Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Big in Japan IV: Talking American Nations with Sekai

While in Tokyo, I spent an enjoyable morning at the offices of Iwanami Shoten, speaking with Rikkyo University historian Hiro Matsubara for Sekai, a leading Japanese political monthly. We covered a wide range of issues related to North American regionalism and American Nations.

Dr. Matsubara's article is in the current issue of the magazine, for those of you who both read Japanese and subscribe. If you're part of that cohort, consider the Japanese edition of American Nations, published by Iwanami.

I was in Japan to speak at the Asahi Forum, but also was able to speak to seminars at Tokyo University and Kyoto's Doshisha University, and wrote about Maine retailer L.L. Bean's success in Japan for the Portland Press Herald.



(Here, for search purposes, is the Japanese title:)

11の国のアメリカ史――分断と相克の400年(上)






Friday, December 7, 2018

Gulf of Maine sees 3rd warmest year on record as monitoring programs wither

The Gulf of Maine -- already the second fastest warming part of the world's oceans -- just saw the third warmest year on the 37-year long satellite record, with average sea surface temperatures reaching levels only seen in 2012 and 2016. As I reported in yesterday's Portland Press Herald, researchers saw unpleasant effects on puffin chicks, sea turtles, and the North Atlantic's biggest kelp forest.

Meanwhile, various federal and state initiatives to boost monitoring and research into the phenomenon have gone nowhere, while funding for several existing monitoring systems has withered, resulting in scientists having fewer means to track what is going on.

Details in the story, but for more background start with this six-part series on the warming crisis in the Gulf, and this piece from a year ago on the state of Maine's response.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

George HW Bush, 1924-2018, an obituary

President George HW Bush -- who had lifelong ties to southern Maine -- died late Friday night at age 94. My obituary for him, the first draft of which was written some six years ago, appears in today's Maine Sunday Telegram and online here.

A little appreciated fact of the Bush dynasty, the most successful political one in US history, is that it was forged on the shores of Kennebunkport, with a marriage that linked the Walkers and Bushes in a vehicle capable of launching its offspring to the White House more than once.

Bush died less than eight months after former First Lady Barbara Bush, whose obituary I also
prepared for the Portland Press Herald.

The couple identified themselves with Texas for political reasons, but through their lives Walker's Point in Kennebunkport was the only constant. They got engaged there, held weddings, family events, and high-level diplomatic events, and spent nearly every summer at the compound. It was their only home in the U.S. during the years they lived in Beijing and at the US Naval Observatory and White House. During World War II they also lived briefly in Lewiston-Auburn, while he was training at the naval air station there.

I hope you enjoy both pieces.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Glenn Beck touts American Nations

Glenn Beck, who appears in the opening to American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, discovered the book earlier this month and posted this tweet:
Someone flagged the tweet for me -- my Twitter handle is actually @WoodardColin -- and I said I hoped he enjoys it. I'm now one of his less than 400 follows, and we engaged in a short direct message conversation about American cohesion, which shows the internet still has its occasional charms.

It appears he's enjoyed it as he's gone further in, as it made the top of today's edition of "Glenn's Bookshelf," his list of recommended books at his blog, Glennbeck.com. It's actually a pretty interesting list, encompassing Orwell, Haidt, Bradbury, and even the master of words-not-action, Ben Sasse. Now if I can just get him to tout American Character....

Sunday, November 25, 2018

On Blackbeard, 300 years after his death, in the New York Times

Republic of Pirates fans take note: 2018 has been the 300th anniversary of Woodes Rogers' landing at Nassau, marking the formal -- if tumultuous and uncertain -- end of the pirate republic, and Thursday was the anniversary of Blackbeard's death in a pitched battle with sailors of the Royal Navy.

I'm thankful that the New York Times opinion editors let me share my thoughts on the significance of this occasion -- and the reasons for Blackbeard's uninterrupted popularity -- in Friday's paper. It's a nice bookend to the tricentennial, a year I started in Bath, North Carolina, talking about the pirate and his death on an iced-in dock with Rogers' unlikely descendent, actress Hilary Duff.  Enjoy the piece.
Also on Thursday back in the U.K, the Bristol Post ran this piece on Blackbeard's real name (it's Edward Thatch, not Teach) based on an interview they conducted with me a few years back. Thatch's family was from the Bristol area, even if the latest evidence -- from researcher Baylus Brooks -- indicates he himself was likely born in Jamaica.

I last wrote on Blackbeard for Smithsonian a few years back, sharing new research by Mike Daniels on his final capture.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How LL Bean Got Big in Japan

I've always been curious how my hometown retailer, LL Bean, managed to succeed in Japan, one of the world's most difficult and unforgiving retail markets for foreign firms. How did the Freeport retailer wind up, back in the 1990s, opening stores in this country halfway around the world before it had even opened one anywhere else outside of Maine? How does it have 28 there now, when it hasn't yet opened one in Canada?

