Tuesday, April 13, 2021

What Netflix's "Lost Pirate Kingdom" Got Right (and wrong) About the Golden Age Pirates



I greatly enjoyed being an on-camera expert for Netflix's hit docudrama series "Lost Pirate Kingdom," which essentially tells the story of the Golden Age pirate gang related in my 2007 work of history, The Republic of Pirates.

But how accurate was the six-part series, which has reignited interest in Blackbeard and his peers in the Flying Gang?

I wrote up my thoughts on that over at Talking Points Memo. Hope you enjoy it and the series.




Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Where to find signed books in coastal Maine, March 31 edition

More than a year into the pandemic I was realizing that I haven't set foot south of Portsmouth, New Hampshire since February 2020, despite having a book come out. But things are slowly loosening up as vaccinations increase and in the past week or two I've been able to sign books at a number of bookstores on the coast of Maine, where I live.

In support of local indie bookstores, I thought I'd advertise where those signed copies are right now. Proceeding from southwest to northeast....

In Portland: at Sherman's on Exchange Street (The American Nations trilogy and Lobster Coast) and Longfellow Books (all of them.)

In Freeport: at Sherman's. (The American Nations trilogy and Lobster Coast

In Brunswick: at Gulf of Maine Books. (Ditto)

In Augusta: at Barnes & Noble. (American Nations, Lobster Coast, Republic of Pirates, Union.)

In Belfast: at Left Bank Books. These copies:

In Bucksport: at BookStacks. (Union, American Nations, American Character.)


In Castine: at Compass Rose Books. These copies:



In Blue Hill: Blue Hill Books. These titles:




Bar Harbor: at Sherman's flagship store. This mountain of books:



Thanks for your support of your local bookstore, wherever you live.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

What's up with Jared Golden, the most successful Democrat in Trumpland?

Maine's second district U.S. Representative, Jared Golden, has been causing a lot of heartburn among fellow Democrats of late. He was the only member of the party not to vote for both the articles of impeachment against President Trump in December 2019, one of two to vote against enhanced background checks and the George Floyd police reform bill, and the sole dissenter on the recent Covid relief bill, which polling shows has overwhelming public support, including from a majority of Republicans. Add to that his opposition to reappointing Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker and his refusal to endorse Democratic nominee Sara Gideon in her ill-fated race against Sen. Susan Collins last year and a lot of them are unhappy.

Except Golden -- a Marine veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq who studied politics at Bates and worked as a Homeland Security committee staffer for Collins -- has done things few other Democrats can. In 2018 became the first person to defeat an incumbent in his district in 102 years, taking out a two-term Republican who sat on the campaign fund-generating banking committee. Last year he got over 30,000 Trump voters to back his reelection, helping him win a district by 6.3 percent that went for Trump by 7.4. His margin of victory is the highest of any House Democrat in a Trump district.

But what's his governing philosophy? Why does he vote the way he does? Does it work for his constituents? What's it mean for any future bid for statewide office? I sat down the Golden -- who is notoriously inaccessible to the press -- for two hours to answer those questions in this Maine Sunday Telegram profile, which also appeared in his hometown Sun Journal. Hope you find it useful.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Telling the pirates' story on Netflix's "Lost Pirate Kingdom"


Netflix's new historical docudrama story on the Caribbean pirates, "Lost Pirate Kingdom," came out Tuesday and is already a hit, standing at #3 of all titles on Netflix's US site, #4 for them in the UK and #1 in Denmark.

It essentially tells the story I revealed in my 2007 work of history The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and The Man Who Brought Them Down, and I appear throughout as one of their taking head experts. But the voice of the show is Derek Jacobi, appropriately enough, the actor who played the aging Duke of Windsor in The Crown, among other roles.

Hope you enjoy the six-episode series. For more on the real story of Blackbeard and his gang, do consider the book, which is also available in UK and Danish editions.






Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Year of Living Distantly

We're one year into the global pandemic and I, at least, feel my heart rate increase when I think back to those scary days in late March and early April 2020 when nobody knew for sure what was going to happen next. Thankfully it appears clear we're at the beginning of the end, and we didn't end up living in The Road.

Among Americans, we Mainers have gotten off lightly, but it's still be a wrenching experience that will transform society. So for the anniversary of the pandemic I took stock in how the pandemic effected and changed different sectors of life, from the elderly who paid the most terrible price to schools, restaurants, hospitals, and the performing arts. You can read it all in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, or online here.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Speaking on Maine's past, present and future at Maine Historical Society, Mar. 11

The pandemic messed with Maine's 200th anniversary celebrations last year, but the Maine Historical Society has rebooted their Bicentennial speaker series this winter and made it virtual. I'm pleased to be able to be their final speaker, offering my take on what the two centuries before and since statehood have meant for Maine and its people.

