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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Talking American Nations with KUER's Radio West

Last week, it was my great pleasure to return to Salt Lake City public radio affiliate KUER's "Radio West," this time to talk about American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. The interview is available now in podcast form as well.

Host Douglas Fabrizio is an exceptional interviewer, so I'm delighted to have previously been on the show to talk about American Character and Republic of Pirates.

If you happen to live in Utah, you may also be interested in my recent Politico magazine piece on Envision Utah.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

DNA study confirms American Nations map

From Nature "Clustering of 770,000 genomes reveal post-colonial population structure of North America."

Last month, the journal Nature published a genetic study on ancestral clustering in North America using the DNA tests of 775,000 Americans, ultimately tied to genealogical information, to reveal the settlement and familial patterns of the continent's settlement.

Yes, you guessed it: the results match my American Nations map -- which is based on post-1492 settlement flows -- to what even I found to be a jaw dropping degree.

Remember: American Nations isn't based on genetics. It argues there are distinct cultural regions - stateless nations even -- that were created by separate initial settlement patterns. While obviously this would leave a genetic trace, one wouldn't necessarily expect it to be super strong, especially in areas that had substantial subsequent immigration or intra-regional migration. The argument is that the underlying values of the initial settlement culture shaped the region, even in the later absence of the people themselves.

But turns out the genetic signature is strong and precise as well. Check out, for instance, how the New England settlement of Yankeedom left a strong genetic trace not just in New England, southwestern New Brunswick, and Upstate New York, but even in Michigan, which was settled in the early and middle 19th century. (That Utah is part of this genetic clustering does not surprise, given the Yankee origins of the Mormon religion and migration, as discussed in the book.) See also - despite the smaller numbers - the Yankee traces in the Left Coast parts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Notice also the Appalachian streams: yup, they pour right through the lower parts of the "Midwestern" states, as well as the Ozarks and into Oklahoma and the Texas Hill Country, just as American Nations insisted (much to the chagrin of some in the latter regions.)

There's a lot to unpack here, and am hoping to get a chance to do so in more detail moving forward.

Friday, March 17, 2017

How will Trump's budget affect Maine? Let us count the ways.

In today's Portland Press Herald, seven reporters and I put together a mammoth breaking news story on the effects of President Trump's proposed budget in Maine. With the president proposing to eliminate low income heating assistance, Meals on Wheels, and federal funding for public broadcasting, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, the University of Maine Sea Grant program, the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, and other programs and institutions, it's sobering reading.

The good news: if you're a veteran, work for a military contractor, or would like the nuclear waste stockpiled in Wiscasset to go someplace far away, you'll find some.

There's also this sidebar on how Maine's congressional delegation has reacted. Short answer: badly.

Dig in, and thanks to colleagues Randy Billings, Mary Pols, Eric Russell, Bob Keyes, Ray Routhier, Noel Gallagher, and Jason Pafundi for helping pull this beast together.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

American Character now in paperback

I'm pleased to announce that the Penguin paperback edition of American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good goes on sale today across North America.

The book has a new introduction as well, placing it in the context of Donald Trump's authoritarian-friendly presidency, the very sort of challenge to liberal democracy the book forewarned of.

I'm not doing a paperback book tour, but I have a few upcoming media appearances and public talks, starting with being the guest today on KUER's Radio West -- that's Utah Public Radio -- talking about the book's prequel, American Nations. I'll also be at St. Joseph's College in Standish, Maine discussing American Character on April 24 and giving a keynote on the same at the Q Ideas conference in Nashville on April 27.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

In Maine, critics fear Trump's EPA cuts will damage environment, economy

In today's Maine Sunday Telegram, I write about how critics of President Trump's proposed cuts to the US Environmental Agency fear they will cause significant damage to Maine's environment and economy.

The story includes pushback some or all of the cuts from US Senators Angus King (I) and Susan Collins (R) as well as US Rep. Chellie Pingree, (D-ME1). Maine's other US House member, Bruce Poliquin, did not directly comment on the proposed cuts.

The new story reveals that the NOAA cuts also , which would see their federal funding completely eliminated.

In related stories, I've previously reported on how Trump's "2-for-1" regulatory reform order is expected to paralyze big picture fisheries management, and how an early plan to eliminate NASA satellite monitoring of Earth would upend Maine-based research into the changing climate, and how cuts to NOAA will imperil Maine's popular Wells Reserve at Laudhom Farm, the Great Bay reserve across the border in southern New Hampshire, and 27 other National Estuarine Research Reserves and likely end the popular and successful University of Maine Sea Grant program while alarming Maine's marine community.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Talking media in the age of Trump at Colby College, Mar. 14

On Tuesday, March 14, I'll be joining Maggie Haberman of the New York Times 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 Haberman and Collinson have been covering the administration up close.

