Saturday, December 30, 2017

Big in Japan: American Nations, now in Japanese

Just as my son's first grade class was embarking on a unit on Japan a couple weeks ago, what should arrive at our front door but a package from Tokyo containing the handsome new Japanese edition of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

Publishers Iwanami Shoten took particular care in creating their edition, which appears in two hardcover volumes, even asking if I could write an updated, Trump Age introduction for the Japanese audience, which I was delighted to do. Co-translator Yoshio Higomoto and was a pleasure to work with. The book looks to have been published in mid-October, though I missed that at the time.

Funny enough, the only other foreign language edition of American Nations is Geulhangari Publishers' Korean edition, and a simplified Chinese edition is coming soon. Northeast Asia leads the way....

[Update, 1/26/18: Japan's Asahi Shimbun came to my home to interview me for a feature on the book which appeared this week.]

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


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sen. Collins under fire from liberals, centrists after tax reform vote

Senator Collins' support of the Republicans' controversial tax reform bill has tarnished her reputation with liberals and centrists, experts told me for this week's story in the Maine Sunday Telegram, but it shouldn't have come as a surprise.

I talked to political scientists in Maine and across the country about how here vote matched with her long expressed principles about the importance of the legislative process, protecting health care, and the deficit. Fairly well, was the answer, in that she's always been for cutting taxes and, within that context, saw her role as mitigating some of the side effects of the legislation. Read on to see why they - and her spokesperson - say so.

None doubted, however, that this vote may well represent a parting of the ways between non-Republicans and a senator who was last reelected in a very purple state with 67 percent of the vote.

In February I did a detailed story on Collins' new, uncomfortable  role as a potential check on the Trump administration, and in April, I had this analysis of Collins' voting pattern over her tenure as Senator. Since then she briefly became a hero to at least non-Republicans in Maine when she opposed her party's uncertain repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but appears to have lost those supporters now.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Federal judge rules against Trump voter fraud commission in dispute with Maine commissioner

Late yesterday evening, a federal judge riled in favor of Maine's member of President Trump's voter fraud commission, who had sought an injunction to force the body to provide him access to information, schedules, and working documents to allow him to fully participate in its proceedings. The judge didn't parse words. Details in the story, which appears in tomorrow morning's Maine Sunday Telegram.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 11-member body, sued the body in federal court after its staff for weeks ignored his request for these documents, alleging violations of the Federal Advisory Commissions Act, which requires commissioners receive communications equally.

Dunlap, initially open minded about the commission, has slowly become one its most vehement internal critic, denouncing its Vice Chair's erroneous accusations about fraud in New Hampshire and the lack of information flow.

For additional coverage of this ongoing story, start here, but don't miss this story and this one.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Can a fallen New Hampshire mill town become the Silicon Valley of human organ manufacturing?

Over at POLITICO, I have the story of how inventor Dean Kamen is leading a $300 million push to resolve bottlenecks in the mass production of genetically-customized human tissues and organs and, he hopes, turn Manchester, New Hampshire into the "Silicon Valley of regenerative medicine."

It's a remarkable vision, and one backed by an $80 million Pentagon grant that's ramping up research-and-development of the processes, manufacturing technology, 3D-printers, and process controls that would allow humans to print and grow their own replacement organs rather than wait on a transplant list. And Kamen has industry giants like Rockwell Automation on board, not to mention the entire political class of his tiny adopted state.

It's also taking place within the Millyard, a once-all-but-abandoned 19th century brick industrial complex that was, back in its heyday, the largest textile manufacturing facility on the planet, and a physical expression of the post-Puritan dream of what a republican industrial utopia might look like, a topic I delved into in detail for this POLITICO piece a couple of years back.

When I met with him, Kamen highlighted the remarkable similarities between what Manchester is trying to do and what I wrote about Winston-Salem, North Carolina having accomplished. I'd have to agree, the parallels are pretty remarkable, right down to the focus on growing of human organs.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Rescheduled: talking Journalism in the Trump Age, Dec. 19 Scarborough, Maine

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, I'll be speaking on "Journalism in the Age of Trump" at the Scarborough Public Library here in Maine. It's rescheduled from last week, when frozen rain compelled a last minute postponement.

The event is presented by the Camden Conference, which kicks of its 31st annual meeting in February on the theme of "World Disorder and America's Future." My talk kicks off at 6:30 pm and is free and open to the public. Details herein.

My next scheduled speaking event is at the the 2018 Forum of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Dallas, Texas, where I'll be presenting the American Nations paradigm and some of the key themes of American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Talking pirates on the Under the Crossbones podcast

Recently Phil Johnson, host of the Under the Crossbones podcast, contacted me and noted that we've next year will mark the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard's death in the Battle of Ocracoke Island. How time flies!

I talked to Johnson about Blackbeard, the Golden Age pirates, and how I researched my history of them, The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Our conversation has just posed online for your pirate listening pleasure.

Thanks to Phil for his interest and hope you all enjoy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Maine: state plan to mitigate the infamous Wiscasset traffic bottleneck turns acrimonious

The state has a plan to mitigate Maine's most infamous summer traffic bottleneck, the one in the historic village of Wiscasset, where US Route 1 passes down Main Street to and from the only bridge for miles that crosses the Sheepscot River, linking the Boothbay and Bristol peninsulas with points South.

It's not going well.

As you can read in my story in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, the town is now opposed to the project and is suing the Maine Department of Transportation to stop it, alleging that it is violating town ordinances and state law and that it changed the project after receiving approval. Among other things, the DOT suddenly decided not to use federal funds, which were to pay for 80 percent of the project's $5 million price tag, thereby avoiding historic preservation requirements. And Gov. Paul LePage threw fuel on the fire with blustery notes to constituents telling them he's had enough of Wiscasset's obstruction and wishes he could put a viaduct right through the center of the village, carrying traffic up and over to the bridge as it does in Bath. And local businesses fear it will destroy the village.

But others support the project, including the select boards of neighboring towns and some business people, who believe the project will revitalize Main Street, not destroy it.

Read on for details.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Speaking on Journalism in the Trump Age, Scarborough, Dec. 12

Next Tuesday I'll be speaking on "Journalism in the Age of Trump" at the Scarborough Public Library here in Maine.

The event is presented by the Camden Conference, which kicks of its 31st annual meeting in February on the theme of "World Disorder and America's Future." My talk kicks off at 6:30 pm and is free and open to the public. Details herein.

[Update, 12/13/17: Due to freezing rain, the event has been postponed to Tuesday, Dec. 19, also at 6:30 pm]

My next scheduled speaking event is at the the 2018 Forum of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Dallas, Texas, where I'll be presenting the American Nations paradigm and some of the key themes of American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Maine: Wiscasset sues state over controversial traffic project

If you've visited Midcoast Maine in the past quarter century of summers, you're probably aquatinted with the state's most notorious traffic bottleneck: Route 1 as it passes through the historic village center of Wiscasset and then over the bridge crossing the Sheepscot River. There's not much way to avoid it -- unless its backed up for miles, in which case even an extra twenty minute diversion up to Sheepscot Village in Alna and back around again is worth it.

The Maine Department of Transportation has a fix in mind. But in today's Portland Press Herald I report on how the town has just filed a suit against the agency, asking a judge to block the plan which they allege breaks state law as well as local ordinances. The project, critics have said, will destroy the downtown, level a 101-year old building, cost Maine taxpayers a load of money, and won't improve the traffic delays.

Sounds like a story worth following.

[Update, 12/13/17: I have a detailed an updated story on the controversy in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

George HW Bush's legacy likely to survive serial groping allegations

For this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I asked a number of presidential scholars, biographers, and political scientists what effect they thought the serial groping allegations against former President George HW Bush would have on his legacy.

Bush is accused of groping ten women -- one of whom was 16 at the time of the alleged incident -- the earliest in 1992 (when he was still president) and the most recent in the summer of 2016. He has not denied any of the allegations and has apologized for some of them.

As you'll read in the piece, scholars say the effect on his legacy will likely be minimal -- assuming nothing further comes out -- in part because not very many people are paying attention.

I wrote about the groping allegations a few weeks ago, wherein we broke news of the fourth accuser, a former Maine Republican state senate candidate.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Facing threat to shellfish industries, Maine doing pretty much nothing

"Mayday," the Portland Press Herald series on the effects -- now and moving forward -- of the rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine, came out two years ago and concluded that Maine wasn't doing enough to confront the threat, particularly in regards to ocean acidification, which is something experts say can actually be mitigated at the state- and local-level. So what's happened since?

As I reported in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram, the state government has essentially done nothing, with legislators choosing not to fund the key recommendations of the bipartisan panel they'd convened to study the problem, or even to enable it to continue working. Leadership and action on the issue has been left to a scrappy group of volunteer scientists and conservationists concerned about the problem.

With Maine's fishing and aquaculture industries at risk, there's some choice words from experts on the issue. Details herein.

For more on the problem, consider reading the "Mayday" series (which was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting) and, especially, the parts on ocean acidification and state inaction.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Maine member of Trump fraud commission not backing down

For months now I've been covering Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap's participation in President Donald Trump's Commission on Election Integrity for the Portland Press Herald. In that time, Dunlap -- one of four Democrats on the now-11 member panel -- has gone from open-minded and cautiously optimistic that the body would be acting objectively and in good faith to a shock and outrage.

In September Dunlap became openly critical of the actions of Vice Chair Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is running for governor of that state and has become a paid columnist for Breitbart, Steve Bannon's controversial media outlet. Kobach had declared there to have been widespread fraud in New Hampshire's 2016 election, citing voting by out-of-state college students that is explicitly legal under that state's law. He was additionally upset to learn, shortly thereafter, that two members of the commission had tried, before being appointed, to ensure no Democrats or "moderate Republicans" be appointed to the body.

Matters have escalated since then, as Dunlap and other Democrats on the body stopped receiving any communications from the commission. Dunlap first responded by formally requesting the group's calendar and working documents, then by filing a federal lawsuit to obtain the same. Now, as I reported in Friday's Press Herald, he has asked the judge for an injunction forcing the body to provide him the documents and to treat him equally as other commissioners. Kobach and allied commissioners are firing back, calling him"paranoid."

Details in the story.

[Update, 12/29/17: The judge agreed with Dunlap and issued the injunction.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bill to "fix" problems in and around Acadia National Park moves forward on Capitol Hill

For those following the effort to resolve jurisdictional and territorial conflicts in and around Acadia National Park, I had an update recently in the Portland Press Herald.

The bills that would fix the issues -- now revised to reflect public comments and supported by the entire Maine Congressional delegation (two Republicans, a Democrat, and an independent who caucuses with the Dems) -- is finally advancing, with a long delayed hearing scheduled for tomorrow at the US House Natural Resources Committee. Among other things, it explicitly permits clammers and wormers rights to dig in the inter-tidal mudflats adjacent to park land.

Details herein.

Friday, November 10, 2017

No, the great US political divide isn't rural vs urban. Here's the proof.

One counter-argument I often hear in regards to the political effects of the American Nations is that regionalism isn't important, that the salient divide in American politics is actually between rural and urban voters.

Nonsense, I've said again and again and again. And now I have comprehensive federation-wide data to prove it.

I crunched the numbers for the past three presidential elections, revealing and comparing not only how rural and urban voters behaved in each of the United States' eleven regional cultures, but even how specific categories of counties voted, from the major metro core counties to the most remote and rural.

I've released the results, posted with maps and tables galore, over at Medium as the latest installment of my ongoing American Nations-powered series, "Balkanized America." They show that regionalism overwhelmingly trumps population density when it comes to political behavior, with people from each class of county exhibiting enormous differences between "nations."

Here's just a taste:

In five of the regional cultures that together comprise about 51 percent of the U.S. population, rural and urban counties always voted for the same presidential candidate, be it the “blue wave” election of 2008, the Trumpist storm of 2016, or the more ambiguous contest in between. In Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, Far West, and New France, rural and urban voters in aggregate supported Republican candidates in all three elections, whether they lived in the mountain hollers, wealthy suburbs, or big urban centers. In El Norte, both types of counties always voted Democratic, be they composed principally of empty desert or booming cityscapes.

I’m not saying urban/rural electoral divides don’t exist – they do in every nation, from France to India – but their predictive power is often greatly exaggerated. And in the case of US presidential elections, they are a grossly inadequate means to interpret the results.

[Update, 11/10/17, 0931: An unrelated programming note: C-SPAN is airing their special Portland, Maine program tonight, Nov.10, at 7:06 pm, including segments with me on two of my other books, American Character and, later, Lobster Coast.]

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Maine member sues Trump's voter fraud commission for access to proceedings

Today Maine's member of President Trump's voter fraud commission sued the body in federal court after its staff for weeks ignored his request for documents and information about its deliberations.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 11-member body, filed the suit at the federal district court for the District of Columbia, alleging violations of the Federal Advisory Commissions Act, which requires commissioners receive communications equally.

Dunlap, initially open minded about the commission, has slowly become one its most vehement internal critic, denouncing its Vice Chair's erroneous accusations about fraud in New Hampshire and the lack of information flow.

For today's story I also interviewed outside experts and another Democratic member of the commission, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who says he is seeking to see the best in the body.

[Update, 11/18/17: Dunlap has now asked the court for an injunction against the commission.]

For additional coverage of this ongoing story, start here, but don't miss this story and this one.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Around Acadia National Park, many await Congressional fixes on boundary limits, fishing rights

In this past edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram, I wrote about legislation waiting attention on Capitol Hill that would resolve tensions over a variety of issues around Acadia National Park here in Maine. Among them: the right of clam and worm diggers to harvest in the mudflats adjacent to park property and making a maximum park boundary line negotiated back in 1986 more "real," after park officials ignored it in a recent expansion. The bill is bipartisan, with identical versions submitted in the Senate by Angus King (an independent who caucuses with the Democrats) and in the House by Rep. Bruce Poliquin (a Republican often allied with Maine Gov. Paul LePage.)

All that in the article.

For more background on Maine's nutty inter-tidal property/access/harvesting laws, see this feature I did a few years back.

[Update, 11/9/17: The bill is finally moving forward, with revisions.]

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Five women, including three with Maine ties, allege groping by George H.W. Bush

With power out across much of Maine -- including my house -- I've been remiss in posting this Portland Press Herald story from the weekend where we broke the fourth groping allegation against former President George H.W. Bush. This one was significant in that it (a) involved a Republican former state senate candidate (so could not be said to be "politically motivated" and (b) is said to have taken place in 2006, when Bush was neither confined to a wheelchair nor believed to be suffering any signs of mental deterioration.

Also in the story: a fifth accuser, revealed in a report by the Erie Times-News, dating back to 2004. Details of all of this in the story.

[Update, 11/28/17: There are now ten accusations against Bush; here's what experts say about the likely effect on his legacy.]

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Scientists say Atlantic right whales on trajectory to be extinct in 23 years

The North Atlantic right whale, the world's second most endangered mammal after the species' Pacific cousin, has has a disastrous year here in the northwest Atlantic. Sixteen of the whales have been found dead since June in New England and Atlantic Canada, more than three percent of the total worldwide population of 450.

Scientists who study the whales met in Halifax this past weekend and warn that the animals will be extinct in just 23 years if present trends continue. They have recommendations as to what should be done and say it should be done now, not after further study. And you can read all about it in my story in yesterday's Portland Press Herald.

I reported earlier this summer for the Press Herald about the right whale die off, with some additional background about the species and how its been monitored. I've reported on the species on and off for nearly a decade for other publications, context you can find by starting here.

A final housekeeping note: for those following President Trump's voter fraud commission, I had this update, wherein Maine's member blasts the group's secrecy and evokes the law to demand he be kept in the loop on its activities.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Talking American Character, Lobster Coast on CSPAN

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

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

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

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

Lobster Coast on "American History," CSPAN-3, Sunday, October 22 during the 2pm Eastern broadcast on Portland, Maine. (For night owls, it repeats Monday, October 23 at 0400 Eastern.)

[Update, 11/10/17: Both segments air tonight on CSPAN-1 in a special Portland, Maine program starting at 7:06pm.]

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

American Nations, now in Korean

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

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

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

Hope those who can read it enjoy.

분열하는 제국 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Turns out the American Nations left a genetic trace too

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Congress poised to reject many Trump program eliminations

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

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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Maine member of Trump voter fraud commission is pretty unhappy

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

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

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

[Update, 11/18/17: Dunlap has now sued the commission and asked for an injunction. For more updated coverage, start here.]

Friday, September 8, 2017

Trump voter fraud panel using private emails for official business

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

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

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

[Update, 11/18/17: Dunlap has now sued the commission and asked for an injunction. For more updated coverage, start here.]

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The (Almost) Civil War of 1789

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A catastrophic year for North Atlantic right whales

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

Another whale carcass has since been reported off Massachusetts.

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

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

For those in and near the Georgia seacoast, I'll be speaking on Blackbeard and the golden age pirates this Thursday, August 17, at the Coastal Georgia Historical Society on St. Simons Island. It's the subject of my third book, The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.

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

Hope to see you there.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Maine accidentally defunds its state digital mapping office

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

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Exploring the lasting legacy of early Maine and New Hampshire

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

[Update, 11/18/17: Dunlap has now sued the commission and asked for an injunction. For more updated coverage, start here.]

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.