Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fearing outside ads, King raises serious cash for U.S. Senate race in Maine

Angus King, the independent candidate and undisputed frontrunner in the race to replace retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe here in Maine, has been aggressively raising campaign money. While his rivals thus far have depended on in-state donors -- the same suspects you'd expect in a gubernatorial contest or perhaps a Congressional primary -- King has been working the big leagues, and even reported his first "bundler" recently.

As my story in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram shows, the King campaign is motivated by the fear that outside interests will swamp Maine's inexpensive airwaves with negative ads, and that they will need the means to respond. They're not paranoid. Even here in the summer doldrums, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week purchased $400,000 in such ads at local television stations -- almost half as much money as King has raised in half a year of fundraising.

If you can't get enough of my writing on Maine Senatorial politics, I also had this profile of Sen. Susan Collins' mentor and fiance, Tom Daffron, in the Telegram.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On Sen. Collins' mentor, fiance


In February, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), 59, announced she was engaged to be married for the first time. Sometime next month, she will wed Thomas A. Daffron III, a political consultant and longtime chief of staff to Bill Cohen (R-Maine) when he was a congressman and senator.

My profile of Mr. Daffron in today's Maine Sunday Telegram traces the couple's 38 year professional relationship, during which time he acted as a mentor, adviser, and consultant to Collins and many other Maine politicos.

One correction from the print edition. I wrote at one point that former Bangor mayor Tim Woodcock's wife Susan had also been a staffer under Daffron and Cohen. Her first name is, of course, Carol. Apologies, Ms. Woodcock.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tidal power comes of age, in Maine of all places


For the better part of a decade now, I've been covering the development of a new form of renewable energy here in the Gulf of Maine / Bay of Fundy region, home to the world's highest tides.

Tides -- which run about 10 feet here in Portland, and over 50 feet at the head of the Bay of Fundy -- pack an enormous amount of energy, a fact that led early 20th century engineers to propose damming entire bays in eastern Maine as part of Hoover Dam-scale energy projects. The ecological effect would have been enormous, of course, so it's probably a good thing these projects were never completed. (Parts were built under F.D.R., including the causeway linking Eastport (a.k.a Moose Island) to the mainland.)

But the new iteration of tidal power requires no dams and, indeed, appears to have little if any adverse effect on the environment. After years of development, it's finally going commercial on this continent, starting next month in Cobscook Bay, between the two easternmost towns in the United States, Eastport and Lubec, Maine, where the tides run 20 feet.

My front page piece in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram tells the story of how a Maine start-up company has managed to take the lead in an industry that's attracted the likes of Siemens and Lockheed Martin, and the opportunities and challenges ahead for them and their competitors as they seek to expand in the region.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Did the Caribbean Pirates Visit Downeast Maine?

While researching The Republic of Pirates, I became interested in the legend of the Machias pirate fort, which has Sam Bellamy building a temporary base in Downeast Maine in April of 1717.

The story comes from the same source as so much of popular pirate history, the 1724 General History of the Pyrates. But is it true?

In today's Maine Sunday Telegram I dig into the legend, talk with other experts, and put forth the theory that the Downeast pirate lair may have been built, but by someone other than Bellamy. Dig in and see what you think.

For Republic of Pirates fans, look out this winter for "Crossbones," the forthcoming NBC drama based on the book.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Dixification of America

Last week, the South got kicked around the blogosphere a bit, and I'm partly to blame.

The occasion was the publication of this widely-read piece on the "southern" oligarchy's takeover of American politics at AlterNet and Salon, which draws partly on my book, American Nations, and at this writing has over 4000 Facebook likes.

For those who are interested in the discussion, I contributed my two cents over at Washington Monthly.

By coincidence, I recently reviewed a topical book for the current issue of Washington Monthly, Chuck Thompson's Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, which posted online just yesterday. (Teaser: I have a more pessimistic view of the human condition which gives me pause about the certainty of a proposed breakup being peaceful.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Update: EPA directs Maine to open St. Croix dams to alewives

A bit of breaking news yesterday in regards to the future of alewife ("river herring") runs on the St. Croix River, which forms the border between Maine and New Brunswick.

Responding to legal motions by environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has directed Maine to open the river to the fish, which just completed their annual migration. Maine had blocked the fish from entering the river under laws passed in 1995 and 2008.

The story is in today's Portland Press Herald.

The move follows the publication on Sunday of my front page feature on the issue in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

The EPA's letter to Attorney General Bill Schneider and four LePage administration officials is available here. (In lawyerly fashion -- and contrary to journalism practice -- the "news" is in the last two paragraphs.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On America's eastern frontier, a fight over fish, a river, and a Maine law

My story in today's Maine Sunday Telegram is on the fight over the future of alewives in the St.Croix River, which forms the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick.

The fish -- which serves as forage for most bigger creatures in fresh and salt water alike -- has been blocked from entering 94% of the watershed on orders from the Maine legislature because bass fishing guides fear their industry might be undermined by the alewives' spring spawning run. But environmentalists, lobstermen, the Government of Canada, and the Passamaquoddy Indians all now want that law overturned.

At stake: the ecological future of 1600 square miles of lakes and ponds and perhaps a far greater swath of the Gulf of Maine.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

For Canada Day, a story from Canada

I lived for a time in the lower Rio Grande Valley, where a single culture is separated by an increasingly fortified political boundary. I was there on 9/11 in fact, and the aftermath complicated life in what had been for many on the Texas side at least a casually cross-border lifestyle.

Though it gets far less attention, the same is true of life on America's easternmost frontier, where residents of eastern Maine and Southwestern New Brunswick have shopped, socialized, married, and gave birth to their children without much regard for the international frontier. My story in today's Maine Sunday Telegram -- Canada Day as it turns out -- describes how the situation is playing out there, especially in light of a new U.S. tax law that's made many borderlanders anxious.