Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Moving Day

Posting will be light or nonexistent for the next couple days as I move back to Orono from Halifax.

Feel free to use this thread to do your own posting about state events.


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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Flailing Wildly

The BDN reports that Baldacci is reaching out to Republicans who have threatened a "politicians veto" referendum campaign of the borrowing in the state budget. It seems that despite the noise they've made, the GOP still has no real idea how they'll make up for the budgeted loan. They might have some tentative ideas, however.
Sen. Davis says his party already has several ideas it would like to consider as part of a deficit-reduction package. These include raising the deductible on the state employee health plan, cutting a portion of the funds in the Dirigo health program and stopping the plans to use racino revenues for scholarships and health programs and direct the money into current expenditures.

Cuts to health care and education, nice.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Intolerance

An editorial from the Sun Journal hits the nail on the head.
As supporters of a "people's veto" of the legislation work to gather signatures to put a question on the ballot to reject the law, the rhetoric will be charged and nasty. They need 59,519 certified signatures by June 28 to get the referendum on the November ballot, and they'll say whatever they need to to make it happen. They will use fear, exaggeration and intolerance, if necessary. [...]

As hard as it is to believe, until this law was passed, it was perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay or to kick a woman out of an apartment for being a lesbian. Maine is the last state in New England to address this deficiency.

The anti-discrimination law is not some effort to "subvert society," and it's not part of an "ideology of evil," as its detractors say. It is not part of some mythical, radical agenda with a goal of "the destruction of the traditional family and the overthrow of the existing social order," as Heath has written.

It's about equality and justice.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Big Guns

The Christian Civic League will stage an anti-gay-rights rally tomorrow on the steps of the statehouse. Mike Heath predicts a turnout of 1,000. The real story here is that leaders of the Christian right are coming from all over the country to promote their anti-gay agenda in our state capital.

From a CCL email:
[The rally] will include appearances by Rev. H.B. London from Focus on the Family; Phil Burress, from Citizens for Community Values; Rev. Lou Sheldon, from the Traditional Values Coalition; and Bob Knight, from Concerned Women for America.

H.B. London is vice president and head of ministry outreach for Focus on the Family, the largest international far-right christian group in the world. It is headed by the powerful James Dobson and its headquarters are so large they have their own zipcode in Colorado.

Phil Burress was the main force behind the successful, draconian anti-gay-marriage amendment initiative in Ohio. (He is also, interestingly, a recovering porn addict).

Lou Sheldon is head of the Traditional Values Coalition, a single-issue advocacy group that targets all things gay. The organization claims to represent a coalition of 43,000 churches accross the country.

Bob Knight is a leader of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest far-right Christian women's organization with more than half a million members.

Look up any of these names and you will find a long record of bigotry and a rising tide of power. The hard right sees the coming anti-discrimination referendum in Maine as an important national issue and their money and influence will be focused on our state in the coming months. This will be a crucial test for equal rights.


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Collins The Undecided

It seems that the junior Senator often waits until just before a vote to make her decision on an issue. A recent example was the Gonzales nomination. Some current ones are the Nuclear Option, voting for a budget that will allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge and Bush's Social Security privatization plan.

Can you think of more?


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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Solomon

The BDN today suggests a compromise on the nuclear option.
If there is a way out of this, it may be with reconsidering the rule on the two-thirds vote. Following the rule would ensure Republicans lose the vote but be able to respond to the interest groups pressuring them to hold the vote. To secure that agreement, Democrats would have to give up something too - such as letting some appellate-level nominees through without a fight.

They are basically suggesting the Republicans hold a vote and knowingly lose it to trick the right-wing fundamentalists into getting off their backs. I don't see how they could possibly work. James Dobson and his ilk might be a little crazy, but they aren't stupid.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Maine is "not going to take it any more."

That's Governor Baldacci's response to the unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind. From the AP:
The Democratic governor is also encouraging Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe to add the state as a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the federal law, Baldacci spokesman Lynn Kippax said.

The National Education Association is challenging the law in federal court in Michigan. School districts in Michigan, Vermont and Texas are also joining the lawsuit, along with teachersĀ“ union chapters in those states and more than a half dozen others, including New Hampshire.


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Monday, April 25, 2005

Susan Collins MoveOn Ad

Watch it here.


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Open Debate

I love technology.
One of the bills the Legislature will be taking up as it comes off spring break this week is a proposal to open more of the sights and sounds of its sausage-making to the public at large. It calls for installing cameras in both legislative chambers to tape floor debates both for archival purposes and to provide live telecasts of proceedings over the Internet.


