Thursday, June 22, 2017

Two members of Trump's voter fraud panel want to investigate Russian hacking

In tomorrow's Portland Press Herald, I have a story on a development President Trump probably didn't expect. Two members of his nascent commission on voter fraud -- assembled to investigate his evidence-free claims that 3 million people voted illegally last November, denying him a popular vote victory -- have said they want the panel to also look at Russian hacking of state electoral systems.

The two are both Democrats and secretaries of state from northern New England: Matt Dunlap of Maine and Bill Gardner of New Hampshire.

But the commission doesn't appear to be anywhere near being active. Dunlap told me he hasn't heard anything from the chairman (and Vice President) Mike Pence and his team since he agreed to join the body and doesn't even know who all the members are.

Details within.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Talking American Nations with CNN's Bill Weir (for real this time)

It was delayed by a week on account of the London Bridge attacks, but Bill Weir's CNN special "States of Change" premiered Saturday night on CNN and CNN International, including an extended one-on-one segment with yours truly talking about American Nations.

As you can see, Bill's colleagues took the trouble to create an entire custom puzzle map of the "nations" as part of the "States of Change" set, and it was a pleasure being able to share a bit about the regional cultures and how they effect American life today. At the end, we touched on the what the paradigm has to say about how Donald Trump won the 2016 election and also a bit about the key themes of American Nations' sequel, American Character, which offers some solutions as to how you would bring the country together -- some of which I think Bill has incorporated into the show.

The one-hour special -- which isn't available online as of yet -- was filmed a week ago in New York, where I enjoyed chatting in the green room with some of his other guests: Charles Ramsey (former police commissioner in D.C. and Philadelphia), DeRay Mckeeson (Black Lives Matter leader), Wesley Lowrey (Washington Post), Chris Arnade (documentarian of "front row/back row kids fame), and conservative commentator S.E. Cupp. There's some excellent discussion, so catch rebroadcasts if you can. [Update, 6/20/17: my segment is now available for online viewing here.]

The special actually promotes a one-hour documentary, Bill Weir: States of Change, Homecoming, which is available for viewing online at and features a separate, shorter interview with me filmed in April on New York City's High Line (at about minute 56). Bill travels to his many childhood homes -- he's got an unusual backstory -- to try to understand our nation's divisions. Do check it out.

Thanks again to Bill's "Wonder List" team for their interest in my work and to all of you who've watched.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Maine's senators and the Comey Hearing

The big news in Washington this week has been the public hearing in which former FBI director James Comey testified under oath about his interactions with President Donald Trump, who fired him one month ago today.

I had two stories on this in the past 24 hours. Today's Press Herald story hopefully tells you everything you need to know about Senator Angus King and Senator Susan Collins's roles in and reaction to the hearing. Both Maine senators sit on the senate intelligence committee, which is conducting a probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and before which Comey appeared yesterday.

In yesterday's Press Herald, I had this round-up of expert thoughts on what to look out for in the hearing and with Comey's testimony, including input from Sarah Kendzior, William Yeomans, and former US attorney Jay McCloskey.

Monday, June 5, 2017

American Character wins the Maine Literary Award for Nonfiction

Last Thursday, my neighbor Caitlin Shetterly and I both ventured down to Portland to support one another: we both had books that had been named finalists for the 2017 Maine Literary Award for Nonfiction, and both of us were certain the other would win.

Turns out we were both right.

For the first time in the history of the awards, the judges were deadlocked and, as a result, named us both winners. Caitlin's book is Modified: GMOs and the Threat to Our Land, Our Bodies, and Our Future. Mine is American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, which was also a finalist for this year's Chautauqua Prize. It's also a sequel of sorts to American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, which won the same award back in 2012.

Congratulations also to the other winners, and thanks to Joshua Bodwell and MWPA for an enjoyable awards ceremony last week down in Portland.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Talking American Nations on CNN

I'm pleased to be one of the guests on a CNN special airing this Saturday, June 3 at 9 pm Eastern, where I'll be talking about the regional cultures outlined in my book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and how they help explain the 2016 election.

The program is entitled "States of Change" and is hosted by Bill Weir, who travelled the world to create and host the CNN travel/history/culture series "The Wonder List," now entering its third season. It explores a nation divided and is a companion broadcast to his one-hour digital documentary  special, "Bill Weir: States of Change - Homecoming," which also features yours truly and streams on CNNgo and all CNN apps and devices starting this Friday.

Guests for Saturday's program include Chris Arnade, DeRay Mckesson (Black Lives Matter), Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, and former Michigan governor Jennifer Grandholm.

For friends overseas: yes, it's also airing simultaneously on CNN International.

More details here. [Update, 6/4/17: As would-be viewers discovered, the show was pre-empted at the last minute on account of the London Bridge terrorist attacks; the show is taped, so it will be getting a rescheduled air date.] [Update, 6/11/17: The show had its premier last night; I write about it here.] [Update, 6/20/17: You can now see the segment online here.]

My last contact with CNN was just last week, for a web story on the Caribbean pirates.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bill Cohen on Watergate and today

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I talk to former US Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen and several of his former aides about what it was like to hold a president of his own party accountable during Watergate.

In the summer of 1974, Cohen was a first-term Republican congressman from Maine's second district and was one of the first to break with his party to further the probing of Richard Nixon's White House tapes. His summer intern was a 21-year old college student named Susan Collins, who would, decades later, marry Cohen's then-chief-of-staff, Tom Daffron. (Also on Capitol Hill that summer: Maine's other current senator, Angus King, who was an aide to Sen. Bill Hathaway (D-Maine.))

What did Cohen and his staff experience that summer, and what do they see when they compare then and now? Read on.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Talking pirates with CNN Travel

Earlier this week, I spoke with CNN Travel's London based writer Chris Scott about Henry Avery and the golden age Bahamian pirates, the subject of my third book, The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.

Scott's piece on the "Real Pirates of the Caribbean" posted yesterday at CNN, and also features interviews with several other pirate researchers.

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the wreck of Sam Bellamy's Whydah, the capture of Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge, and many other key events for the golden age pirates. There's also another one of those silly Disney pirate movies coming out.

For more on Blackbeard, consider this Smithsonian cover story I wrote a couple of years ago on some new discoveries.