Friday, October 20, 2017

Talking American Character, Lobster Coast on CSPAN

The indefatigable team at CSPAN's City Tour came to Portland, Maine this summer and the segments they produced are airing this weekend, spotlighting our impressive little city.


I was pleased to record two separate interviews with them, one on Lobster Coast and the historical and cultural background to Maine's lobster fishery, the other on American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good (from Portland Head Light.)
Here's the broadcast schedule for those. I'll post links to each segment as they come available.


Lobster Coast on "Book-TV in Portland, Maine", CSPAN-2, Saturday, October 21 during the 1203 pm Eastern broadcast.


American Character on "Book-TV," CSPAN-3, Sunday, October 22 at 0632 am Eastern

Lobster Coast on "American History," CSPAN-3, Sunday, October 22 during the 2pm Eastern broadcast on Portland, Maine. (For night owls, it repeats Monday, October 23 at 0400 Eastern.)
https://www.c-span.org/video/?435268-1/lobster-coast

If you're interested in American Nations, my full talk at Iowa State was carried on CSPAN-1 a couple of years back and is available here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

American Nations, now in Korean

The Korean language edition of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America arrived recently in my mail.

Turns out Donald Trump made the cover, amid illustrative elements that evoke missile launches/prison bars and constellations/speech bubbles. Given the way Trump has heightened tensions on the peninsula via his twitter account, this is probably a savvy marketing move by Geulhangari Publishers. And it looks to be on sale now, at least at this website.

Amazingly, this is the first foreign language edition of American Nations, but Japanese is on its way very shortly too. Pleased to have the book available in South Korea, where I spent a fascinating two weeks on assignment during the "IMF" financial collapse of 1997-98. Even visited the DMZ, which seemed tense even then, despite the presence of a gift shop and golf course on the southern side, which I wrote about for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Hope those who can read it enjoy.


분열하는 제국 




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Trump admins' plans for New England's marine monument making waves

Here in Maine and New England generally, the Trump administration's plans to expand exploitation of natural resources in the Kathadin Woods and Waters National Monument has rightly received the lion's share of public attention and debate. But out to sea, something similar has been proposed for the nation's first permanently protected marine reserve, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I describe the facts around the debate, which pits a subset of southern New England's fishermen -- and Trump's Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke -- against scientists and conservationists. Read on for details.

For more on the Gulf of Maine, consider "Mayday," the 2015 Press Herald series on climate change hereabouts, or this recent story on the recent discovery that increased warming of the Gulf is not uniform throughout the year.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Maine-born government whistleblower resigns with fiery letter demouncing Zinke, Trump

In today's Portland Press Herald I have an update on Joel Clement, the Department of the Interior manager and climate change researcher who earlier this year accused his boss of defying whistle-blower protections.

Clement, who grew up in Falmouth, resigned yesterday from the Interior Department via a fiery letter delivering a broadside against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke -- who he said should himself resign -- and President Donald Trump. Details herein.

Monday, October 2, 2017

On the non-profit that ended debtors prison (and a whole bunch more) in Maine

Greetings on another awful mass-shooting morning in America, this time in Las Vegas. Remember this doesn't happen this frequently in any other advanced industrial democracy when you hear there's nothing that can be done on the policy front.

Largely unrelated: in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram, I wrote about Pine Tree Legal Assistance, the legal aid non-profit that ended debtors prison in Maine, spearheaded what became the Indian land claims settlement here (and opened up federal recognition for hundreds of tribes), exposed the national "robo-signing" home mortgage foreclosure scandal, and is celebrating their 50th anniversary later this week. Poor people still often don't get a fair shake in our legal system, but boy was it worse in 1967 when PTLA arrived on the scene. Details herein.

I've done a few history-minded pieces for the Press Herald and Telegram in recent months, including on former Maine US Senator Bill Cohen's critical role in the Watergate scandal (when Susan Collins was one of his junior staffers), the extensive Maine ties of the long-dead founder of the American Nazi Party (who neo-Nazis revere), and the strange early history of Maine and seacoast New Hampshire.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why did those coin counting machines vanish from your TD Bank?