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What The Hell?

PPH editorial today:
Maine's moderate GOP senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, are focal points as Frist searches for the votes needed to change the rules. Both senators have expressed concern that eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominees would destroy relations with Democrats. Indeed, minority Democrats have dubbed the rule change the "nuclear option," and have threatened to shut down the Senate if it is used.

John W. Porter - Editorial Page Editor
(207) 791-6480
jporter@pressherald.com

A must-read op-ed from the same paper today explains just how devious the rules change (which Republicans have dubbed the "nuclear option") is.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Nuclear Backlash

PPH Editorial Page Editor John W. Porter makes some good points today in defense of the Senate filibuster, but he gets sucked down the Republican spin hole when describing the rules change the GOP is considering that would destroy this parliamentary procedure.
[E]ventually a simple majority of Republican senators could prevail over a filibuster. Doing so has been dubbed the "nuclear option" by Democrats, while those who support it call it the "constitutional option" because they say it upholds the intent of the Constitution.

As many people have noted, it was the Republicans who came up with the term "nuclear option" and that has been the acceptable lexicon in Washington for months. The term only fell out of favor with Republicans in the last few weeks when new polls showed how badly the idea played with the general public. To refer to it as the "constitutional" option now and claim Democrats made up the term "nuclear" is bad journalism.

From the New Yorker:
Ted Stevens, a Republican Senate veteran from Alaska, was complaining in the cloakroom that the Democratic tactic should simply be declared out of order, and, soon enough, a group of Republican aides began to talk about changing the rules. It was understood at once that such a change would be explosive; Senator Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader, came up with “nuclear option,” and the term stuck.


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Friday, April 22, 2005

Al Diamon Gets His Way

The PPH today:
Maine Won't Discriminate, which is leading the effort to keep the law from being overturned, has hired the veteran political consultant Dennis Bailey to run its campaign.

Let's hope it works. A third loss might be the end of equal rights in Maine for a long time.

The pro-discrimination side is now running a radio ad supporting their "Lie to Mainers about Marriage" campaign. You can listen to it here. In related news, Mike Heath today took a short break from battling the evil homosexuals to pontificate on the environment:
Christianity teaches [...] that man has a proprietary interest in nature – that is, nature exists for man’s use, and everything in nature is subject to man’s dominion. [...]

Clearly, the problem behind Earth Day is the loss of the proper sense of man’s relation to the earth and to his fellow man, a relation that was never in doubt when society thought of itself in Christian terms.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Good News on Social Security

A new report:
If President Bush's plan for Social Security were in place today, at least 33,000 Mainers would be in poverty and the state would be left to shoulder the burden, according to a new report from the Campaign for America's Future.

And a new poll:
A poll released by the Washington, D.C-based Americans United to Protect Social Security indicated 73 percent of Mainers participating in a recent poll were opposed to the president's plans for privatizing aspects of Social Security. A follow-up question indicated 74 percent of the respondents would be less likely to vote for their Maine senator in the next election if she were to support the president's proposal.


If you like free stuff, visit the AARP website here to get a free "I Heart Social Security" wristband.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Either I'm dead right, or I'm crazy!"

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington will be playing for free this Monday night at 7:15 at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.
James Stewart saves the people of Bedford Falls from the clutches of mean Mr. Potter every holiday season in "It's a Wonderful Life."

But can the late great actor rescue the filibuster from the nuclear option? [...]

In this 1939 classic, Stewart plays Sen. Jefferson Smith, an everyman figure who fights corruptive forces in the Senate chambers with his use of the filibuster, a tool of the minority party that blocks or delays Senate action through obstructive motions, usually in the form of endless speeches.

The Maine Women's Policy Center is the event organizer with sponsorship from People For the American Way and Maine Coalition for a Free and Independent Federal Court.

The KJ/MS article includes this quote from Collins:
"Despite my belief that the filibuster has been overused and unfairly used, I would be very reluctant to give up my right to ever filibuster a judicial nominee under all circumstances."


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Time for a haircut.

I'll be a panelist at the League of Women Voters of Maine annual convention on May 7th (agenda here).
1:30 - 2:30 - Panel Discussion "Media Trends and Their Effect on the News" featuring

Judy Meyer, Lewiston Sun Journal managing editor and vice president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition;
Liz Talbot, news director and evening news anchor, WVII (ABC-7) News in Bangor;
Mike Tipping, college student and blogger, author of the Web log, or blog, titled "Maine Politics."


Visit the new Maine Politics.

It's About Gambling!