During my recent trip to Japan, I finally had a chance to find out. The unlikely story is in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, and features a chance encounter with an 11 foot tall self-propelled Maine Hunting Shoe at the center of the world's largest city.

I was in Japan to present at the Asahi World Forum, the result of American Nations being released in translation there.

I last wrote from Japan 12 years ago, for Grist on why that country still wants to eat whales.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Maine's Ranked Choice Voting experiment likely to boost efforts elsewhere


This month, Maine became the first state in the nation to hold its federal elections via Ranked Choice Voting, an instant runoff system intended to remove the "spoiler problem" from elections and theoretically, encourage comity and moderation in political candidates. In the state's Second U.S. House District the system was activated after none of the four candidates had a majority of first round votes, and voters made Democrat Jared Golden the winner in their second choices.

Defeated incumbent Bruce Poliquin has declared victory, nonetheless, and is challenging the whole process in federal court on (what experts say are spurious) constitutional grounds, but from a technical perspective the vote went off without a hitch. So what does that mean for the prosoects for Ranked Choice Voting in other states? I talked to a bunch of national experts to answer that question, and you can read what the head to say in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram (or online here.)

This spring, I laid out the whole saga of Maine's effort to adopt ranked choice voting for Politico Magazine, and then, for the Telegram, asked how a theoretically neutral electoral reform intended to reduce partisanship and polarization has become mired in polarization and partisanship, with Maine voters and legislators sharply split on party lines.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The 2018 midterms, the American Nations and Washington Monthly

I have an expanded version of my American Nations-powered analysis of the results of 2018 midterm election here in the U.S. over at Washington Monthly. Please check it out.

For past electoral analysis in this vein, you may also be interested in:

The rural vs urban divide and the American Nations in the past three presidential elections, in the New York Times and, with data tables and such, at Medium.

The 2016 presidential election and the American Nations, including the hows, wheres, and whys of how Donald Trump succeeded where Mitt Romney and John McCan failed (at the Portland Press Herald.)

The 2013 Virginia governor's race and the American Nations.

The 2012 elections and the Republican problem in Yankeedom (Maine Sunday Telegram)

The 2012 primaries and the American Nations.

The 2011 off-year election and the Tea Party's problems at Washington Monthly.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The 2018 midterms and the American Nations

For the past week, readers of American Nations have been asking for an analysis of the midterm elections via the underlying regional cultures identified in the book, which defines our regions based on early colonization patterns and argues that they are and have always been proto-nations. If you’re unfamiliar with the paradigm, you’ll find a good digest here, a quick summary here, and the actual book here.)

With most of the contests resolved, the bottom line is clear: the 2018 midterms exhibited the same regional patterning we’ve long seen in presidential contests, and represents a hardening of regional divides.


argued after the 2016 contest that Donald Trump owed his narrow Electoral College victory to his ability to make gains in the Midlands and rural Yankeedom via very un-Republican communitarian promises he made on the campaign trail: government would rebuild infrastructure, revive US manufacturing, protect entitlements, and replace ObamaCare with something providing better coverage at lower cost. I predicted his failure to keep any of those promises would cause these “Trump Democrats” in places like the Upper Mississippi Valley, upstate New York, and rural Maine to revoke their support of him. His failure to condemn white supremacists, anti-semites, and xenophobes would further consolidate opposition to him in New Netherland (the Dutch-founded area around New York City), El Norte (the Spanish-settled parts of the southwest) and Tidewater (which has been rapidly transforming into something resembling the culturally pluralistic immigrant society of the Midlands.) 

Last week, this is precisely what happened.

At this writing, the Democrats appear to have flipped at least 35 US House seats, and nearly half of them (16) are districts in Yankeedom, the Midlands or straddling the two, including expansive (read: not urban) places like Iowa’s first and third districts, Yankee New York’s 22nd, and, almost certainly once Ranked Choice Voting there is completed, Maine’s white, rural Maine-2, which voted for Obama twice before giving Trump one of the Pine Tree State’s Electoral College votes. Of the remaining pick-ups, 12 were in El Norte, New Netherland, Left Coast and Tidewater. Just two were in the Far West and three in the Deep South. Greater Appalachia – the largest “nation” in the country with a population of nearly 60 million – netted just one.

In statewide contests, Democrats faced heartbreak in close races across Greater Appalachia and in the Deep South, including the Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas Senate contests. That there may have been an effort to steal the Senate and governor contests in Georgia and Florida via voter or vote counting suppression only reaffirms a shameful Deep Southern tradition.  By contrast, their pickups were in states controlled by Yankeedom and/or the Midlands (gubernatorial contests in Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas) and El Norte (New Mexico governor), plus two in Far West (Nevada Senator and governor) -- a region I’ve argued is primed for partisan realignment – and one in a state straddling El Norte and Far West (Arizona Senate.)