My next public talk is 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.

[Update, 3/12/17: Due to a coming blizzard, the event has been cancelled. Colby hopes to reschedule it in the coming weeks.]

[Update, 3/21/17: This event is tentatively rescheduled for April 25.]

Friday, March 10, 2017

Trump's NOAA cuts imperil Wells Reserve and 29 other estuary reserves

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I had a follow-up on Tuesday's report on President Trump's proposal to dramatically cut funding to NOAA, including killing the 50-year old Sea Grant program entirely.

The new story reveals that the NOAA cuts also imperil Maine's popular Wells Reserve at Laudhom Farm, the Great Bay reserve across the border in southern New Hampshire, and 27 other National Estuarine Research Reserves, which would see their federal funding completely eliminated.

In related stories, I've previously reported on how Trump's "2-for-1" regulatory reform order is expected to paralyze big picture fisheries management, and how an early plan to eliminate NASA satellite monitoring of Earth would upend Maine-based research into the changing climate.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trump plan to cut NOAA, kill SeaGrant, alarms Maine marine industries

In this morning's Portland Press Herald, I report on the reaction to President Trump's proposal to dramatically cut funding to NOAA, the government's principle marine-related agency, including killing the 50-year old Sea Grant program entirely.

The University of Maine is one of the nation's 33 Sea Grant universities, and he marine community is expressing alarm at the proposal, which also effects fisheries management, weather forecasting, and Earth observation from space, including documenting climate change. (The latter a major concern in the Gulf of Maine region.)

I've previously reported on how Trump's "2-for-1" regulatory reform order is expected to paralyze big picture fisheries management, and how an early plan to eliminate NASA satellite monitoring of Earth would upend Maine-based research into the changing climate.

[Update, 3/10/17: The NOAA cuts also imperil the Wells Reserve and 29 other estuary reserves across the country.]

Monday, March 6, 2017

Is Senator Collins really a flip-flopper?

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, has long faced charges that she votes on both side of an issue, but it reached a fever pitch over the confirmation of Donald Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who Collins opposed, but voted to let out of committee. Collins has argued that her votes are based on principle, and the procedural ones are often mischaracterized or misunderstood.

So which is it?

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I try to take an empirical approach to finding an answer, analyzing a half dozen prominent cases where she was accused of trying to "have it both ways." The results: her explanations hold water most of the time. Read on for details.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Maine senators, congress reps react to Sessions revelations, recusal

I spent a good chunk of today keeping tabs on Maine's congressional delegation and their reactions to the revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had mislead the Senate under oath about his contacts with Russian government officials, and his end-of-the-day announcement that he was finally recusing himself from oversight of the Trump/Russia investigations. The rest of the world might care because Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, was Sessions' biggest champion when he was up for confirmation and she and Sen. Angus King, I-ME, both sit on the Senate intelligence committee that's supposed to be spearheading Congress's Trump/Russia probe.

My story -- updated several times during the day -- is in tomorrow's Portland Press Herald.

I've been following the Trump/Russia issue in recent weeks, including this story on King and Collins' stance on the intel committee's probe of former National Security Advisor Michel Flynn; this one on Sen. Collins' confidence as recently as last week in the integrity and resolve of the committee to "get to the bottom" of the issue; and this one on Sen. King's deep concern over the actions of committee chair Richard Burr, R-NC, who appears to have compromised the probe by agreeing to downplay the Russia story to reporters at the White House's request.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

During recess, Sen. Susan Collins faces protesters at home

Last week was the annual Congressional recess and, as in most years, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was home for the break. Unlike other years, she was the target of protests and demonstrations from Trump opponents, many of them calling for her to hold an open "town hall" meeting with constituents.

Why is it happening and what does the senator have to say? It's all in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sen. King "deeply troubled" by potential compromise of Russia-Trump probe

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) is "deeply troubled" about revelations that the chairman of the Senate committee probing ties between Russia and the Trump campaign colluded last week with the White House to call reporters and try to talk down recent stories on the issue by the New York Times and CNN. King, as I report in today's Press Herald, is concerned the committee's public trust may have been compromised.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who, like King, serves on the Senate intelligence committee, issued a less direct criticism of the senate chairman's actions, not naming Sen. Burr (R-NC) by name.