Perhaps the current red herring isn't giving the pro-discrimination crowd the traction they had hoped. Today the BDN reports that Mike Heath is claiming the gay rights law is actually part of a secret push for slot machines in Bangor.
In a recent weekly newspaper column, Heath argued it's that potential economic impact that prompted the Baldacci administration to advance the gay rights law this session. The law, Heath contends, was designed to prevent the league from focusing its full attention on repealing the slots law.

"The governor put a gay skirt on his Bangor slot machine palace hoping to once again divert the attention of the good people of Maine," Heath wrote.

Heath's argument elicited a quizzical response from the governor's spokesman.

"Mr. Heath appears to be a man of God. He also appears to be a man of remarkable imagination," said Baldacci spokesman Lynn Kippax. "In this case, he's dead wrong."

Here's the Heath column the article refers to. One part I found particularly interesting:
We wanted then, and we still want now, a revote of the slot machine question. Maine people thought they were voting to help needy elderly Mainers. That is how the slot machine referendum question was marketed. Mainers turned down the Indian casino question by a strong margin, while the cowboys snuck past em using this deceptive ploy.

In 1998, the CCL managed to strike down the anti-discrimination bill by less than one percent by rallying behind the cry "Vote Yes for Equal Rights!" when a yes vote was actually a vote against the equal rights legislation. Yet here he cites an ambiguous campaign for a ballot question as a reason for a new vote. This is the same guy that has contended for years that if a piece of legislation has already gone before the voters it should not be heard again.

Over the next few months we will see Heath and the pro-discrimination side claim that the gay rights bill is about gay marriage, gambling, child molestation, pornography and whatever other hot-button issues they can think of, everything but what the legislation is really about.

This bill is about allowing gay people to work in Maine without fear of being fired and rent a house without fear of being tossed out onto the street. It's sad the lengths these people will go to stop these basic rights.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Call Collins

But don't pontificate on the floor of the Senate and tell me that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States of America by blocking a judge or filibustering a judge that I don't think deserves to be on the circuit court because I am going to continue to do it at every opportunity I believe a judge should not be on that court. That is my responsibility. That is my advise and consent role, and I intend to exercise it. I don't appreciate being told that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States. I swore to uphold that Constitution, and I am doing it now by standing up and saying what I am saying.

(Former) Senator Bob Smith (R - New Hampshire) on the senate floor - March 7, 2000. (Current) Majority Leader Frist and several other Republicans voted with Smith in an attempt to use the filibuster to block a Clinton judicial nominee.

I think you have to be very careful, that's my advice, before you start tinkering with the rules. I mean the rules have been changed before. You want to think down the road. The Senate's going to change. It's not always going to be Republican. It changes back and forth. History shows that.

Bob Dole on NPR's Morning Edition - April 12, 2005

"I just don't see how it's going to benefit us, even in the majority, to change it to a simple majority [vote] because ultimately it could create more wedges and political wounds."

Senator Snowe in the Washington Post - January 16, 2005

Senator Susan Collins:

Augusta Office (207) 622-8414
Bangor Office (207) 945-0417
Biddeford Office (207) 283-1101
Caribou Office (207) 493-7873
Lewiston Office (207) 784-6969
Portland Office (207) 780-3575
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-2523

In other Senate news, it appears Snowe and Collins won't have to vote on the Bolton nomination.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tom Allen on C-SPAN Right Now

He's talking about the energy bill.

Watch the archived show here.

Edit: This host can't even say "MTBE" right. Also, I had forgotten about the kind of crazies that call in to C-Span at this time of day.


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Monday, April 18, 2005

It's About Equal Rights

An article in the PPH today explains why the pro-discrimination side is wrong about a Massachusetts gay rights law leading to gay marriage.
There are more than a dozen references in the ruling to the fact that it is based on the requirements of the Massachusetts Constitution. The justices wrote that the Constitution "affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals" and prohibits treating any residents as second-class citizens. The opponents of same-sex marriage "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage" to gays and lesbians, the ruling says.

By contrast, there is only one reference in the ruling to the gay-rights law. The court majority wrote that Massachusetts "has a strong affirmative policy of preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," both in its laws and in other court rulings. The next paragraph in the decision reiterates that the ruling is based on constitutional grounds. [...]

The Massachusetts ruling "is clearly based on the constitution of Massachusetts and has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of an anti-discrimination law," said Pat Peard of Maine Won't Discriminate, which supports Maine's gay-rights law. To claim otherwise "is a red herring," she said.

"The case would have come out the exact same way" even if Massachusetts had no gay-rights law, said Mary Bonauto, a lawyer who successfully argued the court case. The fact that Massachusetts had an anti-discrimination law on the books when the court intervened on marriage was "completely legally inconsequential," she said.

