Here in Maine, a special legislative study committee has been at work on recommendations in regards to a proposed bill to compensate landowners if the potential resale value of their property is diminished by regulations. It's a controversial issue on which a fair bit has already been written about in the press and blogosphere.
In this week's Portland Phoenix, I focused on a matter of process: how could it be that the Pierce Atwood takings attorney who wrote the original "takings" bill and is said to be the driving force in the study committee hasn't ever registered as a lobbyist or revealed who she has been hired to represent? And what's up with this 2008 rule change allowing lobbyists to avoid disclosure when serving on commissions, task forces, and study commissions? (Source.)
A few readers have asked what the next step would be in pursuing this matter. The answer: an interested party would ask the state ethics commission to investigate the issue; the body would presumably communicate with Pierce Atwood, evaluate their rationale, and determine if they believed the firm was in compliance. No word as yet as to whether anyone has done so.
"Woodard persuasively argues that the origins, spread, and clash of “Yankeedom,” “Borderlanders,” and the “Midlands,” along with eight other regional “nations” that he identifies, explain a great deal about how we arrived at our current pass and raise serious questions about our union’s future prospects," writes TNR senior editor Alec MacGillis, who was assigned to review the book for the Washington Post.
The book is in good company. The TNR list also includes the new titles from Adam Hochschild, Michael Kazin, Jeffrey Eugenides, and the late Ellen Willis. Thanks again, TNR.
A reminder for those of you in midcoast Maine: I'll be meeting readers and signing books in Boothbay Harbor this evening from 5:30 to 7:30. The event is at Studio 53; come by if you can.
I was also a guest yesterday on Inside Maine with Phil Harriman on Portland's own WGAN. (Phil kindly plugged the book as well.) Our conversation is now online at their website. If you happen to live in central Midcoast Maine and want to take Phil or the News & Observer up on their recommendations, I'll be meeting readers and signing all of my titles in Boothbay Harbor this Wednesday, Dec. 21, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The event is at Studio 53. (At last report, there were also signed copies still in stock at Longfellow Books and the Maine Historical Society in Portland and the Maine Coast Bookshop in Damariscotta.)
I argue that Huntsman differs from the rest of the GOP pack not in political moderation -- he's extremely conservative in most respects -- but in that he does not share the belief that government is inherently evil (and must be destroyed) or that big oil, big banks, and bigtime lobbyists are inherently virtuous (and, therefore, should be deregulated.) It's an argument that will get a fair hearing in Yankeedom and Utah, though its likely to win him few friends among Deep Southern primary voters.
The Maine Sunday Telegram -- the Sunday edition of the Portland Press Herald - reviewed my new book, American Nations, yesterday.
"One sure sign of a good book is that you can read it straight through enjoyably," writes reviewer Bill Barry of the Maine Historical Society. "The sign of a superb book is that you find yourself debating its propositions and arguments weeks after reading it. American Nations... is a superb book."
My feature in the current issue of Washington Monthly argues that the Tea Party is doomed to failure in large swaths of the country, due to the underlying regional values I've identified in American Nations. Since the piece appeared in mid-October (the Monthly is no longer monthly), various polls have showed declining support for the movement, which experienced setbacks in November's off-year election.
ABC News interviewed me yesterday for their digital story on these developments -- "Is the Party Over?" -- which you can read here.
Meanwhile, The Globalist -- the online magazine on global culture, politics, and economics -- published an excerpt today from the book's epilogue describing the (re)emergence of what I call First Nation, with special focus on Greenland, a nearly-independent nation I reported from in 2007.
GlobalPost is pleased to invite you to a Webinar with Colin Woodard, author of the best-selling "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America."
On the cusp of the 2012 election year, few books provide more insight into the complex riot of American politics than American Nations, which delves into the country's entrenched regional cultural mosaic.
Newsweek calls Woodard's book "a triumph," and the Washington Post hails it as "compelling and informative ... a bracing corrective to an accepted national narrative that too often overlooks regional variations to tell a simpler and more reassuring story. "
Woodard is a writer, historian, award-winning journalist and occasional contributor to GlobalPost. He will be interviewed by GlobalPost Senior Editor David Case, and will take questions from the audience.
