday’s attack is of limited concern outside Virginia is highly shortsighted. While Maine hasn’t seen deadly violence of the kind that unfolded in Charlottesville, vile, racially charged remarks of the kind that embolden violent people are a regular occurrence here. One of the chief offenders: Gov. LePage.

Read the rest of this editorial.

Our View: Trump’s stance on violent extremists is a disgrace | Portland Press Herald

If this feels different, it’s because it is.

Never in modern American history has a president so elevated the forces of hate, or so bastardized and mangled the country’s past. Never has a president looked at a display as malevolent and disgusting as the torch-fueled march Friday night in Charlottesville and refused to condemn it, saying “there are two sides to a story.”

In a week in which the leader of the free world gave comfort to people shouting “Jews won’t replace us,” we have to ask, what kind of country are we?

At a news conference Tuesday, one day after reading off a teleprompter a canned and insincere refutation of white nationalism, President Trump showed us what he really thinks.

Speaking extemporaneously, Trump more strongly repeated his initial claim that blame for the violence in Charlottesville was “on both sides,” as if who is in the right – the Nazis calling for a racially pure country, or those who oppose them in the name of true American values – is up for discussion.

Trump didn’t come out and say that white nationalists have a friend in the White House, but he didn’t have to. After decades in which any association with Nazis was a ticket out of public life, having the president mimic their talking points was more than they could have ever hoped for.

Read the rest of this editorial.

Portland rally in support of Charlottesville victims: ‘This affects everybody’ | Portland Press Herald

By Megan Doyle
Staff Writer

About 50 people gathered spontaneously Saturday in Portland to support the people killed and injured while peacefully protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Marie Follayttar Smith, one of the leaders of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, created a Facebook event for the rally Saturday evening, and within an hour, a small crowd began to gather on the Eastern Promenade. Jennifer Jones of Falmouth, another one of the organizers, said they felt the need to take action after seeing the news of the day’s violence.

“I got home and didn’t want to just sit there,” Jones said. “If we’re silent, we’re allowing this.”

The group slowly grew as the sun set. Young people led chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Two men held a large canvas painted with the words “Say No To Racism,” and passing cars honked. The participants shared a moment of silence and read a poem. They talked about the need to create a broad network for protests like this one.

“This affects everybody,” said Dylan Smith-Monahan, a 25-year-old from Portland who came to the rally with members of the International Socialist Organization. “We need a unified response to what’s happening.”

Read the rest of this story.

Maine press must demand answers from LePage | Bangor Daily News

By Lance Dutson

It used to be a given that politicians sought to be on the right side of the press. As the old adage went, “you shouldn’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

But in Maine, in the era of Paul LePage, that ink has become virtually worthless.

Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, a free and robust press is a pillar of our democracy. As much as the three branches of government hold the power to check and balance each other, a free press serves as the Fourth Estate, a watchdog over all of them.

At least this is how it’s supposed to be.

In our state, the system has broken down. Our press no longer functions as an effective check on power, and more and more serves as a vessel for the dissemination of false information.

The crux of this breakdown is the governor’s declared policy that he will not answer questions from reporters. In a free society, this is unconscionable. But what’s worse is the fact that the Maine press generally accepts it.

LePage has set up a network of friendly platforms to broadcast his message to the people of Maine, including talk radio and right-wing websites. By shutting down direct objective press access, he’s eliminated the need to justify any of his statements, and can instead lapse into hyperbole and outright falsehoods with no fear of being held accountable.

Read the rest of this commentary.

How Maine people moved Sen. Collins and stopped Trumpcare | Bangor Daily News

By Amy Fried

The stories we tell about politics have consequences, shaping how people and groups act in the future. Tales of courageous politicians, however uplifting, can overlook how citizens influenced them.

After the dramatic failure of the health care vote in the Senate, attention flowed to the three Republicans who broke with their party — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona — each a protagonist in this drama.

What actually happened shows how much citizens mattered in the health care fight and provides lessons for democracy in the Trump era.

On health care, Collins did not start where she ended and she shifted after considerable grassroots action.

Moreover, confronting Collins meant challenging the most popular elected official in the state, who was used to highly laudatory press.

Using guidelines from the Indivisibles Guide, a document developed by former congressional staff that sparked people to form local chapters, Maine people repeatedly asked Collins to hold a town hall. She never did.