Even the Christian Civic League's lawyer agrees (although he tries some weaseling to preserve their straw man).
Stephen Whiting, an attorney for the Christian Civic League of Maine, said the court probably would have ruled the same way even without a gay-rights law, but he said that law made the ruling easier to justify. The gay-rights law "essentially gave the court in Massachusetts a green light" by illustrating "the changing opinion of the public" in Massachusetts on such issues, Whiting said of marriage.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Stopping the Spread of Crystal Meth

Maine Attorney General and possible U.S. Senate candidate Stephen Rowe is submitting legislation to head off the rising use of crystal meth. The bill would limit the availiabilty of pseudoephedrine, the common cold medicine that is a key ingredient of the addictive drug.
“We already have the problem, but we don’t have the problem they have in other states — yet,” Rowe said last week. “But the wave is on the way, and we need to get ahead of the curve.” [...]

[UCLA professor Richard Rawson] said the Web has helped people find the recipe for the drug and start their own meth labs.
“While you have had only a few cases in Maine of these labs, I think what has been happening across the country is now getting into your state,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to stop at the New Hampshire border.”
Rawson said he was in a town in eastern Oregon that has four police officers. “The police chief told me last year his officers made more arrests for methamphetamine than tickets they handed out for speeding. I hope Maine listens to your attorney general and gets ahead of the curve.”


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Maine Democrats Need an Internet Strategy

It's not about running ads online, it's not about an email list, and it's not about fundraising.

Its about reaching people, especially young people.

Michael Rocque, a senior at UMO wrote yesterday in the Sentinel about the apathy and the political ignorance he sees on his campus. Maine has historically had the most politically involved youth of any state in the country. Since 1972, youth turnout has increased 19% here while declining almost everywhere else. But Rocque's right, we're losing that spark. I see it in my friends and classmates.

Online political organization and communication targets young people in the same place they get their news and indulge their hobbies and talk with their friends. It's one of the most necessary parts of modern politics.

It shouldn't be an afterthought.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Subjects of Discussion

Most of the time when posts slide off the front page of a blog they're lost into oblivion. Sometimes, however, by some strange set of circumstances, they stay alive a little longer. I'm going to take this opportunity to point out a couple of these from this blog, both of which have been hit with interesting comments weeks or months after they were first posted.

The first is this post from March 24 about the new Blethen conservative columnist John Frary. The subject of discussion himself showed up (Perhaps he was googling himself - yes I know that sounds dirty) and defended his honor.

The other is this post from February about Portland senator Ethan Strimling. A month after the post scrolled off the front page, an independent from Waldo stopped by and wrote a glowing review of the legislator.

I figured it was a shame that no one would get the chance to read these comments, so I'm dragging these posts back from the dead one last time.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Health Care

The BDN today has a great editorial discussing Maine's health care environment. It speaks directly to the claims made by some legislators that fewer regulations would improve the availability of care.
If mandates restrict coverage, the numbers don't show it. According to U.S. Census data, Maine ranks 16th best for the percentage of people covered by health insurance. That's nothing to cheer about, but it is worth noting, along with the fact the other states with broad mandates - including New York, Vermont, Massachusetts - also rank in the top half for coverage. Maine's insurance rates are about average when making an even comparison of what is offered to consumers.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Pro-Discrimination Road Trip

Paul Madore and Mike Heath of the Christian Civic League have begun a tour of northern Maine. There's a good chance they'll soon be bringing their special brand of calm discourse and rational level-headedness to town near you. From their press release:
Both men are reaching out to good Mainers who want to protect their families and Maine from the ideology of evil that is strengthening its death grip on all things decent.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Fact Check

M.D. Harmon's google-fu is weak. My google-fu is strong.

In today's offering, Harmon takes Sen. Strimling (D-Handsometown) to task for leaving a period out of his press release. Then he says this:
But, so far as a search of the Internet reveals, no .50 caliber weapon has ever been used for a crime in the United States. But, hey, someday one could, so that's a good reason to ban them, right?

Here's a list from the Violence Policy Center which happens to be the fourth result of a google search for ".50 caliber crime". Some highlights:
In February of 2004, Donin Wright of Kansas City, Missouri, lured police officers, paramedics, and firefighters to his home where he shot at them with several guns including a Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifle. [...]

Petrosky then walked out into the shopping center parking lot, where he exchanged fire with a federal IRS agent and killed Sgt. Timothy Mossbrucker of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Petrosky, who was known to his friends as "50-cal Al," fired all four weapons, including the 50 caliber rifle, during his murderous rampage. [...]