Space is limited, and priority for this call will be granted to GlobalPost members. To ensure your attendance, you can join GlobalPost for less than $3 per month, at www.globalpost.com/members/information.
(Important note: Everyone — including members — must register for the call at least two hours before it begins.)
Free Webinar: American Nations — The Eleven Rival Cultures of North America
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
12:00 PM - 12:30 PM EST
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements PC-based attendees Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh®-based attendees Required: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer
(A footnote for Maine media watchers: MPBN has a new president, one who has extensive experience in public broadcasting, having headed Vermont Public Radio for years. VPR, like MPBN, is based in a rural state, and has transmitters that extend across state boundaries and on into Canada.)
Just in time for the holidays, American Nations is now available as an audiobook edition from Gildan Media. Walter Dixon narrates.
If you don't see it at your local bookstore -- or, indeed, if your local bookstore ceased to exist -- you can find it at Amazon.com, or you can download it to Kindle, iPhone, iPod, and various other newfangled devices via Audible.com. (This being the 21st century, Audible is a subsidiary of Amazon; there is no escape.)
My thanks go out again to PBS News Hour, whose interview with me broadcast on Thanksgiving evening has given enormous attention to American Nations.
This Sunday, the Charleston Post & Courier weighed in on the book, the first review from the birthplace of the Deep South. I came out o.k. "In places, Woodard stretches some to get his supporting details, and it's easy to see bias against a particular culture," the reviewer writes. "But maybe it's not so much a bias as it is anger at the regions that won't come together for the good of the country. Woodard points out that the United States doesn't have a whole lot holding it together besides its central government; if that government ceases to function effectively, he argues, this country might go the way of the Soviet Union."
Last week, I spent an hour with Jefferson Public Radio, which broadcasts across the sprawling territory of the abortive State of Jefferson in far northern California and southern Oregon, a region I argue to be divided between Left Coast and Far West. The interview and call-in is now online.
I was a guest on PBS News Hour last night, talking about American Nations. The segment -- filmed recently at a historic tavern in Alexandria, Virginia -- is now online for those who missed it. My thanks to Margaret Warner and her team for both their interest in the book's thesis and their incredible preparation and engagement with the material.
The segment is, of course, fabulous exposure for the book, especially coming on the heels of the Washington Post's review and being this week's featured author in The Week. It's wonderful to have it catching on right at the opening of both the gift-giving and U.S. presidential campaign seasons.
I also also enjoyed this sweethearted, American Nations-inspired Thanksgiving editorial from The Capital in Annapolis, Maryland. "Thanksgiving is being celebrated today in all of Garreau's nine nations and Woodard's 11 regional cultures," The Capital's editors write. "These feelings aren't different in Woodard's Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, Yankeedom, Deep South or anywhere else under the Stars and Stripes. They aren't limited by politics. And they unite us - even if it's only for one day - with each other."
Thanks to my father's media habits, I've been watching the PBS News Hour since grade school, back when it was still called the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and the wonderful Nova Scotian, Robin MacNeil, was co-hosting. I still turn to it as an antidote to the frenetic, sensationalized network and cable news, coupled with the half-hour fix of the BBC carried by my local public television network.
So I'm especially pleased to have been interviewed by the News Hour's Margaret Warner about my new book, American Nations, for a segment that's scheduled to run tonight, Thanksgiving evening. If you live in Maine or New Hampshire, that's at 7pm, though its sometimes broadcast earlier or later in other parts of the country. We filmed the segment at the Gadsby Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, a structure dating back to 1785, when it served as sort of the Willard Hotel of its age, a gathering place for past and present presidents, Senators, and cabinet officials of the Early Republic.
Please tune in whilst you digest your turkey.
If you're looking for other ways to idle away the holiday, Washington Monthly has just posted my latest American Nations-fueled piece on U.S. politics, this one on Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and Yankeedom and provocatively titled "Can the Dems Flip Utah?" Its one of a series of pieces at their Ten Miles Square blog tapping off my feature in the current issue of the magazine. Have a look, and let me know what you think, particularly if you live in Utah.
And Happy Thanksgiving.
[Update, 1/25/2011: The interview is now online as well.]
I'll be joining 25 other Maine authors to meet readers, sign books, and support MWPA and their indie bookstore partners on Friday, Nov. 25 from 12 to 3 at the Portland Public Library.