Constituents found her anyway, and spoke to her and her staff in Maine and Washington, D.C. All sides benefited from a Maine political culture that prizes civility. While confrontations could be intense, they were also courteous.

And so, coming out of a Bangor radio station one snowy February day, Collins faced something virtually unprecedented for her — public pressure. After one womanpolitely told her, “I would like to request a public access town hall, please,” the senator walked to her car.

Read the rest of this commentary.

Mainers believed there was a sea monster in Casco Bay 200 years ago | CBS 13 (WGME, Portland, Maine)

PORTLAND, Maine – As Portland celebrates tall ships weekend, there are some who believe tall ships aren’t the only things at home in Casco Bay.

For centuries, people have claimed to see sea monsters in Maine’s waters, with an unusual spike in such sightings, 200 years ago this summer.

Sea monster stories and sightings go back centuries, including a famous one involving Maine naval hero Commodore Edward Preble, giving chase to one in 1779.

In the long history of Maine sea monster sightings one summer stands out, 1817.

Read the rest of this story by CBS 13 (WGME, Portland, Maine) via the Bangor Daily News

Two tall ships will moor in Portland this weekend | Portland Press Hearld

B y Dennis Hoey
Staff Wrtier

Two of the world’s most majestic three-masted tall ships will be in Portland Harbor this weekend on what just happens to be the anniversary of the founding of the United States Coast Guard.

Known as “America’s Tall Ship,” the Coast Guard’s 295-foot barque USS Eagle is scheduled to dock at Portland’s Ocean Terminal around 10 a.m. Friday. The Eagle will be joined Saturday morning by another tall ship – the 200-foot sail-training ship SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, which was moored off Fort Allen Park Thursday night. Both ships will be open for free, public tours throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday.

The event is sponsored by Tall Ships Portland – a nonprofit that promotes sailing experiences for high school-age teens – in conjunction with the Coast Guard, which coincidentally will be celebrating its 227th anniversary on National Coast Guard Day. The Coast Guard was founded by an act of Congress on Aug. 4, 1790.

“We are thrilled to bring these two storied vessels together for Tall Ships Weekend,” Alex Agnew, President of Tall Ships Portland, said in a statement. “We hope that the people of Portland and everyone in the area enjoy all that we have planned.”

Listening to real people trumps threats in ACA repeal battle | Bangor Daily News

There are many reasons that Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and to replace it with inferior plans that would have also gutted Medicaid, failed in Congress. One of the biggest reasons is that Republican leadership, especially in the Senate, tried to pass proposals that were hastily written, had no clear policy goals, and had no objective expert analysis. As a result, those proposals would have harmed millions of American people.

So, it is disheartening, but not surprising, that President Donald Trump is now trying to undermine the ACA through backdoor executive actions, which could have dire consequences for millions of Americans, rather than a bipartisan effort to fix what is really wrong with the health insurance law.

After the last attempt to repeal portions of the ACA, known as “skinny repeal,” failed last Friday morning, done in by “no” votes from Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain, Trump said he’d let the insurance program fail, to make lawmakers more eager to reach a deal. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch,” he posted on Twitter.

Trump has suggested that his administration will end payments to insurance companies that encourage them to take on lower-income subscribers by lowering their out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays and deductibles. Without the cost-sharing reduction payments, many insurers would likely increase premium costs and some would drop out of the ACA market.

The administration may also stop enforcing the individual mandate, a much maligned portion of the law, but one that is necessary to bring younger, healthier people into the market.

Congress must quickly step in to stop such disastrous moves. The Senate Health Care Committee announced Tuesday that it will begin holding hearings early next month on how best to stabilize the individual health insurance market. Congress must also appropriate the funds to continue the cost-sharing reduction payments, which are necessary to keep health insurance affordable for many lower-income Americans.

Read the rest of this editorial.

George Mitchell blasts LePage for attacks on Susan Collins, Angus King | Bangor Daily News

Former Democratic U.S. Sen. George Mitchell defended Maine’s current U.S. senators Thursday for their votes regarding the Affordable Care Act in response to Gov. Paul LePage’s prolonged criticism of their positions.

LePage has used his public speaking engagements in recent days to lambaste Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King for their votes against repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Since Saturday, LePage has rallied supporters at a Somerset County GOP eventagainst Collins, ripped her and King in two radio interviews, penned a scathing commentary against them in the Wall Street Journal and targeted them in this week’s radio address.

