Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bangor Daily News on Malaga Island

The strange tale of Maine's "hidden public apology" for the infamous Malaga Island evictions in 1912 -- which I broke in the current issue of Down East -- is the topic of this morning's editorial in the Bangor Daily News.

The daily provides a thumbnail sketch of the events and the legislature's decidedly unpublicized apology, before concluding:

"Fortunately, the Legislature and Gov. John Baldacci have opportunities to rectify this. They, along with descendants, will be invited to an Aug. 1 ceremony on the island. That event, along with next year’s centennial of the Malaga deportations, would be perfect times to amplify the apology, making it much more meaningful."

One correction: the News writes that "by the early 1900s, many Malaga residents were mentally and physically disabled." As radio documentarian Rob Rosenthal and others have revealed, this was not, in fact, true. Eight people -- a fifth of the island's population -- were incarcerated at the Maine School for the Feebleminded, but for most of them on what essentially amounted to trumped up charges.

I've been trying to learn more details about the August 1 event and will pass on what I discover.

[Update, 7/28/2010: Rachel Talbot Ross of the NAACP tells me the Malaga commemoration event is on, but has been pushed back to August 28.]

[Update, 9/14/2010: The event happened, complete with governor.]

Friday, July 16, 2010

In Maine, a whispered apology for Malaga

The new issue of Down East is out, including my piece on the Maine legislature's incredibly low-profile formal apology for the state-sponsored Malaga Island evictions in 1912. How low profile? It happened back on April 7, and I'm "breaking" the news right now.

The piece is now online, so I'll let you read there about how the racially-mixed community was wiped from the map, the conspiracy of silence that followed, and the legislature's whispered apology this spring.

The piece also contains what I understand to be the first gubernatorial statement of regret for the incident, provided by Governor John Baldacci within hours of querying his office as to why the issue had been left to the legislature in the first place, since the 1912 evictions were orchestrated by one of his predecessors.

If you want to learn more about Malaga, you can hear Rob Rosenthal's radio documentary, Malaga Island: a Story Better Left Untold, while viewing images from his Salt colleague, Kate Philbrick. (The full text of the legislature's April resolution is available as a PDF at their website.)

[Update, 7/24/2010: There's an editorial in this morning's Bangor Daily News on this issue.]

[Update, 9/14/2010: Maine does the apology right the second time around.]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Maine: LePage on "Tea Party" staffer

It's Bastille Day and I spent a few minutes of it speaking with Maine gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage in connection with a forthcoming piece in
Down East.

One aside for Maine politicos that won't make it into the magazine piece:

The radical new Maine G.O.P. platform and Mr. LePage share one thing in common: both have the support of a lot of Tea Party folks. What isn't clear is the extent to which the Republican nominee shares the spirit and policy priorities of the people who crafted the platform, which praises the Tea Party in its preamble.

The Democrats have tried to make the case that the two are very much in sync, putting out a press release that alleges, among other things, that "key members of [LePage's] staff were involved in crafting" the platform. Intriguing stuff.

I checked in with the Dems' campaign coordinator, Arden Manning, for more details. The release, he said, actually refers to just one LePage staffer, Cynthia Rosen.

Ms. Rosen was, indeed, one of the co-authors of the new platform, and is an officer of the group that sponsored it, the Knox County Republican Committee. She's also controversial in Republican circles, after an
erratic e-mail ascribed to her surfaced on their earnest discussion site, As Maine Goes.

But is Rosen a LePage campaign staffer? The only evidence I could find: a $500 payment made to her for consulting services before the primary. [That's a PDF file]

Here's what LePage had to say when I spoke with him: "Cynthia Rosen is not on our staff. We did some work in the primary -- and she's a supporter -- but she's not on the staff now."

Regarding the platform itself? LePage: "Am I one hundred percent in favor of the platform? I’m not 100 percent in favor of anything. It's a working document, like the Constitution is a working document. The bible is a working document. There’s always something that can be enhanced or changed."

Preliminary results of this investigation: inconclusive.

[Update, 7/20/10: The Maine Democrats quoted from this LePage interview in their latest press release, posted at MPBN's Capital Connection, along with my comment.]

[Update, 7/21/10: In appearing to distance himself from Biblical literalism and Constitutional constructionists in his response to my question about the G.O.P. platform, LePage has elicited a torrent of comment -- both positive and negative -- over at As Maine Goes. (And, yes, he really did "say that.") Also, I've just added the phrase "when I spoke to him" to the third from the last paragraph, to make it even clearer that his comments were from my interview.]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Canada's troubled nuclear plant rehab

If the world is to increase its reliance on nuclear power, finding a way to refurbish the world's older reactors is extremely important. But, as the people of the Canadian province of New Brunswick have found, manufacturer refurbishments don't always go as planned.

As you can read in my piece that just posted at Global Post, delays at the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant have cost the people of New Brunswick hundreds of millions of dollars, helping prompt provincial leaders to try to sell the plant and the public utility that owns it to escape a sea of debt. Unfortunately, the nuclear rehab problems also contributed to the collapse of that deal -- and probably to the federal government's decision to sell some or all of its stake in Canadian nuclear reactor vendor Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the crown corporation responsible for the delays.

[Update, 7/8/2010: An indication of AECL's standing in New Brunswick: the province just announced it is exploring the building of a second reactor at Lepreau with one of AECL's foreign competitors.]