Also scheduled to attend: Liza Bakewell, Crash Barry, Robert Chute, Susan Conley, Mary Morton Cowan, George Daughan, Paul Doiron, Gerri Eastment, Robin Hansen, Jamie Hogan, Hannah Holmes, Lily King, Jessica Kinney, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller, Wesley McNair, Maria Padian, Elizabeth Peavey, Richard Roberts, Sandy Seeley Walling, Caitlin Shetterly, Susan Hand Shetterly, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Sarah Thomson, Chris Van Dusen, and James Witherell.
Buy local, support arts & letters, and have some fun.
The latest update from the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion (which seems to have seized control of this blog in recent weeks):
I received my latest copy of The Week magazine in the mail, and was pleased to find myself featured in the "Author of the Week" space on page 27. (You need to subscribe to the see The Week's material online.) The magazine quotes from two recent interviews in the online versions of Rolling Stone and Miller-McCune magazines. (American Nations was also reviewed by the Washington Post on Sunday.)
Thanks much to the magazine's editors for the kind attention!
The inevitable pull quote: "a compelling and informative attempt to make sense of the regional divides in North America in general and this country in particular....Woodard provides a bracing corrective to an accepted national narrative that too often overlooks regional variations..."
I've been delighted with the media attention the book has been receiving, including the Boston Globe, Daily Beast, Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arizona Republic, Bloomberg, Rolling Stone.com, Maine Sunday Telegram, and Raleigh News & Observer. I've also been able to demonstrate the analytical utility of the paradigm in understanding current political developments in a feature and blog posts at Washington Monthly.
For those of you in northern California and southwestern Oregon, I'll be on Jefferson Public Radio tomorrow morning from 9 to 10 am Pacific. (Yes, everyone else, that's as in the "State of Jefferson.")
Interviewers have been asking me what the American Nations paradigm -- that the continent is really divided into eleven "countries," most of them centuries-old -- can tell us about the prospects of the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements.
Analyzing the Tea Party was relatively easy, as they've been engaged in electoral politics from the beginning, creating a wealth of data; my feature in the current issue of the Washington Monthly shows why the movement is doomed to failure in large swaths of the country. The results of last week's off-year elections bolstered the argument.
But the Occupy movement offers much less of a data trail: its newer; it has thus far spurned electoral politics; there's no "OWS caucus" in Congress to track. I've hypothesized that the movement would also face stark regional differences in popularity and leverage but, until today, didn't have any evidence to test the idea.
Today's article at the Washington Monthly's Ten Miles Square blog offers preliminary evidence that OWS is strongest in the very same "nations" where the Tea Party is weakest. But there's a surprise too: OWS appears especially strong in in the Far West, suggesting the (Tea Party-steered) G.O.P. coalition may be vulnerable to fracture. Enjoy the piece, and let me know what you think.
This morning on WGAN's weekly Eye on Politics segment, former state senator Phil Harriman and I discussed the GOP presidential nominees, the future of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to drug test welfare recipients. The segment is now up online for those who want to listen to it in non-real time.
Question of the week: will Ethan Strimling return to this show now that he's no longer running for mayor of Portland? And what's with the sudden flurry of public appearances here in Maine by former US Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell?
I was the guest this week on the popular New Books In History Podcast, part of the New Books Network. Its a liberating, long-form format, with over an hour to really talk about the implications of one's book. You can download it at itunes as well.
The host, Marshall Poe, is a former Atlantic staffer who wrote this enjoyable piece in a recent issue of the magazine on his personal odyssey in researching a book on Wikipedia. (He pitched a "big idea" book, but in digging into his subject wound up with -- alas -- a mere book of ideas.)
This summer, Publishers Weekly named American Nations to its "Top Ten Politics" list for the Fall season but, oddly enough, no review of the book appeared before publication, as is their usual practice.
Today, though, they've rectified that, with a starred review no less. American Nations' "compelling explanations and apt descriptions will fascinate anyone with an interest in politics, regional culture, or history," PW writes. That makes up not only for the late review, but for misspelling my name. (Curse ye, Bob Woodward, for teaching them thus.)