The event -- a conversation between MeHS executive director Steve Bromage and myself -- kicks off at 6pm on March 11. It's free to members -- though there's a limit of 500 attendees -- but you do need to register ahead of time. You can also become a member, of course, and enjoy the various other perks of doing so. (I've been one since I returned to Maine in 2003 while finishing work on my book on our state's history, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier.

For more on Maine's deep backstory, consider the book or my 2020 Press Herald series "Colony." I also wrote a bit about what his all means for the Boston Globe Opinion section.


Saturday, March 6, 2021

Talking pirates on a forthcoming Netflix series


A few months before the pandemic struck I travelled to a Manhattan studio to film an hours-long interview with a British production company working on a documentary-drama on the Bahamas-based pirate gang who are the subject of one of works of history, The Republic of Pirates.

I'm pleased to see that that series, for Netflix, is being released March 15th and is entitled "Lost Pirate Kingdom." Based on the trailer it should be a hoot.


If you find yourself hankering for more of Blackbeard and his gang's story, do consider checking out the book. And either way enjoy the show.

[Update, 3/15/21: Episode 1 out now.]

Monday, March 1, 2021

United States' myth of nationhood is all-important, but it carries a curse


The United States needs its national myth of shared nationhood more than most countries because it's almost the only thing that has held our rival regional cultures together. But, as I revealed in my latest book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, our civic national myth about being bonded together by fealty to shared ideals has always been contested -- and for decades defeated by -- a rival, ethno-nationalist vision.

I unpack all this in the context of the ongoing crisis exemplified by the attempted ethnonationalist coup on January 6th in this essay for Zocalo Public Square and Smithsonian Magazine, including some advice on how to save the federation and the republic. I hope you enjoy.






Friday, February 26, 2021

Maine: Why the growing regional disconnect between vaccine need and supply?


In yesterday's Portland Press Herald I explored why the state's top public health official had to essentially do a two-minute advertisement to help the mass vaccination site in Bangor fill vaccination slots while the one serving the county with the largest number of still unvaccinated 70+ year olds continued to run under capacity for lack of vaccine.

The answer was surprising, in that that official -- Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah -- and the state's largest hospital network and operator of the southern Maine vaccine site -- have completely contradictory ones. Maine CDC says they continue to give large allocations of vaccine to the Bangor site while those in other parts of the state have huge waiting lists because the other sites don't have the capacity to take more. Not so, says MaineHealth, which says they have latent capacity and been begging for bigger supplies for some time, which Maine CDC isn't giving them.

As you'll see in the story, Shah intimates that MaineHealth hasn't demonstrated an ability to take more, likely an allusion to a scandal involving the vaccination of indelible workers.

For wider context on where Maine stands with the pandemic, consider this "step back and assess" feature I wrote on the last five and half months of the crisis.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Penobscot elder Donna Loring on the future of Maine-tribal relations

Donna Loring has for decades been a major figure in Maine-tribal relations: legislator, tribal council member, aide to two governors, author and public intellectual. Now, fresh off her time as tribal relations advisor to Governor Janet Mills, the Penobscot elder took time to speak with me about her take on the future of the fraught relationship and the prospects for a negotiated reform of the Maine Settlement Act, which restricted Maine tribe's sovereignty.

You can read all about it in this article over at the Maine Sunday Telegram.

For more background on the tribes and the Settlement Act, start here, read about Mills's pardoning of the Passamaquoddy tribe's late attorney Donald Gellers -- driven from the county in a state-directed conspiracy -- and the backstory for understanding the tribes' predicament in "Unsettled," a 32-part series I wrote for the Press Herald a few years back.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Maine and the pandemic: where things stand 11 months on

The second, deadlier coronavirus surge is ebbing in Maine and the U.S. generally -- a good juncture to step back and see where we've been, how things appeared to have played out and why, and what the road looks like ahead. I spoke to experts across the state to put together this story on Act II of the pandemic in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

I did a similar story in late August on what I'd now call Act I. Together they provide a sort of first draft of history on this insane time.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 also fell last week. Details in this story from last Friday's Portland Press Herald.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

How we got here, the stakes and where we go now (in Washington Monthly)



The United States, which was a state before it came up with an argument for being a nation as well, has always been vulnerable to dissolution. An accidental alliance of stateless nations -- the regional cultures described in American Nations -- it had to invent a national story to paper over the massive (and enduring) differences between its component sections (a story told in Union.)