“U.S. senators like Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are enjoying Cadillac health insurance plans while they are mandating Americans ride a moped,” said LePage in the latter. “They are so busy seeking the national limelight, they are ignoring the people in their own state.”

Members of Congress and their staffs can purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, with the bulk of their premiums covered by the government. King’s and Collins’ staffs did not immediately respond to Bangor Daily News questions about their specific health care plans and whether they had contacted LePage or his staff to ask him to correct his assertion that they have “Cadillac plans.”

In a statement to reporters on Thursday, Mitchell took umbrage with LePage’s assertions.

“I respectfully but strongly disagree,” he said. “Sens. Collins and King did in fact represent the best interests of the vast majority of Maine people.”

Read the rest of this story.

Collins, King offer alternative to executive-level lunacy | Bangor Daily News blog

By Lance Dutson

The contrast couldn’t be more striking.

On one hand, there is the imagery of Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s short time communications director, hair slicked back, reaching into a female reporter’s personal space over and over as he desperately attempted to bully a series of lies into reality.

On the other, there is Maine’s senior senator, Susan Collins, unassumingly returning home to the Bangor airport Friday morning where a small crowd of Mainers erupted into spontaneous applause, earnestly thankful for the battle she had just waged on their behalf.

This contrast — between pettiness and earnestness, between the honorable and the base — has been a cornerstone of Maine’s sense of political self for decades.

Our federal government just had one of its most embarrassing weeks ever. Republican leadership tried and failed to ram a deeply flawed and unvetted healthcare overhaul bill through the U.S. Senate in the dead of night. Trump abruptly proclaimed a ban on transgendered people serving in the military through his Twitter account. The White House communications director went on an on-the-record, profanity-laced tirade to a reporter, calling Trump’s chief of staff a “f*** paranoid schizophrenic” and claiming Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was fellating himself. Threats were made via Twitter about staff members having the FBI investigate other staff members. And the president fired his own chief of staff, Reince Priebus, leaving Priebus alone in a black Suburban on the tarmac next to Air Force One, as the rest of the motorcade pulled away.

Read the rest of this commentary.

Portland rolls out new business center for immigrant entrepreneurs | MaineBiz

By Renee Cordese

As of this week, immigrant entrepreneurs in Portland have a modern workspace and business incubator at their disposal downtown.

The nonprofit Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, at 24 Preble St., officially opened its doors on Monday at a packed ribbon-cutting event attended by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Portland City Council member Pious Ali, the first African-born Muslim American elected to public office in Maine.

“After three years of hard work, the dream has finally become a reality,” said Damas Rugaba, an immigrant from Rwanda who came up with the idea for the center three years ago with Alain Nahimana, who hails from Burundi and serves as the center’s interim executive director.

Rugaba said the goal was to create a place where people could collaborate and share resources they would otherwise not be able to afford.

Besides acting as a business hub, the center plans to connect entrepreneurs with mentors and lending institutions to help them finance the path to citizenship, and offer English lessons in a digital language laboratory.

The center is being financed by grants from the Maine Community Foundation through its Broad Reach Fund, more than a dozen corporate sponsors including Coffee By Design and cPort Credit Union, and individual donors (all of whom are listed on the center’s website).

Read the rest of this story.

Cruise Portland Harbor and learn its history on water taxi tours | Maine Today

By Ray Routhier

Dave Cote sat between a couple from Connecticut and talked nonstop for an hour about the history of Portland Harbor.

Cote, a 38-year-old major in the Marine reserves, detailed the histories of seven lighthouses, several forts and a shipwreck, and provided insights on local bakeries and beaches. He was particularly animated in explaining South Portland’s history as a shipbuilding center during World War II.

“I know Rosie the Riveter is iconic, but here in South Portland when they built the Liberty Ships (WWII cargo vessels), they found that welding was better,” said Cote. “So here in South Portland, Maine, we celebrate Wendy the Welder.”

Most days this summer, Cote can be found giving animated history talks during the one-hour historic harbor tours being offered by Portland Harbor Water Taxi. Besides historic harbor tours for $15 offered most days, the water taxi service also offers a regular sunset lighthouse cruise for $20 and a Friday night-star gazing cruise for $30. The latter is narrated by Ed Gleason from the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium.

The service was started last year by Maine Maritime Academy graduate Ben Graffius, who spent several years captaining an old drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico before returning to Maine.

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