TD Bank's US branches dropped their free Penny Arcade coin counting machines from service last summer. Unless you were paying attention, you may have missed why. On the occasion of its customers receiving a class action settlement card in the mail, I caught readers in Maine up with what happened and how the settlement works in Saturday's Portland Press Herald. (Hint: you may have been shortchanged.)


Friday, September 22, 2017

Turns out the American Nations left a genetic trace too


Some of you may recall the study published earlier this year in Nature Communications, where genetics researchers mapped reproductive clustering in North America in time and space. Many of you forwarded the map they produced because it so strikingly resembled those in American Nations.

I talked to the director overseeing that research at Ancestry and wrote about what the results tell us about the regional cultures for the third installment of "Balkanized America," my American Nations-powered series over at Medium.

Those unfamiliar with the American Nations paradigm will want to first take a look at the first part of the series -- an up-to-date overview of the American Nations model and its wide-ranging implications and utility.

Medium, the blog hosting site created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, is developing a members only section, and invited me to create the series, so you do need to subscribe to read these. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Congress poised to reject many Trump program eliminations


This winter and spring, President Trump rolled out a budget proposal including the complete elimination many domestic programs, including a number whose absence would be noticed in Maine. These included low-income heating assistance, community development block grants, SeaGrant, the programs that fund the Wells Reserve, beach monitoring, radon gas abatement in homes, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Legal Services Corporation, which funds Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

But as I report in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram, the Republican-controlled Congress looks to be rejecting all of that. Both the House omnibus appropriations bill passed on Thursday and the current Senate committee reports that the upper chamber will bring to conference negotiations. The details are herein.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gulf of Maine warming concentrated in summer, which is getting longer

I've been remiss in posting that in this past week's Maine Sunday Telegram I reported on new scientific research that reveals a new level of detail of how the Gulf of Maine is warming.

As discussed in detail in my 2015 series on the warming of the Gulf, the body of water is the second fastest warming part of the world ocean, with plenty of implications for life here, marine and human alike.

The new research -- by a team including many of the same scientists who worked on the previous studies -- shows Gulf summers are getting longer by two days a year, and that almost all the annual warming is concentrated in the summer months meaning, among other things, less of a cold-water "speed bump" is present to protect the Maine coast from hurricanes.

The AP followed up on this story later in the week.

In recent weeks, right whales have been dying in large numbers in the northeast Atlantic -- possibly due in part to secondary climate effects -- and researchers have estimated that many commercial fish species in the Gulf may run out of thermally appropriate habitat in coming decades.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Maine member of Trump voter fraud commission is pretty unhappy

President Trump's controversial voter fraud commission met in New Hampshire yesterday, but not before its vice-chair and de facto leader claimed, based on an erroneous understanding of state law, that the 2016 US Senate election there had been "stolen." And while the meeting was underway, an email surfaced revealing that one of the commissioners had expressed outrage that Democrats or "mainstream Republicans" would be appointed to the body.

It was all a bit too much for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a member of the commission who has been frustrating many fellow Democrats with his "wait and see" stance on its trajectory. As I report in tomorrow's Portland Press Herald, Dunlap called the allegations of a "stolen" election in New Hampshire "absurd" and says he now realizes that the majority view on the commission is that "fraud" is making it easy for people they don't like to vote.

I've been covering the commission regularly, including a story just a few days ago on how it has been using private email accounts to conduct official business, a possible violation of federal public records laws.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Trump voter fraud panel using private emails for official business

President Trump's controversial voter fraud panel is meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire next week, but this week it was accused of violating federal public records law by using private email accounts for official business.

The allegation -- the result of an ongoing transparency lawsuit against the Commission -- is detailed in my story in today's Portland Press Herald, where I interview Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the commission.

I've been covering the commission for the Press Herald all year, most recently this story, wherein we learned that Commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach -- who is now also a paid columnist for Steve Bannon's white nationalist news site Brietbart -- has been taking actions on behalf of the body without consulting with his fellow commissioners, who appear not to have any real powers at all.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On the Maine (and Icelandic) links of the "grandfather" of American neo-Nazis



In September 1955, Maine's Portland Press Herald ran a soft feature on a local guy making good. "Publisher Who Loves Children Brings Out A New First Issue" profiled area resident George Lincoln Rockwell, who had just launched U.S. Lady, a glossy magazine to support the wives of servicemen as they and their families relocated with them. Understandably, his wife Thora and her children featured in the piece and in the photograph illustrating it (above.)

