Tuesday, February 28, 2017

During recess, Sen. Susan Collins faces protesters at home

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

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

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

Kevin Soo's research on predicting county political behavior.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Talking American Nations with KABC's Peter Tilden

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

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

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump order on regulations unimplementable in fisheries, causing consernation

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

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

Details in the story.

Friday, February 17, 2017

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

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

Details in the story.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Collins defends silencing Warren, and other DC tales

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

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

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

That is all.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Will Susan Collins Save the Republic?

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Talking American Character at Mid-coast Forum on Foreign Relations

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

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Collins not sold on DeVos as education secretary

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

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

Details herein.

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