Monday, September 16, 2019

Covering Climate Now and the Gulf of Maine

Ahead of United Nations Climate Summit in New York next week, more than 170 news outlets have signed on to Covering Climate Now, an effort organized by the Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, and The Nation to have reporters release local, national, and global climate stories in a singe week. This week in fact.

The Portland Press Herald signed on to the effort, and the first two stories -- by yours truly -- appeared in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram and today's Press Herald.

The first is on the unfolding climate crisis in the Gulf of Maine, the second fastest warming part of the world's oceans, a phenomenon scientists have linked to the rapid meltdown of the Arctic region and Greenland ice sheets, with have altered the qualities of the currents that feed the Gulf. This is essentially an update on what has been learned or experienced since our six-part series on the issue, "Mayday," appeared in 2015. (It got some additional national attention after being named a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.)

The second -- in today's paper -- is on the policy response. After years of inaction under Republican Gov. Paul LePage and his partisan allies in the legislature, Maine is now moving aggressively to make up for lost time, under a new governor and Democratic-controlled legislature. Congress, however, is still stalled. Details within.

My Press Herald colleagues continue the series this week, starting tomorrow with a story on woodlot owners and carbon sinks.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

United States nationhood and my forthcoming book

I recently completed my sixth book, which I expect will be on sale in the summer 2020. It's on the struggle to create a story of United States nationhood, told via the lives of the key figures who fought it out in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I'll have a lot more to say about it in the coming months, but I riffed a little on some of the themes in this blog post for the Law & Liberty blog, "The fraught battle to create an American nationhood." (That should really read "United States Nationhood," of course.) Hope you enjoy this small hors d'oeuvre.

This was itself a product of an academic symposium I participated in out in Boulder, Colorado this winter on "Liberty and the American Character." Some of my fellow participants have blog posts on their takes on this topic, including Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen, Villanova's Colleen Sheehan, and Michigan State dean emeritus William B. Allen.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Reviewing DeParle's book on migrants in Washington Monthly

Jason DeParle, a George Polk Award–winning reporter for the New York Times, embedded with a family of Manila slum dwellers thirty-three years ago and has kept contact with them ever since, allowing him to do something remarkable in his new book. A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves tells the story of global migration through the experiences of a single migrant family over three generations in intimate, often eyewitness detail. It’s a journey that starts in a one-room shanty open to rats and rain and ends on a cul-de-sac in a newly constructed Texas City subdivision. 

I had the privilege of reviewing  the book for the new issue of Washington Monthly and hope you'll take the time to read it and the book. It's a story that will leave you better understanding how the world works today and where we’re likely headed.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

In France

I've been in France this week. I can't say too much about it, except that it involved a television shoot, the Museum of the Freemasons in Paris, and maybe something about a pirate treasure. More on this in the months to come.

Along the way, however, I discovered this brilliant contraption in a rural train station in Champagne, which I can share with abandon. Here is a country that takes cultural production seriously.

Also: it's strange to see Notre Dame in darkness, all approaches closed off for a block around, including bridges, plaza, and subway entrances. A catastrophe, that fire was.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

In Maine, study finds cruise ship passengers spend about half as much as previously claimed

Last year, I wrote a series for the Portland Press Herald exploring how Maine communities can balance the costs and benefits of cruise ship tourism, an issue that had already exploded into public controversies in Bar Harbor, Rockland, and several smaller ports.

One focal point was how much cruise ship passengers actually spend ashore, particularly in Portland, where the only existing study was rather a mess, probably inflating the numbers by 100 percent.

That issue came up again this month with the release of a state-sponsored study of passenger spending that found each spent not $109 to $110, but rather $61-and-change. I wrote about this in Monday's Press Herald, with reaction from municipal officials and response from the state's cruise industry office and the author of the previous studies in Maine. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Sinclair directs local TV stations across the country, including Maine's WGME, to promote Trump campaign merch

Sinclair Broadcasting, the conservative Maryland-based company that's the largest owner of local television stations in the country, this month directed its stations to publish "news articles" promoting Trump campaign merchandise.

The articles, which were published and promoted (via Tweets) by Maine's WGME-13, have no sources and read much like a product catalog entry. Some stations linked directly to the Trump campaign's internet store product pages. Proceeds from campaign merchandise sales are used to fund the political campaign. I reported about this in Tuesday's Portland Press Herald.

It's not the first media ethics controversy involving Sinclair and WGME. I wrote about a scripted spot attacking alleged "fake news" broadcast by other news organizations last fall.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Trump's "judge whisperer" buys Maine mansion, hosts fundraiser for Susan Collins

In this past week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have the story of how Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society and the man credited with pre-selecting Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and other conservative justices for the Supreme Court, bought a mansion on Maine's Mount Desert Island and held a fundraiser for Senator Susan Collins.

It features C. Boyden Grey (who co-hosted the Collins fundraiser Aug. 8 and serves on the Federalist Society board) and the Knights of Malta (a Catholic order that has many of the attributes of a sovereign state, including 108 embassies, postage stamps, passports, coins and a seat at the United Nations) and even the W.R. Grace company (the one featured in the book and movie "A Civil Action.")