It's a chilling photo because after the magazine failed, Rockwell turned to radical politics, founded the American Nazi Party, and travelled the country calling for the gassing of Jews and other "traitors" and the mass deportation of African Americans before being killed with a sniper rifle by one of his followers.

Thora Halgrimsson, a member of one of Iceland's most powerful families, had left him years before, returning to her native country with their children and her son by a previous marriage. Her second husband, Bjorgolfur Gudmundson, adopted the children and rose to become Iceland's richest man, the chairman of the recklessly aggressive Landsbanki investment bank, and owner of the British football club West Ham United. He has been under a variety of fraud investigations ever since Landsbank's collapse helped bring down Iceland's economy in 2008.

When he learned in 2005 that a biographer had written a chapter in a forthcoming book with details of Thora's marriage to Rockwell, Gundmundson -- who owned the publishing house -- had the copies pulped and compelled the author to expunge most of the material. ("It was irrelevant to the whole story," he told The Observer.) When the Reykjavik tabloid DV broke the Icelandic media's silence on the revelation and published an article on the missing chapter, Gudmundson tried to buy the paper and shut it down.

I came across the clipping (and Icelandic backstory) while researching this week's feature on Rockwell's deep ties to Maine in the Maine Sunday Telegram, which include summers in the Boothbay region, graduating from Hebron Academy, starting businesses in Portland and Boothbay Harbor, living in Falmouth, Lewiston, and Bailey's Island, and serving at Brunswick Naval Air Station. I hope you'll read it.




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Canada looks to Maine's governor to influence Trump on NAFTA

Governor Paul LePage may be seen as a lame duck here in Maine -- where he's alienated many of his legislative allies, betrayed the state's sacrifices in the Civil War, and attacked fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins -- but in Canada, he's seen as a potential savior.

A savior if he can help convince President Trump not to ditch NAFTA, that is. As I reported in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, Canadian officials -- and New Brunswick ones especially -- are hoping LePage has some pull with the mercurial president. Read on for details.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The (Almost) Civil War of 1789



My American Nations-powered series over at Medium, "Balkanized America," continues with a second installment on the deep divisions between our regional cultures in the colonial period, Revolutionary era, and early republic. The article, "The (Almost) Civil War of 1789," is available to subscribers and and is one of at least a half dozen monthly pieces rolling which will run the gamut from hidden history to electoral analysis.

The first part of the series -- an up-to-date overview of the American Nations model and its wide-ranging implications and utility -- published to the site last month. [Update, 9/22/18: the third installment, on new research showing a genetic legacy as well, is up now.]

Medium, the blog hosting site created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, is developing a members only section, and invited me to create the series. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Talking US news of the week on Maine Public radio, Aug 22

Earlier this afternoon, I joined an in-studio conversation about the (extensive) news of the week at Maine Public radio for their live call-in show "Maine Calling."

The discussion -- including host Keith Shortall, University of Maine political scientist Jim Melcher, and the University of New England's dean of arts and sciences Jean Hey -- is now available online here. It also rebroadcasts tomorrow morning, Aug. 23, on the stations of Maine Public broadcasting.

I was last in the Maine Public studios to speak with Tom Ashbrook, who hosted his "On Point" program from Portland earlier this month.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A catastrophic year for North Atlantic right whales

This has been a terrible year for one of the most endangered marine mammals on Earth, the North Atlantic right whale, which has a surviving population of just 500. As I reported in Wednesday's Portland Press Herald, at least a dozen of the rare whales had been found dead off New England and Atlantic Canada, most of them in waters they had not previously been known to frequent.

Another whale carcass has since been reported off Massachusetts.

Why is this happening? Scientists aren't certain, but food -- and therefore climate change -- is believed to be a driving factor. Read on to learn more.

I've reported extensively on the right whales in the past, when it appeared they had finally turned a corner. For more on this, start here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Speaking on Blackbeard and the pirates, seacoast Georgia, Aug. 17


For those in and near the Georgia seacoast, I'll be speaking on Blackbeard and the golden age pirates this Thursday, August 17, at the Coastal Georgia Historical Society on St. Simons Island. It's 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.