Both senators have previously opposed the creation of an independent commission or the appointment of a special prosector to look into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying their committee was the best suited to perform a thorough investigation. As recently as Wednesday, Sen. Collins was pledging that the committee would be "getting to the bottom of this," which I reported in the Press Herald earlier this week.

Collins has also previously said she wanted ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to testify, and that she wanted some committee hearings to be public.

This morning, Axios reports White House communications director Sean Spicer personally placed three-party calls between Burr and journalists to try to discredit the unfolding Russia-Trump stories.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Researcher finds American Nations better predicts county voting behavior than density or state

Kevin Soo's research on predicting county political behavior.

It's been a pleasure having scholars and researchers apply the American Nations paradigm to various research questions. Here's a recent one.

Kevin Soon, a doctoral candidate in cognitive psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, has found that a given county's voting behavior was better predicted by what American Nation it belonged to then by what state it was in or even whether it was densely populated or sparse and rural. Here's his take over at his blog, complete with data visualizations.

Curiously, the size of the county is actually less predictive than the state it is located in, but the regional culture trumps all.

My own take in the 2016 election -- with comparisons to 2008 and 2012 -- can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Talking American Nations with KABC's Peter Tilden

Enjoyed talking about American Nations this morning with Peter Tilden, host of the eponymous show on Los Angeles' talk radio powerhouse KABC. Our conversation is available online as a podcast here. (Our segment starts at 17:28 in the 11 am block.)

Tilden apparently has a pretty engaged audience. The book's overall Amazon sales rank jumped to #453 today. Thanks to all who are going ahead and discovering the book this way, and hope you enjoy.

For those who wanted to learn a bit more about the final point we were discussing in the segment, try this article.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump order on regulations unimplementable in fisheries, causing consernation

In today's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a story on how President Trump's "two-for-ne" regulatory order is causing consternation and uncertainty for U.S. fishermen and marine conservationists alike.

The problem is summed up by a former NOAA Fisheries senior manager thusly: "Let's say you want to implement a regulation to protect a fish. Now you'd have to remove protections on two others, which makes no sense. How would you decide which two? And how would you go through the full rule making to withdraw those, with public hearings and a reasoning that would stand up to court challenge?" The answer: you couldn't. Therefore there will be no fishing regulations that reach the threshold of "significant regulatory actions" going forward so long as the order stands.

Details in the story.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Senators King and Collins want Senate intel committee to conduct Trump-Russia investigations

I've been remiss in posting this story from Tuesday's Press Herald, wherein I talked to Maine US Senator Angus King -- who sits on the intelligence committee -- and Rep. Chellie Pingree about the biggest issue of an insane news week: investigating the Trump administrations' ties to Russia. Among other things, I learned that the committee is indeed investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian diplomats before inauguration day, and that King and Sen. Susan Collins oppose the creation of an independent select committee take over from senate intel. (Pingree says this is essential.)

Details in the story.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Collins defends silencing Warren, and other DC tales

Two stories on Maine's U.S. Senators and Trump cabinet nominee confirmations to share:

In tomorrow's Portland Press Herald, I have this story, in which Sen. Susan Collins (R) defends her vote to silence her colleague, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, for reading a letter from MLK Jr's widow that "impugns" the character of Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for attorney general, who was confirmed by Collins and her colleagues this evening. (Maine's other senator, Independent Angus King, opposed the move.)

In yesterday's Press Herald, I reported on the two senators' votes against education secretary Betsy DeVos, who was also confirmed. (Collins had earlier cast the decisive vote to let DeVos' nomination out of committee.)

That is all.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Will Susan Collins Save the Republic?

For those concerned about President Donald Trump's authoritarian behavior and personal stability, there's a lot of hope being placed in the U.S. system of checks and balances. They only work, people are beginning to realize, if someone acts to do so. With partisan tribalism at perhaps an all-time high and Trump's party in control of all branches of government and chambers of Congress, that actor isn't quite so clear.

Aside from the federal courts, the most obvious countervailing force in time of constitutional curses would be "country-before-party" Republican members of the Senate and -- statistically speaking -- the most likely member to challenge their caucus would be Maine's own Susan Collins.

With that in mind, I spoke to more than a dozen observers of the Senate and American politics, including Collins herself, about if and how she might act. The result is this magazine-like piece in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. I hope you find it informative.