Branch Davidian cult members at a compound in Waco, Texas, fired 50 caliber sniper rifles at federal ATF agents during their initial gun battle on February 28, 1993. The weapons' ability to penetrate tactical vehicles prompted the agency to request military armored vehicles to give agents adequate protection from the 50 caliber rifles and other more powerful weapons the Branch Davidians might have had. Four ATF agents were killed.

I haven't formed an opinion yet on Strimlings bill, but I'm beggining to form one about the quality of Harmon's writing.


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A Defense of Working Families

Tom Allen's floor statement on the bankruptcy bill.


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Maine Maps - State House 2004

Here is the house map. I've updated both maps a bit thanks to the suggestions in the last thread. If I've messed up anywhere, let me know.

Woodbury's district is in yellow and Eder's is that tiny collection of green pixels in Portland. Beware ye Quebec.

Remember that local elections often have a lot more to do with the candidates than the parties. Maps like this are unable to show that kind of complexity.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Roll Call

I'm sorry to say that today Mike Michaud, a man I admire and have volunteered for, voted for the bankruptcy bill in the House along with 72 other Democrats. On a related note, John Edwards today published a mea culpa for having also supported this legislation in the past.

Both Allen and Michaud voted against the estate tax repeal, Snowe and Collins will most likely support it. This tax affects only an estimated 24 uber-wealthy families in the entire state of Maine.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Loyalties

From the PPH:
The Portland Police Department is taking the right steps by helping the public to become more aware of a crime that's going to become more prevalent years to come: Identity theft. [...]

It's a growing crime and will only continue to grow with technology. Data collection companies aren't immune, either, and already have lost massive amounts of personal information to thieves.

From the Sun Journal:
"You're starting to see this spread into Maine," Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood said Tuesday. "All of a sudden we're starting to get phone calls.

Both Snowe and Collins voted against the bankruptcy bill amendment that would have protected people whose financial problems were caused by identity theft.

In other Snowe news there's this from the DSCC today.
Olympia Snowe ignored the direct plea of local VA workers yesterday and voted lock-step with conservative Republicans to deny funding that would have prevented layoffs at the Togus VA Medical Center and kept health care services for area residents.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Revenge by Referendum

Some Republicans (and some Democrats) have legitimate concerns about both the process by which the budget was passed and its content, but the "people's veto" referendum that may be put forward by a small group of Republican legislators seems vidictive and could be harmful to the state. The group is targetting an unpopular part of the budget, the $450 in borrowing, and if they gather 50,000 signatures in the next 3 months, that measure will face a statewide vote.

The PPH sees a can of worms being opened if a precedent for challenging the budget by referendum is set.
While 50,000 signatures is a high hurdle, for some special interest groups - teacher's unions come to mind - gathering that many signatures would be relatively easy. If the precedent is set to tinker at the ballot box with the Legislature's budget-making decisions, it could lead to fiscal chaos for the state.

Towns and cities unhappy with local aid formulas could veto parts of the budget they don't like. Teachers could try to undo decisions on pensions. And, of course, minority political parties can make trouble at the expense of fiscal stability.

And the AP reports that this action could hurt Maine's bond rating.
"In terms of the rating agencies," [state Treasurer David] Lemoine said uncertainty over a major piece of the two-year budget would make it "very hard to sustain the ratings that we've got."

Interestingly, preserving the state's bond rating was one of the main reasons why some legislators opposed borrowing in the budget in the first place.

Baldacci weighed in on the subject in a BDN article yesterday.
"It's very irresponsible, and they're playing politics now with people's lives," he said. "They're holding Maine's economy hostage by a referendum process. It's not in the citizens' interest, and it does not reflect well on the state, potentially ... It will have a tremendous negative impact at a time when we can least afford it." [...]

"Businesses will be wondering whether the tax cuts are there or not there, and the uncertainty is going to impact on Maine's economy," Baldacci said. "My understanding is that this is supposed to be a people's veto - not a politicians' veto. It's expressly for people to utilize and to create a political process within the referendum process is very irresponsible."

In addition to this campaign, Republicans have also made clear that they will use their objections to the budget as a reason to shoot down the bonding that will soon be proposed by the governor. The bonds would be used to, among other things, improve state infrastructure, preserve public land and provide money to the state university system. Here's an interesting quote from Diamon's column on the subject today:
And Republicans are again preparing to veto any bonding.

"The $450 million gives Republicans cover to say no," said one GOP strategist. "And a lot of them will. They’re really angry about the way the budget was handled."