The event, part of their Chautauqua Lecture Series, kicks off at 6pm at the society's A.W Jones Event Center. The series has a subscription charge, details herein.

Hope to see you there.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Maine accidentally defunds its state digital mapping office

Belatedly, note that in Friday's Portland Press Herald I have the odd story of Maine having accidentally defunded its state GIS office, which provides geospatial data, maps, and services to a wide range of users, including other state agencies, the private sector, and -- yes -- outfits like Google Earth and Google Maps.

The governor's office and administration don't want to talk about it, and the Democratic chair of the appropriations committee says their explanation doesn't add up, so I suspect we;ll be hearing more about this.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Talking news of the week with NPR's On Point, August 4

NPR's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook is in town this week, and tomorrow, August 4, I'll be joining them live in studio from 10 to 11 am Eastern to talk about the news and developments of the week. Hope you can take a listen. [Update, 16:07 ET: the audio of the program is online now.]

The second hour of the program will also come to you from Portland, Maine, featuring a conversation  being recorded tonight at the University of Southern Maine about a big issue in this little-but-popular city, gentrification pressures.

I was previously a guest on the program a few years back, talking about the golden age pirates.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Exploring the lasting legacy of early Maine and New Hampshire

Readers of The Lobster Coast and American Nations are aware of the lasting effects of Colonial Era events on the future trajectories and characteristics of North America's disparate regional cultures and subcultures. Maine, especially, is shaped by events in the 17th and early 18th centuries, when a distinctive Anglican/Royalist/West Country-influenced society was made a colony of Puritan/Anti-Royalist/East Anglia-domnated Massachusetts. Its a colonial legacy that continues to effect our development, attitudes, values, and economic performance, even though few Mainers today either know the history.

A new exhibit at a museum on the border of Maine and New Hampshire shines a light on this poorly understood period in the two colonies' history, then bound together by shared experience and resistance to Massachusetts overrule. "Forgotten Frontier" is showing at the Old Berwick Historical Society's Counting House Museum in South Berwick, Maine, and I visited and wrote about it in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. Have a look and consider a visit.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sinclair, "must run" commentary, and Maine's WGME


In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I write about the nation's largest owner of local television stations, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, and the "must run" pro-Trump editorials it requires Maine's WGME-13 to run in its newscasts. Check it out.

Sinclair is currently seeking approval from the Trump administration's FCC to acquire two dozen more stations, a move requiring a change in rules governing the market penetration "discounts" granted for UHF stations.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Trump voter fraud commission renews demand for state's voter data -- without commissioners' approval

The vice-chair of President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission has sent a second letter to all fifty states, renewing their demand for detailed voter registration data. But Maine secretary of state Matthew Dunlap, who sits on the commission, said commissioners were never consulted about the move, better yet voting to approve it.

I write about the latest in this story from Friday's Portland Press Herald.

I last wrote about the commission just a week earlier, after their first meeting, in which Dunlap dropped his earlier suggestion that the body look at Russian attempts to infiltrate state election equipment (but declined to endorse Sen. Angus King's urgent call to replace voter machines that have no paper trail.)

[Update, 21:46 ET: Dunlap has announced he won't comply with the second request.]

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Interior Department whistleblower is a Mainer

For Thursday's Portland Press Herald I interviewed Joel Clement, the Department of Interior scientist and research director who wrote a fiery op-ed in Wednesday's Washington Post alleging the Trump administration and Secretary Ryan Zinke had retaliated against him for continuing to call attention to the climate change-driven plight of northern Alaskan Native villages.

Turns out Clement is from Falmouth, Maine, and from a family that tangled with native people back in the 1750s, ironically enough.

Enjoy the story.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Sens. Collins, King warn Trump not to interfere with Mueller probe

In tomorrow's Portland Press Herald, I have this story on Senator Susan Collins' warning to President Trump regarding his implied threat to interfere with or fire Robert Mueller, the Justice Department's Special Counsel looking into the Trump campaign's Russia ties.

Collins says such a move would be an "extraordinarily serious mistake."

Senator Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-1) also warned against interfering with the investigation. Republican Rep. Bruce Poloquin (ME-2) was the odd-man out, dodging the question altogether.

Details herein.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

After first Trump voter fraud meeting, Maine's Dunlap keeping open mind

If you've been wondering what's happening with President Donald Trump's controversial voter fraud commission, look no further than today's Portland Press Herald, where I cover their first meeting.