As the social contract our liberal democratic system relies on has been weakened by decades of drift into more extreme forms of individual liberty -- the story told in American Character -- it's now under direct attack again by authoritarian ethnonationalism. It threatens to destroy both the federation and the republic.

How did this happen? What is the nature of the problem? How do we respond to reverse the damage. My thoughts laid out in the new issue of Washington Monthly, written in early December when we were already trundling toward the attempted coup on January 6. 

For more, please consider the three books of the American Nations trilogy, starting with Union.

Thanks to Real Clear Politics for plugging the article earlier this week and to Monthly editors Paul Glastis and Daniel Block for their suggestions and improvements to the piece.

My last print edition story for Washington Monthly was this review of John Keane's The New Despotism.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Senator Angus King on the insurrection and accountability

I spoke with Senator Angus King (I-ME) last night about the attack on the Capitol and his views on how to ensure accountability for those who incited it, and not just the president. 

He also told of his personal experiences at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including his reluctance to bunker with a horde of Senators and their staff, some of whom don't like to follow Covid-19 health guidance. 

The interview is in today's Portland Press Herald and online.

Senator Susan Collins and Rep. Jared Golden have declined interview requests. For Rep. Chellie Pingree's views on accountability, see this piece on the House resolution to investigate members of the sedition caucus.





Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Impeachment: Maine's delegation, save Collins, demands Trump's immediate removal

Three of Maine's four Congressional representatives are now on record demanding Trump's immediate removal from office for his role in the insurrection and terrorist attacks against Congress and the U.S. Capitol last week.

Senator Angus King (I) weighed in today in a statement blasting Trump as a danger to the republic and calling out the 147 members of Congress's "sedition caucus" who, hours after the deadly attack, voted to, in effect, end democracy by overturning a democratic election lost by the president. Details in this Press Herald story from a few hours ago.

Senator Susan Collins, New England's only remaining Republican Congressional representative, has said she will not be commenting on impeachment because of her role as a "juror" in the Senate trial that will follow.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME01) was ahead of the rest of the delegation, calling for Trump's removal almost immediately after the attack and co-sponsoring a House resolution to investigate the sedition caucus and consider removal via the 14th Amendment. Details in this Press Herald story.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME02) didn't reveal his position until last night, but when he did it was a direct and unequivocal condemnation of the president. (Golden just won a second term in a district that went for Trump by 7 points.)

[Update, 1/13/21: Pingree and Golden voted for impeachment this afternoon. Trump became the first president in history to be impeached twice with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in a 232-197 vote.]


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Post-coup attempt, Sen. King and Rep. Pingree support Trump removal via 25th Amendment

A day after President Trump incited a mob to attack the Capitol in Washington, triggering five deaths and the evacuation of the building, half of Maine's Congressional delegation -- that's Senator King and Rep. Pingree -- supports the president's removal. Rep. Golden is taking a considered approach and Sen. Collins office isn't saying what her position is.

Details in my dispatch this evening in the Portland Press Herald.

Also today, because one major ongoing crisis is not enough, an update on the pandemic crisis here in Maine: record Covid-19 hospitalizations this week in the state, including all-time highs at MaineMed, SMHC Medical Center, and York Hospital.

[Update, 1/8/20: As 25th Amendment looks unlikely, attention turned today to impeachment, which appears to be inevitable in the House. But three of Maine's four Congressional representatives aren't -- or aren't yet -- saying where they stand. Details in this evening's Press Herald dispatch.]

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Four dams, the Kennebec River and the future of US Atlantic salmon in the balance

While the pandemic has been raging across the world, a high-stakes battle over the future of one of Maine's largest river systems has been playing out in an obscure federal online docket, one with the future of Atlantic salmon in the United States in the balance.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I wrote about the relicensing battle over one of four dams on the lower Kennebec River that stand between salmon, shad, alewives and the pristine habitat of the Sandy River in Western Maine which, oddly enough, is where I learned to swim and spent a lot of my summers staying cool in as a kid. The struggle is between Brookfield Renewable, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the $100 billion Canadian venture capital firm, (which wants to do technical fixes to let the fish better pass the dams) and the state of Maine, conservationists, and recreational fishing interests (which want at least one and preferably two or three of the dams to be torn down.)

Details in the story.