Where did Democrats flip state legislative chambers? In Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Minnesota – all Yankeedom -- New York (Yankeedom/New Netherland) and Colorado (Far West again.) Now state legislative control maps almost perfectly to the American Nations fissures. The 30 state houses Republicans fully control include every single state that is dominated by Deep South and Greater Appalachia, plus most of those in the Far West. Sixteen of the 18 state houses Democrats run are Yankeedom (including every chamber in New England), the Midlands, New Netherland, Left Coast and El Norte; the remaining two (Nevada and Colorado) are Far West. Today, only Minnesota has divided government.

At multiple levels of government, the partisan and American Nations maps have become more closely aligned than ever, largely because the parties are more ideologically oriented than ever. Notice the only real exception to partisan sorting involves a species now extinct in Congress: genuinely moderate Republicans of the old Eisenhower/Rockefeller variety that once held sway across Yankeedom. These endangered creatures – the white rhinos of American politics – easily won reelection to the governor’s mansions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maryland.

These are encouraging signs for Democrats in 2020, in that they all point to decisive net Electoral College gains for them over the 2016 map. But they’re yet another ominous sign for the survival of our awkward federation, a place where regional divides have become frighteningly acute.

[Update, 11/16/18: I have an expanded version of this analysis up over at Washington Monthly.]





Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Talking American Nations and the midterms on KABC Los Angeles


While Americans were voting, I rejoined Peter Tilden at Los Angeles' talk radio mega station KABC to discuss American Nations, American Character, and the implications for the midterms. Our conversation is available online as a podcast here. (See the Nov. 6, 2018 link.)

My prediction came true: Democrats made substantial gains in the US House in Yankeedom and the Midlands, flipping seats in Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, northern Illinois and (likely) Maine. Their other gains at this hour were almost entirely in Tidewater, El Norte, New Netherland and the Far West.

I was last on KABC in February 2017.

Enjoy the show and thanks again to Tilden and producer Joe Armstrong for having me on.



Monday, October 29, 2018

Coalition of pro-offshore oil governors is run by oil lobbying firm

Earlier this year, Maine Governor Paul LePage made a stir when he -- alone among Atlantic seaboard governors and in opposition to coastal New England's entire Congressional delegation -- supported the Trump administration's draft plan to open most federal and New England waters to oil and gas exploration.

At the time, I reported how he'd actually called for exactly this policy several months earlier, as chair of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group of pro-drilling governors whose other members area all from states where offshore oil is already extracted. I also put in a public records request for the governor's correspondence with and for the group, which was finally fulfilled this month.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a story on what that request revealed: that the coalition is staffed and administered by employees of a Texas energy lobbying and consulting firm. Details in the story.

The lobbying firm was also active -- via the industry-funded non-profit advocacy groups it runs -- in the debate over solar power incentives in Maine and New Hampshire, and over loosening protections for New England's marine national monument.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Is Pittsburgh in the Midlands?, a redux

One of the great American Nations debates is whether Pittsburgh should be in the Midlands (it should!) or in Greater Appalachia (which some argue for.) For the past five years, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff columnist Brian O'Neill has been occasionally revisiting this question, starting in 2013, with a personal lament that I put his city in the Midlands, and again earlier this year, when he conceded the Appalachian label might not be quite right either.

This week he calls in a third party perspective with this delightful conversation with a self-identified Appalachian, Eric Jester, who argues for an Appalachian identity for the city.

"It's an ambitious man who defines the identity of a people who struggle [to] do so for themselves," Jester says. "The Appalachian in me loves the way a ridgeline dips into some tight little holler with a name like Scotia or Calamity; the way an orange stream dances around and under a tight winding road to the Youghiogheny; the way those fading miners' hoses sag a little in the middle."

Hope you enjoy the piece as I did.

For the record: I'm sticking with the Midlands, though I certainly agree that county-level resolution doesn't capture the subtleties of even first order regional cultural geography. But this placement is due to early settlement history, and to revealing events like the 1794 (Appalachian) siege of the city during the Whiskey Rebellion and not, as Jester writes, because of some "assumption that a beautiful city, a center of education and technology, and an historical hotbed of progressivism, could ever be associated with Appalachia." Greater Appalachia has a great many cities with most or all of those attributes -- Cinci, Louisville, Roanoke, Charlotte, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Nashville, Dallas, and Austin, just to name a few -- and the region pretty much gave us the "democracy" part of our liberal democracy, much to the trepidation of most of the Founders.

Now if only we could get Columbus's columnists to weigh in on that city's inverted status: Appalachian in American Nations, with many residents arguing for the Midlands.....

Friday, October 5, 2018

The making of Terry Hayes, independent candidate for Maine governor


Here in Maine, there's a four-way race to replace Governor Paul LePage, and I've been writing in-depth profiles of each of the contenders for the Maine Sunday Telegram -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The final installment is in this week's Telegram, and is on state treasurer Terry Hayes, one of two independents in the race, who was effectively orphaned at 11, built a career in education, and served in the legislature as a Democrat before becoming state treasurer with largely Republican backing.