Among the commissioners is Maine's (Democratic) Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who said he's not going to pre-judge the panel. He also told me he'd agreed with his fellow panelists and commission chair Vice President Mike Pence not to have the body look at Russian infiltration of state election infrastructure after all.

Dunlap also declined to endorse Sen. Angus King's urgently-argued recommendations that all states use voting machines with paper trails and that scientific audits be held to detect tampering.

Details herein.

I last wrote about Dunlap and the commission when it demanded states provide extensive personal information on voters, and before that when Dunlap called for the commission to consider the Russia angle.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Maine removed major dams and river herring have returned in a big way



In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I wrote about the continuing recovery of river herring -- alewives and blueback erring -- in Maine rivers after the removal of major dams and other obstructions in recent years.

The Kennebec has seen the biggest run -- 3.8 million fish -- of the post-dam era, and the St. Croix has set a 20 year record after a legislative sentence against the forage fish was repealed a few years ago.

I've written on alewives quite a few times over the years, starting with the epic argument over the St. Croix fish passages. My Press Herald colleague Kevin Miller had this overview of the effort to remove the dams a couple of years back.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Sen. Collins opposes Senate health bill

In today's Portland Press Herald, I report on how Maine's U.S. Senators have reacted to the latest Republican Senate health care bill.

Both oppose it in no uncertain terms, with Senator Susan Collins' opposition a complicating factor for  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as she is a fellow Republican. Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also opposes it. Details herein.

Earlier this week I reported on Collins and King's reaction to the revelations that the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer with Kremlin ties for the express purpose of getting dirt from her on Hillary Clinton. Both want the presidential son to testify before the senate intelligence committee, which they both serve on. Details here.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Balkanized America" - a series at Medium

Medium, the blog hosting site created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, is developing a members only section, and invited me to create a series of articles there built around the American Nations paradigm.

The result is "Balkanized America," and the first part of the series -- an up-to-date overview of the American Nations model and its wide-ranging implications and utility -- published to the site yesterday. It's the first of at least a half dozen monthly pieces rolling which will run the gamut from hidden history to electoral analysis.

I hope you enjoy.

[Update, 8/23/17: Part 2, "The Almost Civil War of 1789,"  is available now as well.]

[Update, 9/22/18: the third installment, on new research showing a genetic legacy as well, is up now too.]


Thursday, July 6, 2017

CNN Interview now online

A quick housekeeping note:

Last month I was a guest on a CNN special, Bill Weir's States of Change, talking about American Nations. That appearance is now available to watch online here.

You can also watch his hour-long documentary -- with another short interview with me talking about the implications of America's settlement history -- here.

That is all.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Maine will partially comply with Trump election fraud commission demand

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I wrote on how Maine's secretary of state has reacted to the call by President Trump's election fraud commission to turn over a vast array of voter registration data, from social security numbers to party affiliation.

All fifty states were asked -- this appears an effort to create a federal voter database for the first time -- but Maine's case is particularly interesting because Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is (a) a Democrat and (b) a member of Trump's commission.

I spoke to Dunlap Friday morning to get his perspective and to explain why he's providing a certain subset of voter roll information to his commission colleagues (while other states -- including California, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Virginia -- have told them to pound sand.)

Story herein.

I also wrote last week about Dunlap and the commission, on the occasion of his calling for it to also probe Russian infiltration of state electoral systems.

[Update: 6/5/17: Dunlap, on consideration and consultation with the state's Attorney General, has reversed himself and will not supply the data.]


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On pirates in Maine in the Press Herald and on WCSH-6

By coincidence, I both wrote about and was interviewed about pirates in Maine last week.

Maine's NBC affiliates, WCSH-6 here in Portland and WLBZ-2 in Bangor, were curious about the legendary treasure of Jewell Island in Casco Bay. Captain Kidd is said to have left his mother lode there, so could it be true? No, I told them from a float on said bay, but some of the other pirates I wrote about in Republic of Pirates definitely did visit Casco Bay, so anything's possible, however unlikely. Here's the segment.