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Maine Maps - State Senate 2004

This is a map of the 2004 state senate elections, darker districts were won with 60% of the vote or more. Click to enlarge. Info via MBCEC and MGIS.

Remember those blue spots in the south represent a ton of people. I'll have analyses of Individual races as we get closer to 2006.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Snowe and Collins on Bolton

The BDN says our Senators have a dilemma before them in deciding whether or not to vote for rabid isolationist John Bolton if his nomination goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
Mr. Bolton is famous for having declared that if the U.N. Secretariat building in New York "lost 10 stories it wouldn't make a bit of difference." He also once told National Public Radio that the U.N. Security Council would need only one permanent member, the United States, "because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."

You can watch the video of Bolton making those and other statements here via Citizens for Global Solutions. You really have to see the anger in his face as he bangs his pointed finger into the table while yelling about the evils of multilateralism before you can truly understand how bad a candidate he is.
Other factors may influence the moderates' votes on the Bolton question. They face other issues including Mr. Bush's controversial effort to change Social Security, his determination to put a group of conservative judges on the appellate court bench, a likely move to kill or curtail the filibuster rule and the possibility of vacancies on the Supreme Court.

If they go along with their party on the Bolton confirmation, they may be conserving their ammunition for future disputes they consider more important.

I wish I had a Senator who didn't have to choose between voting against someone like Bolton, stopping terrible judicial appointments, and saving Social Security. I wish I had a Senator who could do all three.

If you think Snowe and Collins couldn't possibly vote for a man like Bolton, then you weren't paying attention to the Gonzales nomination.


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Time to Call Collins

Snowe has made her opposition to the "nuclear option" to eliminate the filibuster well known, and so have other moderates like John McCain. Susan Collins, however, is still on the fence. Wampum has a bit about each of the contested judicial nominees with links to more information. Here are a couple examples:
Thomas B. Griffith -- has no courtroom experience and practiced law (1998-1999 Impeachment Trial of President Clinton) without a license and practiced law (in-house counsel for Brigham Young University) without a license,

Janice Rogers Brown -- does not believe in the incorporation doctrine (goodbye US Bill of Rights in State courts), and favors a return the Lochner era jurisprudence of substantive due process (goodbye worker protection laws that "violated the right of free contract"),

William H. Pryor, Jr. -- does not believe in (or obey) campaign financial disclosure laws and does not believe the Americans with Disabilities Act is Constutional

Read the whole list here and do something about it.
Call Susan Collins' staffers:
Augusta Office (207) 622-8414
Bangor Office (207) 945-0417
Biddeford Office (207) 283-1101
Caribou Office (207) 493-7873
Lewiston Office (207) 784-6969
Portland Office (207) 780-3575

You can also reach her Washington office at (202) 224-2523. To contact her electronically you can use her webform or try sending an email to senator_collins@exchange.senate.gov (the address her webform points to) or senator@collins.senate.gov (her previously listed email address).


Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, April 11, 2005

There Once Was a Dream That Was "Dump Baldacci PAC"

If you blinked this weekend, you might have missed the rapid formation and dissolution of a political action committee dedicated to ousting popular Democratic Governor John Baldacci.

The purpose of the organization, as its founder (and bow tie aficionado) Rep. Ken Lindell explained in the PPH on Friday, was to give money to any candidate from any party that was willing to run against the Governor. The main thrust of his campaign was a website (now defunct) which sported a badly edited photo of the governor with a red line through his face and sold bumper stickers with the sayings "Dump Baldacci" and "Tax your Canoe and Baldacci Too". (As Pat Colwell noted in the Press Herald piece, Baldacci actually had nothing to do with the proposed canoe tax.)

The next day, the PPH had an update on the PAC. Under the headline "Republican legislator dumps 'Dump Baldacci' campaign" was a short dispatch that included the following:
State Rep. Kenneth Lindell, R-Frankfort, said he made the decision Friday after consulting with colleagues and the governor's office. "I just thought it would be better for me to focus on serving my constituents," he said. [...]

Lindell said he had already raised $1,100[...] He said the money raised will be refunded to donors.

I wondered what exactly had made Lindell change his mind so quickly (and I figured the whole episode would be a good hook for a Polstate.com piece), so I called him up at his home in Frankfort.

Lindell was more than happy to discuss his differences with Baldacci, as well as his generally libertarian approach to political issues. He believes Baldacci has grown state government programs and is concerned with his "power and role" in the state.

When asked about why he dissolved the PAC, he admitted that he'd had conversations with Baldacci's office and the Republican leadership but refused to reveal their content. "I don't want to characterize any of the discussions I've had," he said.

He did paint, in broad strokes, however, the reasons why he was out of the bumper sticker business. "I was worried about being able to get work done," he said, and related that he had a relatively amiable relationship with his Democratic colleagues on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee, where he was proud of being able to "hold the line" on insurance regulations. (Lindell works in the financial services and insurance industry.) Apparently, the publicity that came with his PAC threatened that bipartisan relationship. "Things got ahead of themselves," he said, "this became a hot item of discussion very quickly."

When asked if he had received any political strong-arming from the governor, Lindell said no. He characterized Baldacci as "an able politician who knows how to win friends and influence people."

I doubt that would fit on a bumper sticker.


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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Brian Duprey: A One-Dimensional Legislator?

The Sun Journal takes an in-depth look at one of Maine's favorite right-wing caricatures.
His actions and statements have also drawn attention. On the floor of the Maine House, during debate over an anti-discrimination law, he argued that its passage might lead to pedophiles dressing as women and stalking children in school bathrooms.

He tried to submit a bill that would have allowed motorists to purchase one of two different state license plates featuring either "Choose Life" or "Protect Choice," but he wasn't able to meet the requirements for that legislative proposal.

The article does a good job of outlining the kind of legislative craziness that got him mocked by the Daily Show. There was one quote, however, that threw me for a loop.
"...I heard a lot of horrific stories from homosexuals that they were ostracized and kicked out of their family, teenagers just kicked out on the street when their parents found out they were gay. And if parents are that disgusted by homosexuality - which, of course, I would never be..."

This is a member of the Christian Civic League talking, a man who has railed against the evils of gay marriage, who has voted against giving gays equal rights, who has cynically attempted to use the gay rights movement to support his views on abortion and who earlier in this very article refferred to gay rights supporters as "cronies". Fighting against gay rights seems to be the main purpose of his legislative career. How much more "disgusted" by homosexuality can you get?


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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Social Security Changes Could Drastically Hurt Maine

That's the word from the BDN today:
Maine could be hit hard economically if the current Social Security program were changed, experts say. Maine's seniors rely more heavily on their monthly Social Security benefits than all but three other states in the nation, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Economic Analysis and Research Network. The study also shows that the median elderly household in the state relies on that monthly check for 74 percent of its income.

The statistics illustrate how much Mainers in particular would be affected if Congress approves President Bush's plans to create individual investment accounts for Social Security beneficiaries.

The article also gives a rundown of our federal representatives on this issue. All but Collins have sworn off privatization.


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Friday, April 08, 2005

The Anti-Anti-Gay Rights Campaign

Equal rights groups are attempting to stop the "people's veto" referendum campaign before it gets going.
Pat Peard of Maine Won't Discriminate, which supports the anti-discrimination law, said volunteers will start fanning out in the next 10 to 14 days. They will use house parties, meetings and other unspecified forms of "outreach" to try to convince voters that the law is a good one and should stay on the books.

Good this needs to be done and done quickly. The two pillars of the Christian Civic League are their grassroots organization and their ability to control the debate. To win, the first thing those opposed to discrimination must do is begin to build a stronger grassroots network. The second is make sure that the discussion stays firmly on the topic of the actual legislation and the discrimination it will end rather than the League's gay marriage straw man.


I've been on a bit of a map kick lately, so here's a county-by-county look at the 2000 gay rights referendum election (click to enlarge). Green counties voted for the bill and purple against it. The vote totals are from the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions and the county data is from the Maine Geographic Information System (don't you love when government uses the internet effectively). The darker colors represent counties that voted for one side by more than 55%. The vote was close in almost every county and the referendum lost statewide by only about 4,000 votes.


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Health Care

Good on York Hospital.
The Caring for All program is a multifaceted attempt to remedy the health-care crisis that affects many local residents. The program provides free or discounted health care for qualifying families, the elderly and uninsured individuals who earn less than $23,900 a year.

Lack of adequate medical care is a vital problem in this state and it speaks to our lack of progress in this area that hospitals and communities have to take this issue into their own hands.


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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Personal Accountability

Former Maine Senate president Richard Bennett has an op-ed in the PPH today that repeats the same tired Republican talking points about Social Security that have failed to win any support for the President's plan anywhere in the country. He tries to create a sense of urgency by warning that benefits might start being decreased by the time his 9-year-old daughter is ready to retire, and then goes right into touting President Bush's "bold step" of suggesting private accounts. Nowhere does he even attempt to explain how partial privatization would address Social Security solvency (it wouldn't).