I've been covering the federal-Maine interface since the election, including these stories looking at Collins' full-throated support of Jeff Sessions, Trump's controversial Attorney General pick and her rejection-but-voting-for-her-in-committee of education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, and how a DeVos administration might effect schools in Maine (not that much, it seems.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Talking American Character at Mid-coast Forum on Foreign Relations

I had the pleasure of addressing the Mid-coast Forum on Foreign Relations here in Maine last month on the issues raised in American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, chief among them: how you maintain the Republic.

The talk itself was for members, so I'm very pleased that the stations of Maine Public (formerly Maine Public Broadcasting) broadcast the lecture on their "Speaking in Maine" program yesterday. (I discovered this in a disorienting way: turning on the ignition to my car to hear my own voice lecturing me from the radio.) They have it up as a podcast here, for those interested. I also speak a bit about the 2016 election, fueled from the data in this post over at the Portland Press Herald.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Collins not sold on DeVos as education secretary

In today's Portland Press Herald, I report on Sen. Susan Collins', R-Maine, having cautioned she may not support President Donald Trump's controversial nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, though she did vote to send her candidacy out of committee.

Collins was joined by fellow Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She also revealed an exchange of letters with DeVos in which the nominee pledged not to impose school vouchers -- a penchant of hers -- on any state or school district.

Details herein.

Maine's other senator, Independent Angus King, has already said he will oppose DeVos. I wrote about the education secretary in the Press Herald recently here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trump's EPA freeze prompts confusion among Maine towns, cities with cleanup projects

In today's Portland Press Herald, I have a piece on the confusion and worry President Trump's sudden, ambiguous freeze of Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts has caused in Maine, especially for municipalities in the midst of contamination clean-ups of sites to be redeveloped. (EPA, it turns out, funds a lot of stuff here.) The confusion is all the worse because Trump also placed a gag order on the department, so they can't officially explain what's going on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sen. Angus King will oppose Betsy DeVos's confirmation

In breaking news, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), told me yesterday afternoon that he won't be supporting President Trump's choice for education secretary, Betsy DeVos. The office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) didn't respond to inquires about her position on DeVos. The story is in today's Portland Press Herald.

Last month I wrote about what Maine might expect from a DeVos-run education department. She was also a member of the board of Jeb Bush's education foundation, which was at the center of this 2012 investigation, which won a George Polk Award.

That is all.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Maine hospitals fear ObamaCare repeal

A lot of the focus of the coverage of the effects of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act have focused on how many people would lose coverage. In today's Maine Sunday Telegram, I look at a secondary effect: how all that lost coverage would effect the health and survival of hospitals, especially in a rural place like Maine, where many are already struggling for lack of customers with private insurance.

The message from Maine hospitals, doctors, and public health experts: please don't repeal ObamaCare without a replacement that provides a comparable level of coverage. Details herein.

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, is introducing a replacement plan tomorrow. Its contents and political prospects will be important to follow.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How ruby red Utah became the nation's land use planning leader

Guess where the most ambitious and successful long-range land use planning effort in the U.S. has taken place, one that included the building of an expansive regional commuter and light rail system and has been expanded to cover an entire state?

If you guessed Vermont or Oregon, you'll be surprised to learn its Utah, and my latest piece for POLITICO Magazine's What Works series is on how and why they did it. There's lessons in it for cities and states everywhere, including very conservative ones.

The Deseret News, the statewide Salt Lake City daily owned by the LDS Church, picked up on the piece today with this nice summary, which I appreciate given the church itself declined to participate in the story.

This is my eleventh full-length "What Works" piece over the past year. The others were on how Des Moines went from dull to cool; how Manchester, New Hampshire turned its vast 19th century millyard to spinning high-tech gold; on how Denver built its game-changing light rail system, only to discover its most powerful effects were not what they'd expected; how Cincinnati transformed "America's most dangerous neighborhood"; how Philadelphia repurposed a 1200 acre former naval base;  how Milwaukee breathed life back into a legacy industrial district, creating the manufacturing park of the future; how Roanoke, Virginia went from a train city to a brain city;  how Winston-Salem, North Carolina pivoted from tobacco manufacturing to high-tech innovation and how Burlington, Vermont -- Bernie Sanders' hometown -- became the country's first all-renewable-powered city; and how Albuquerque, New Mexico took on homelessness (under a Republican mayor, no less.) In addition -- on the occasion of the Republican National Convention -- I had this shorter story on how Cleveland revamped its long-neglected Public Square.