Those pirates belonged to Black Sam Bellamy's flotilla -- the vessels that survived a spring storm off Cape Cod in 1717, that is. By coincidence, an exhibit of artifacts and treasures from the wreck of Bellamy's flagship -- which didn't make it -- has opened here in Portland, and I have this story in the Maine Sunday Telegram about the pirates and the controversies surrounding the man who found the Whydah.

For those eager to learn more about Bellamy and the golden age pirates, consider my third book.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Sen. King, experts say not enough being done to prevent Russian attacks on state election systems


Last week I talked to Senator Angus King, I-Maine, and other experts about the Russian attacks on state electoral systems. Their message: the threat was real, it continues, and not enough is being done to prevent a potential Election Day disaster.

I report on all this in this article in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram. Another item of note: one of the leading electoral cybersecurity experts in the country says we can't rule out vote tallies having been effected last November, absent a forensic audit of those voting machines that we can actually audit.

On Friday, I reported on how two members of President Trump's commission on electoral fraud -- one of them Maine's secretary of state -- want that body to take up the hacking of state systems. For further coverage on the Russia-and-the-2016 Election story, click on the "Russia" label at the bottom of any of these stories.

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.

[Update, 7/20/17: the commission won't be doing any such investigating, and Dunlap is fine with it.]



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 CNN.com 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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In Maine, an ALEC bill to support a rewrite the US Constitution


In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I have another story involving a model text from the American Legislative Exchange Council making being introduced in the Maine legislature.

This one has national implications: a resolution to have Maine become the 13th state to call for a constitutional convention under Article V of the US Constitution, which would allow delegates to amend or theoretically completely rewrite the nation's fundamental document. It takes 34 states to make the effort binding.

Critics -- including the late Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Warren Burger -- have warned that since there are no rules laid out for how such a convention would function, absolutely anything could happen.

How did the text wind up in Maine? How is it up for a floor vote as early as tomorrow? Read on to find out.

I've written about ALEC in Maine three other times in the past month, including this article and a follow up  on a bill that would prevent towns from building high-speed broadband networks and this article on another that would prevent them from passing pesticide ordinances.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Study predicts Gulf of Maine will become too warm for most ground fish


Regular readers will likely recall "Mayday," a series I did for the Press Herald on the warming of the Gulf of Maine and the challenges it presents for its inhabitants, human and otherwise. In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a story on a new scientific study that models temperature changes in the Gulf at a much higher resolution than previous ones did.

The results are sobering: suitable thermal habitat for many traditional commercial fish species like cod, haddock, pollock, plaice, and redfish will essentially vanish in the last decades of this century. Read on for details.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ohio, Oregon media consider American Nations-guided secession

As readers of American Nations probably know, I'm not a fan of the idea of breaking up the United States, for reasons I outlined more directly in this book review I did for Washington Monthly a few years back. (In short: why would we expect it to turn out peacefully?)

Still, there's something to be said for some states wanting to reconfigure their own borders in ways that better reflect the centuries-old cultural fissures on the continent. This talk has been growing of late, with a split up of California often at the top of the list.

Consider just the past week. Newspapers in two less-discusssed states with massive cultural fault lines -- Oregon and Ohio -- floated secession ideas rooted in American Nations' map.

The first, from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's digital arm, Cleveland.com, muses about Ohio's (New England-settled) Western Reserve becoming the 51st state. (For some more on their overarching topic -- the differences between Cleveland and Cincy -- check out this piece in Cincinnati Magazine.)

The second, from the other Portland's Willamette Week, considers multiple scenarios for dividing the state and the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, they inform us that the American Nations approach is politically unviable because, as they put it, "who wants to show a passport just to visit Pendleton?" (I had to look that up too: it's a small town in eastern Oregon.)

If you're new to this American Nations stuff and want to learn more, try this piece or, of course, the book itself.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Speaking on American polarization, Brunswick, Maine, May 20

I'm pleased to be a panelist alongside Harvard University's Theda Skocpol at the 2017 Maine League of Women Voters Convention this Saturday morning, May 20.

Skocpol, a scholar who studied the Tea Party movement early and thoroughly, and I will be talking with each other, the moderator, and the audience about the roots of the current American political polarization. I'll, of course, be bringing in some of my thinking via American Nations (and, in Maine, the cultural cleavages discussed in Lobster Coast.) Our panel kicks off at 11am.

The convention -- which also features Lewiston Sun-Journal editor Judy Meyer and Maine Public's Irwin Gratz -- kicks off at 9 am at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick. It's open to the public with a $30 registration fee, which includes lunch.

My next public talk is on August 17 at the annual meeting of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society where I'll be talking Republic of Pirates.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Maine: Dam owner wants to walk away, alarming lakeside residents


In Saturday's Portland Press Herald, I have a story from the eastern borderlands of Maine and the United States, where a pulp and paper company has announced it wishes to surrender ownership of two dams, a process that normally would result in their gates being left open, permanently lowering the water level of the lakes they impound.

This, as you'll read, is an alarming prospect to the communities around East Grand Lake -- Maine's eighth largest -- which could fall by six feet, turning waterfront property into interior lots and playing havoc with the local tax base, tourism economy, and ecosystem. Canada's not happy either, and they own half the lake bed and the land under one half of the most prominent of the dams. More, as always, in the story.

I previously wrote about Eastern Maine dams when the state Department of Environmental Protection messed up during the federal relicensing process (again) and also during a debate about allowing the passage of (native) alewives up the river system, and its possible effects on (non-native) smallmouth bass.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Collins mum, King alarmed by Trump's shifting explanation on Comey firing


In Friday's Portland Press Herald, I had a follow up on how Maine's two US Senators -- both of whom sit on the committee leading the key probe into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia -- were reacting to President Trump's shifting explanation for why he fired FBI Director James Comey. On television, Trump said he planned to fire the director regardless of what the Justice Department thought, and made remarks that suggested the FBI investigation of Trump and Russia that Comey was overseeing had something to do with it.

The senators had very different stances.

When asked, Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, promptly sent a statement expressing concern and alarm over the president's "bizarre" statements. Republican Senator Susan Collins -- whose initial statement on the Comey firing accepted and defended the President's original, now discarded explanation -- declined to comment, even though the senator's language has shifted and toughened in more recent public statements on the firing.

More in the story.

[Update, 5/18/17: Here's what Collins had to say about the revelation that Comey wrote memos describing Trump asking him to stop part of his Russia probe from today's Press Herald.]

For more coverage on the Russia-Trump investigation and Maine's senators, click the Russia label here at World Wide Woodard.






Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bill banning Maine towns from regulating pesticides came from ALEC

I've written a fair bit over the years about the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC), a secretive, corporate-funded group that acts as a conduit for corporations to write narrowly self-interested bills and -- behind closed doors --  place them in the hands of willing lawmakers to introduce in state houses and call their own. Often fellow lawmakers and the public don't know where the bills really came from.

ALEC has popped up here in Maine's State House a couple times this week. The latest instance, which I revealed in Wednesday's Portland Press Herald: Governor Paul LePage's bill to stop municipalities from passing pesticide ordinances, which mirrors the ALEC bill drafted by a task force  whose members include two major national pesticide makers and their industry association. Last week, it was a bill to hamper Maine towns from building their own broadband networks when legacy cable and phone companies refused to do so.

There's a pattern here: preemption of local control. Read the story to learn more.

ALEC was also one of the forces involved in drafting LePage's initial rules governing digital charter schools on behalf of national providers K12 Inc and Connections Academy, the subject of this 2012 investigation.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Collins ok with Trump firing Comey, while King calls for him to head Senate investigation


Maine's US Senators have a key role in the investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with and ties to Russia. They both sit on the senate intelligence committee, possibly the only viable probe remaining that might get to the bottom of this issue, and they've generally provided a common front in arguing that it can and will proceed in a professional and bipartisan manner.

But last night's explosive development -- Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey, who was overseeing that agency's own probe of the issue -- appears to have shattered that unity.

As I reported last night and in today's print edition of the Portland Press Herald, the two are taking very different stances on what may be the most explosive development in US politics since President Nixon fired Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation. Collins -- like Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME2) is ok with the firing -- while King (like Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME1) -- is sounding the alarms.

Actually, King went a step further this morning, suggesting the senate committee should hire Comey to head their probe. I have the story on that up at the Press Herald now as well.

[Update, 5/11/17: In the last story, Susan Collins is now the lead because she's said she's considering supporting having the current deputy AG appoint a special counsel for the investigation, a move King described earlier in the day as not helpful in restoring public confidence.]