The other stories in the series are on Democratic nominee Janet MillsRepublican nominee Shawn Moody; and independent Alan Caron.

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In Japan

I'm at the end of an enjoyable, whirlwind week in Japan. Unless, that is, the whirling winds of Typhoon Trami close Narita airport this late afternoon.

I came on the invitation of the Tokyo daily, the Asahi Shimbun, to present about the American Nations paradigm and its ramifications for the rise of Trumpism at the keynote panel of their Asahi World Forum 2018. Had the pleasure of hanging around the green room for a couple of hours ahead of time with Princeton University's Jan-Werner Muller, author of What is Populism?,  and Pascal Perrineau of Sciences Po, a leading expert on France's National Front. Muller, it turns out, shares my keen interest in Hungary (where I used to live and where his wife is from) and Perrineau is a regular visitor to New England, on account of a recurring visiting lectureship at Middlebury.

Here's Asahi Shimbun's write-up of our panel, if you read Japanese or can make sense of the Google Translate treatment of it. It ran with this dramatic photo of me making a point, probably about the Puritan conquest of Maine.

In the middle of the week, I spoke to graduate students and faculty at the University of Tokyo's Center for Pacific and American Studies on the kind invitation of Prof. Yasuo Endo, and then travelled to Kyoto where I finally met Prof. Yoshio Higomoto, who led the translation of American Nations into Japanese. I enjoyed speaking to his students and colleagues at Doshisha University which, funny enough, was founded by Yankee Congregational missionaries and has remained a leading institution in the study of the United States here, especially early American history.

I was able to spend a beautiful day visiting the temples, mountains, and river gorges of the Kyoto area before Typhoon Trami's approach compelled my premature departure from western Japan. Last night I wound up in the midst of the deserted, sprawling, and beautiful hillside temple complex in the city of Narita, not far from Japan's international airport where -- fingers crossed -- my flight will be departing just as Trami begins battering the Tokyo region early this evening.



[Update, 10/1/18: Wheels up on my flight home about an hour before Tokyo shut down its entire rail system for the first time in history. Typhoon Trami made a mess of that city of 35 million's Monday commute. Two people died elsewhere in Japan.]

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Making of Alan Caron, independent candidate for Maine governor

There's a four-way race to replace Maine Governor Paul LePage, and I've been writing in-depth profiles of each of the contenders for the Maine Sunday Telegram -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The latest is on one of the two independents in the race, Alan Caron, whose life has included an eight-month prison term, brushes with militant radicals, successful community organizing, a career as a leading campaign strategist and proselytizer for an innovation-led "new Maine economy."

It follows last week's story on Democratic nominee Janet Mills and a one on Republican nominee Shawn Moody the week before that. The series concludes with independent Terry Hayes on Sept. 30.

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Big in Japan, Part III: the tour

Iwanami Shoten, the Tokyo based publisher, released a beautifully-executed two-volume Japanese language edition of American Nations a year ago, resulting in an enjoyable in-person interview here in Maine with the New York bureau chief of the daily Asahi Shimbun a few months later.

Now I'm headed to Japan to go on tour, so to speak. Like Wham!, but without George Michaels. Or music. Or the stadium-sized crowds of adoring fans. Ok, not much like that, but still fun.

On September 25, I'll be on a keynote panel at the Asahi Forum 2018 in Tokyo, discussing the populist threat to liberal democracies with fellow presenters Pascal Perrineau (foremost researcher on France's National Front), Masaru Sato (a former intelligence analyst at the Japanese Foreign Ministry) and Princeton's Jan-Werner Muller (author of What is Populism?).

If you are missing the Forum -- registration is now closed -- I will also be presenting on American Nations in two university colloquia that are open to the public.

The first is September 26 at 5 pm at the University of Tokyo's Center for Pacific and American Studies, at their Kombaba campus. Details can be found here.

The following day, September 27 at 4:40 pm, I'll be giving the same talk in Kyoto at Doshisha University's International Institute for American Studies on their Karasuma campus. Details in the attached image:



Hope to see you there.

[Update, 9/30/18: Here's a short post on my trip from here in the field.]





Monday, September 17, 2018

The Making of Janet Mills, Democratic nominee for Maine governor

With Paul LePage term limited, there's a competitive race for Maine Governor this fall. Over the late summer, I've been at work on a series of in-depth profiles of the four general election candidates seeking to replace him -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The latest is on Democratic nominee Janet Mills and appears in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. It traces her origins in a western Maine political family closely allied to the late US Senator Margaret Chase Smith through a half-century career in public service as a criminal prosecutor, district attorney, legislator, women's rights advocate, and attorney general.

It follows last week's story on Republican nominee Shawn Moody. The series continues with independent Alan Caron (on Sept. 23); and independent Terry Hayes (on Sept. 30.)

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Speaking on Maine's identity, history, future in Blue Hill, Sept. 16

I'll be speaking on coastal Maine's cultural and economic background in Blue Hill, Maine next Sunday, September 16 at the Esther Wood Room of George Stevens Academy.

The talk -- entitled "Four Centuries of Coastal Maine Lives and Livelihoods" is sponsored by Colloquy Downeast in collaboration with six local partners, including the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries the Ellsworth American, Brooklin Keeping Society, the Wilson Museum, and the Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society. These are themes I explore in the second of my books, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier.

It kicks off at 3pm. Tickets are $5 at the door and include a light reception following the talk. There's a write-up in the American this week.

My next public talk thereafter is on the other side of the world: on American Nations at the 2018 Asahi World Forum in Tokyo September 25. Free book and a sake for anyone who makes both of these events in person.



Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Making of Shawn Moody, GOP nominee for Maine governor


Maine's bombastic governor, Paul LePage, is term limited and leaves office early next year. Over the past six weeks I've been at work on a series of in-depth profiles of the four general election candidates seeking to replace him -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The first is on Republican nominee Shawn Moody and appears in today's Maine Sunday Telegram, tracing his ascent from the 12-year old kid left alone for a month after his mother was sent to the state mental institution to a self-made millionaire who vanquished three more experienced Republican figures to put the keys to the Blaine House within reach.

The remainder of the series rolls out like this: Democratic nominee Janet Mills (on Sept. 16); independent Alan Caron (on Sept. 23); and independent Terry Hayes (on Sept. 30.) [Updated this with links as available.]

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.




Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Talking American Nations with Maine Public radio's Maine Calling


I was the guest for yesterday's edition of "Maine Calling," the hour-long interview and call-in program of Maine Public radio, talking about the American Nations, their implications for US politics, and the ways in which the transcend the country's rural-vs-urban divide. (The latter the subject of this New York Times Opinion piece two weeks ago.)

The segment -- with some excellent questions from fellow Mainers calling in -- is now also available for online listening at this link.

Thanks again to Maine Public for having me on.

My next public talk in Maine is at the Colloquy Downeast in Blue Hill September 16 (on Lobster Coast themes).


Monday, August 13, 2018

Speaking on the Scots-Irish legacy in Maine and the nation, Aug. 14, Brunswick, Maine

This is the 300th anniversary of the coming of the Scots-Irish to New England and to mark the occasion, there's a multi-day conference taking place this week at Bowdoin College sponsored by the Maine Ulster Scots Project.

The 2018 Diaspora Conference and Reunion opens tomorrow morning, August 14 at Bowdoin's Kresge Hall and continues through Thursday, with presentations from scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.

I'm pleased to be giving the opening keynote Tuesday night on the impact of the Scots-Irish migration on both Maine and North America, issues I wrote about in some detail in The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier and American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America respectively. I'm preceded by Norman Houston, director of the Northern Ireland Bureau, the diplomatic mission of that part of the UK to the US and Canada.

Conference information can be found here.

At 1 pm tomorrow I'm also speaking about the political ramifications of American Nations in Maine Public radio's live interview and call-in program, "Maine Calling." Tune in if you can.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Is Pittsburgh in the Midlands?

In the seven years since American Nations was published, most readers have endorsed their county's placement among the eleven regional cultures I write about in the book. Two locations have generated some sustained pushback, however, both of them border cities on the Midland-Greater Appalachia frontier: Columbus, Ohio (assigned to Greater Appalachia in large part because of lingual evidence) and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (a clear-cut Midland city in my reading of history, but surrounded on three sides by Greater Appalachia.)

This week, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff columnist Brian O'Neill revisited his city's regional identity in this column, where he emphasizes its competing influences and seems to concede that calling it Appalachia might not be sufficient. It's a nice synopsis from the field, and represents a bit of a shift from our friendly debate in 2013, when O'Neill lamented the city's Midland designation (it's "the Paris of Appalachia" he insisted.)

As for Columbus, I've heard both pro and con arguments from readers there for its Appalachian designation, but nothing from the city's intelligentsia. Let's hope they weigh in one of these days -- the Cleveland Plain Dealer did in regards to the Western Reserve's Yankee character in comparison with southern Ohio's Appalachian one -- but not a word from the Dispatch.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Talking American Nations with CityLab, Sen. Collins' Roe position with CSPAN

I recently spoke with CityLab's Laura Bliss about the American Nations framework, where it came from, and how I came to create it. Here's her piece, which appeared last week. (The framework has been getting renewed attention on account of a New York Times OpEd that appeared July 26.)

With a Supreme Court nomination struggle looming, all eyes remain on Republican Senate centrists Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Last CSPAN's Washington Journal about Collins' position on Roe v Wade and the nomination, and what outside legal experts have to say about it. You can find the clip here.
month I spoke with

I last appeared on CSPAN last summer, talking about American Character and The Lobster Coast with their mobile crew on their visit to the Portland, Maine area. Previously, they broadcast my full American Nations talk at Iowa State.

And to round matters out, I appeared in the UK's Bristol Post recently discussing pirates, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard's death. (This the subject of my third book, The Republic of Pirates.)











Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A New York Times American Nations OpEd

The New York Times asked me to write an opinion piece on the political implications of American Nations recently and, to my great pleasure, accepted it and built a terrific graphics package to illustrate the paradigm.

The result was published yesterday at the Times and -- thank all of you -- shot up to be the most read piece on the entire site this morning. I've mentioned before the power of the colorized map in drawing people's attention on social media, and I'm doubly sure of it now.

Thanks to John Guida and Bill Marsh for their time and attention.

For those new to the paradigm -- and wanting to know more, a couple of quick links:

To really understand what this is all about: please do read the book.

To wade in a little deeper without the book: start with this Tufts Magazine piece, which unpacks the paradigm in more detail and uses it to analyze a public policy issue -- violence and gun control -- that isn't presented in the book at all. Or, conversely, look at this Washington Monthly article to see why the (libertarian-captured) Tea Party Movement fizzled in places candidate Trump (relatively communitarian on the stump) would make inroads.

To see more data on the rural vs urban issue: dig into this piece I did for Medium.

For more on Trump and the 2016 election: check out this at the Portland Press Herald.

To find out what's up with Alaska, Hawaii and South Florida: go here.

To see me present the whole thing in detail to an audience: CSPAN's got that.

To explore the central debate of our federal experience -- the proper balance between individual liberty and the common good -- consider reading American Nations' sequel, American Character.




Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mainer makes Putin's interrogation wish list

In today's Portland Press Herald, I have the story of how a guy from Maine wound up on Vladimir Putin's list of Americans he'd like turned over for interrogation, a request he made of President Trump at this week's summit in Helsinki and one that - to widespread horror - Trump appeared to entertain.

Kyle Parker, raised in Old Town, educated at the University of Maine, is a pretty big deal: the guy who by most accounts made the Magnitsky Act happen. If you don't know what that is and why Putin cares, please dig into the story, which includes an interview with Parker.

For a deeper dive into Magnitsky, Parker, and Putin, I recommend this November 2017 story from GQ.

Meanwhile, just to keep things strange, Maine Governor Paul LePage showed up in Montenegro earlier this month to meet with President Djukanovic, supposedly because of the Maine National Guard's 12 year old partnership with the Balkan country. LePage's office, as usual, is providing few details.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

What did pirates look like? My Business Insider interview

The folks at Business Insider recently called to talk about what the Golden Age pirates really looked and acted like because, well, why not?

The interview is up over at their website, with a produced video to illustrate the conversation.

They reached out to me on account of my being the author of a detailed history of this pirate gang, The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, which is available in a bunch of foreign editions - UK, Poland, Spain, Hungary, China, Taiwan, Denmark, and Brazil, if you happen to live in one of those places.

Last week, Business Insider asked a bunch of Wall Street leaders what they recommended for summer reading, yielding a list of 22 books. Thanks to UBS Americas president Tom Naratil for including Republic of Pirates here as well.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Sen. Collins' stance won't save Roe v Wade, experts say

President Donald Trump will announce his latest nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States in a few hours, a nominee who will need 51 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

Those concerned that abortion rights will be overturned by the new court have been focused on two Republican senators who say they support reproductive rights: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maine's own Susan Collins.

Collins' position on Roe and the confirmation process has been consistent, but easily misunderstood for to those who don't follow her and the court closely. It's central tenant: she will judge the nominee based on their fidelity to precedent, with the assertion that this will protect Roe v Wade because it's "settled law."

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I asked several of the country's leading legal scholars what they thought of this reasoning. Most were unimpressed. Find the details here.

For more on Collins' position on this issue, start here.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Talking American Nations on Wisconsin Public Radio, July 4th

For those of you in the Badger State: I'll be your Independence Day guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's morning program from 7 to 8 Central.

Appropriately enough, I'm talking about the ideas in American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and their implications for our history, politics, and shared stability.

For those further afield, I'll post a link to the podcast here when it's available. [Update, 7/6/18: Here's the audio link.]

I've appeared on WPR a couple of times in the past, including to talk about my POLITICO Magazine story on Milwaukee's 21st century reindustraliztion drive, and another on the sequel to American Nations, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

For Sen. Collins, Roe v Wade won't be a line in the sand for Supreme Court confirmation

Senator Susan Collins, considered a critical potential swing vote for those hoping to protect women's reproductive rights in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation process, will not be using support for Roe vs Wade as a criterion in her evaluation of the next nominee.

This clarification of her position -- which is that she will not use any "ideological litmus test" in the process, whether Roe or anything else -- is reported in yesterday's Portland Press Herald. It makes it far less likely that President Trump's nominee will fail to get the 51 votes needed to be confirmed to the lifetime position on the bench.

Details herein, with input from top officials at NARAL and the Planned Parenthood Foundation, AEI's Norm Ornstein, Maine Women's Lobby head Eliza Townsend and former Collins staffer Lance Dustson.

I last wrote about Collins in detail in December, in the aftermath of her divisive vote in favor of the Republican's tax cut measure. Read about her pattern of consistency here, and about her potential role as a check on presidential excess here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

11 Books That Will Make You Smarter About Politics


The folks at Business Insider have been kind to American Nations, re-upping their article on the paradigm a few times over the past couple of years, each time reaching a new cohort of readers previously unfamiliar with the book.

Today they've also included it in this "11 Books That Will Make You Smarter About Politics," in the company of some heavy hitters like David Halberstam, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Madeline Albright. So, thanks again BI!

Partly as a result of their June 18 re-up, for those in the Badger State, I'll be the guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's statewide morning show July 4, 7 to 8 am Central, talking about the American Nations framework and the lessons it brings us. Tune in if you're there!


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Rep. Pingree tours child detention sites in Texas, Rep. Poliquin speaks out against practice

I've been covering the Maine delegation's stance and reaction to the Trump administration's separation of migrant children from their families and the effort to reunify them for the Portland Press Herald.

Two developments:

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-ME01, is in southmost Texas (where I once lived) to inspect child detention centers there. Here's my dispatch -- still updating at this hour as her tour continues -- on what she's found. [Update, 6/24/18: this story now includes latest information on what bills or legislative actions Pingree, Poliquin, Sen. Angus King, and Sen. Susan Collins are taking on the issue.]

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-ME02, who for a time avoided discussing the issue, has taken a strong stance for immediate reunification, backing a new bill to that effect. Details in my story yesterday.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It not only can happen here, it's already started

My congressional representative here in Maine is heading to southmost Texas tomorrow to join a score of her colleagues touring federal detention centers where migrant children taken from their parents are being held. Her questions -- and the fact that they're all legitimate ones -- illustrate where we're at as a country: where are the detained girls? where are the detained babies? are reports that caregivers aren't allowed to touch or hug traumatized children true? Or that kids are being kept drugged to pacify them? how is the government going to reunite children -- especially babies -- with their families, particularly if the parents have already been deported? are they even going to?

The central message of American Character was that liberal democracies fail when the balance between the two pillars of freedom -- individual liberty and the maintenance of the common good -- gets too far out of whack. Written in 2015, before Trump was considered a serious candidate, it warned that the US was in danger of falling into authoritarianism for this reason, and that all the warning signs were present.

This week we learned that we're already there, replete with detention camps for babies and children, border agents effectively kidnapping children to terrorize migrants, and a stunning set of lies and reversals issued from the pulpits of the Trump administration on the issue.

The federation is at a crossroads, and its soul at stake. Let's hope we pass through in one piece.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Talking Maine's 1820 split from Mass. with KQED's California Report


This November, Californians will be asked if they want to split their state into three, a measure spearheaded by venture capitalist Tim Draper. I wrote about some of the problems Draper's borders present, in historical-cultural terms, over at Medium last month.

But this week, I got to talk about an entirely different aspect of historical background on KQED's statewide "California Report": the lessons and precedents set by Maine's split from Massachusetts in 1820.

Readers of The Lobster Coast are aware of the two entities were separate colonies back in the 1640s, when the English Civil War pit Royalist, Anglican, semi-feudal, West Country-dominated Maine against Puritan, Parliament-backing, East Anglia-settled Massachusetts. The execution of the King cleared the way for Boston to annex the Maine settlements, which they ruled as a colony -- the District of Maine -- for nearly 70 years. The War of 1812 -- when Massachusetts refused to defend eastern Maine or help the federal government rollback the British occupation of it -- was just the final blow to Commonwealth unity.

But I digress. Here's a link to the audio of our interview, and here's the web story. (KQED is the San Francisco NPR affiliate, and one of the nation's public radio "superstations."



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Cruise tourism impacts in Maine, a series

Over the past four months I've been at work on a series on the impact of cruise ship tourism in Maine, where most ports of call have a smaller year-around population than the compliment of the larger ships themselves. The results have been appearing in the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram this week, with the final part in today's paper.

The bottom line for Maine communities: taking an ad hoc, reactive approach to cruise tourism has considerable dangers, but if you plan, prepare, and negotiate properly, you can get the outcomes your citizens want, rather than the ones that will just happen to them.

The full series -- Pier Pressure -- consists of five articles over three days, and they're all here for your convenience:

Day 1: "Some in Maine fear cruise ship tourism has gone overboard" (featuring Bar Harbor and the global, business, and historical contexts Mainers should know about.)

Day 1 sidebar: "No discharge fight comes to Acadia region" (Maine has the weakest marine discharge protections in New England, but there's a good explanation for why.)

Day 2: "Long touted economic benefits of cruise tourism far overstated" (How assumptions have been way off for passenger spending and net economic benefits in Portland, Maine.)

Day 2 sidebar: "Lone Portland passenger study made assumptions, overestimated economic impact" (A flawed 2009 study led city officials and residents to unrealistic expectations.)

Day 3: "Cruise ships trigger identity crises for a small city in Maine" (on Rockland and solutions generally for Maine ports.)

Photos by the ever-awesome Greg Rec.

Bar Harbor voters decide today if they want to buy an abandoned ferry terminal so as to ensure it becomes a multi-use facility, not a cruise ship mega-pier. [Update, 6/13/18: They approved the purchase by a more than five-to-one margin.]

In an unrelated note, my thanks to peers and colleagues in the Maine media for kindly recommending me to Pine Tree Watch's list of Maine's Most Trusted Journalists. The others so honored are my Press Herald colleagues (and, remarkably, immediate newsroom desk-neighbors) Mike Lowe, Eric Russell, and Bill Nemitz; Lewiston Sun-Journal managing editor Judy Meyer; Maine Public's Steve Mistler, Don Carrigan of WCSH-6/WLBZ-2, and the Bangor Daily News's Erin Rhoda, Chris Cousins, and Jake Bleiberg. All of us well know this is not an exhaustive list, as Maine is blessed with a great and varied press corps.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Talking pirates with Hilary Duff on TLC's Who Do You Think You Are?

In an unlikely development, I recently returned to Blackbeard's Bath, North Carolina haunt to chat with actress Hilary Duff about one of her ancestors, the man responsible for the pirate's death 300 years ago this fall.

Duff was being whisked around the world for what became this week's episode of the cable television program "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC.; I was there as author of The Republic of Pirates, which tells the story of how Blackbeard came to be in Bath and how Duff's ancestor organized the expedition to kill him. The segment was shot on an unusually cold January morning -- so cold in fact that Bath Creek had frozen over, making boating impossible, so we spoke on a dock surrounded by
mirror-like ice.

Here's an extended clip of our conversation. The full episode -- S9:E4 -- is available here to US cable subscribers with TLC in their package.

Thanks to the excellent team at Shed Media for an enjoyable mid-winter dive into piracy.

I'll next be talking piracy in Nassau, site of the Bahamian pirate republic, in mid-July, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the pirates' downfall. Stay tuned for details. My next public talk is at the Chautauqua Institution in far western New York state July 3, on American Character.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Speaking at the Chautauqua Institution, July 3

On July 3 I have the honor of speaking at the Chautauqua Institution's summer speaker series on the lake in Chautauqua, New York. The event kicks off at 2:30 pm in their Hall of Philosophy.

I'll be talking about the issues raised in American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, which was a finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize. The morning session just ahead of me is with Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker, so I'm looking forward to that as well.

For those of you attending Chautauqua this season, I look forward to meeting.




Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Talking about Maine's Ranked Choice Voting odyssey on NHPR, May 17

For those of you in the Granite State, I'll be your guest in the morning on New Hampshire Public Radio's "The Exchange," talking about Maine's Ranked Choice Voting odyssey.

The program, which runs from 9-10 Eastern, also features Saint Anselm College's Erik Cleven and Connecticut Mirror Capitol bureau chief Mark Pazniokas.

I reported on the crazy twists and turns of Maine's RCV drive for Politico back at the end of March, and on how it the voting reform effort became a partisan flashpoint in the Maine Sunday Telegram early last month.

I'll post the audio of the conversation when it becomes available. [Update, 14:30 ET: the audio is now available at the same link.]

I was last a guest on "The Exchange" back in 2016 about American Character, the epic struggle over how to define freedom in America and how it might be resolved.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bad borders: what US secessionists' proposals miss

The sixth installment of my "Balkanized America" series is up over at Medium, looking at how contemporary US secessionists and state-splitters -- from Ted Draper's "Six Californias" and CAL3 plans to create an independent Cascadia or Texas -- set themselves up for failure by ignoring centuries-old regional fissures.

Those are, of course, the American Nations fissures.

Earlier installments in the series have run the gamut from debunking the assertion that the greatest divide in US politics is between urban and rural voters (hint: regional cultures have a far greater effect) to how the existence of these cultures shaped the run-up to the 1787 constitutional convention and even the reproductive clustering of North Americans (which surprised even me, as the paradigm argues for cultural effects, not genetic ones.)


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Speaking on American Nations and the gun debate, Gloucester, Mass., May 19

I'll be speaking about how the existence of the American Nations helps explain enormous geographic disparities in violence, capital punishment, and gun policies at a public event on Massachusetts' North Shore May 19.

It's the keynote of "Finding Common Ground," a four-hour symposium on gun violence and the application of the Second Amendment organized by the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation taking place from 2 to 6pm at the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church, and including presentations from Gloucester High School students, the commander of the area American Legion Post, and others. My talk starts at about 4. Donations welcome.

Details on the event can be found here.

I wrote on the disparities of the regional cultures in regards to these issues in this 2013 Tufts Magazine cover story.

My next public talk is July 3 at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, on the themes raised in American Character, which was a finalist for last year's Chautauqua Prize.