After twelve crazed months, I'll be taking a hiatus from piloting the What Works series to catch up on other projects, but expect more as the year progresses.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Analyzing Trump's victory via American Nations on WNPR

Donald Trump will be inaugurated president tomorrow, and if you're still contemplating how it happened, you might check out my interview with WNPR's NEXT, a weekly show about New England.

The conversation is about my American Nations-powered analysis of the 2016 election posted over at the Portland Press Herald, wherein the Greater New England cultural space plays a pivotal role. (If you're in a hurry, scroll down to the "Rural Yankees Defect" segment.)

The full interview is up online. If you live in or near New England, you can also hear it on your public radio station (unless you live in Boston itself, in which case you're out of luck.) Here's the schedule:

WNPR / Connecticut Public Radio: Sunday at 6pm.

Maine Public Radio: Friday at 2 pm. [May be pre-empted by inauguration.]

WNHH (New Haven): Saturday at 8 am.

New Hampshire Public Radio: Saturday at 10 pm.

New England Public Radio: Sunday at 10 pm.

Vermont Public Radio: Sunday at noon.

Enjoy. And thanks again to NEXT for having me on again. (We last spoke for their very first program last year, when we talked about the origins of New England culture.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Talking American Character with BYU Radio

One of American Character's biggest markets, curiously enough, has been Utah, a corner of the ruggedly individualist Far West settled by Utopia-building communitarian planners. So it was my pleasure to talk about the book -- and what it says about saving the Republic -- with Brigham Young University Radio's Matt Townsend on Friday (audio at the link.)

By coincidence, I was just out in Utah for POLITICO Magazine's What Works series, to write about their 20-year experiment in long-rang, collaborative, land-use planning. That story -- out Thursday -- is yet another example of the sort of individual liberty/common good balancing act that cities across the country manage to pull off. If only we could learn to do it at the state and federal level.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Washington Monthly primer on American Nations and 2016 Election

While you're all waiting for Donald Trump's first press conference in half a year, here's a primer I posted over at Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog on my American Nations-driven analysis of the election (itself, data and all, over at the Press Herald.) It summarizes the paradigm for those unfamiliar with it, or who've forgotten it.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On Sen. Collins' championing Sessions nomination

A few minutes from now, Donald Trump's nominee for Attorney General will be introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee by an unlikely champion: Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who by most metrics is the most moderate member of her caucus.

Why is Collins actively supporting the controversial nominee? What do Maine-based women's and civil rights groups think of it? It's all in my story in today's Portland Press Herald.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The American Nations and the 2016 Presidential Election

Thanks to all of you out there who've been asking for my American Nations-driven analysis of the 2016 presidential election. At long last -- and with the help of Christian MilNeil at the Portland Press Herald and Will Mitchell of NBT Solutions -- I'm able to provide that. It's all posted at the Press Herald's website.

The highlights: the regional cultures followed precisely the same partisan pattern as they have in the last three cycles, but Donald Trump's substitution of ethno-nationalism for laissez faire economics on the campaign trail allowed him to outperform his recent predecessors in the Midlands and rural Yankeedom, tipping margins just enough to eke out victory in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, securing an Electoral College victory, but not the popular vote. Details herein.

A note for data geeks: while preparing this analysis, I discovered and corrected an error in the maps published in the book: Bernalillo County, New Mexico -- that's Albuquerque, which coincidentally I wrote from last month in Politico -- should of course be in El Norte, not Far West.

I've been tied up with other professional and family responsibilities this past year and a half -- including the writing and launch of American Nations' sequel, American Character -- so wasn't able to provide frequent analysis of the campaign as it happened, but here are some American Nations-driven pieces I did on past elections and political developments:

* On the regional cultures's constraints on the Tea Party's agenda (that's the laissez faire stuff again).
* On the 2012 Super Tuesday Republican primaries.
* On Obama's Greater Appalachia problem (from 2012).
* On the 2012 presidential and Congressional elections and Dixie-style Republicans' weakness in Yankeedom.
* On why to watch Utah as a potential swing state down the road (2012).
* On regionalism trumping rural/urban splits in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race.
* On regional effects in New Jersey's 2013 gubernatorial contest.
* On why Iowa matters, as the strongest indicator of Midlander thinking (late 2015)

Hopefully I'll have more time in the coming weeks and months to generate more regular analysis.

[Update, 1/13/17: Here's a little primer for all this I put together for Washington Monthly's readers.]

[Update, 1/19/17: I did a long-form interview about this post with WNPR's "Next," a program about New England that airs on public radio stations across the region.]