Also, there's an excerpt of the book in the new issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of MilitaryHistory, for which I'm a frequent contributor. "Colin Woodard casts a new light on the rift in American discourse," MHQ notes, "a split often couched in terms of conservative and liberal, of red states versus blue."
Reminder for southern and midcoast Mainers: I'll be giving my American Nations talk at the Yarmouth Historical Society tonight at 7:30.
I'll be giving my American Nations talk at the Yarmouth Historical Society this Monday evening, November 14, at 7:30. The event - held at the Town Hall Community Room in downtown Yarmouth, Maine - is open to the public. (Books will be available for purchase/signing thereafter, if you find the thesis compelling.) Come if you can.
In short: results in Maine, Ohio, and Kentucky indicate that the Tea Party is in trouble not just in the sprawling "nation" I call Yankeedom and its allies -- the topic of my feature in the current print issue of the magazine -- but in the Midlands and Greater Appalachia as well. A Deep Southern political agenda -- and that's what the Tea Party and, foolishly, the governors of Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin have partially embraced -- is alienating the mainstream in these other regional cultures, none of which embrace the notion that the society should be organized around the interests of an oligarchy.
For more on this, I welcome you -- nay, beg you -- to read the book.
Governor Paul LePage has pledged to run the most transparent government in Maine history. But he and his staff sometimes have trouble applying it to themselves, even when a request for information or public records would help the governor.
My piece in the new Portland Phoenix describes some of my recent adventures with the governor's staff in this regard, and their efforts of late to make their actions more difficult to track by reducing or concealing much of the paper trail associated with them.
Maine's largest city has finally completed its cruise ship terminal at a cost of nearly $30 million. While political leaders were smiling at the ribbon cutting ceremony, I asked if the facility is paying for itself yet. The answer -- in the new issue of Working Waterfront-- is "not yet."
Its certainly a positive development that, with the "megaberth" completed, proper cruise ships are finally able to use the city-owned terminal. As the article notes, its not clear if it should have been built in the first place.
For more background on Ocean Gateway and the Portland waterfront, start here, and continue here.
The Christian Science Monitor reviewed it yesterday, giving it positive marks, though the reviewer was looking for a slightly different book. On Facebook, some of my friends and I played around with crafting the inevitable pull-quote from the review. The reviewer's punchline was: "a fascinating new take on our history – but not enough insight into our future." I suggested editing it to just "a fascinating new take on our history...", but cleverer colleagues suggested "A fascinating new take on our history... insight into our future" and -- my personal favorite -- "fascinating...but not enough." In any case, enjoy the review.
Meanwhile, a columnist at the Raleigh News & Observer has used American Nations to demonstrate some of the ironies of the current immigration debate as it relates to the region I call El Norte. Good stuff. Finally -- and I know you've all been waiting for it -- here's my interview with CBC Radio in Whitehorse, Yukon. Yes, the Yukon.
The Daily Beast/Newsweek has just published a glowing review of my new book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.
"[In] offering us a way to better understand the forces at play in the rumpus room of current American politics, Colin Woodard has scored a true triumph," Beast reviewer Steve Kettmann writes. "The key to the book’s effectiveness is Woodard’s skill—and irreverence—in delving into history with no qualms about being both brisk and contrarian....Yankees come off the worst...and Woodard seems particularly aghast at their eagerness to claim the U.S. narrative as their own."
And I certainly don't mind being lumped in with Jon Stewart, who remains far and away the most forthright and insightful political commentator on U.S. television. (Happy to lend a hand, Jon, anytime you need someone on the show.)
Meanwhile, my Washington Monthly feature describing why the Tea Party is doomed to failure over a great swath of the United States has been receiving a bit of attention and commentary, including this plug from Slate, another from Free Flight New Media, and this posting at Daily Kos.
Finally, last week Blogcritics.org ran this review of the book by the elusive Marty Dodge.
My home city of Portland, Maine is having its first mayoral election in 88 years, the result of a successful ballot referendum and popular disgust with the city council's handling of a proposed development on the Maine State Pier. Fifteen candidates are on the ranked-choice ballot, making it especially difficult for voters to become educated about the would-be mayors.
