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  • Workers and Seniors Arrested In Senator Collins office Demanding She Oppose Massive Tax Giveaway to the Wealthy

    By Ramona du Houx

    Five Maine workers and seniors sat in Senator Susan Collins’ Bangor office on Monday December 4, 2017 demanding Senator Collins oppose the massive tax giveaway to the wealthy. Praticing thier right to protest these peaceful citizens stood up for the rights of millions across the country today, and many in Maine thank them. The cause was something they thought worthy enough for to go to jail.

    “As a nurse, this bill takes healthcare away from thousands of my patients, threatens Medicare and will raise premiums for most Mainers,” said Erin Oberson, a nurse from Old Town. “This is a raw deal for working people.  Senator Collins should do right by Maine and oppose this bill.”

    Jim Betts, a retired State worker and veteran, said, “My wife and I worked our entire lives. We rely on Medicare for health coverage. This bill puts Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block and threatens the healthcare of Maine seniors.”

    “This bill gives massive tax cuts to the rich on the backs of working people.  It was written by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful,” said Nick Paquet, an electrician from Benton.  “Senator Collins knows right from wrong and this bill is dead wrong for Maine.”

    Tina Davidson, a disability rights advocate and veteran, added, “Senator Collins needs to listen to ordinary Mainers. As someone with a disability this bill makes me extremely vulnerable and threatens all people with disabilities.  It will hurt millions of Americans.  We can do better and we all deserve better.” 

    The Republican tax plan gives massive tax cuts to the wealthiest and big corporations; takes healthcare away from thousands of Mainers and raises premium on thousands more, and would deepen student debt. The bill makes deep cuts to Medicare; lays the groundwork for future cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, and facilitates the outsourcing of Maine jobs overseas.

  • Dunlap: I’m on Trump’s voter fraud commission and I have to sue to find out what it’s doing

    Why is a presidential advisory panel on elections operating in such secrecy? Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap filed a lawsuit against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to stop the practice.

    On Nov. 9, I filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington, seeking to obtain the working documents, correspondence and schedule of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. What’s remarkable about my lawsuit is that I’m a member of the commission, and apparently this is the only way I can find out what we’re doing.

    The commission was formed in May to answer monster-under-the-bed questions about “voter fraud,” but the implicit rationale for its creation appears to be to substantiate President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that up to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016.

    Chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, the commission has the chance to answer questions about potential fraud and to highlight best practices to enhance voter confidence in our election systems. Yet it isn’t doing that. Instead, the commission is cloaking itself in secrecy, completely contrary to federal law. Recommendations for changes in public policy – whether you agree with them or not – ought to come through an open, public discussion where any American can weigh in.

    As the secretary of state in Maine, I was asked to serve on this 12-member commission by Pence’s office. Although I’m a Democrat, I accepted because I believed that membership would allow me to defend the election process from a position of authority, as a fully informed and engaged participant in the president’s review.

    The commission has met just twice, but it’s made some waves anyway. Even before we first convened, a June 28 memo signed by commission Vice Chairman Kris Kobach to the chief elections officers of all 50 states, requesting detailed voter information, was met with fury; the Mississippi secretary of state, Republican Delbert Hosemann, invited the commission to “jump in the Gulf of Mexico,” one of many colorful responses. Perhaps more striking is that the memo wasn’t written by staff – it was written by individuals who were later named to the commission but who were working outside of government at the time.

    The letter went out immediately after our first conference call, indicating that Kobach’s data-gathering effort was underway before the commission formed. But no one told members of the commission that; I learned about it from the press.

    At our first meeting, at the White House complex in July, Trump made clear his motivation for convening the commission: “This issue is very important to me because, throughout the campaign and even after it, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw. In some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.”

    The second meeting, held in New Hampshire in September, was electrified by unsubstantiated charges of rampant voter fraud in that state leveled by Kobach, a longtime proponent of the theory that voter fraud is a pressing danger, who also serves as Kansas secretary of state. Strangely, his charges had less to do with how voters in New Hampshire had conducted themselves than with the structure of the state’s election laws, which Kobach apparently dislikes. But neither the agenda for that meeting nor the list of witnesses invited to speak was vetted by the commission as a whole before the public session – it just appeared.

    I’ve served on many boards and commissions in my nearly 20 years in politics. I’ve never seen a session where members only learned about what would happen in a meeting when the agenda became public.

    Since that meeting, there has been total silence from the leaders and staff of the commission about work happening behind the scenes. After repeated instances of learning about the commission’s activities only because reporters asked me about them, I sent a letter to Executive Director Andrew Kossack on Oct. 17 asking for information – including communications between the commissioners and federal agencies – about what the body I’m supposed to be a part of is doing.

    My request was simple: “I am seeking information because I lack it; I am asking questions because I do not know the answers. I am a keen observer of the public discourse, and it has been made manifestly clear that there is information about this commission being created and shared among a number of parties, though apparently not universally. Thus, I am in a position where I feel compelled to inquire after the work of the Commission upon which I am sworn to serve, and am yet completely uninformed as to its activities.”

    More than a week later, on Oct. 25, I received the following reply: “I am consulting with counsel regarding a response to your request to ensure any response accords with all applicable law.”

    That same day, I was forwarded a fundraising email from the conservative Minnesota Voters Alliance touting its invitation to present at our December meeting – the first I had heard that such a meeting was even being contemplated, much less scheduled. When I asked Kossack about our future meetings, he replied that no meeting was scheduled for December. I have yet to hear anything further

    Our itinerary isn’t the only thing I can’t get clear information about. More than a month ago, The Washington Post reported on the arrest in Maryland of a researcher for the commission on charges of possession of child pornography. I can’t get answers about the disposition of the case: Is this researcher still employed by the commission? Has he been placed on leave? Has he resigned? I have no idea, as I have not received a response to my query to the commission.

    The commission was established by executive order under the auspices of the Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA), which requires notice of our public meetings, disclosure of our work product and the opportunity for public participation. FACA was written precisely so Americans would know what the government is doing and what it is considering, so we could participate in that process.

    One of the agencies that some commissioners have been reportedly working with is the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the implementation of the Real ID Act and has designated state election systems as “critical infrastructure.” DHS may decide to enter the field of elections management, under the ubiquitous mantle of “national security.”

    Without transparency about the commission’s actions, how can you find out if a policy is being developed that may require you to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license to vote? Or whether you’ll have to prove American citizenship at the polls? How will you know about changes under consideration to voter registration deadlines or new restrictions on absentee balloting?

    Of course, this is politics. But remember, we as American citizens are supposed to own the process. The desire to prevail in an election campaign has led to some sad episodes of voter intimidation and suppression in our country’s history. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity should endeavor to challenge those fears and answer them, not add to them.

  • Press freedom groups that deserve support in age of Trump

    DONALD TRUMP HAS BEEN A BLESSING, albeit a mixed one, to some First Amendment and media law organizations. Since the election, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has received more than  $3 million in support, including $1 million from Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos. Meryl Streep gave the Committee to Protect Journalists a shout-out during her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards in January, resulting in a flood of donations. And the Freedom of the Press Foundation has stepped up its crowdfunding efforts and its digital security training for journalists.

    The work those organizations do is increasingly important because of the threats posed by Trump’s rhetoric and the economic challenges the news industry is facing, especially at the local level. A study last year reported that 53 percent of US newspaper editors agreed that “news organizations are no longer prepared to go to court to preserve First Amendment freedoms,” while 27 percent said they had been unable to bring a case at their own outlets because of the cost. More journos are working as freelancers, too, and new platforms are less likely to have in-house counsel or the resources to hire trial lawyers.

    So the work the big organizations like the RCFP, CPJ, and FPF do is more and more necessary (and routinely excellent). But they’re not the only players in this space.

    Just a few weeks ago, The Washington Post published a story about the lesser-known Student Press Law Center, which advocates for student journalists. It’s deserving of support, but hasn’t benefited from the recent financial and publicity groundswell. (Disclosure: I’m a volunteer attorney for the SPLC.)

    Groups like the SPLC—dedicated to First Amendment and media law, and doing impactful work, but not as well known as some of its bigger brethren—deserve attention. Many provide niche services or tailored expertise; some are also vulnerable to economic challenges, or risk being overlooked. With that in mind, I recently conducted short interviews with representatives at 10 such organizations. I’m sharing them here in the hope that CJR readers will find the information helpful—or perhaps even consider one of the groups worthy of support.

    I left out many good organizations, some because they’re already well known (the Sunlight Foundation, the Knight First Amendment Institute, and the First Amendment Center), and others because they do First Amendment work but have broader missions ( the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation), and still others because of space constraints.

    That said, here are some First Amendment and media law organizations that deserve attention:

    Our work strengthens First Amendment and related rights for all citizens by ensuring that the attorneys who defend those rights are equipped to do so.

    Media Law Resource Center (Jeff Hermes, deputy director)

    What does the organization do? Our primary focus is on providing the lawyers who represent media organizations and First Amendment interests with the information and resources they need to carry out that role. We also have a charitable sister organization, the MLRC Institute, whose mission is to educate the public [about] First Amendment rights.” Has the main organization’s work changed under Trump? “Certain issues have taken greater prominence: press access to the executive branch; protection of journalistic sources and reporters against retaliation for reporting on the government; and maintaining the strong protections…for media organizations in defamation and other content-liability lawsuits in the face of public statements attacking the press. When the…attacks [began], we asked our members whether they might be available for pro bono help in cases where the administration attempts to use litigation to chill speech, and a large number responded positively.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Most directly, we support our members who receive our benefits…Some MLRC resources are available to the public, too. And more broadly, our work strengthens First Amendment and related rights for all citizens by ensuring that the attorneys who defend those rights are equipped to do so.

    There has been more discussion and a deeper interest among students and teachers about free speech rights.

    First Amendment Law Clinic at Michigan State University College of Law (Nancy Costello, director)

    What does the organization do? “[We] provide pro bono legal [services] to [student] journalists grappling with censorship and other First Amendment issues, …and [we] offer workshops to high school journalists and their faculty advisors…to teach them about student press rights. (Law students teach the workshops, which have visited 40 schools since 2011.) The law students also submit FOIA requests [for] information about policies at Michigan schools to monitor whether they restrict protected speech.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “There has been more discussion and a deeper interest among students and teachers about free speech rights. Much of the class discussion led by [our] law students focuses on current events.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Mostly [student journalists] and their faculty advisors. In the late fall, [we are] launching the McLellan Free Speech Online Library…to provide a cache of legal answers to often-asked questions about student speech and press rights. It will also offer a general guide to news sources [and] a Q&A section for students to send in questions and receive answers in a short period of time. The website will be geared for people between 14 and 21.” 

    We have taken on many new matters dealing with executive branch accountability and potential conflicts of interest in the new administration.

    Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School (Hannah Bloch-Wehba, Stanton First Amendment Fellow)

    What does the organization do? “[We are] a law student clinic dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression. We provide pro bono representation to…news organizations, freelance journalists, academics, and activists…[We’ve] litigated FOI cases that compelled the release of information about the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [and] the rules for closing the military commissions at Guantanamo.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Government accountability, national security, and newsgathering rights have been at the core of [our] work since…2009. The election confirmed the need for our [work], and…we have taken on many new matters dealing with executive branch accountability and potential conflicts of interest in the new administration.” Who benefits from the organization’s work?“Our clients benefit most directly [but not exclusively]…Last year, for example, the clinic obtained a federal court order recognizing a constitutional right of…access to all phases of an execution. We also obtained a court order requiring the Department of Defense to release statistics about the…personnel stationed at its Guantanamo Bay detention center. These are wins not just for our clients…but also for the public.”   

    The president’s negative statements pertaining to US news media create an atmosphere of distrust for our nation’s largest distributor[s] of information about their government.

    National Freedom of Information Coalition (Daniel Bevarly, executive director

    )What does the organization do? “NFOIC and its 45 state affiliates make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies, and procedures to ensure the public’s access to their records and proceedings.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “There is much more attention being focused on…the freedoms of speech and press. The president’s negative statements pertaining to US news media create an atmosphere of distrust for our nation’s largest distributor[s] of information about their government.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “While our organization is dominated by journalists and media lawyers…our programs and work help citizens, journalists, attorneys, businesses, (and anyone who seeks public information).”

    Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? ‘No.’

    Scott & Cyan Banister First Amendment Clinic at UCLA School of Law (Eugene Volokh, director)

    What does the organization do? “We file friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of various organizations and academics in First Amendment cases throughout the country, in state and federal court.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “No.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “The courts, which get useful perspectives; nonprofits such as the Reporters Committee [for Freedom of the Press]…and Electronic Frontier Foundation, whom we represent pro bono; and students, who work on all of the cases.” 

    The highest elected office in the land has set a tone of hostility to free speech and access.

    First Amendment Coalition (David Snyder, executive director)

    What does the organization do? “[Our] mission…is to protect and promote freedom of expression and the people’s right to know…Our activities include free legal consultations for journalists; educational and informational programs; legislative oversight of bills affecting access to government; and public advocacy through writing of op-eds and public speaking.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Our core mission and activities remain the same, but the focus and emphasis have changed…The highest elected office in the land has set a tone of hostility to free speech and access. This…has made much more difficult the work of journalists and others seeking to gather facts in order to understand and critique their government…[W]e see more questions from reporters about the ‘disappearing’ of information from websites…, and the need for litigation that pushes back against the executive branch has increased.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “The public, including the media,…for whom the acquisition and understanding of the government is an essential component of their business model.”

    Trump’s blocking of people on Twitter sparked me to write an op-ed about whether that violated a First Amendment right of citizens to access his account.

    Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida (Clay Calvert, director)

    What does the organization do? “The project analyzes current First Amendment issues—from whether rap music lyrics constitute true threats of violence to the constitutionality of regulating fake news—by filing friend-of-the-court briefs, writing scholarly articles, publishing op-eds, and providing testimony if needed to legislative bodies.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Trump’s blocking of people on Twittersparked me to write an op-ed about whether that violated a First Amendment right of citizens to access his account. His obsession with fake news directly led to three of my graduate research fellows…co-authoring a paper on the First Amendment aspects of regulating fake news. [And] I field more media calls now that Trump is in office. [He] is truly lifetime employment for those of us who comment on [media law] issues. Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Hopefully the public benefits most. That’s why going beyond writing academic articles and amicus briefs is so important. Responding swiftly and thoughtfully to great questions posed by journalists’ calls and emails really is key in the public education process.” 

    Free expression has been a core value of the internet since its earliest days, and it faces increasing pressures from a range of sources, beyond President Trump’s suspicion of the media.

    Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (Vivek Krishnamurthy, instructor)

    What does the organization do? “[We] provide pro-bono legal services…in areas related to law and technology, including First Amendment and media law. Our work…ranges from counseling freelance journalists threatened with defamation claims to representing amici in litigation on state anti-SLAPP laws.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Free expression has been a core value of the internet since its earliest days, and it faces increasing pressures from a range of sources, beyond President Trump’s suspicion of the media. As…more content comes under the control of a few large entities, it’s key to track the consequences and hold those organizations accountable. Policies aimed at reducing online harassment and combating ‘fake news’…may have significant impacts on free speech if not…narrowly tailored.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Ideally, both our clients and our students: the clients in that they receive free, high-quality legal services, and the students in that they develop their knowledge and professional skills.”

    Because of the administration’s anti-press…public persona, I have gotten a lot of calls from media.

    Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University (Roy Gutterman, director)

    What does the organization do? “[We] educate students and the public on…First Amendment values. We host events [and] speakers, and [give] the Tully Free Speech Award to a journalist who has faced significant turmoil in performing journalism…Last year, we honored Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who was in prison in Iran, …and a student told me afterward that meeting him changed her life.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Because of the administration’s anti-press…public persona, I have gotten a lot of calls from media. On campus, I have…participated in a number of speeches and teach-ins to help people understand the role of the First Amendment.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Students and the campus community are the primary beneficiaries…[We] have hosted some of the biggest events on campus [featuring] Daniel Ellsberg, Larry Flynt, and Mary Beth Tinker.”

    "I can’t explicitly relate requests to President Trump, but one wonders if there is a greater willingness to make more specious requests in a culture where the president is regularly caught misleading the public.

    New Media Rights at California Western School of Law (Art Neill, founder and executive director)

    What does the organization do? “We work primarily on the effect that overreach by rights-holders in the copyright and trademark space has on…freedom of speech. We provide legal services, education, and policy advocacy for creators—including journalists, startups, and consumers.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Anecdotally, we have seen an uptick in content takedown defense requests. In addition to that uptick, there is a significant uptick in the amount of [takedown] requests that are baseless. I can’t explicitly relate [those] requests to President Trump, but one wonders if there is a greater willingness to make more specious requests in a culture where the president is regularly caught misleading the public.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? Creators [and others] who need intellectual property, privacy, and media law expertise.And with the proliferation of nonprofit journalism projects, they…need the services any other new nonprofit or business needs. We [draft] contracts for [them], distribution agreements for their clients, and terms of use and privacy policies for their apps and websites. They also need to know how to form and structure the business.”

    Jonathan Peters is CJR’s press freedom correspondent. He is a media law professor at the University of Georgia, with posts in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Law.
  • Journalism is a public service. We should fund it like one

    LOCAL NEWS IS IN DIRE STRAITS.

    In a quest for profit, publishers have gutted newsrooms and hollowed outcoverage of local communities. As the industry struggles to build the business model of the future, it’s missing an opportunity to embrace a funding mechanism that can enshrine journalism as a public service: the special service district.

    The United States currently hosts more than 30,000 special service districts, which fund everything from local fire departments and water infrastructure projects to sanitation services and hospitals. Special service districts are paid for by taxes or annual fees assessed in a geographic area; and, in turn, they deliver services to the communities that fund them. They can be created by town councils or voted into existence via referendum.

    During the past year, my colleagues and I at Community Information Districts worked to lay the foundation for a special service district model for local journalism. Journalists we spoke with were intrigued by the idea, though some become apprehensive when asked to view the proposal as a taxpayer. But we also spoke with taxpayers, who were generally receptive.

    At a series of New Jersey community forums on improving local media across the state, those residents in attendance understood the model and supported the mission. The community news and information needs raised at these events can be met, but not every community can currently support viable business models to meet those needs. That’s where a community information district (CiD) comes in.

    MY HOMETOWN OF FAIR LAWN, New Jersey, has a population of 32,000 people. An annual $40 contribution per household could deliver a $500,000 operating budget to a newsroom devoted to understanding and serving the local news and information needs of its community.

    That budget could support print or online newspapers, or livestreaming town council meetings. A special service district for local journalism could convene community forums or media literacy classes, launch a text message and email alert system, or pay for chatbots that answer locally relevant questions, like “Is alternate side parking in effect?”

    Access to news and information is key to democratic governance. The CiD model offers a financial engine for sustainable and radically local journalism.

    Each community could shape its own information district through a needs assessment or a targeted engagement campaign. To prevent political interference, a board of trustees made up of residents and community stakeholders, could oversee their local CiD. Communities could allocate funding through a participatory budgeting process, and hold regular referendums to determine whether or not it should reauthorize the CiD.

    Community information districts are not a cure-all, and there are obstacles to establishing them. Some communities might resist the notion of an additional tax. Others may not have the tax base to support such services in the first place. We are still looking for solutions to these issues, but they are not insurmountable. Next year, my colleagues and I plan to release a guide to help communities establish their own CiDs and navigate variations in state law. The guide will also establish good governance guidelines, offer samples of legislative language, and outline best practices in local journalism and community information for CiDs.

    Access to news and information is key to democratic governance. The CiD model offers a financial engine for sustainable and radically local journalism, which supports the regional and national press in turn. It provides a direct financial incentive for journalists to leave the coasts, deeply engage their communities, and prioritize the impact of their work above pageviews. CiDs could revitalize and sustain local news, rebuild trust, and increase civic engagement across the country.

  • Maine school boards plead for budget full funding-LePage threatens with veto

    Newport Schools stand to lose $1.5 million under Fredette/LePage proposal

    by Ramona du Houx


    Last night, June 25th, the RSU 19 Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution urging the State of Maine to fund education at 55percent.

    RSU 19 serves the Maine towns of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, and St. Albans and is the school system in House GOP Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s (R-Newport) district.

    On June 26th Governor LePage said he would veto the budget unless his demands were met in his budget proposal, which boils down to cutting education funding in school districts accross the state, amoungst other Draconian measures. 

    Despite twice voter-approved referendums instructing the state to hit this funding level,  Fredette and his House Republican caucus have been steadfast in their support of LePage’s budget proposal.

    “What is it going to take for Rep. Fredette to realize that Mainers want fair funding for their schools?” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “Since he hasn’t responded to voters who have asked for this twice, I sincerely hope he the educators and experts from his own hometown. It is time for Rep. Fredette and his GOP caucus to do the right thing, to support Maine people and fully fund the state’s share of K-12 public education.”

    Under the GOP education proposal, Fredette’s home district would lose $1.5 million dollars and fail to hit the 55 percent target in Maine law.

    According to the RSU 19 School Board, this lack of funding has caused towns in RSU 19 “to make up the difference, often by raising property taxes, cutting essential services, or both.” The board also makes clear that the failure is “preventing RSU 19 from recruiting highly trained, and qualified teachers; and retaining the excellent teachers already employed by the district.”

    Last night, Rep. Fredette’s school board said it loud and clear and even put it in writing - enact a budget that funds public schools at 55 percent as mandated by Maine voters to provide vital educational resources and relief to local taxpayers,” said Bartlett. “On behalf his own constituents, I’d encourage Rep. Fredette to heed their advice and support a budget that finally provides the resources necessary for kids and teachers to succeed.”

  • Maine voters overwhelmingly voted for Research and Development bonds

    The official tabulation of votes from the June 13, 2017 Special Referendum Election show that the bond issue was approved overwhemingly by Maine voters.

    The Elections Division has certified the results and Gov. Paul LePage signed the official vote proclamation.

    The certified election results show a total of 63,468 votes in favor of the bond issue, and 39,549 votes in opposition. Voters cast a total of 104,213 ballots in this single-question statewide referendum, with 1,196 blanks.

    Question 1 asked: “Do you favor a $50,000,000 bond issue to provide $45,000,000 in funds for investment in research, development and commercialization in the State to be used for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs for Maine people, to be awarded through a competitive process to Maine-based public and private entities, leveraging other funds in a one-to-one ratio and $5,000,000 in funds to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in small businesses with the potential for significant growth and strong job creation?”

    The funds will support job growth in Maine’s high tech industries, creating good-paying jobs, new products and new services. Mainers will benefit from innovation in biotech, forest products, marine resources and information technologies. New construction projects will create additional jobs for building contractors, tradespeople, equipment suppliers, and professional service providers, increasing economic activity throughout the State.

    The funds will be administered by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI)www.mainetechnology.org and applicants will be selected through an independent, review process to select projects with the greatest potential for return on investment. Applicants are required to match dollar-for-dollar, the amount of the grant award -increasing private sector investments and accountability.

    The Elections Division will post the results online this week at http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/results/index.html.

    The legislation will become law 30 days from the date of the official proclamation (July 21, 2017).

  • West Virginia journalist arrested after asking HHS Secretary Price a direct news question

    "This formidable censor of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. ME 15:489 about a free press.

    "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786.

    By Samantha Schmidt May 10 - article in the Washington Post

    West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman attempted to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the Republican health-care bill on May 9. He was arrested for “Willful Disruption of State Government Processes." (Valerie Woody/West Virginia Citizen Action Group)

    As Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price walked through a hallway Tuesday in the West Virginia state capitol, veteran reporter Dan Heyman followed alongside him, holding up his phone to Price while attempting to ask him a question.

    Heyman, a journalist with Public News Service, repeatedly asked the secretary whether domestic violence would be considered a preexisting condition under the Republican bill to overhaul the nation’s health care system, he said.

    “He didn’t say anything,” Heyman said later in a news conference. “So I persisted.”

    Then, an officer in the capitol pulled him aside, handcuffed him and arrested him. Heyman was jailed on the charge of willful disruption of state government processes and was released later on $5,000 bail.

    Authorities said while Secret Service agents were providing security in the capitol for Price and Kellyanne Conway, special counsel to the president, Heyman was “aggressively breaching” the agents to the point where they were “forced to remove him a couple of times from the area,” according to a criminal complaint.

    Heyman “was causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price,” the complaint stated.

    But Heyman said he was simply fulfilling his role as a journalist and feels that his arrest sets a “terrible example” for members of the press seeking answers to questions.

    “This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do,” Heyman said. “I think it’s a question that deserves to be answered. I think it’s my job to ask questions and I think it’s my job to try to get answers.”

    Price and Conway were visiting Charleston, W.Va., to hear about efforts to fight opioid addiction in a state that has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate. They met privately with state and local policymakers and members of several groups, including officials of an addiction treatment center and an addiction hotline, according to the Associated Press.

    Before Heyman’s arrest, no police officer told him he was in the wrong place, Heyman said. He was wearing a press pass as well as a shirt with a Public News Service logo on the front, and identified himself to police as a reporter, he said.

    At the news conference, Heyman’s lawyer called the arrest a “highly unusual case” and said he has never had a client arrested for “talking too loud.” The lawyer, Tim DiPiero, described Heyman as a mild-mannered, reputable journalist and called the arrest “bizarre” and “way over the top.”

    Heyman has worked as a reporter for about 30 years, and his stories have appeared in the New York Times, NPR and other national news outlets, he said. Since 2009, he has worked as a West Virginia-based producer and reporter for Public News Service, a nonprofit news service that provides content to media outlets while also publishing its own stories.

    Lark Corbeil, chief executive and founder of Public News Service, said Heyman’s arrest took the organization “very much by surprise.”

    “From what we can understand, he did nothing out of the ordinary,” Corbeil said in an interview with The Washington Post. “He was doing what any journalist would normally do, calling out a question and trying to get an answer.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia said in a statement that Heyman’s arrest constituted “a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press.” It called the charges against Heyman “outrageous” and demanded they be dropped immediately.

    “This is a dangerous time in our country,” the statement read. “Freedom of the press is being eroded every day.”

    Today was a dark day for democracy,” the ACLU of West Virginia added. “But the rule of law will prevail. The First Amendment will prevail.”

    Heyman said he has been reporting on health care issues for many years, calling it “well-trodden ground” in his coverage. As a veteran journalist, he is used to criticism, he said, but he has never heard of a reporter being arrested for asking a question. Heyman said he thinks the public relies on journalists aggressively “pursuing the truth.”

    “If they don’t like the stories I write, that’s fine,” Heyman said. “They can criticize me all they want.”

    “But just saying that I shouldn’t be able to do my job is a bit ridiculous,” he added.

  • First Amendment Coalition opposes ME legislation that would delay release of public records

     
    APRIL 24 LETTER
    The New England First Amendment Coalition recently opposed Maine legislation that would cause unnecessary delays to the release of public records. 

    The legislation, L.D. 1432, allows an agency or official to "require payment of all costs before the public record is provided to the requester" under the state's Freedom of Access Act

    If L.D. 1432 were to become law, NEFAC explained, inexpensive and routine documents could be withheld for the sake of the relatively low fees collected in return, creating "a system ripe for obfuscation and needless delay." 

    The coalition submitted written testimony April 24 to the state's Committee on the Judiciary, which is currently considering the legislation. The testimony was provided on behalf of NEFAC by Maine attorney and coalition board member Sigmund Schutz and Justin Silverman, NEFAC's executive director.

    "L.D. 1432 will discourage public records requests under FOAA and cause unnecessary delay by state agencies and local municipalities," they wrote. "Worse, the law would violate the spirit of FOAA by making it more difficult for Maine citizens to monitor their government."
     
    As explained in the letter, the concern L.D. 1432 seeks to address - loss of money from unpaid records requests - is already covered by the state's public records law:

    L.D. 1432 would allow a custodian to require advance payment for all costs of producing a record - no matter how small - before that record is provided. While this may seem like a practical way for agencies to recoup their costs and prevent non-payment of fees, there is already a sufficient safeguard for agency budgets: § 408-A (10). This provision of FOAA allows custodians to require advance payment for requests made by individuals who have previously failed to pay a fee or are requesting records that will cost more than $100 to produce. Under § 408-A (10), advance payment can be required even before any time is expended on the search and retrieval process.

    The coalition outlined several scenarios under which the legislation could lead to excessive delays, including when a fee dispute arises between the custodian and requester. Rather than releasing the reports in expectation of future payment, the custodian in this example could instead use the new law to withhold all documents until a court adjudicates the conflict and payment is made. The public interest in those reports would meanwhile dissipate in the delay.

    The legislation also conflicts with the spirit of FOAA, the coalition testified, and would ultimately cost more to the public's right to know than whatever financial savings may occur. 

    "The intent of FOAA is to open government records to public view so Maine residents can better oversee the work being done on their behalf," according to the coalition. "The law should facilitate the flow of information not allow basic low-cost record requests to bottleneck while payment is pending."
  • Maine Freedom of Information Council shows more Lawmakers supporting Government Transparency efforts

    In a report for Sunshine Week last year, the Maine Freedom of Information Council wrote:

    “All over the United States, as well as in many other countries, there seems to be a surge of efforts by governments to limit access to information collected, generated, or held by governments at all levels.

    “Sometimes limitations are enacted in the name of security (national or local); sometimes in the name of privacy; sometimes because providing that information would be ‘a burden’ on government agencies; sometimes to protect ‘trade secrets’ whose public availability would offend businesses that states are increasingly trying to retain or woo to bolster their economies. Whatever the proffered justification, the result is the same: additional limitations on citizen access to information that taxpayers are footing the bill for.”

    The very same introduction applies during Sunshine Week 2017, although perhaps even more strongly now. Here is a summary of some of the issues the MFOIC has acted on since last year.

    Legislative Candidate’s Pledge

    MFOIC contacted all 365 candidates for the Maine Legislature running in the November 2016 election and asked them if they would sign a pledge “to uphold and protect the letter and the spirit of the Maine Freedom of Access Act.”

    Of the 365 candidates, 86 said they were willing to sign the pledge. (Several others said they supported the content but did not feel that candidates should be asked to sign pledges.) This is twice the number who signed a similar pledge in 2012, and represented about 24 percent of legislative candidates.

    Judicial Branch Action Regarding Dismissed Cases

    In Maine, the Administrative Office of the Courts began implementing a new policy “of impounding all files of dismissed criminal cases, except for those ending in a plea, once 30 days have passed after charges have been dismissed. This policy also, apparently, prevents criminal defendants charged with crimes from accessing their own dismissed case files.” (Quote taken from a letter to the Chief Justices written by First Amendment attorney Sigmund Schutz, a member of MFOIC and the New England First Amendment Coalition, and supported by the coalitions as well as other organizations.) The new policy was reviewed and set aside, thus keeping access to dismissed cases public.

    Terrence E. Pinkham v. Dept. of Transportation

    MFOIC, along with NEFAC, filed an amicus brief in a case that involved the Maine Department of Transportation, which asserted that appraisal reports in MDOT takings are exempted from disclosure to the public under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). This meant, according to the MDOT, that a plaintiff who wanted to dispute the valuation on his taken property could not have access to the appraisal even though that plaintiff was seeking discovery in a court proceeding. The court found, as suggested in our brief, that simply because appraisals are exempted under FOAA rules does not mean that they are exempt from disclosure to parties in litigation with the State of Maine.

    Conservatorship of Emma

    A conservator of a parent’s estate petitioned to have information about the assets of the estate removed from a County Probate Court’s website. The information is available at the court’s physical premises at any time it is open; the petitioner just does not want it to be placed online. The Supreme Judicial Court was asked to decide whether this should be state practice for probate courts, and the court requested that MFOIC act as appellee and submit a brief arguing that such information should be available in electronic form online just as it is in physical form at the probate court’s location. The appellant submitted a brief, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, arguing that certain probate court information, specifically financial information, that is available physically should not be available online. In the end, the Supreme Judicial Court decided not to decide on the question. The MFOIC in January submitted comments on regulations seeking to address the issue in lieu of a court decision.

    In the present political climate, there is likely to be even more resistance on the part of some government entities to keep access to government information as open as possible for citizens. Those who believe, along with Justice Brandeis that, indeed, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant” must therefore be more alert and active in ensuring that we all have the information we need as citizens to make informed decisions and to keep our government all levels accountable to those who consent to be governed.

  • NEFAC, Media Groups Argue for Right to Record Police in Second Circuit

    The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined an amici curiae brief in a case involving a journalist arrested in 2011 while recording police at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York.
     
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit - which has jurisdiction in Vermont and Connecticut - is currently hearing the case and has an opportunity to find a clearly established First Amendment right to record police in public places.

    "Without a clearly defined right to record, journalists and citizens seeking to document police activity run the risk of being arrested - even when the act of recording does not interfere with the duties being carried out by law enforcement," argued NEFAC and 62 fellow amici in a March 17 brief drafted by the National Press Photographers Association.
     
    The case, Higginbotham v. City of New York, involves a journalist who was covering the Occupy Wall Street protest on Nov. 15, 2011, at Zuccotti Park in New York. The journalist was arrested while recording the separate arrest of a protester by police. The journalist claimed the police retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights.
     
    In the brief, NEFAC and fellow amici argue for a clarification of the constitutional right to record police activity in public places and that this right should be determined "clearly established." This determination is important because police officers can be protected by qualified immunity against lawsuits involving the right to record if that right isn't clearly established by the courts.
     
    According to the brief:
     
    [T]his court should embrace the opportunity to provide judicial assurance that the right to photograph and record police activity in public places is enshrined in the First Amendment. In addition, since the First Amendment guarantees the freedom to document police activity, this court should give that guarantee teeth by holding that the constitutional right to record police is "clearly established." Otherwise, officers in this circuit will continue to argue . . . that the doctrine of qualified immunity provides blanket protection against lawsuits challenging arrests aimed at thwarting the lawful recording of police activity.
     
    Other New England states - Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island - are in the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. That court in 2011 confirmed a First Amendment right to openly record police officers carrying out their duties in a public place. 
     
    In Glik v. Cunniffe, the First Circuit court explained that "gathering information about government officials in a form that can be readily disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs."
  • Former CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project will lead MECA

    The Maine College of Art’s (MECA) Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Laura Freid, Ed.D., as the 18th president of the 135 year-old institution.

    Freid comes to MECA as a passionate and proven advocate for the arts and education, most recently serving in partnership with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project, a global cultural arts organization based at Harvard University.

    Silkroad works to connect the world through the arts, presenting musical performances and learning programs, and fostering radical cultural collaboration around the world to lead to advancing global understanding.

    Her prior leadership experience includes serving as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations at Brown University and Chief Communications Officer at Harvard University where she was publisher ofHarvard Magazine.

    Led by alumnus Brian Wilk ’95, incoming chair of MECA’s Board of Trustees, and Vice President at Hasbro Toys, MECA’s presidential search process officially started in August  2016, when a search committee composed of a diverse group of representatives from within the MECA community convened to discuss and understand the most essential attributes needed in the College’s next leader.

    In announcing the choice, Wilk remarked on the thorough and extensive nature of the selection process. “It was clear to the entire search committee that we needed someone who has the skills, experience, and appetite to continue building our mission of educating artists for life while expanding our reputation as an international destination for world-class arts education. After carefully considering our impressively deep pool of seasoned candidates from all over the world, our search committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Laura Freid was the right person to guide MECA through our next critical period of growth.”  


    Debbie Reed, chair of the MECA Board of Trustees, described Freid as “an exceptional leader who understands MECA’s mission and the importance of creativity.” According to Reed, “From the moment we met Laura, we were interested in learning more about her demonstrated track record of engaging multiple constituencies while serving in senior leadership roles at multiple institutions. The Board of Trustees looks forward to an exciting future under Laura’s leadership as we move the College forward.”

    “I am grateful for the dynamic leadership that has guided MECA to date and to the entire College community and the city of Portland for creating such an exciting American center for the arts, culture and entrepreneurship,” Freid said. “In times as rife with international, political, and economic tensions as we are experiencing today, I believe investing in the arts has never been more imperative. Art gives us meaning and identity, helping us reflect on and shape our lives; it is fundamental to our well-being. That is why I believe providing artists with the education they need to succeed is such a critical and vital mission.”

    Freid’s educational background is rooted in the philosophy of aesthetics and in the history of reputation in higher education. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Washington University, an MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and an Ed.D. from University of Pennsylvania.

    Freid will take office on or before July 1st, replacing Interim President Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s Poet Laureate and former Director of the Haystack Mountain School of Arts. Kestenbaum stepped in to lead during a transition year after Don Tuski, Ph.D. accepted the position of President at Pacific Northwest College of the Arts in Portland, Oregon, on the heels of six years of continuous enrollment and endowment growth at MECA.

  • Trump manipulates you and the press with using cognitive bias

    AMERICANS BORN IN the United States are more murderous than undocumented immigrants. Fighting words, I know. But why? After all, that’s just what the numbers say.

    Still, be honest: you wouldn’t linger over a story with that headline. It’s “dog bites man.” It’s the norm. And norms aren’t news. Instead, you’ll see two dozen reporters flock to a single burning trash can during an Inauguration protest. The aberrant occurrence is the story you’ll read and the picture you’ll see. It’s news because it’s new.

    The problem here is not just that this singling out creates a distorted, fish-eye lens version of what’s really happening. It’s that the human psyche is predisposed to take an aberration—what linguist George Lakoff has called the “salient exemplar”—and conflate it with the norm. This cognitive bias itself isn’t new. But in a media environment driven by clicks, where politicians can bypass journalistic filters entirely to deliver themselves straight to citizens, it’s newly exploitable.

    You know who else isn’t as likely to commit murders in the US as native-born citizens? Refugees. Or immigrants from the seven countries singled out in President Trump’s shot-down travel ban. Or for that matter, immigrants at all. According to numerous studies, increased immigration correlates with lower violent crime rates in a community. Yet next week, Trump is promising a revised travel ban in the name of safety.

    In the past, the president has also promised to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. What he hasn’t promised to publish is a list of crimes committed by Americans. That’s not news. But his list is likely to create the false impression that undocumented immigrants are especially prone to commit violent crimes—an impression in which the human brain is complicit.

    Taking Advantage of Bias

    Lakoff, a University of California, Berkeley linguist and well-known Democratic activist, cites Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” as the signature “salient exemplar.” Reagan’s straw woman—a minority mother who uses her government money on fancy bling rather than on food for her family—became an effective rhetorical bludgeon to curb public assistance programs even though the vast majority of recipients didn’t abuse the system in that way. The image became iconic, even though it was the exception rather than the rule.

    Psychologists call this bias the “availability heuristic,” an effect Trump has sought to exploit since the launch of his presidential campaign, when he referred to undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists.

    “It basically works the way memory works: you judge the frequency, the probability, of something based on how easily you can bring it to mind,” says Northeastern University psychologist John Coley. “Creating a vivid, salient image like that is a great way to make it memorable.”

    This is the same bias that makes you fear swimming in the ocean lest you get attacked by a shark, despite shark attacks being far less common than, say, death by coconut. When something is memorable, it tends to be the thing you think of first, and then it has an outsize influence on your understanding of the world. After the movie Jaws came out, a generation of people was afraid to swim in the sea—not because shark attacks were more likely but because all those movie viewers could more readily imagine them. 

    Psychologists stress that your brain has to work this way, to a certain extent—otherwise you’d have a very hard time differentiating and prioritizing the avalanche of inputs you receive throughout your life. “It’s not a cognitive malfunction,” says Coley. “But it can be purposefully exploited.” When Trump uses a salient exemplar that will lodge in your brain, he’s manipulating your brain’s natural way of sorting information.

    But if you can’t totally eliminate your brain’s predisposition, you can at least work against the potential for bias it creates by understanding that it exists. Journalists in particular need to be mindful because exploiters of this bias, such as the president, are taking advantage not just of the way the human brain works but the way journalism works. The daily news at its worst becomes a catalog of salacious salient exemplars that only serve to distort the reality journalism in its most ideal version aspires to reflect. “We haven’t done as good a job of actually explaining how things function at a higher level, the success stories,” says Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. This failing aided Trump during the campaign, Lipinski says. By focusing on negative stories, the news helped to paint a picture of an America in need of “being made great again.”

    Recently, Trump told an audience of senior military commanders at CENTCOM that the “very, very dishonest media” didn’t report on terrorism. The implication was that journalists bury important news about terrorism because of some alternate agenda. Later that day, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer released a list of terrorist acts the president felt that journalists didn’t spend enough time covering. Journalists pounced: Hey, we reported on ALL OF THOSE! We won Pulitzers for our reporting! Here are a bazillion front page headlinesproving it!

    In doing so, journalists took the bait. The stories about their stories fed the narrative that terrorism is everywhere (it’s not). Instead, reporters need to get smarter about covering the non-aberrant, to show that commonplace does not equal mundane. It may not be rare, but it’s reality.

  • Scientists call on Collins

    The Penobscot is polluted with mercury - we need the EPA

    Editorial by Dianne Kopec and Aram Calhoun,

    As the name implies, the goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect our environment, and it has worked toward that goal since it was created in 1970. That start date is important to the people and the environment of the lower Penobscot River, for in late 1967, the HoltraChem chlor-alkali plant began operating in Orrington on the banks of the river. In the first four years of the plant’s operation, waste mercury was routinely discharged into the river. Much of that mercury continues to contaminate the Penobscot.

    We ask that the community, and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — who will soon vote on the nominee to head the agency, Scott Pruitt — consider the value of the EPA and the critical importance of appointing a director who embraces the mission of protecting our environment.

    Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523 Senator Angus King – (202) 224-5344

    We are scientists. We examined the impact of the mercury discharges into the river as part of the Penobscot River Mercury Study, an independent court-ordered study of mercury contamination of the Penobscot River from the HoltraChem plant. This work gave us first-hand knowledge of the value of the EPA and of the environmental consequences when regulations are absent or not enforced.

    One of the first actions of the EPA was a thorough revision of water pollution laws and the creation of the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972.

    For the first time in our history, the government began regulating pollutant discharges into surface waters. It was no longer legal for the Orrington chemical plant to dump its waste mercury into the Penobscot. Instead, HoltraChem began storing the waste mercury in landfills that greatly reduced the amount of mercury entering the river. Yet, roughly 90 percent of an estimated nine tons of mercury that was ultimately released into the Penobscot River was discharged before the EPA began regulating pollutant discharges into our rivers, streams and lakes.

    Today, the evidence of those mercury discharges can be seen in the sediment of the Penobscot River. Buried 16 inches below the surface of the sediment is a layer of extreme mercury contamination, deposited during the early years of plant operation.

    The sediment deposited after EPA was created is less contaminated.

    Yet, buried contaminants do not always remain hidden. River and slough channels can change course, releasing long-buried mercury into the surface sediment that is swept up and down the river with the tide. So in some parts of the lower Penobscot the most contaminated sediment is not buried, but near the surface, where it enters our food web and accumulates in our fish, birds and lobster.

    Now 50 years later, we have mercury concentrations in waterfowl almost four times greater than the Maine action level for mercury in muscle tissue, prompting the state’s first health advisory on the consumption of breast meat from ducks. Migratory song birds arrive in marshes along the lower Penobscot with low mercury burdens, but quickly accumulate mercury concentrations in their blood that exceed levels known to cause reproductive failure. Average mercury concentrations in lobster living near the mouth of the Penobscot River are two to three times greater than the Maine action level, and individual lobster have concentrations over six times greater.

    There is now a state ban on lobster harvesting in that area. Without EPA regulations, the river would be even more contaminated. Finally, mercury concentrations in the surface sediments of the river are seven to 10 times greater than background concentrations in rivers Down East, and we estimate it will take a minimum of 60 to 400 years, depending on the area, for the Penobscot to clean itself.

    Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, has been nominated to head the EPA, despite the fact that he is a leading advocate against the agency. His history of suing the EPA over environmental regulations, the same regulations that now limit discharges to the Penobscot, should disqualify him from service as the agency’s director.

    This is only one example of the positive role the EPA plays in safeguarding public and environmental health. Environmental regulations save our country money, provide jobs, and ensure the health of all animals, plants and the humans who see clean air, water and soil as an American right. The EPA needs a leader who will defend that right.

    Dianne Kopec is an adjunct instructor in the department of wildlife, fisheries, and conservation biology at the University of Maine in Orono. Aram Calhoun is a professor of wetlands ecology at UMaine. Peter Santschi, a regents professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University in Galveston, and Ralph Turner, a mercury researcher at RT Geosciences Inc., also contributed to this piece.

  • DOOMSDAY CLOCK MOVES AHEAD: Because of Donald Trump


    It is now two and a half minutes to midnight

    “Words Matter”: Board Marks 70th Anniversary of Iconic Clock By Expressing Concern About “Unsettling” and “Ill-Considered” Statements of President Trump on Nuclear Weapons and Climate Change; Developments in North Korea, Russia, India and Pakistan Also Highlighted.

    By Ramona du Houx

    It is now two and a half minutes to midnight.  For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board has moved the hands of the iconic clock 30 seconds closer to midnight. That clock hasn't been so close to midnight since 1953, the begining of the arms race and the year the Soviet Union exploded the bomb.

    The Board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person:  Donald Trump. 

    The decision to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock is made by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in consultation with theBulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel Laureates.  Click here for the Science and Security Board’s full statement.

    In January 2016, the Doomsday Clock’s minute hand did not change, remaining at three minutes before midnight. The Clock was changed in 2015 from five to three minutes to midnight, the closest it had been since the arms race of the 1980s.

    In the statement about the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board notes: “Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change … This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a US presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change …The board’s decision to move the clock less than a full minute — something it has never before done — reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the US president only a matter of days …”

    “Just the same, words matter, and President Trump has had plenty to say over the last year. Both his statements and his actions as President-elect have broken with historical precedent in unsettling ways. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts. And his nominees to head the Energy Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency dispute the basics of climate science. In short, even though he has just now taken office, the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse.”

    In addition to addressing the statements made by President Trump, the Board also expressed concern about the greater global context of nuclear and climate issues:

    ·         On nuclear issues, the Board noted: “The United States and Russia—which together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons—remained at odds in a variety of theaters, from Syria to Ukraine to the borders of NATO; both countries continued wide-ranging modernizations of their nuclear forces, and serious arms control negotiations were nowhere to be seen.North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth underground nuclear tests and gave every indication it would continue to develop nuclear weapons delivery capabilities. Threats of nuclear warfare hung in the background as Pakistan and India faced each other warily across the Line of Control in Kashmir after militants attacked two Indian army bases.”

    ·         In surveying the status of climate matters, the Board concluded: “The climate change outlook was somewhat less dismal (in 2016) —but only somewhat. In the wake of the landmark Paris climate accord, the nations of the world have taken some actions to combat climate change, and global carbon dioxide emissions were essentially flat in 2016, compared to the previous year. Still, they have not yet started to decrease; the world continues to warm. Keeping future temperatures at less-than-catastrophic levels requires reductions in greenhouse gas emissions far beyond those agreed to in Paris—yet little appetite for additional cuts was in evidence at the November climate conference in Marrakech.”

    Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said: As we marked the 70th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock, this year’s Clock deliberations felt more urgent than usual. In addition to the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, new global realities emerged, as trusted sources of information came under attack, fake news was on the rise, and words were used by a President-elect of the United States in cavalier and often reckless ways to address the twin threats of nuclear weapons and climate change.”

    Lawrence Krauss, chair, Bulletin Board of Sponsors, director, Origins Project at Arizona State University, and foundation professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, Arizona State University, said:  “Wise men and women have said that public policy is never made in the absence of politics. But in this unusual political year, we offer a corollary: Good policy takes account of politics but is never made in the absence of expertise. Facts are indeed stubborn things, and they must be taken into account if the future of humanity is to be preserved, long term. Nuclear weapons and climate change are precisely the sort of complex existential threats that cannot be properly managed without access to and reliance on expert knowledge. In 2016, world leaders not only failed to deal adequately with those threats; they actually increased the risk of nuclear war and unchecked climate change through a variety of provocative statements and actions, including careless rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons and the wanton defiance of scientific evidence. To step further back from the brink will require leaders of vision and restraint.  President Trump and President Putin can choose to act together as statesmen, or as petulant children, risking our future.  We call upon all people to speak out and send a loud message to your leaders so that they do not needlessly threaten your future, and the future of your children.”

    Retired Rear Admiral David Titley, Bulletin Science and Security Board; professor of practice, Pennsylvania State University Department of Meteorology, and founding director, Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, said: “Climate change should not be a partisan issue. The well-established physics of Earth’s carbon cycle is neither liberal nor conservative in character. The planet will continue to warm to ultimately dangerous levels so long as carbon dioxide continues to be pumped into the atmosphere— irrespective of political leadership.  The current political situation in the United States is of particular concern.  The Trump administration needs to state clearly and unequivocally that it accepts climate change, caused by human activity, as reality.  No problem can be solved unless its existence is first recognized. There are no ‘alternative facts’ here”.

    About the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

    The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists engages science leaders, policy makers, and the interested public on topics of nuclear weapons and disarmament, the changing energy landscape, climate change, and emerging technologies. With smart, vigorous prose, multimedia presentations, and information graphics, theBulletin puts issues and events into context and provides fact-based debates and assessments. For 70 years, the Bulletin has bridged the technology divide between scientific research, foreign policy and public engagement. See more at: http://thebulletin.org

    Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet.The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Maine and how Dirigo Health helped

    By Ramona du Houx

    Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 thousands of Mainers have gained coverage, and hundreds of thousands more have had their coverage substantially improved.

    On January 16, 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years.

    The data show that the uninsured rate in Maine has fallen by 17 percent since the ACA was enacted, translating into 22,000 Mainers gaining coverage, some transfered to the ACA from the established state program, Dirigo Health Care. 

    Photo: President Barack Obama came to Maine after the ACA was enacted and praised Governor John Baldacci for his work on the creation of the Dirigo Health Care Act. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Mainers get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

    Photo: Governor John Baldacci with Robin Mills talking about Dirigo Choice in 2007. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Maine was an unusual case, because the state had enacted the Dirigo Health Care Act during the Baldacci administration, and many of the ACA benefits were already apart of Dirigo. Because of Dirigo it was easier to transfer over to the ACA.

    Governor John Baldacci deserves recognition for creating a model for the ACA. Other portions of Dirigo were dismantled by Gov. Paul LePage, who succeeded Baldacci. Never-the-less Baldacci's Dirigo saved thousands of lives by giving people health insurance for the first time, by expanding preventative care, covering more young adults, by eliminating the pre-existing condition and discrimination against women in health coverage.

    Dirigo Choice, the insurance branch of Dirigo Health, insured more than 40,000 Mainers and also became a model for President Obama’s ACA. In 2010 Monique Kenyon said, "We were shocked,” when she found out her husband was suffering from cancer. “Being a middle-income family we didn’t qualify for any assistance. We couldn’t afford all the treatment without insurance, but insurance companies wouldn’t accept him because he has this preexisting condition. He’s still with us because of Dirigo Choice.”

    Signed into law in the 2003 Dirigo Health Care Reform Act was a bold step toward universal health coverage during a time when policymakers in Washington D.C. and in state houses struggled to take even small steps. A few years later Governor Romney of Massachusetts used elements of Dirigo in his health care policies.

    “In many ways, Dirigo was a pace-setter and blueprint to national reform,” said Trish Riley, former director of Maine Governor John Baldacci’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. Riley said the program saved many lives by helping thousands of uninsured gain access to medical care and enabling more than 1,000 small businesses to provide insurance for their owners and employees.

    Baldacci expanded Medicare, covering many more Mainers, but LePage has refused to accept this part of the ACA, so thousands who were on, what the state calls MaineCare were kicked off because of LePage -  too many have died.

    In 2003, Maine ranked 16th healthiest among the states; in 2010 Maine was in the top ten. In 2003, Maine ranked 19th among the states in covering the uninsured; in 2010 Maine was sixth. With Dirigo Health, Maine created an efficient public health system with eight districts that cover the entire state through Healthy Maine Partnerships. During the Baldacci administration the state reached a milestone in healthcare coverage, won awards for Dirigo and became a model for the nation. (photo below taken in 2010)

    The ACA picked up the torch and contained to save the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine.

    Highlights of theACA  data include:

    Employer Coverage: 702,000 people in Maine are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. 

    Since the ACA this group has seen:

    An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 431,000 Mainers with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Mainers with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
    Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 8,000 young adults in Maine have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.

    Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 588,281 people in Maine, most of whom have employer coverage.

    Slower premium growth: Nationally, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 5 percent per year 2010-2016, compared with 8 percent over the previous decade. Family premiums are $3,600 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.


    Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Mainers with employer coverage have received $2,507,067 in insurance refunds since 2012.


    Medicaid: 273,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 115,217 children and 52,077 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

    40,000 Mainers could gain coverage: An estimated 40,000 Mainers could have health insurance today if Maine expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health; expansion would result in an estimated 5,000 more Mainers getting all needed care, 5,700 fewer Mainers struggling to pay medical bills, and 50 avoided deaths each year.
    Thousands of Mainers with a mental illness or substance use disorder could get help: Nearly 30 percent of those who could gain coverage if more states expanded Medicaid have a mental illness or substance use disorder.


    Maine could be saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $40 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Maine could be getting $430 million in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed care.
    Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Mainers could more easily access and maintain coverage.


    Maine is improving health care for individuals with chronic conditions, including those with severe mental illness: The ACA established a new Medicaid flexibility that allows states to create health homes, a new care delivery model to improve care coordination and lower costs for individuals with chronic conditions, such as severe mental illness, Hepatitis C, diabetes and heart disease
    Individual market: 75,240 people in Maine have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

    No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 590,266 people in Maine have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Mainers could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
    Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 63,896 moderate- and middle-income Mainers receive tax credits averaging $342 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.

    Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Maine.

    Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Under the ACA, Maine has received $5 million in federal funding to provide a more transparent marketplace where consumers can easily compare plans, choosing among 25 plans on average.

    Medicare: 315,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade.

    Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

    Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 18,970 Maine seniors are saving $19 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $986 per beneficiary.
    Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 165,892 Maine seniors, or 71 percent of all Maine seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.

    Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Maine Medicare beneficiaries dropped 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 232 times Maine Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 

    More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. 6 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Maine now offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to receive higher quality, more coordinated care.

    ACA Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)

  • Rep. Devin combats ocean acidification, addresses conference with Gov. Jerry Brown

    Rep. Mick Devin, of Newcastle, ME, joined fellow members of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, including California Governor Jerry Brown, at a combat acidifacation launch event in CA. 

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

    In December of 2016,  U.S. and global leaders launched the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification in Coronado, CA.  Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, represented Maine at the event and was a key speaker. 

    “It was an honor to show the rest of the country how Maine is a leader when it comes to addressing the quality of the water in our oceans,” said Rep. Devin. “Scientists are working around the clock because they know how many people depend on the ocean to make a living.”

    The oceans are the primary protein source for 2.6 billion people, and support $2.5 trillion of economic activity each year. Maine's lobster industry could suffer greatly from ocean acidification. Catches like this one would only be read in history books. This lobster was put back into the ocean, as it's way beyond the size fishermen can legally catch.

    Maine is seen as the leading state on the East Coast addressing ocean acidification.  Maine was the first state to establish an Ocean Acidification Commission.  As a result of the commission the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Alliance, or MOCA, was established. 

    Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and other carbon sources dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. Other sources of acidification include fresh water from rivers and decomposing algae feeding off nutrients in runoff. Carbonic acid dissolves the shells of shellfish.

    Maine’s major inshore shellfisheries, including clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, could see major losses if ocean acidification is left unchecked.

    At the conference, Devin addressed how state leaders are using science to establish priorities in dealing with the rising acidity of the earth’s oceans. He explained how Maine used those priorities to develop a long-term action plan.  

    He stressed the importance of addressing ocean acidification by developing plans to remediate and adapt to it. Devin said that strategy is crucial for Maine to maintain its healthy marine economy, particularly the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, which are valued well in excess of billion dollars annually. 

    Devin finished his presentation by showing a slide of a boiled lobster dinner and repeating his trademark line about one reason the marine economy matters to so many: “People do not visit the coast of Maine to eat a chicken sandwich.” 

    The Alliance includes several state governments, governments of Canadian provinces, North American tribal governments, and countries as far away as France, Chile and Nigeria. 

    While lobsters are the iconic image of Maine, many other shell fish will be effected, like musscles, and clams. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Members have five primary goals: advancing scientific understanding of ocean acidification; taking meaningful actions to reduce causes of acidification; protect the environment and coastal communities from impacts of a changing ocean; expanding public awareness and understanding of acidification; and building sustained global support for addressing the problem.

    Devin, a marine biologist at the Darling Center in Walpole and a member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.

     

  • The 128 Legislature and how to help the state out of stagnation

     By Ramona du Houx

    Members of the 128th Legislature were sworn into the Maine House of Representatives on December 7, 2016, led by Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. There are 25 new members and 52 returning representatives in the House, including 36 women.

    “Today, we start out with a Maine economy that is lagging behind New England and the rest of the country in terms of economic growth, recovery of jobs lost during the recession and wage growth,” said Gideon, D-Freeport.  “We lead New England when it comes to the number of Maine children and seniors living in poverty. Those are the facts.  And here is another fact: We have to do better. We will always work together and come to the table in search of common ground to help the 1.3 million Mainers who expect us to rise above politics.” 

    There are issues that could grow Maine’s economy, which haven’t been addressed during the LePage administration. Instead he’s focused on cutting benefits and lowering taxes for the wealthy. in his speach today to the lawmakers he talked about changing the Minimum wage referendum that passed, not about how to grow jobs.

    In a recent interview, Former Governor John Baldacci sited a study conducted by Former Governor King, which listed the top areas in need of investment that still remain areas that need funding.

    "The two leading factors in the study were the education and training of the population and the amount of Research and Development funds invested to help businesses get the latest cutting edge technologies so they can compete successfully with other businesses anyone in the world,” said Gov. Baldacci.

    Maine has suffered under LePage by the lack of Research and Development (R&D) funds that used to spur economic activity as the research, conducted at the University of Maine and other laboratories, was regularly used by start-up Maine companies, there-by growing jobs across Maine. The people have always voted overwhelmingly for R&D bonds in Maine. But LePage doesn’t believe in bond issues and has held bond funds hostage in the past.

    "We've been doing a terrible job at putting resources in Research and Development," said Gov. Baldacci, who invested dramatically in R&D during his administration. "We also need to focus on job training. We're not doing enough to match jobs to the industries established here. Our Labor Department needs to be our Human Resource Department. There are plenty of job opportunities out there that need trained workers and plenty of workers who want the opportunity to work. Our people, families, and small businesses aren't looking for a handout, but are looking for opportunities. Our responsibility is to make sure that happens throughout all of Maine."

    Baldacci started this work with Former Labor Secretary Laura Fortman, but little has been done to progress these job opportunities under the LePage administration.

    The lack of these investments, along with other LePage policies has led to stagnation in Maine.

    “Under Republican leadership, Maine has lagged behind in the national economic recovery. We work longer hours than our neighbors in any other state in New England, yet the purchasing power of our paychecks in one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, our governor has turned a blind eye as five of our friends, family members and neighbors die every week from the opioid epidemic. I look forward our leadership team’s work over the next few months to create good jobs and a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top." 

    Members of the House include teachers, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, a former mill electrician, prominent civil rights advocates, farmers, former law enforcement officials, and veterans. 

    “I’m proud of the bipartisan work we achieved last session, particularly to improve services for veterans, but there is more work to be done,” said veteran Marine Rep. Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden. “In the short term, our first task is to pass a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state, but we also have to keep an eye on the future. Maine needs to create good paying jobs by investing in the infrastructure our communities need to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these and other challenges facing our state.”

  • Democrats won a battle for greater transparency for LePage's forensic facility plan

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine democrats won a battle for greater transparency to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center on November 30, 2016. 

    Democrats said the forensic unit project needs vetting by the Legislature’s appropriations and health and human services committees for a range of reasons including the financing, operations and policy matters related to who would be housed in the facility. Gov. LePage intends for the facility to be privately run, which could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of citizens if not carefully monitored. That overseeing duty needs to be clarified by the Legislature.

    “This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input.” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon “DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population.”

    The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting – Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe – sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.

    House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.

    “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused – sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state’s care. We can’t simply hand a blank check over to the administration.”

     

  • Fake Maine newspapers spread lies to unsuspecting voters



    The Maine Republican Party and The House Republican Majority Fund, run by Minority Leader Ken Fredette, are using deceptive campaign tactics designed to confuse and mislead voters in House districts and communities throughout the state.

    Republicans are printing, mailing and distributing fake "newspapers," that are nothing more than advertisements for Republican House candidates and designed to look like local news publications. The names of the "newspapers" are based on local town or school names and include fake advertisements designed to further convince voters that the "newspapers" are real.

    Freeport Democrat Sara Gideon, who serves as assistant House majority leader,is outraged at the fake newspapers. "There’s a smell of deceit to it that I think is really disturbing," said Gideon. “They are really deceptive. For example, they will even use the name of sports teams from the local town in the title to get attention. I think for many people they won’t be able to discern they are actual political advertisements."

    The fake "newspapers" are being mailed to voters and distributed to convenience stores and newspaper stands across the state.

    "This is why so many people have lost faith in politicians and hate politics. It's one thing to communicate to voters about voting records and differences of opinions between candidates, but it's a whole other thing to intentionally deceive voters with false and misleading campaign tactics," said Speaker of the House Mark Eves.

    Many of the "newspapers" even falsely claim the Republican candidates were endorsed by the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine when, in fact, the Democratic candidate received the actual endorsement. Such was the case in Pittsfield, where the "newspaper" claimed Republican candidate Scott Strom received SAM’s endorsement when, in fact, Rep. Stanley Short actually received the group’s endorsement. The newspaper even went so far as to use SAM executive director David Trahan’s signature without permission, forcing Trahan to respond and for Short to take out an advertisement in the real local newspaper.

    Majority Leader Jeff McCabe said, "The SAM endorsement means something to voters so it’s very disappointing to see partisan politicians lie about their candidates receiving endorsements."

    The false and misleading claims have also extended to the Maine Republican Party’s attack mail program against Democratic House candidates.

    "I've never seen such false and misleading ads in local races," said Gideon. "Democratic House candidate Gerry Gibson, from Waterboro, has received several attack mailers blaming him personally for all the problems in the legislature. Gerry has never even been elected to office and just retired from the U.S. Air Force this past year after serving our country for 20 years. To Gerry, that’s especially offensive."

  • Fake Maine newspaper from Republicans misleads with lies



    Maine Public: PAC Under Fire for Printing Fake Newspapers, Using Official's Signature

     

    A Republican political action committee controlled by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette is under fire for distributing political ads masquerading as local newspapers.

    Democrats say some of the materials falsely suggest that GOP candidates have won an important endorsement.

    Some of the the ads in question are designed to look like a local newspapers, and Democrats say they’re being mailed to voters and also distributed to convenience stores and newspaper stands across the state. Some cite bogus endorsements by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, even though the the group had actually endorsed the Democrat in the race.

    The ads even used the signature of David Trahan, the executive director of SAM. Trahan, a former Republican state senator, is angered by the ads.

    “I made it very clear to those folks that were doing it we weren’t happy with it. Very disturbing to me. It’s not OK. And I think they need to apologize — if it was a mistake, come clean and apologize,” he says.

    Trahan says SAM not only endorses candidates but grades them on the basis of their response to a questionnaire on issues of importance to its members. He says from now on, SAM will not issue grades, only endorsements.

    He says the ads are another example of how nasty this election year has become.

    “I have never seen it this bad. And I hope sane minds prevail and people back down off the cliff,” Trahan says.

    Freeport Democrat Sara Gideon, who serves as assistant House majority leader, says she’s outraged at the fake newspapers. She says there have been plenty of pieces of campaign literature from both parties that have distorted records or used half-truths, but this is a new low.

    “They will talk about certain issues that tend to divide Republicans and Democrats. This is very different. There’s a smell of deceit to it that I think is really disturbing,” she says.

    Gideon says while the outright lies concerning SAM endorsements are the most egregious part of the fake newspapers, she says other candidates have been accused of voting on legislation when they have never even held elective office.

    “They are really deceptive. For example, they will even use the name of sports teams from the local town in the title. They will have the sports schedules. I think for many people they won’t be able to discern they are actual political advertisements,” she says.

    Fredette could not be reached for comment. Gideon says Democrats are considering whether to file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission about the ad campaign using fake newspapers.

    The commission has a special meeting scheduled Monday morning, but this issue is not on the agenda.

  • Richard Wolffe: ‘The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers’

    Richard Wolffe: ‘The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers’

    That banging sound you heard were the last nails being hammered into the coffin of the Trump campaign. Or it might have been the thumping of Donald Trump as he stalked the debate stage.

    Either way, the Republican nominee treated the notion of a contrite, humble performance with all the subtlety of a subway train. Not for him was the usual shame we associate with someone caught in a moment of sleaze.

    He prowled around Hillary Clinton, looming behind her when she approached the undecided voters in the audience. He hugged himself and hooked his hands in his belt. He inhaled so sharply through his nose that he sounded like he was snorting his own insults.

    Wounded animals behave in strange ways, and Donald Trump was nothing if not strange at the second presidential debate. He went far beyond barking his usual interruptions and conspiracies from the darkest corners of the internet: he answered a question from a Muslim voter by saying it was “a shame” there was Islamophobia. Then, two feet away from his questioner, he stoked Islamophobia as much as he possibly could: “We could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”

    ‘Trump prowled around Hillary Clinton, looming behind her when she approached the undecided voters in the audience’

    He blamed Hillary Clinton for allowing him to pay no taxes. “Of course I do,” he admitted, when asked if he took advantage of tax loopholes. “So do all of her donors or most of her donors.”

    He blamed both Clintons for raising the issue of sexual assault, as if he was just a hapless victim. “I think it’s disgraceful and I think she should be ashamed of herself, if you want to know the truth,” he said.

    In any normal presidential debate, a nominee would be embarrassed to say something that evoked Gerald Ford’s calamitous assertion that there was no Soviet domination of eastern Europe. But Trump bettered Ford by several thermonuclear warheads: “I know about Russia but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia,” he said.

    The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers. A Red Bull display of sheer madness all the way to the end, when Clinton complimented his children.

    “I don’t know if it was meant to be a compliment,” he said. Donald Trump knows about elections but he knows nothing about their inner workings.

  • Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment - A Maine Exhibit

    Justice?, by Ramona du Houx
     
    Maine's Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment exhibit opens on Thursday, September 22nd and runs through December 22nd, 2016
     
    The exhibit will be at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive in Augusta.
    Featured are 36 works by 17 Maine artists who were inspired by the rights granted by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Themes depicted relate to many areas of American society covered by the amendment: including due process, liberty, gender and sexuality, race, legal protections, equality in the workplace, housing, education, law enforcement, rights of the incarcerated, tolerance, and local, state, and federal representation
    The exhibit is being hosted by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, in conjunction with the Harlow Gallery of the Kennebec Valley Art Association, with support from the Maine Humanities Council and associated program support by the Maine Arts Commission.
     
    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or weekends and evenings by appointment or when other events are being held.
    People Power, by Ramona du Houx
     

    Participating artists are listed below alphabetically by town:

    Augusta: Anthony Austin
    Bangor: Jeanne Curran
    Biddeford: Roland Salazar
    Brunswick: Mary Becker Weiss
    Camden: Claudia Noyes Griffiths
    Falmouth: Anne Strout
    Gardiner: Allison McKeen
    Hallowell: Nancy Bixler
    Lincolnville: Petrea Noyes
    Manchester: Bruce Armstrong
    Solon: Ramona du Houx
    Tenants Harbor: Otty Merrill
    Town Unknown: Julian Johnson
    Waterville: Jen Hickey
    West Rockport: Barbra Whitten
    Wilton: Rebecca Spilecki
    Winslow: Mimi McCutcheon

    There are several events planned in association with this project, including the Pride Film Festival – a series of four free films held Friday nights in October at 7 p.m. The films this year are The Boys in the Band (10/7), Fire (10/14), Paragraph 175 (10/21), and The Danish Girl (10/28).
     
    Mike Daisey’s one man play The Trump Card had sold out runs this fall in Washington and New York and is now touring throughout the country. With special permission from the playwright, HHRC Program Director and UMA adjunct professor of drama David Greenham will read the hard-hitting and hilarious monologue on Saturday, October 22nd at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23rd at 2 p.m.
    The Trump Card reminds all of us of the role we have played in paving the way to create one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in recent memory. Tickets for The Trump Card are $15 and proceeds benefit HHRC’s educational outreach programs.
    As the Stage Review put it, “Daisey breaks down what makes Trump tick—and in doing so illuminates the state of our American Dream and how we’ve sold it out.” 
     
    14th Amendment by Allison McKeen 
    The HHRC is also pleased to host Everyman Repertory Theater’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly November 17th, 18th and 19th. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a love story set in Missouri in 1942 and addresses issues of prejudice and the injustices that caused many to flee Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  
    The New York Times said about the play, “It is perhaps the simplest, and the most lyrical play Wilson has written—a funny, sweet, touching and marvelously written and contrived love poem for an apple and an orange.”   Tickets go on sale September 27th.
     
    Also in November, a group of UMA drama students under the direction of adjunct drama professor Jeri Pitcher will present a reading of their work in progress called Created Equal. The project, created in partnership with the HHRC, the UMA Writing Center, and UMA students will focus on the importance of the 14th amendment today. A full performance of the piece is planned for the spring of 2017.
  • ME's proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s close to $82M

    Maine makes over $2,270,635in 33rd auction

    Article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine brought in $2,265,634.20 from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), 33rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. 

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. 

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

    14,911,315 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.54.

    The September 7th auction was the third auction of 2016, and generated $67.7 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2allowance auctions exceed $2.58 billion dollars.

    “This auction demonstrates RGGI’s benefits to each participating state, helping to reduce harmful emissions while generating proceeds for reinvestment. Each RGGI state directs investments according to its individual goals, and this flexibility has been key to the program’s success across a diverse region.” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Another key RGGI strength is our commitment to constant improvement, as exemplified in the program review process. The RGGI states are continuing to evaluate program elements and improvements as part of the 2016 Program Review, with the goal of reaching consensus on program revisions that support each state’s unique goals and priorities.

    Governor John Baldacci led the effort in Maine to join RGGI and had a comprehensive energy plan similar to Cuomo. Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels and bring clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants to help new innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine under Dr. Habib Dagher's leadership. (photo: by Ramona du Houx. Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for wind farm implementation offshore. The prototype of the floating windfarm is the firs photo on the page)

    Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).        

    “Independent reports have found the reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is creating jobs, reducing consumers’ utility bills, and boosting state economies while driving down carbon emissions,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is supporting Governor Cuomo’s transformational clean energy and energy efficiency goals to generate 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, ushering in the low-carbon economy essential to the wellbeing of future generations.”

  • Rep. Chenette submits bill for Gov. recall process as other action blocked action to hold LePage accountable

    Rep. Justin Chenette has submitted legislation to establish a recall process for state elected officials including the governor, as other action to hold Maine's Gov. Paul LePage accountable was blocked by Republicans in the House and Senate.
    “It’s become clear that House Republican leadership is holding up our ability to convene a special session of the Legislature to hold the governor accountable,” said Chenette, D-Saco. “Let’s give the power to the people by providing the public an extra tool of governmental accountability, especially when other elected officials fail to hold each other and each branch of government to task.” ​
    Recall is a procedure that allows citizens to remove and replace a public official before the end of a term of office. If passed, Maine would join 19 other states plus the District of Columbia to permit the recall of state elected officials.
    Meanwhile, House Speaker Mark Eves on Septermber 6, 2016 announced the results of his formal poll of the House Representatives, conducted to determine whether the House would reconvene for a special session of the Legislature to take action regarding Gov. Paul LePage’s recent conduct.

    The final results were 84 in favor of reconvening, and 67 opposed. All but four Republican member of the House refused the special session, blocking any action to hold the governor accountable for his racially insensitive words, his threatening behavior, the embarrassment he caused to the state and the economic consequences of his actions.

    “With the whole country and world watching, it is now official and in the record books. Elected Republican leaders have failed Maine people,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

    The Maine Constitution allows the Legislature to reconvene for a special session if majorities of both parties consent to return in a poll. The Constitution bestows sole authority to conduct that poll on the presiding officers — the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.

    Senators from both parties were denied even the option of weighing in when Senate President Mike Thibodeau chose not to conduct the poll — refusing to take even the first step toward accountability for the governor.

    “By refusing to bring Senators in for a special session, Republican leaders have prevented any possibility of healing the damage and turning the page for Maine,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland.

    Chenette, serves on theothe Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.


    The following are remarks, as prepared, delivered by Speaker Eves and Sen. Alfond:

    Eves statement:

    “With the whole country and world watching, it is now official and in the record books. Elected Republican leaders have failed Maine people.

    “Under Maine’s Constitution, I asked our Republican colleagues to agree we needed to take some kind of action on Gov. LePage’s repeated, inexcusable conduct – and how he prevents us again and again and again, from working on issues import to Maine people.

    “Democrats have been clear: We know the governor must resign or be removed from office to prevent our state from being stuck in dysfunction for the next two years.

    “We are here on record and on behalf of Democrats in the Legislature to say, we believe Maine deserves so much better.

    “As the governor himself suggested on Tuesday, it is time for him to 'move on.’ Our Republican colleagues failed even the basic democratic test of being willing to be on record.

    “They are unwilling to even say ‘yes’ on the need to have an open, public discussion on how to move Maine forward. Republicans – by hiding today – are enabling two more years of distraction and dysfunction by Gov. LePage.”

    Alfond statement:

    “Mainers were united in their outrage at Gov. Paul LePage's words and actions. They were united in their demand that the he be held accountable.

    “And now, they are united in disbelief that Republicans wouldn't even take the first step toward that accountability.

    “The idea that the Maine Senate – or any Maine senator – could not even take up a debate on the simple, nonpartisan issue of how to take some kind of action to deal with Gov. LePage’s conduct is utter nonsense.

    “By refusing to bring senators in for a special session, Republican leaders have prevented any possibility of healing the damage and turning the page for Maine.

    “By not acting and hiding behind empty excuses, Republican Senators and House members have become Gov. LePage’s enablers. They guarantee Maine will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis for the next two years.

    “The governor's behavior isn't just reprehensible, it's a threat to Maine's economy. Investors and visitors alike grow more hesitant to bring business to Maine every time the governor brings national shame on our state.

    “An Associated Press story about whether or not people should boycott Maine as a result of Gov. LePage’s conduct ran in hundreds of newspapers across the country this weekend.

    “Because of Republicans' inaction, the Legislature will do nothing to defend Maine’s economy or protect our state’s proud reputation. Worst of all, it will do nothing to hold our governor accountable. Their inaction guarantees it only will be only a matter of time until we are back in this position again."

  • Alfond calls on Maine Senate President Thibodeau to poll senators for special session to take action in response to LePage's antics

    Senate Majority Leader Justin Alfond has called on Senate President Thibodeau to poll senators for special session to take action in response to the governor’s conduct.

    “We as lawmakers are taking the governor’s racially insensitive, violent and obscene words and actions seriously, and so we must be present and be counted,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond.

    Sen. Alfond has kept lines of communication open with Senate President Mike Thibodeau to ensure a pathway remains for the Senate to come in for a special session, which would require the Senate President to poll all members of the Senate to determine whether they consented to reconvene.

    However, President Thibodeau indicated to a reporter September 2, 2016 that he may not agree to poll the Senate, thus blocking any legislative action. 

    “The Legislature cannot do anything — whether it be censure or something more severe — unless it is in session. So the only question that matters is this: Will the Legislature act or not? If the answer is yes, Senate President Mike Thibodeau must move decisively,” Alfond said.

    “Maine cannot afford for its legislative leaders to hide behind arcane political process while Gov. LePage’s erratic, dangerous and demeaning behavior continues. The governor has shown he is unfit to lead our state. That is an emergency, and we must act in a real, meaningful way.

    “We hope Senate President Thibodeau will put whatever political concerns he may have to the side and poll the Senate with the same question being asked of the House of Representatives. For the sake of our constituents and our state’s reputation, we must all be on the record.”

  • Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic Nomination becomes first women in history to do so

    Thank you! Thank you for that amazing welcome. 

    Thank you all for the great convention that we’ve had.

    And Chelsea, thank you. I'm so proud to be your mother and so proud of the woman you've become. Thanks for bringing Marc into our family, and Charlotte and Aidan into the world. 

    And Bill, that conversation we started in the law library 45 years ago is still going strong. It's lasted through good times that filled us with joy, and hard times that tested us. 

    And I've even gotten a few words in along the way.

    On Tuesday night, I was so happy to see that my Explainer-in-Chief is still on the job. I'm also grateful to the rest of my family and the friends of a lifetime. To all of you whose hard work brought us here tonight. And to those of you who joined our campaign this week.  And what a remarkable week it's been.  

    We heard the man from Hope, Bill Clinton. And the man of Hope, Barack Obama. America is stronger because of President Obama's leadership, and I'm better because of his friendship.  

    We heard from our terrific vice president, the one-and-only Joe Biden. He spoke from his big heart about our party's commitment to working people, as only he can do.

    First Lady Michelle Obama reminded us that our children are watching, and the president we elect is going to be their president, too. 

    Photos of Hillary giving her speach by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    And for those of you out there who are just getting to know Tim Kaine – you're soon going to understand why the people of Virginia keep promoting him: from city council and mayor, to Governor, and now Senator.  He'll make the whole country proud as our Vice President.  

    And I want to thank Bernie Sanders. Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.  You've put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong. 

     And to all of your supporters here and around the country:  I want you to know,I've heard you.  Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.  That's the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.  We wrote it together – now let's go out there and make it happen together.

    My friends, we've come to Philadelphia – the birthplace of our nation – because what happened in this city 240 years ago still has something to teach us today. 

    We all know the story. But we usually focus on how it turned out - and not enough on how close that story came to never being written at all.  

    When representatives from 13 unruly colonies met just down the road from here, some wanted to stick with the King. Some wanted to stick it to the king, and go their own way. The revolution hung in the balance. Then somehow they began listening to each other … compromising … finding common purpose.   

    And by the time they left Philadelphia, they had begun to see themselves as one nation.

    That's what made it possible to stand up to a King. That took courage. They had courage. Our Founders embraced the enduring truth that we are stronger together.  

    America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. 

    And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us.  We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together.

    Our country's motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, we are one.  Will we stay true to that motto?  

    Well, we heard Donald Trump's answer last week at his convention.  He wants to divide us - from the rest of the world, and from each other. 

    He's betting that the perils of today's world will blind us to its unlimited promise. He's taken the Republican Party a long way...  from "Morning in America" to  "Midnight in America." He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.  

    Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

    Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have. We will not build a wall. Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good paying job can get one.   

    Photos of Hillary Clinton after her speech, by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    And we'll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy! 

    We will not ban a religion. We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight and defeat terrorism. 

    Yet we know there is a lot to do. 

    Too many people haven't had a pay raise since the crash. 

    There's too much inequality. Too little social mobility. Too much paralysis in Washington. Too many threats at home and abroad. 

    But just look at the strengths we bring as Americans to meet these challenges. We have the most dynamic and diverse people in the world. We have the most tolerant and generous young people we've ever had. We have the most powerful military. The most innovative entrepreneurs. The most enduring values.

    Freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that these words are associated with us.  I have to tell you, as your Secretary of State, I went to 112 countries, and when people hear those words – they hear America.

    So don't let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We're not. Don't let anyone tell you we don't have what it takes. We do. 

    And most of all, don't believe anyone who says: “I alone can fix it.”  

    Those were actually Donald Trump's words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us.  

    Really? I alone can fix it? Isn't he forgetting? Troops on the front lines.

    Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger. Doctors and nurses who care for us. Teachers who change lives. 

    Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem.  Mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe.

    He's forgetting every last one of us.  Americans don't say: “I alone can fix it.” We say: “We'll fix it together.” 

    Remember: Our Founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power. Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.    

    Look at what happened in Dallas after the assassinations of five brave police officers. Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them. 

    And you know how the community responded? Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days. That's how Americans answer when the call for help goes out.  

    20 years ago I wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.”  A lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that?   

    This is what I mean. None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country totally alone.     

    America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger. I believe that with all my heart. 

    That's why “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history. It's not just a slogan for our campaign.

    It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build.  

    A country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top. Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school, no matter what zip code you live in. 

    A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach. Where families are strong… communities are safe…  And yes, love trumps hate. 

    That's the country we're fighting for. That's the future we're working toward…  And so it is with humility. . . determination . . .  and boundless confidence in America's promise… that I accept your nomination for President of the United States!

    Watch the final day of the Democratic National Convention in less than 4 minutes

    Now, sometimes the people at this podium are new to the national stage.

    As you know, I'm not one of those people. I've been your First Lady. Served 8 years as a Senator from the great State of New York.

    Then I represented all of you as Secretary of State.

    But my job titles only tell you what I've done. They don't tell you why.

    The truth is, through all these years of public service, the “service” part has always come easier to me than the “public” part.

    I get it that some people just don't know what to make of meSo let me tell you.

    The family I'm from . . . well, no one had their name on big buildings. My family were builders of a different kind. Builders in the way most American families are.

    They used whatever tools they had – whatever God gave them – and whatever life in America provided – and built better lives and better futures for their kids.

    My grandfather worked in the same Scranton lace mill for 50 years. Because he believed that if he gave everything he had, his children would have a better life than he did. And he was right.

    My dad, Hugh, made it to college. He played football at Penn State and enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor.  

    When the war was over he started his own small business, printing fabric for draperies.  I remember watching him stand for hours over silk screens.   

    He wanted to give my brothers and me opportunities he never had.  And he did.

    My mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents as a young girl.  She ended up on her own at 14, working as a house maid.  She was saved by the kindness of others.  

    Her first grade teacher saw she had nothing to eat at lunch, and brought extra food to share.  The lesson she passed on to me years later stuck with me:  No one gets through life alone.  We have to look out for each other and lift each other up.  

    She made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.” 

    I went to work for the Children's Defense Fund, going door-to-door in New Bedford, Massachusetts on behalf of children with disabilities who were denied the chance to go to school. 

    I remember meeting a young girl in a wheelchair on the small back porch of her house. She told me how badly she wanted to go to school – it just didn't seem possible. And I couldn't stop thinking of my mother and what she went through as a child.  

    It became clear to me that simply caring is not enough. To drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws. You need both understanding and action. 

    So we gathered facts. We built a coalition. And our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities.   

    It's a big idea, isn't it?  Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school.   

    But how do you make an idea like that real?  You do it step-by-step, year-by-year… sometimes even door-by-door.   

    And my heart just swelled when I saw Anastasia Somoza on this stage, representing millions of young people who – because of those changes to our laws – are able to get an education.  

    It's true... I sweat the details of policy – whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs.   

    Because it's not just a detail if it's your kid - if it's your family. It's a big deal.  And it should be a big deal to your president.   

    Over the last three days, you've seen some of the people who've inspired me. People who let me into their lives, and became a part of mine.    

    Hillary Clinton celebrating after her acceptence speech. Photos by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    People like Ryan Moore and Lauren Manning. They told their stories Tuesday night.  

    I first met Ryan as a 7-year-old. He was wearing a full body brace that must have weighed forty pounds because I leaned over to lift him up.  

    Children like Ryan kept me going when our plan for universal health care failed…and kept me working with leaders of both parties to help create theChildren's Health Insurance Program that covers 8 million kids every year.   

    Lauren Manning, who stood here with such grace and power, was gravely injured on 9/11. It was the thought of her, and Debbie St. John, and John Dolan and Joe Sweeney, and all the victims and survivors, that kept me working as hard as I could in the Senate on behalf of 9/11 families, and our first responders who got sick from their time at Ground Zero. 

    I was still thinking of Lauren, Debbie and all the others ten years later in the White House Situation Room when President Obama made the courageous decision that finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice.  

    In this campaign, I've met so many people who motivate me to keep fighting for change. And, with your help, I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House.  

    And you heard, you heard from Republicans and Independents who are supporting our campaign. I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving and the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don't. For all Americans. Together.

    Tonight, we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union:  the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President.   

    Standing here as my mother's daughter, and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between.   

    Happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone.  When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit.  So let's keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves. 

    Because even more important than the history we make tonight, is the history we will write together in the years ahead. Let's begin with what we're going to do to help working people in our country get ahead and stay ahead. 

    Now, I don't think President Obama and Vice President Biden get the credit they deserve for saving us from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.   

    Our economy is so much stronger than when they took office.  Nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs. Twenty million more Americans with health insurance.And an auto industry that just had its best year ever. That's real progress.   

    But none of us can be satisfied with the status quo. Not by a long shot.

    We're still facing deep-seated problems that developed long before the recession and have stayed with us through the recovery.

    I've gone around our country talking to working families. And I've heard from so many of you who feel like the economy just isn't working.

    Some of you are frustrated – even furious. And you know what??? You're right.It's not yet working the way it should.

    Americans are willing to work – and work hard. But right now, an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do. And less respect for them, period.

    Democrats are the party of working people. But we haven't done a good enoughjob showing that we get what you're going through, and that we're going to do something about it.

    So I want to tell you tonight how we will empower Americans to live better lives.

    My primary mission as President will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States... From my first day in office to my last! Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind.

    From our inner cities to our small towns, from Indian Country to Coal Country. From communities ravaged by addiction to regions hollowed out by plant closures.

    And here's what I believe. I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives. I believe that our economy isn't working the way it should because our democracy isn't working the way it should.

    That's why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And if necessary we'll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!

    I believe American corporations that have gotten so much from our country should be just as patriotic in return. Many of them are. But too many aren't. It's wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other.

    And I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again.I believe in scienceI believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.

    I believe that when we have millions of hardworking immigrants contributing to our economy, it would be self-defeating and inhumane to try to kick them out. Comprehensive immigration reform will grow our economy and keep families together - and it's the right thing to do.

    Whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign.  

    If you believe that companies should share profits, not pad executive bonuses, join us.  If you believe the minimum wage should be a living wage and no one working full time should have to raise their children in poverty… join us.

    If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care…join us. If you believe that we should say “no” to unfair trade deals... that we should stand up to China... that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers…join us.  

    If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman's right to make her own health care decisions… join us.  

    And yes, if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay… join us...  Let's make sure this economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.

    Now, you didn't hear any of this from Donald Trump at his convention.   He spoke for 70-odd minutes – and I do mean odd.  And he offered zero solutions.

    But we already know he doesn't believe these things.  No wonder he doesn't like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.

    In my first 100 days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.  Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business, and infrastructure.

    If we invest in infrastructure now, we'll not only create jobs today, but lay the foundation for the jobs of the future. And we will transform the way we prepare our young people for those jobs.

    Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!   We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt.

    It's just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can't refinance theirs. 

    And here's something we don't say often enough: College is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job. 

    We're going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.  We're going to give small businesses a boost.  Make it easier to get credit. Way too many dreams die in the parking lots of banks.

    In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.  We're going to help you balance family and work.  And you know what, if fighting for affordable child care and paid family leave is playing the “woman card,” then Deal Me In!

    Now, here's the thing, we're not only going to make all these investments, we're going to pay for every single one of them. And here's how: Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes.

    Not because we resent success. Because when more than 90% of the gains have gone to the top 1%, that's where the money is. And we are going to follow the money. And if companies take tax breaks and then ship jobs overseas, we'll make them pay us back. And we'll put that money to work where it belongs … creating jobs here at home!

    Now I know some of you are sitting at home thinking, well that all sounds pretty good. But how are you going to get it done?  How are you going to break through the gridlock in Washington?

    Look at my record.  I’ve worked across the aisle to pass laws and treaties and to launch new programs that help millions of people.  And if you give me thechance, that’s what I’ll do as President.

    But Trump, he's a businessman.  He must know something about the economy. 

    Well, let's take a closer look.  In Atlantic City, 60 miles from here, you'll find contractors and small businesses who lost everything because Donald Trump refused to pay his bills. Now remember what the President said last night -- don't boo, vote.

    People who did the work and needed the money, and didn't get it – not because he couldn't pay them, but because he wouldn't pay them. He just stiffed them.That sales pitch he's making to be your president? Put your faith in him – and you'll win big?  That's the same sales pitch he made to all those small businesses.

    Then Trump walked away, and left working people holding the bag.

    He also talks a big game about putting America First. Please explain to me what part of America First leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado. Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.

    Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – well, he could start by actually making things in America again.

    The choice we face is just as stark when it comes to our national security. Anyone reading the news can see the threats and turbulence we face.

    From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we're dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated. No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance. Looking for steady leadership.

    You want a leader who understands we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world and care for our veterans here at home. Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do it will be my highest priority. I'm proud that we put a lid on Iran's nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel's security. I'm proud that we shaped a global climate agreement – now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves. I'm proud to stand by our allies in NATO against any threat they face, including from Russia. I've laid out my strategy for defeating ISIS.

    We will strike their sanctuaries from the air, and support local forces taking them out on the ground. We will surge our intelligence so that we detect and prevent attacks bef

  • Maine watches President Barack Obama's speach of unity, hope and equality at the DNC

     

    President Barack Obama's remarks– As Prepared for Delivery

    Photographs by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    Hello, America.

    Twelve years ago tonight, I addressed this convention for the very first time.

    You met my two little girls, Malia and Sasha – now two amazing young women who just fill me with pride.  You fell for my brilliant wife and partner Michelle, who’s made me a better father and a better man; who’s gone on to inspire our nation as First Lady; and who somehow hasn’t aged a day. 

    I know the same can’t be said for me.  My girls remind me all the time.  Wow, you’ve changed so much, daddy. 

    And it’s true – I was so young that first time in Boston.  Maybe a little nervous addressing such a big crowd.  But I was filled with faith; faith in America – the generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story – indeed, all of our stories – possible.

    A lot’s happened over the years.  And while this nation has been tested by war and recession and all manner of challenge – I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your President, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America.

    How could I not be – after all we’ve achieved together?

    After the worst recession in 80 years, we’ve fought our way back.  We’ve seen deficits come down, 401(k)s recover, an auto industry set new records, unemployment reach eight-year lows, and our businesses create 15 million new jobs.

    After a century of trying, we declared that health care in America is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.  After decades of talk, we finally began to wean ourselves off foreign oil, and doubled our production of clean energy.

    We brought more of our troops home to their families, and delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.  Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids.

    We put policies in place to help students with loans; protect consumers from fraud; and cut veteran homelessness almost in half.  And through countless acts of quiet courage, America learned that love has no limits, and marriage equality is now a reality across the land.

    By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. 

    And through every victory and every setback, I’ve insisted that change is never easy, and never quick; that we wouldn’t meet all of our challenges in one term, or one presidency, or even in one lifetime. 

    So tonight, I’m here to tell you that yes, we still have more work to do.  More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who hasn’t yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years.  We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer; our homeland more secure, and our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation.  We’re not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed – that all of us are created equal and free in the eyes of God.

    That work involves a big choice this November.  Fair to say, this is not your typical election.  It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right.  This is a more fundamental choice – about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.

    Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. 

    But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative.  What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world.  There were no serious solutions to pressing problems – just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.

    And that is not the America I know. 

    The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity.  The America I know is decent and generous.  Sure, we have real anxieties – about paying the bills, protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent.  We get frustrated with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions; are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice.  There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten; parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities we had. 

    All that is real.  We’re challenged to do better; to be better.  But as I’ve traveled this country, through all fifty states; as I’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you, what I’ve also seen, more than anything, is what is right with America.  I see people working hard and starting businesses; people teaching kids and serving our country.  I see engineers inventing stuff, and doctors coming up with new cures.  I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, not constrained by what is, ready to seize what ought to be.

    Most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together – black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young and old; gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. 

    That’s the America I know.  And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, and has devoted her life to it; a mother and grandmother who’d do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American – the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton.

    Now, eight years ago, Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination.  We battled for a year and a half.  Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary’s tough.  Every time I thought I might have that race won, Hillary just came back stronger.

    But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team.  She was a little surprised, but ultimately said yes – because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us.  And for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline.  I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise or attention – that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion.  I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.

    Hillary’s still got the tenacity she had as a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund, going door to door to ultimately make sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education. 

    She’s still got the heart she showed as our First Lady, working with Congress to help push through a Children’s Health Insurance Program that to this day protects millions of kids. 

    She’s still seared with the memory of every American she met who lost loved ones on 9/11, which is why, as a Senator from New York, she fought so hard for funding to help first responders; why, as Secretary of State, she sat with me in the Situation Room and forcefully argued in favor of the mission that took out bin Laden.

    You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office.  Until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war.  But Hillary’s been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions.  She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes for the working family, the senior citizen, the small business owner, the soldier, and the veteran.  Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect.  And no matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits. 

    That’s the Hillary I know.  That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire.  And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.

    And, by the way, in case you were wondering about her judgment, look at her choice of running mate.  Tim Kaine is as good a man, as humble and committed a public servant, as anyone I know.  He will be a great Vice President, and he’ll make Hillary a better President.  Just like my dear friend and brother Joe Biden has made me a better President.

    Now, Hillary has real plans to address the concerns she’s heard from you on the campaign trail. She’s got specific ideas to invest in new jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits, to help put kids in preschool, and put students through college without taking on a ton of debt.  That’s what leaders do. 

    And then there’s Donald Trump.  He’s not really a plans guy.  Not really a facts guy, either.  He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.

    Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion?  Your voice?  If so, you should vote for him.  But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, and seeing the economy grow, and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close.  If you want someone with a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages, better benefits, a fairer tax code, a bigger voice for workers, and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton. 

    And if you’re concerned about who’s going to keep you and your family safe in a dangerous world – well, the choice is even clearer.  Hillary Clinton is respected around the world not just by leaders, but by the people they serve.  She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. And she has the judgment, the experience, and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism.  It’s not new to her.  Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out leaders, taking back territory.  I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed.  She’ll finish the job – and she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country.  She is fit to be the next Commander-in-Chief.

    Meanwhile, Donald Trump calls our military a disaster.  Apparently, he doesn’t know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known.  He suggests America is weak.  He must not hear the billions of men, women, and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom, dignity, and human rights.  He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, and tells the NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection.  Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag.  We meet our commitments.  And that’s one reason why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.

    America is already great.  America is already strong.  And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump. 

    In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person.  And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election – the meaning of our democracy. 

    Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.”  Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix.  It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades, because he’s not offering any real solutions to those issues.  He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear.  He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election. 

    That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose.  Because he’s selling the American people short.  We are not a fragile or frightful people.  Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order.  We don’t look to be ruled.  Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union. 

    That’s who we are.  That’s our birthright – the capacity to shape our own destiny.  That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent.  It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma, and workers to organize and fight for better wages.

    America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us.  It’s always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.

    And that’s what Hillary Clinton understands.  She knows that this is a big, diverse country, and that most issues are rarely black and white.  That even when you’re 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise.  That democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other.  She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, see ourselves in each other, fight for our principles but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may seem.

    Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work; that we can honor police and treat every community fairly.  She knows that acknowledging problems that have festered for decades isn’t making race relations worse – it’s creating the possibility for people of good will to join and make things better.

    Hillary knows we can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists; families that came here for the same reasons our forebears came – to work, and study, and make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please.  She knows their dream is quintessentially American, and the American Dream is something no wall will ever contain.

    It can be frustrating, this business of democracy.  Trust me, I know.  Hillary knows, too.  When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall.  Supporters can grow impatient, and worry that you’re not trying hard enough; that you’ve maybe sold out.

    But I promise you, when we keep at it; when we change enough minds; when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen.  Just ask the twenty million more people who have health care today.  Just ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband he loves.  Democracy works, but we gotta want it – not just during an election year, but all the days in between. 

    So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy, and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders’ supporters have been.  We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done.

    If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote – not just for a President, but for mayors, and sheriffs, and state’s attorneys, and state legislators.  And we’ve got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed.

    If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, but reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices.

    If you want to protect our kids and our cops from gun violence, we’ve got to get the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, who agree on background checks to be just as vocal and determined as the gun lobby that blocks change through every funeral we hold.  That’s how change will happen.

    Look, Hillary’s got her share of critics.  She’s been caricatured by the right and by some folks on the left; accused of everything you can imagine – and some things you can’t.  But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years.  She knows she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do.  That’s what happens when we try.  That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described – not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone “who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs…[but] who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.”

    Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena.  She’s been there for us – even if we haven’t always noticed.  And if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue.  You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport.  America isn’t about “yes he will.”  It’s about “yes we can.”  And we’re going to carry Hillary to victory this fall, because that’s what the moment demands. 

    You know, there’s been a lot of talk in this campaign about what America’s lost – people who tell us that our way of life is being undermined by pernicious changes and dark forces beyond our control.  They tell voters there’s a “real America” out there that must be restored.  This isn’t an idea that started with Donald Trump.  It’s been peddled by politicians for a long time – probably from the start of our Republic.

    And it’s got me thinking about the story I told you twelve years ago tonight, about my Kansas grandparents and the things they taught me when I was growing up.  They came from the heartland; their ancestors began settling there about 200 years ago.  They were Scotch-Irish mostly, farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil rig workers.  Hardy, small town folks.  Some were Democrats, but a lot of them were Republicans.  My grandparents explained that they didn’t like show-offs.  They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies.  They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life.  Instead, they valued traits like honesty and hard work.  Kindness and courtesy.  Humility; responsibility; helping each other out.

    That’s what they believed in.  True things.  Things that last.  The things we try to teach our kids. 

    And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas.  They weren’t limited to small towns.  These values could travel to Hawaii; even the other side of the world, where my mother would end up working to help poor women get a better life.  They knew these values weren’t reserved for one race; they could be passed down to a half-Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter; in fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids living in a bungalow on the South Side of Chicago.  They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke; a baseball cap or a hijab.

    America has changed over the years.  But these values my grandparents taught me – they haven’t gone anywhere.  They’re as strong as ever; still cherished by people of every party, every race, and every faith.  They live on in each of us.  What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here.  That’s what matters.  That’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own.  That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here.  That’s why our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service.  That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.

    That’s America.  Those bonds of affection; that common creed.  We don’t fear the future; we shape it, embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.  That’s what Hillary Clinton understands – this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot – that’s the America she’s fighting for.

    And that’s why I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands.  My time in this office hasn’t fixed everything; as much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do.  But for all the tough lessons I’ve had to learn; for all the places I’ve fallen short; I’ve told Hillary, and I’ll tell you what’s picked me back up, every single time.

    It’s been you.  The American people.

    It’s the letter I keep on my wall from a survivor in Ohio who twice almost lost everything to cancer, but urged me to keep fighting for health care reform, even when the battle seemed lost.  Do not quit.

    It’s the painting I keep in my private office, a big-eyed, green owl, made by a seven year-old girl who was taken from us in Newtown, given to me by her parents so I wouldn’t forget – a reminder of all the parents who have turned their grief into action.

    It’s the small business owner in Colorado who cut most of his own salary so he wouldn’t have to lay off any of his workers in the recession – because, he said, “that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of America.”

    It’s the conservative in Texas who said he disagreed with me on everything, but appreciated that, like him, I try to be a good dad.

    It’s the courage of the young soldier from Arizona who nearly died on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but who’s learned to speak and walk again – and earlier this year, stepped through the door of the Oval Office on his own power, to salute and shake my hand.

    It’s every American who believed we could change this country for the better, so many of you who’d never been involved in politics, who picked up phones, and hit the streets, and used the internet in amazing new ways to make change happen.  You are the best organizers on the planet, and I’m so proud of all the change you’ve made possible.

    Time and again, you’ve picked me up.  I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too.  Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me.  I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me.  Because you’re who I was talking about twelve years ago, when I talked about hope – it’s been you who’ve fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long.  Hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; the audacity of hope!

    America, you have vindicated that hope these past eight years.  And now I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen.  This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me – to reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.

    Thank you for this incredible journey.  Let’s keep it going.  God bless the United States of America

  • Senator Sanders: “I am proud to stand with her”

    Remarks as Prepared for Delivery


    Good evening. How great it is to be with you tonight.

    Let me begin by thanking the hundreds of thousands of Americans who actively participated in our campaign as volunteers. Let me thank the 2.5 million Americans who helped fund our campaign with an unprecedented 8 million individual campaign contributions — averaging $27 a piece. Let me thank the 13 million Americans who voted for the political revolution, giving us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight — 46 percent of the total. And delegates: Thank you for being here, and for all the work you’ve done. I look forward to your votes during the roll call on Tuesday night.

    And let me offer a special thanks to the people of my own state of Vermont who have sustained me and supported me as a mayor, congressman, senator and presidential candidate. And to my family — my wife Jane, four kids and seven grandchildren — thank you very much for your love and hard work on this campaign.

    I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am. But to all of our supporters — here and around the country — I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved.

    Together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution — our revolution — continues. Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent — a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice — that struggle continues. And I look forward to being part of that struggle with you.

    Let me be as clear as I can be. This election is not about, and has never been about, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates who sought the presidency. This election is not about political gossip. It’s not about polls. It’s not about campaign strategy. It’s not about fundraising. It’s not about all the things the media spends so much time discussing.

    This election is about — and must be about — the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren.

    This election is about ending the 40-year decline of our middle class the reality that 47 million men, women and children live in poverty. It is about understanding that if we do not transform our economy, our younger generation will likely have a lower standard of living then their parents.

    This election is about ending the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we currently experience, the worst it has been since 1928. It is not moral, not acceptable and not sustainable that the top one-tenth of one percent now own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, or that the top 1 percent in recent years has earned 85 percent of all new income. That is unacceptable. That must change.

    This election is about remembering where we were 7.5 years ago when President Obama came into office after eight years of Republican trickle-down economics.

    The Republicans want us to forget that as a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Some 800,000 people a month were losing their jobs. We were running up a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion and the world’s financial system was on the verge of collapse.

    We have come a long way in the last 7.5 years, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership in pulling us out of that terrible recession.

    Yes, we have made progress, but I think we can all agree that much, much more needs to be done.

    This election is about which candidate understands the real problems facing this country and has offered real solutions — not just bombast, fear-mongering, name-calling and divisiveness.

    We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger — not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans — and divides us up.

    By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that — based on her ideas and her leadership — Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close.

    This election is about a single mom I saw in Nevada who, with tears in her eyes, told me that she was scared to death about the future because she and her young daughter were not making it on the $10.45 an hour she was earning. This election is about that woman and the millions of other workers in this country who are struggling to survive on totally inadequate wages.

    Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. She understands that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she is determined to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — our roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater plants.

    But her opponent — Donald Trump — well, he has a very different view. He does not support raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — a starvation wage. While Donald Trump believes in huge tax breaks for billionaires, he believes that states should actually have the right to lower the minimum wage below $7.25. What an outrage!

    This election is about overturning Citizens United, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of our country. That decision allows the wealthiest people in America, like the billionaire Koch brothers, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying elections and, in the process, undermine American democracy.

    Hillary Clinton will nominate justices to the Supreme Court who are prepared to overturn Citizens United and end the movement toward oligarchy in this country. Her Supreme Court appointments will also defend a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants and the government’s ability to protect the environment.

    If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.

    This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, and the many others who cannot afford to go to college. During the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton and I both focused on this issue but with different approaches. Recently, however, we have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less — 83 percent of our population — will be able to go to a public college or university tuition free. That proposal also substantially reduces student debt.

    This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that — unless we act boldly and transform our energy system in the very near future — there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels. She understands that when we do that we can create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.

    Donald Trump? Well, like most Republicans, he chooses to reject science. He believes that climate change is a “hoax,” no need to address it. Hillary Clinton understands that a president’s job is to worry about future generations, not the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry.

    This campaign is about moving the United States toward universal health care and reducing the number of people who are uninsured or under-insured. Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange. She believes that anyone 55 years or older should be able to opt in to Medicare and she wants to see millions more Americans gain access to primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers.

    And What is Donald Trump’s position on health care? No surprise there. Same old, same old Republican contempt for working families. He wants to abolish the Affordable Care Act, throw 20 million people off of the health insurance they currently have and cut Medicaid for lower-income Americans.

    Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs and the fact that Americans pay the highest prices in the world for their medicine. She knows that Medicare must negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and that drug companies should not be making billions in profits while one in five Americans are unable to afford the medicine they need. The greed of the drug companies must end.

    This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It’s about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools and at good jobs, not in jail cells. Hillary Clinton understands that we have to invest in education and jobs for our young people, not more jails or incarceration.

    In these stressful times for our country, this election must be about bringing our people together, not dividing us up. While Donald Trump is busy insulting one group after another, Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. Yes. We become stronger when black and white, Latino, Asian-American, Native American — all of us — stand together. Yes. We become stronger when men and women, young and old, gay and straight, native born and immigrant fight to create the kind of country we all know we can become.

    It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That’s what this campaign has been about. That’s what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Among many other strong provisions, the Democratic Party now calls for breaking up the major financial institutions on Wall Street and the passage of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. It also calls for strong opposition to job-killing free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency — and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.

    I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.

    Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight.

  • Puerto Rico will get debt relief deal from Washington D.C.

     The Senate has passed a financial rescue package for debt-stricken Puerto Rico, the House has already voted on the bill and now the legislation head to President Barack Obama. The President backs the bill and will sign it.

    The vote was 68-30 on June 29, 2-18 - just two days before the island owes a $2 billion debt payment to creditors. How the island got into debt to such a degree has a lot to do with banking back door deals that only benifited the 1 percent. 

    The White House and congressional leaders in both parties had warned that without help from Washington, Puerto Rico will descend into economic chaos, with signs already pointing to a humanitarian crisis.

  • Clinton's huge victory in Virgin Islands, with 84.2 percent of the vote moves her closer to Democratic nomination

    Hillary Clinton in Maine, September 18, 2016

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's huge victory in Virgin Islands, with 84.2 percent of the vote moves her closer to Democratic nomination, picking up 6 of the territory’s 7 pledged delegates at stake.

    She is now about 60 delegates short of the 2,383 needed to advance to the November general election.

    The Virgin Islands is one of five U.S. territories that casts votes in primaries and caucuses to decide the nominee, even though those residents aren’t eligible to vote in November. While its pool of 7 delegates is small, the island chain took on more importance as Clinton gets closer to clinching the nomination.

    Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Hillary in the Virgin Islands while Sanders went to Puerto Rico, which has 60 delegates at stake in a primary June 7, 2016.

    According to the associated press, Clinton now has 1,775 delegates to Sanders’ 1,502, based on primaries and caucuses. When including superdelegates, Clinton’s lead is substantial – 2,322 to Sanders’ 1,548. It takes 2,383 to win.

    Six states including New Jersey and California will vote on Tuesday, with 694 delegates up for grabs. The District of Columbia is the last to vote on June 14.

  • Why a Democratic Socialist switched from Bernie to Hillary

    Hillary Clinton campainged in Maine, September 18, 2015, energizing supporters. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the presidential race. As a democratic socialist it seemed obvious to me that I would support Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race. I have followed his career, and supported him, since I first moved to Vermont in 1972. I was a member of the Liberty Union Party, for Pete's sake, and Bernie's success in Vermont politics coincided with the political and cultural changes we wanted to make as part of the "back to the land" movement that brought so many war-weary and politically alienated young people to Vermont as a place to learn and help create changes on a workable scale.  


    But I have had an increasingly uncomfortable feeling as I watched the campaign unfold. Bernie is talking about a political revolution in ways that make no sense to me. The American system dampens the possibility of radical change through the ballot box. There is no third party/proportional representation. I can't imagine him leading as much as a change in the majority party in the House and there is no way any of his more dramatic proposals have any chance of passing given the composition of Congress--which is very unlikely to change radically in the near/medium future. Hope and Change struck me as utopian vagueness in 2008 and Bernie is doubling down. 

    I'm tired of idealistic campaign rhetoric. When Trump talks about we're just gonna win, win, win, big wall, smack China, we know it's all bluster. Bernie talks about single payer and free college tuition for all but that is no more realistic with this Congress than a magic wall.  I don't even WANT free college tuition for affluent young people. In some countries they can do it because relatively few go to universities--not so here. It's completely unbelievable.

    And then I watched the debates. I have a lot of reservations about Hillary Clinton. There are things she has done and votes, e.g., Iraq, she has cast that I can't accept. But I watched the debates. She is intelligent, composed, knowledgeable across the board. We can argue about labels but Clinton is a liberal with a liberal voting record. Is she too hawkish? I think so. I think she is too pro-Israel. But I don't think she's reckless.  She had positions and rhetoric on criminal justice twenty years ago that I didn’t like but I think she has learned and grown as progressive people do. 

    And unlike Obama, whom I respect greatly, she would not make the mistake of thinking her personal charisma will create a kumbaya wave in Washington. She knows the Republicans well enough to call them "my enemy." She will go after them rather than try to convert them.

    Finally, I am sick of the Hillary-bashing. I can't think of another politician in my conscious lifetime who has caught more shit than she, from people making the White House travel office a cause celebre to accusing her of killing her friend, Vince Foster, to Whitewater, to being (gasp!) a lesbian, or shrew, or thick-legged (gasp, again) to Benghazi, to ... fill in the blank. And it is misogynistic.  I know people who consider her laughably dishonest and I ask them, what exactly, has she lied about? Oh, they say, everyone knows--because they have been exposed to relentless bashing of her that has not been refuted strongly enough by people on the left.


    I am a socialist feminist. I believe there is no true socialism without feminism and no true feminism without socialism. I have worked in various ways to further both causes. As a citizen of the country I have a more particular responsibility to vote for the person I think is best qualified at this particular moment for what can well be considered the most important position in the world. I have decided that is Hillary Clinton.

    This Editorial frist appeared on the DailyKos

  • Bernie Sanders just doesn’t get how politics works


    Sunday night, I watched the fourth Democratic presidential debate so you didn’t have to.

    Initial impression: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and democracy won. This was a substantive debate, devoid of the histrionics, name-calling, and fact-free pronouncements that are pro forma in the Republican presidential confabs. Both of the leading candidates did a good job of playing to their respective bases of support. Clinton came across as the pragmatic, level-headed, won’t-rock-the-boat candidate; Sanders as the passionate reformer who wants to start a revolution. As for Martin O’Malley, he seems like a nice man who has no chance of being elected president.

    Now for my deeper impression of the debate: even with his rising poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, I find it increasingly difficult to take Sanders seriously as a presidential candidate.

    Maybe it’s the fact that he’s 74, would be the oldest man to ever become president, and yet couldn’t be bothered to release his medical records until a Clinton surrogate attacked him for it.

    Maybe it’s that Sanders finds a way to answer virtually every question by turning it back to another predictable and one-dimensional attack on Wall Street and big money.

    Maybe it’s that every time he answers a question on foreign policy and national security, it’s blindingly apparent that not only does he not understand foreign policy and national security, he simply doesn’t care to know more. I mean, only Bernie Sanders could answer a question about instability Middle East by pivoting to an attack on wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia, which he repeatedly says has to play a greater role in the civil war in Syria, as if no one on his staff could bother to tell him that Saudi Arabia is already playing an important role in the civil war in Syria.

    Maybe it’s that his political pronouncements and calls for revolution increasingly remind me of the most annoying classmates in my political science classes in college.

    It’s all that and something else — Sanders really does have a singularly naive and simple-minded understanding of American politics. He genuinely seems to believe — and I know this because he repeatedly yelled it at me during the debate — that money is the root of all evil in politics and that if you get the big money out, great things will happen. Sanders said that “a handful of billionaires . . . control economic and political life of this country.” He argued that Republicans and Democrats don’t “hate each other.” He called that a “mythology.” Instead, he said, the “real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do.”

    I’m sorry, but that is a maddeningly simplistic — and wrong — explanation of how American politics works.

    Take single-payer health care, which Sanders claims has been difficult to enact because of a corrupt campaign finance system that allows the “pharmaceutical industry” and private insurance companies to spend millions in “campaign contributions and lobbying.”

    On the one hand, Sanders is right — those are powerful interests. But so are doctors and hospitals, who’d pay a huge price if single payer became law; so are Republicans, who fought tooth and nail to defeat Obamacare and would do the same for a single-payer plan; so are Democrats, who couldn’t even support a public option for Obamacare and are unlikely to support single payer; so are Americans, who may not be inclined to support another restructuring of the health care system — a few years after the last one. It’s not just about money; it’s also about a political system constructed and reinforced to block the kind of massive reform Sanders is advocating. Money is important, but it’s not even close to the whole story.

    How someone who’s been in Washington as long as Sanders can believe that all that stands between doing “what the American people want [Congress] to do” is something as simple as reforming campaign finance is stunning. Sanders, who brags the NRA gives him a D- rating, is the same politician who supported legislation giving gun manufacturers immunity from civil lawsuits and voted against the Brady Bill. Why? Perhaps it is because Sanders comes from a state that has few gun control laws and lots of gun owners. Yes red-state senators who oppose gun control receive contributions from the NRA. They also have constituents who oppose gun control measures and vote on the issue — like Bernie Sanders. It’s as if in Sanders’ mind, parochialism, ideology, or politics plays no role . . . in politics.

    This is frankly what’s become so frustrating about Sanders campaign. I give the man credit for raising issues all too rarely heard in presidential debates, and as a protest candidate, Sanders is playing a vital role in the political process. But now that Sanders’ campaign has gathered steam — and he is ludicrously claiming that he’s more electable than Hillary Clinton — Sanders needs to do more than just sound the same tiresome platitudes and one-dimensional arguments about the evils of Wall Street. He needs to take the job of running for president seriously. If Sunday night was any indication, that’s still not happening.

    The simple fact is that there were three candidates on the debate stage Sunday night — and only one of them is qualified to be president. It’s not Martin O’Malley, and it’s not Bernie Sanders.

    From the Boston Globe

  • Major Democratic debate Sunday, January 17, a must watch

    Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate should be the most closely-watched meeting of the party’s candidates this year. But the Democratic National Committee’s schedule, may not bring in viewers.

    It's a three-day weekend, and at the same time the debate airs so will National Football League playoff games and a new episode of PBS’s popular series, “Downton Abbey.”

    This week, new polls showed former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont statistically tied in Iowa. This means that the next Democratic debate will be the most important, yet.

    It's also, the last debate before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.

  • Maine Dems to blame for Gov. LePage

    Governor Paul LePage spoke at a news conference at the State House in Augusta, Maine, last week. Photo by Andi Parkinson

    America’s most controversial governor has been at it again. No stranger to Trumpian statements, Maine Governor Paul LePage recently made national headlines for his racially charged comments about Maine’s heroin epidemic. The story has the other 49 states wondering: How the heck did center-left Maine get such a conservative firebrand for a governor?

    The conventional wisdom cites a third candidate playing spoiler. In both his first campaign in 2010 and in his reelection bid in 2014, Republican LePage faced not only a Democrat but also Eliot Cutler, a popular independent. Cutler has become public enemy number one among Maine Democrats, who say he siphoned off liberal voters, allowing LePage to waltz into office with two easy victories. But the numbers say otherwise.

    In 2010, LePage won with a narrow plurality of the vote (38.1 percent), defeating Cutler (36.4 percent) and Democrat Libby Mitchell (19.1 percent). Even without Cutler, Democrats still had a deep — nearly 20-point — hole to dig themselves out of. If Cutler’s support had gone entirely to Mitchell, she would have won, but that was unlikely. It’s more plausible that Cutler, a centrist, drew about equally from LePage and Mitchell voters. If Cutler’s votes were redistributed evenly, LePage would have won by 56.3 to 37.3 percent. Mitchell would have needed to capture over two-thirds of Cutler’s votes to win.

    On the other hand, you can make a case that Mitchell played spoiler to Cutler. With just over half of the independents’ support, Mitchell was the true third wheel. In a head-to-head between LePage and Cutler, a vast majority of Mitchell’s votes would almost certainly have gone to Cutler, her closest candidate ideologically.

    In 2014, LePage improved on his performance but still fell short of a majority, defeating Democrat Mike Michaud 48.2 percent to 43.4 percent. Cutler took 8.4 percent of the vote — enough to potentially swing the election. But, again, he didn’t. According to exit polls, Cutler’s voters would have split roughly evenly between LePage and Michaud in a two-way race. Do the math, and that’s a 51 to 49 percent squeaker for LePage.

    So how did LePage win twice in moderate Maine? Simple: More Republicans turned out to vote than Democrats. The 2010 and 2014 elections were both low-turnout midterms, and Republican waves nationwide allowed fringe candidates like LePage to succeed even where they had no business doing so. If Democrats want to keep radical conservatives off their turf, they can’t shunt the blame onto others. They must solve the riddle of winning downballot elections for themselves.

  • President Obama's full State of the Union, 2016

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans:  

    Tonight marks the eighth year that I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union.  And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter.  (Applause.)  I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.  (Laughter.)  I've been there.  I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.  (Laughter.) 

    And I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low.  But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.  So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform -- (applause) -- and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.  (Applause.)  So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again. 

    But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.  And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done.  Fixing a broken immigration system.  (Applause.)  Protecting our kids from gun violence.  (Applause.)  Equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  Paid leave.  (Applause.)  Raising the minimum wage. (Applause.)  All these things still matter to hardworking families.  They’re still the right thing to do.  And I won't let up until they get done.

    But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year.  I want to focus on the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond.  I want to focus on our future.

    We live in a time of extraordinary change -- change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world.  It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.  It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away.  It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality.  And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

    America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights.  Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.  And each time, we overcame those fears.  We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.”  Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.  We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people.  And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before.

    What was true then can be true now.  Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. 

    In fact, it’s in that spirit that we have made progress these past seven years.  That's how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  (Applause.)  That's how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector.  (Applause.)  That's how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans.  (Applause.) That's how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.  (Applause.) 

    But such progress is not inevitable.  It’s the result of choices we make together.  And we face such choices right now.  Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people?  Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?

    So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer -- regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress. 

    First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?  (Applause.) 

    Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?  (Applause.) 

    Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?  (Applause.) 

    And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

    Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact:  The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  (Applause.)  We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history.  (Applause.)  More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half.  Our auto industry just had its best year ever.  (Applause.)  That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.  (Applause.) 

    Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.  (Applause.)  Now, what is true -- and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious -- is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up. 

    Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated.  Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition.  As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise.  Companies have less loyalty to their communities.  And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

    All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing.  It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to.  And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

    For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works also better for everybody.  We’ve made progress.  But we need to make more.  And despite all the political arguments that we’ve had these past few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.

    We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering.  In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and -- (applause) -- offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.  We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.  (Applause.) 

    And we have to make college affordable for every American.  (Applause.)  No hardworking student should be stuck in the red.  We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income.  And that's good.  But now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.  (Applause.)  Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.  (Applause.)  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.) 

    But a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this chamber.  (Laughter.)  For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.  Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain.  But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build in the process. 

    That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever.  We shouldn’t weaken them; we should strengthen them. (Applause.)  And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today.  That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage.  Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far.  (Applause.)  And in the process, health care inflation has slowed.  And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

    Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon.  (Applause.)  A little applause right there.  Laughter.)  Just a guess.  But there should be other ways parties can work together to improve economic security.  Say a hardworking American loses his job -- we shouldn’t just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him.  If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills.  And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him.  That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everybody.

    I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty.  America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up.  And I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't have children.  (Applause.)  

    But there are some areas where we just have to be honest -- it has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years.  And a lot of them fall under the category of what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations.  (Applause.) And it's an honest disagreement, and the American people have a choice to make.

    I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy.  I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed.  There is red tape that needs to be cut.  (Applause.)  There you go!  Yes!  (Applause  But after years now of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense.  (Applause.)  Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.  Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.  (Applause.)  Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.  It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.  (Applause.)   

    The point is, I believe that in this In new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.  The rules should work for them.  (Applause.)  And I'm not alone in this.  This year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for their shareholders.  (Applause.)  And I want to spread those best practices across America.  That's part of a brighter future.  (Applause.) 

    In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.  And this brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer:  How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

    Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.  (Laughter.)  We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight.  And 12 years later, we were walking on the moon.  (Applause.)   

    Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA.  America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver.  America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride.  America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to shape a better world.  (Applause.)  That's who we are. 

    And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.  We’ve protected an open Internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.  (Applause.)  We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.  But we can do so much more. 

    Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. (Applause.)  So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.  (Applause.)  For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.  (Applause.) 

    Medical research is critical.  We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.  (Applause.)  Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.  (Applause.)   

    But even if -- even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record -- until 2015 turned out to be even hotter -- why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future? (Applause.) 

    Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history.  Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.  On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average.  We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy -- something, by the way, that environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.   And meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.  (Applause.)  Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.  (Applause.) 

    Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources.  Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.  We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going.  That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.  (Applause.) 

    Now, none of this is going to happen overnight.  And, yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.  But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, the planet we’ll preserve -- that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve.  And it's within our grasp. 

    Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.  And that’s why the third big question that we have to answer together is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

    I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air.  Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.  Let me tell you something.  The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period. (Applause.)  Period.  It’s not even close.  It's not even close. (Applause.)  It's not even close.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  (Applause.)  No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead -- they call us.  (Applause.)

    I mean, it's useful to level the set here, because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.    

    Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time.  But that’s not primarily because of some looming superpower out there, and certainly not because of diminished American strength.  In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. 

    The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.  Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in significant transition.  Even as their economy severely contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria -- client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit.  And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

    It’s up to us, the United States of America, to help remake that system.  And to do that well it means that we’ve got to set priorities.

    Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.  (Applause.)  Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.  They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country.  Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies.  We have to take them out.

    But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  (Applause.)  That is the story ISIL wants to tell.  That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.  We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.  (Applause.)  We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.  (Applause.)  

    And that’s exactly what we’re doing.  For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology.  With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons.  We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria. 

    If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.  (Applause.)  Take a vote.  But the American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them.  If you doubt America’s commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.  (Applause.)  Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.  When you come after Americans, we go after you.  (Applause.)  And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.  (Applause.)  

    Our foreign policy hast to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there.  For even without ISIL, even without al Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world -- in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, in parts of Central America, in Africa, and Asia.  Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks.  Others will just fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.  The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians.  That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

    We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis, even if it's done with the best of intentions.  (Applause.)  That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us.  It’s the lesson of Vietnam; it's the lesson of Iraq -- and we should have learned it by now.  (Applause.)   

    Fortunately, there is a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power.  It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.   

    That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

    That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.  (Applause.)   

    That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  (Applause.)  Our military, our doctors, our development workers -- they were heroic; they set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million lives were saved.

    That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, and protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia.  It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then support more good jobs here in America.  With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.  You want to show our strength in this new century?  Approve this agreement.  Give us the tools to enforce it.  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.)   

    Let me give you another example.  Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, and set us back in Latin America.  That’s why we restored diplomatic relations -- (applause) -- opened the door to travel and commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  (Applause.) So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over -- lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  

    The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world -- except when we kill terrorists -- or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.  Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.  It means seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity. 

    When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids.  When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick -- (applause) -- it's the right thing to do, and it prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores.  Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  That's within our grasp.  (Applause.)  And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria -- something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.  (Applause.) 

    That's American strength.  That's American leadership.  And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.  That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.  (Applause.)  There’s a better way.  (Applause.)   

    And that’s why we need to reject any politics -- any politics -- that targets people because of race or religion.  (Applause.)  Let me just say this.  This is not a matter of political correctness.  This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong.  The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith. 

    His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I'm standing on tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”  When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not telling it like it is.  It’s just wrong.  (Applause.)  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.  It makes it harder to achieve our goals.  It betrays who we are as a country.  (Applause.) 

    “We the People.”  Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that's how we might perfect our Union.  And that brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing that I want to say tonight.

    The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach.  But it will only happen if we work together.  It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.  It will only happen if we fix our politics.

    A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.  This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests.  That’s one of our strengths, too.  Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

    But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.  It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.  It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.  Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise, or when even basic facts are contested, or when we listen only to those who agree with us.  Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention.  And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

    Too many Americans feel that way right now.  It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.  I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

    But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task -- or any President’s -- alone.  There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base.  I know; you’ve told me.  It's the worst-kept secret in Washington.  And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor. 

    But that means if we want a better politics -- and I'm addressing the American people now -- if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President.  We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.  I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  (Applause.)  Let a bipartisan group do it.  (Applause.) 

    We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.  (Applause.)  And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution -- because it's a problem.  And most of you don't like raising money.  I know; I've done it.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder.  (Applause.)  We need to modernize it for the way we live now.  (Applause.)  This is America:  We want to make it easier for people to participate.  And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

    But I can’t do these things on my own.  (Applause.)  Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected -- that will only happen when the American people demand it.  It depends on you.  That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people. 

    What I’m suggesting is hard.  It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don't care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.  Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.  And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

    We can’t afford to go down that path.  It won’t deliver the economy we want.  It will not produce the security we want.  But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world. 

    So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it -- our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen.  To vote.  To speak out.  To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. (Applause.)  We need every American to stay active in our public life -- and not just during election time -- so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day. 

    It is not easy.  Our brand of democracy is hard.  But I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that helped America travel so far.  Voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.  Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word -- voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love. 

    And they’re out there, those voices.  They don’t get a lot of attention; they don't seek a lot of fanfare; but they’re busy doing the work this country needs doing.  I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours.  I see you, the American people.  And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see our future unfolding.

    I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off. 

    I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late at night to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early, and maybe with some extra supplies that she bought because she knows that that young girl might someday cure a disease.

    I see it in the American who served his time, and bad mistakes as a child but now is dreaming of starting over -- and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance.  The protester determined to prove that justice matters -- and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, the community that lines up to cheer him on.

    It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his vote for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count -- because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

    That's the America I know.  That’s the country we love.   Clear-eyed.  Big-hearted.  Undaunted by challenge.  Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  (Applause.)  That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.  I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.  

    And that’s why I stand here confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong.  (Applause.) 

    Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America. 

  • Maine House Speaker Eves praises housing bond victory, urges LePage to act quickly

     Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, on Tuesday night praised the passage of bond Question 2 on the statewide ballot. The bond passed with 68 percent of the vote.

    Eves led the bipartisan effort in the State Legislature to pass the $15 million bond proposal to invest in affordable and efficient housing for Maine seniors.

    “The passage of the housing bond is a huge victory for Maine seniors and the economy. It’s a win win for communities across the state,” said Eves, who sponsored the bond proposal. “The investment will help a dire need for affordable housing for Maine seniors, while also helping to create construction jobs in communities in rural and urban areas of our state. Maine voters sent a strong message tonight in support of seniors. I urge the governor to release the bond quickly and honor the will of the voters.”

    Maine has a shortage of nearly 9,000 affordable rental homes for low income older adults, and that this shortfall will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022 unless action is taken to address the problem, according to a report by independent national research firm Abt Associates.

     “With the passage of the Housing Bond, Maine can start to scale that number back through improved affordable housing measures in some of our most vulnerable communities,”said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. 

    The Senior Housing Bond will enable more Mainers to age in their own homes by revitalizing communities and providing new homes for older Mainers; dedicating funds to home repair and weatherization of some existing homes; and by creating jobs in the construction industry.

    AARP Maine heard from thousands of their 230,000 members in the state regarding this issue in the weeks leading up to the election.  On October 20th, more than 4,000 AARP members participated in a live tele-town hall with Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick).  Participants were invited to ask questions during the town hall meeting and many callers expressed their support for the state’s investment in affordable housing.

  • If waitresses earned a decent minimum wage, our dignity might get a raise

    Editorial by Annie Quandt, a server working in the Old Port and a resident of Westport Island. First appeared in the PPH

    While I’ve never had someone completely stiff me because it took them a while to get their food – the customers’ rationale in the New Jersey incident, as they noted on the receipt – I frequently find myself putting up with almost anything from customers in order to get the tips that make up half of my income.

    In Maine, 82 percent of all tipped restaurant workers are women, and any woman who has worked for tips will tell you that sexual harassment and rude comments are, sadly, just another part of the job.

    When your customers pay your wages instead of your employer, you don’t have the luxury of speaking up when you feel uncomfortable or disrespected; if rent is due that week or you have a family to feed, you just have to put up with it.

    I’ve been working at a restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland for just about a year now, and I just picked up a second serving job on Commercial Street to make ends meet. Recently, two men came in, clearly intoxicated, and sat at their table for an hour and a half trying to look up the waitresses’ skirts.

    All of the women working that night could feel these men leering and were uncomfortable and anxious the whole shift. When we complained to management, they told us to cut off their alcohol consumption – but nothing else was done.

    These types of incidents are commonplace in the restaurant industry. I have been asked out on dates, with the customer’s pen hovering over the tip line as he waited for my answer. I have been asked for my number more times than I can count. I have had customers comment on my outfit or my body while I’m working. I’ve wanted to say something, but the customer is always right … right?

    When women servers can’t defend themselves from rude behavior from customers, the entire restaurant culture begins to accept it as the norm. Even management plays a role in harassment in this industry.

    If you’re not “date ready” when you show up for your shift, in some restaurants, you’ll be told to change or unbutton your top or to put on more makeup to make yourself appealing. In my case, the managers have made it clear that the curvier girls are not allowed to wear certain clothing items, while the more slender servers can wear whatever they want to work.

    Comments like this about body types and personal style not only make us all feel watched and uncomfortable but also sometimes make it more difficult for us to do our jobs. When I’m sweeping and cleaning and doing side work in 95-degree heat, the freedom to wear a skirt versus jeans is almost a necessity.

    Complaints about sexual harassment from co-workers are rarely taken seriously in restaurants. It is always tough to report unwanted attention or harassment from co-workers or customers, but it is especially difficult if the harassment comes from management.

    Where do you turn when the person who holds power over you at your job is the one harassing you? What happens if you do make a formal complaint? The restaurant industry is a tight-knit community, and if any employer thinks you might be a hassle, they won’t hire you.

    Servers wield so little power in their positions and in their wages, and I am inclined to think that the two are inextricably linked.

    According to a Restaurant Opportunities Centers United survey, servers working in states like Maine – where there is a sub-minimum wage for tipped workers – are three times more likely to experience harassment on the job than servers who work in states where everyone makes the same minimum wage.

    This is evidence of a systemic problem – combined with the fact that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 7 percent of American women work in restaurants but 37 percent of all EEOC sexual harassment complaints come out of this industry. We’re allowing an entire industry full of hardworking women to go to work with the presumption that they will be harassed.

    I support the 2016 “wages with dignity” referendum, which would raise the minimum to $12 by 2020 and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers by 2024. Earning the same minimum wage as other workers would mean tipped workers wouldn’t feel like they have to ingratiate themselves with their customers regardless of their behavior.

    It would mean that management and our co-workers would have to respect us as equals (because when you are paid less, you must obviously be worth less). And it would mean a stable wage for the long winters and tough weekday shifts when servers are more willing to sacrifice dignity at work in order to make ends meet.

    I deserve dignity on the job, and one fair minimum wage would help me get it.

  • Union solidarity at BIW in Maine

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

    By Ramona du Houx

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally to promote solidarity during the year before the union’s contract expires.

    “The union is behind its leadership, and the company is going to have to negotiate with us and not dictate to us," said Jay Wadleigh, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6. “They need to abide by the contract, stop misleading the media and just work with us so we can get the costs of these ships down. We’re the best shipbuilders in the world. We want to work. We just want to be treated with dignity and respect and be negotiated with and not dictated to.”

    BIW is known as one of the best shipbuilders in America. It's slogan is "Bath Built is Best Built."

    This is the second big march at the shipyard this year. On March 24 nearly 1,000 members of the International Association of Machinists Union Local marched to rallying support and protesting a variety of proposed BIW changes.

    Caps on defense spending have resulted in fewer Naval contracts thus spurring the BIW changes including outsourcing work and cross-training employees.

    BIW says the measures will increase the shipyard’s efficiency and keep the costs of building destroyers competitive. The shipyard insists it needs to be competitive to win two bidding contracts. But the union says there are better ways to cut costs. The stalemate has resulted in a third-party arbitration and a federal lawsuit charging BIW with violating its contract with workers.


    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

  • A pattern of false accusations against Hillary- by Barney Frank

    Hillary Clinton in Maine with Governor John E. Baldacci in 2007 - photo by Ramona du Houx

    Editorial By Former Congressman Barney Frank

    Hillary Clinton has been exonerated on every one of those charges leveled at her.

    The current controversy around Hillary Clinton is part of a well-established pattern.

    Clinton is accused of supporting a policy of cooperation with Russia by helping a Russian company buy uranium. This was a policy that began under President George W. Bush and was continued by President Obama until Russia invaded Ukraine.

    This “scandal” follows others, like her non-role in the murder of an American ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, and her unsuspicious use of a secure personal email account when she was secretary of state. Articles about each accusation usually include a reference to previous controversies. The intent is to make people likelier to believe the accusation du jour.

    There is a pattern here. It is a pattern of her being falsely accused. None of these prior accusations turned out to have any substance. Clinton has been exonerated on every one of those charges leveled at her.

    During the 1990s, the Republican Party did everything possible to find something that she had done wrong and were unable to do so.

    In 1993, as a member of the House Banking Committee, I participated in hearings about the accusation that the Clintons had done something wrong regarding the Whitewater land deal. Nothing turned up. But when Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, they announced that there had been a cover-up and reopened the investigation. In 1995, Chairman Jim Leach announced there would be two weeks of hearings into Whitewater, with a report at the end. After the first week, it became very clear that neither President Clinton nor Hillary Clinton had done anything that warranted a negative conclusion. Jim Leach is a man of great integrity, and while he did his partisan duty to convene the hearing, his intellectual honesty prevented him from satisfying the Republican wish for condemnation. He ended the hearings after one week, and the committee issued no report, on the political principle that the absence of bad news is no news.

    Kenneth Starr took over from there. He was charged with investigating Whitewater, the suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, the FBI files that found their way to the White House, the firing of people in the travel office and everything else of which the Clintons were accused. Not one of these allegations led to any finding that she had done anything improper, inappropriate or wrong.

    Starr fairly quickly concluded that Foster had in fact committed suicide, refuting the vicious allegations that Hillary Clinton had somehow been involved.

    He then continued to investigate all the other charges, spending tens of millions of dollars, with no results until the Monica Lewinsky affair was added to his investigative duties. By the fall of 1998, he formally reported to Congress that there were 11 counts on which President Clinton should be impeached. That seemed impressive at first until a quick read showed that he had simply found 11 ways to describe oral sex. (Leaving him 39 short of the creative Mr. Christian Grey.)

    This report came before the 1998 congressional election, when the Republicans hoped to gain enough seats to convict the president and drive him from office. After the election, when Starr testified before the Judiciary Committee on which I was sitting, he presented his full report. I noted that while he did recommend impeachment on the Lewinsky count, he found nothing negative in any of the other accusations. No one doubts that Starr was determined to inflict maximum damage on the Clintons, both in pursuit of his law enforcement job and because of his own political views, so it is relevant that having spent several years and a large amount of money investigating Whitewater, Vince Foster’s suicide, the travel office, the FBI files and anything else he could think of, he was forced to conclude that neither Clinton was guilty of anything inappropriate in any of these matters.

    I did get to ask him at the hearing why he had sent us the one negative fact before the election and only after the election reported that there was nothing that could be held against either Clinton on all of the other charges. He had no coherent answer.

    The relevance of this is that after an investigation by a special prosecutor who was trying to play Inspector Javert to Hillary Clinton’s Jean Valjean, she was exonerated of every accusation against her.

    The next time you read an article about some new case against her that refers to the string of previous attacks, please remember none of them were ever shown to have any substance whatsoever.

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