Saturday, March 25, 2017

Maine internet providers condemn Congress' drive to kill privacy rules

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Feds end contentious northern Gulf of Maine scallop season

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

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

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

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

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

That is all.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Talking American Nations with KUER's Radio West

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

DNA study confirms American Nations map

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's a lot to unpack here, and am hoping to get a chance to do so in more detail moving forward. [Update, 10/14/17: I finally did just that in an extended story for Medium.]

Friday, March 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

American Character now in paperback

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

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

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

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

On Tuesday, March 14, I'll be joining Maggie Haberman of the New York Times and CNN's Steve Collinson at Colby College to talk about the press in the Trump age, with special reference to the 2016 election.

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

My next public talk is on April 24 at St. Joseph's College in Sanford, Maine, where I'll be talking about the issues raised in American Character, like saving the Republic.

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Is Senator Collins really a flip-flopper?

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

So which is it?

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

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Maine senators, congress reps react to Sessions revelations, recusal

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

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

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