As regular readers know, I'm a big proponent of following the money in politics, but under current law, mayoral candidates didn't have to file campaign finance disclosures until last Friday evening -- just eleven days before voters go to the polls. (An effort to change this law for future elections has been stalled in Augusta.) Media coverage of the content of those reports has, to date, been focused merely on how much money each candidate raised, rather than from whom these resources came.
My piece in the new Portland Phoenix delves into the leading candidates' donor pools, identifying interest clusters, putting faces to some of the faceless Limited Liability Companies that donated to some candidates, and even ensuring the disclosure of the contributors to a Political Action Committee that thought it wouldn't be revealing such until months after the election. Curious how Ethan Strimling raised such a staggering sum of money? (Hint: Bob Baldacci) Want to know who Jed Rathband's secret admirers are? Curious who backs Nick Mavodones and Michael Brennan? Read on for answers.
One positive development to report: Until recently, my website was the only place you could find electronic copies of Portland campaign finance disclosures. as the city was unwilling or unable to post them itself. That's now changed. Not only is the City Clerk's office posting new returns online within days of them being filed, they've also posted all previous ones back to 2005. (Unfortunately, cities across Maine destroyed older campaign reports on the faulty advice of a mid-level bureaucrat at the Maine State Archives, a story I broke in 2009, which resulted in the the relevant law being changed.) Score another point for transparency.
Finally, if you haven't already, check out the detailed results of the Down East/MPRC poll on the mayoral race. Don't miss the projected round-by-round elimination section in the back. Will be interesting to see how accurate it proves to be.
Although the article concludes that interim director Peter Mills is putting the agency back on track, the MTA's two long-serving board members -- Lucien Gosselin and longtime board chair Gerard Conley -- didn't take to the suggestion that they might have some degree of responsibility for the state of affairs. The result: their letter to the editor you'll find in the current issue of the magazine, one that's remarkable in its slipperiness. You'll find my withering response there too.
The letter suggests Mr. Mills has his work cut out for him. Even in the midst of a debacle of this scale, some of his bosses on the board remain defensive when one might expect contrition.
The Arizona Republic carried an OpEd with my byline -- "The great divide" --crafted from excerpts of the book. It lays out the central argument that the U.S. is really a federation of disparate "nations" and always has been and notes that it can only function through compromise at the federal level; that's how the deal between the component regional cultures was brokered.
TheSt. Louis Post-Dispatch reviews the book in today's paper, calling it important if not "easy" reading. The reviewer also seems to have misread the "nations" map in the book: the counties that make up the St. Louis metro area are divided between the Midlands and Greater Appalachia, just as the text in the book notes. (Similarly, Chicago is another "border city" straddling the Midlands and Yankeedom.
Today, Maine's Portland Daily Sun has an essay/excerpt of the book as their weekend feature.
Over the past week, I was interviewed by a dozen radio affiliates of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: those in Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg, Halifax, Charlottetown (PEI), Cape Breton Island (NS), Windsor (ON), Thunder Bay (ON), Kenowa (BC) and, my favorites, Yellowknife (Northwest Territories) and Whitehorse (Yukon). CBC Halifax expanded their piece into the lead feature of their "Mainstreet Nova Scotia" program Wednesday, but at present they don't have it podcasted. [Update, 12/31/11: Here's that podcast as an mp3 download.]
Thanks also to everyone who came to the filled-to-capacity talk I gave at the Maine Historical Society Thursday. I had a great time speaking with you all.
Yankeedom -- the portions of the country colonized by New Englanders and blessed/cursed with their culture -- encompasses the New England states, upstate New York, Ohio's Western Reserve, most or all of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I, and portions of northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, and beyond. They also tried -- but only half succeeded -- to make the West Coast a "New England on the Pacific," literally sending missionaries to "save" the region for Yankees. It's a story of cultural transmission told in my recently released book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.
Within that migration, Mainers sometimes played a key role, particularly where the lumber industry loomed large: Michigan, Minnesota, and coastal Washington state. It's a tale I explore in this month's Down East magazine, and one you can now read online.
I am an award-winning journalist and author of American Nations, American Character, Ocean's End, The Lobster Coast, and The Republic of Pirates. I'm a staffer at the Portland Press Herald, where I won a 2012 George Polk Award for my investigative reporting and was named a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist.