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.

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 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,, 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.]

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Independent on American Nations

Early this morning I did an interview with a reporter from The Independent, Bridie Pearson-Jones about American Nations. Here's the resulting feature, with lots of maps and not a few quotes from me.

Note that not all the quotes are quite accurate -- I invited a comparison between the 1916 and the 2008 or 2012 presidential county result maps, rather than the 2016 one (which has some distinctive features), and I said we're *not* becoming a purple nation because of the self-sorting phenomenon -- and also that my last name is rendered throughout with an extra w"... but I'm nonetheless pleased book has continued to draw attention on the other side of the Atlantic. [Update, 5/11/17: The Independent has kindly corrected all of this as of yesterday.]

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

An ALEC bill blocking municipal broadband appears and dies in Maine

In today's Portland Press Herald, I had the story of how a bill developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council -- or ALEC -- aiming to hamstring towns and cities' efforts to build their own high speed internet networks appeared in the Maine legislature. Introduced by ALEC's state co-chair, critics denounced the bill as an effort by the major national internet providers like Comcast and Charter/Time Warner to block competition, even in markets they'd chosen not to serve adequately.

In tomorrow's Press Herald there's the news that the legislative committee considering the bill has voted 12-0 against it, with even the bill's author voting not to pass it. This, for all practical purposes, kills the measure.

I wrote extensively about ALEC in 2012, when the organization played a critical role in trying to ghostwrite Maine's digital education policies on behalf of national providers K12 Inc and Connections Academy.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Speaking on American Character May 3 at UMF in Farmington, Maine

I grew up in Western Maine, for a time in a house surrounded by the campus of the University of Maine at Farmington, so it's always a pleasure to return there to speak.

This Wednesday, May 3,  I'll be talking about the ideas and history in my most recent book, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good at UMF's Lincoln Auditorium. The talk -- co-sponsored by the Political Science Department and the Maine Geographic Alliance -- is at 11:50 am (corresponding to when classes change there.) Come if you can.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Amid criticism, Sens. Collins, King defend Senate probe of Trump-Russia ties

This past week saw multiple stories suggesting trouble afoot with the Senate intelligence committee's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including its ties to the Trump campaign and his inner circle. Stories in Reuters, Yahoo News, and the Daily Beast cited committee staffers and members concerned it is delayed, understaffed, and stymied by partisanship.

In today's Maine Sunday Telegram, I ask Maine's senators -- both of whom sit on the committee -- what they think. Both are defending the probe. Details herein.

I've been covering the investigation with some regularity, including the senators' previous affirmations (after the House investigation's credibility collapsed under Rep. Nunes in early April), their concerns with chairman Sen. Burr's actions in March; their intention to include former National Security Advisor Flynn's contacts in their investigation in February.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trump's tariffs on Canadian softwood please Maine sawmill owners

In today's Portland Press Herald, I report on how President Trump's imposition of punitive tariffs against imported Canadian softwood lumber are being seen in Maine, a state where two-fifths of the land area is a continuous softwood industrial forest bordering on Canada. It's a complex situation, but Maine sawmill owners are really happy, and its likely to benefit loggers who work for them too

I wrote about this issue back in December in the Maine Sunday Telegram, after the idea first surfaced.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

With rule repeal, how to keep your digital life private?

Earlier this month, President Trump signed into law a repeal of federal privacy rules preventing your internet service provider from exploiting a broad range of information about your online life without your permission. So what happens now?

My story in today's Maine Sunday Telegram looks at the way forward for privacy-minded consumers, for federal and state lawmakers, and for the internet providers themselves, which will each have to decide what they want to do or not do with data on users, now that there are operating in what one expert called a legal vacuum. For Mainers, a sidebar looks at what some of the state's internet providers are saying. (There's a fair bit of variation.)

I previously reported on the rule repeal when it was still a bill, passed by the Senate (with Sen. Collins' support and Sen. King's opposition) but not yet in the House (where Maine Second District Rep. Bruce Poloquin backed it, and Rep. Chellie Pingree rejected.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Talking media in the Trump Age, Colby College, April 25

On Tuesday, April 25, I'll be joining Ali Watkins of BuzzFeed News and CNN's Steve Collinson at Colby College to talk about the press in the Trump age, with special reference to the 2016 election.

The event, hosted by Colby's Goldfarb Center, is ay 7pm at the Ostrove Auditorium in the Diamond Building. Should be fascinating, especially as Watkins and Collinson have been covering the administration up close in D.C. It's open the the public.

I'm also speaking on April 24 at St. Joseph's College in Sanford, Maine, where I'll be talking about the issues raised in American Character, like saving the Republic, and at the Q Ideas conference in Nashville April 27.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Speaking on American Character, St. Joseph's College, April 24

This coming Monday, April 24, I'll be speaking about my most recent book, American Character, at Saint Joseph's College in Standish, Maine, and the implications of the 2016 election. The title is "American Character: Maine and the Nation in the Aftermath of the 2016 Election."

The event, which kicks off at 3 pm, is free and open to the public. It's in the Viola George Auditorium. Look forward to meeting St. Joseph's students, faculty and staff and readers generally.

Do come if you can. My full event schedule, as always, can be found here. My next public event is a speaking panel at Colby College the following evening, April 25, followed by a keynote at the Q Ideas conference in Nashville Thursday, April 27.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Deeper EPA cuts threaten Maine's economy, environment

Late last month it became public that President Trump has proposed even deeper cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency than those initially reporter. In this past Sunday's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a story on how three more proposed cuts and eliminations will play out in Maine, where they would end federal funding for beach water quality monitoring and the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and cut back on funds to clean up Superfund sites like the Callahan Mine in Brockville.

Critics say the cuts will hurt Maine's economy, and they are also getting a cold, unanimous reception from Maine's Congressional delegation, which consists of two Republicans, a Democrat, and an independent.

I've also written recently about the president's proposed budget cuts generally, his broader cuts to the EPA, the elimination of EPA programs protecting kids from lead paint, his cuts to NOAA and, the Wells Reserve and suggested dismantling of NASA Earth Sciences would effect Maine.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Why did Evangelicals support Trump?

One of the great mysteries of the 2016 presidential election is how it was that 80 percent of Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, perhaps the most un-family values candidate ever to hold a major party nomination.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Frances Fitzgerald has a whopping thick new history of the Evangelical movement out -- The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America -- and it's got a lot of clues to solving the problem. I outline them in my review of the book for the Washington Post. I think it runs in the Sunday print edition, but it's online now. [Update: 10/20/17: Sunday Outlook section, B6.)

Busy with the launch of my own book and a far-flung project for Politico, my last review for the Post was over a year ago: of Tim Marshall's book on geopolitics, Prisoners of Geography.

[Update: 10/20/17: For those in the Upper Hudson Valley, this review also ran in the Albany Times-Union today. And if you happen to live in the Brazilian state of Parana, I've got you covered in Gazeta do Povo (in Portuguese.)]

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump plan to nix programs protecting kids from lead paint gets chilly Maine reception

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a story on how President Trump's proposed elimination of Environmental Protection Agency programs to reduce lead paint exposure in children will likely effect Maine.

As you'll see from the story, the proposal has gotten a frosty reception from Maine's Congressional delegation, which consists of two Republicans, a Democrat, and an independent.

I've also written recently about the president's proposed budget cuts generally, his broader cuts to the EPA, his cuts to NOAA and, the Wells Reserve and suggested dismantling of NASA Earth Sciences would effect Maine.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sen. King says Gorsuch would return US jurisprudence to the early 1930s

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I reported on Sen. Angus King's announcement that he will oppose Neil Gorsuch's elevation to the Supreme Court.

The senator's statement was a long, detailed, and hard hitting brief against President Trump's nominee, who he believes will try to return American jurisprudence to its "pre-1935" state, when there were far fewer protections for ordinary people against what we would now call the one percent. Given that King is a pro-business Independent -- and a lawyer by profession -- it's a pretty strong rebuke. It also means Maine's Senators are splitting on the issue, as Republican Susan Collins is supporting the nominee.

Details in the story.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

As Russia probe pressures intensify, Sens. King and Collins remain confident in their committee

As the U.S House's investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election collapsed this week -- and new revelations shook those following closely -- Maine's senators Angus King (I) and Susan Collins (R) expressed renewed confidence that their Senate investigation will get to the bottom of the issues, including possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

I have the round-up in today's Maine Sunday Telegram.

You should really pick up the paper today, as the ongoing "Lost" series on the opioid epidemic in Maine continues, this time focusing on the repercussions in the lobstering community. Yesterday's installment focused on one hard hit southern Maine town, Sanford. Proud of my Press Herald colleagues for what they've put together.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Rep. Poliquin tries to help Trump reach out to Democrats

Since being elected to represent Maine's second Congressional district, Rep. Bruce Poliquin has had a pretty low profile in the media, largely because he avoids taking public positions on most issues, including even if he supported Donald Trump's candidacy for president, or the North Woods National Monument designation in the heart of his district, or if he would vote to repeal the nation's internet privacy rules on ISPs (he did.)

So it was a bit surprising to have him surface in stories this week in the Boston Globe and Politico discussing President Trump's failed outreach to Congressional Democrats. The news: Poliquin has been acting as a go between trying to broker meetings between at least one moderate Democrat and White House officials. Details in my short piece in today's Portland Press Herald.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Maine internet providers condemn Congress' drive to kill privacy rules

In today's Portland Press Herald, read about the Republican effort to repeal federal privacy regulations that prevent internet service providers from selling the comprehensive data they can collect about their customer's every move, search, click, view, and geolocation. The repeal passed the Senate this week on party lines, with Maine Sen. Susan Collins voting for repeal, independent Sen. Angus King against.

The surprising thing was when I called two of Maine's best-known homegrown internet service providers to get their take, they both condemned it in no uncertain terms. GWI's Fletcher Kittredge had very strong language and a detailed take on just what was at stake that readers everywhere in the U.S. will want to read.

The repeal goes to the US House this coming week, where Maine Rep Chellie Pingree, D-ME1, is strongly against it, and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-ME2, is, as is often the case, non-commital.

[Update: 3/31/17: The measure passed the House. Poliquin voted for it, Pingree against.]

Friday, March 24, 2017

Feds end contentious northern Gulf of Maine scallop season

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I wrote about the contentious federal fishery for scallops in the northern Gulf of Maine, a special management area off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, and part of Eastern Massachusetts.

Federal authorities closed the fishery at 12:01 am yesterday when small boat fishermen hit their 17,000 pound quota for the year. That part is normal. What's surprising: larger vessels had taken more than a million pounds in the same area and the small boat guys were desperately trying to hit the quota to stop large boats from taking more scallops.

Yes, there are different rules at work for two different types of scallop fishermen in the same waters, creating a confusing tension-filled situation that's sparked the close interest of one of Maine's US Senators and US Representatives. Read on in the story to learn more.

My most recent article on fisheries was about the havoc many fear will strike the fishery management world as a result of President Trump's "two-for-one" regulatory order, which experts say is completely unworkable in the fisheries context.

For more on the Gulf of Maine, consider reading my series on climate change in the Gulf, or my cultural history of coastal Maine, The Lobster Coast. For more on fisheries generally, there's my first book on the crisis in the worlds oceans, Ocean's End.

That is all.