The most interesting part of his defense of privatization is this paragraph:
These personal savings accounts would belong to each worker, not the system. So if someone died before he or she could draw their Social Security benefits, that person could bequeath that portion of the benefits in a personal savings account to a child or loved one. Currently, this is not an option with Social Security.

This is a very misleading statement. From what is known of Bush's plan (even after months of pushing it he still hasn't released the details) the money in a private account would not "belong" to the worker. The White House website states that "American workers who choose personal retirement accounts would not be allowed to make withdrawals from, take loans from, or borrow against their accounts prior to retirement." In addition most workers would not be able to leave money from their account to a loved one even after they retire. Upon retirement, a worker would be forced by law to use the money from his or her private account to purchase an annuity that would pay out enough monthly to keep them above the poverty line (no word on what would happen if the stock market didn't do well enough for them to afford this annuity). For most workers, this would take up all or most of their "personal" account, leaving nothing to pass on to their family.

So even when argued for from a straight privatization standpoint, the Bush plan fails. Basically it offers all of the risks and few of the benefits of private investment while at the same time drowning the Social Security system in trillions of dollars of debt.


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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Gathering Storm

Read this immediately.


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Understanding Maine Politics

Continuing the cartography theme, here's a map showing the vote margin by town in the 2000 presidential election that was originally published in the BDN. Unlike most other maps now, on this one red represents Democratic votes and blue Republican. The darker the shade, the wider the margin.

On this map it's easy to pick out the democratic strongholds in urban areas and in the St. John Valley.


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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

More Blog

While I'm pointing out weblogs I might as well mention OurSenate.com a blog run by two Bowdoin College Democrats who are tracking the 2006 U.S. Senate races.


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New Blog

There's a new Maine political blog being published with a laser-like focus. The author of Western York County Politics states his mission as "highlighting the buffoonery of conservative legislators in western and central York County Maine." The first post is a brief introduction to District 3 Senator Jonathan Courtney and I hope that some in-depth opposition research will follow.

On an unrelated note, I have exams coming up so posting here will be light for a while. I'll still attempt to write something at least once a day.


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Monday, April 04, 2005

James B. Longley Jr. - Yes, he's still alive.

When John Bolton was announced as Bush's nominee to be the US ambassador to the United Nations, it was generally seen as an insult to our allies and a sign that this administration has rejected any pretense of multilateralism in our foreign policy. Here are a few choice Bolton quotes:
"If I were doing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member [the United States] because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."

"There is no such thing as the United Nations."

"If [the United Nations building in New York] lost ten storeys, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference."

"It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law."

Last week, 59 former American ambassadors signed a letter urging Senate Foreign Relations Committee head Richard Luger to reject Bolton's nomination. 46 of the ambassadors had served Republican administrations.

Today, The American Prospect notes that leading neoconservative Frank Gaffney has attempted to respond by gathering some signatures of his own. Instead of respected diplomats, however, he simply got a bunch of low-level right-wing partisans to sign his missive. His list is filled with Republican opposition researchers and retired speechwriters and the like (and Newt Gingrich of course).

What does this have to do with Maine politics? The letter served to clue me in on what single-term Maine congressman and Gingrich ally James B. Longley Jr. is up to now. After losing his seat to Tom Allen in 1996 and losing the gubernatorial race to Angus King in 1998, Longley now spends at least some of his time warming the bench for Gaffney's "National Security Advisory Council".

Longley was so excited about the letter supporting Bolton that he accidentally signed it twice.


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Corruption

Sean Hansen, the head of the telemarketing company that jammed Democratic phone lines in New Hampshire in 2002 has now been charged with comlicity in the operation allegedly masterminded by Republican stooge James Tobin. Republican operatives Chuck McGee and Allen Raymond have already been convicted and sentenced to federal prison for their complicity in these crimes.

The trial of James Tobin, former regional director of the NRSC and Bush-Cheney '04 New England campaign chairman, will take place in June. Tobin is a resident of Bangor, where he owns the Tobin & Co. consulting agency. He was a "Bush Ranger" in 2004, raising more than $200,000 for the President's campaign.

Here's a bit from a December 2004 Department of Justice press release:
As part of the conspiracy, Tobin and Charles McGee, then-Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, allegedly discussed the hiring of a telephone services vendor to annoy and harass Democratic telephone volunteers on Election Day. Tobin allegedly provided McGee with contact information for Allen Raymond, a former colleague of Tobin's who operated a Virginia-based telephone services vendor called GOP Marketplace. The indictment alleges that McGee sent a check for $15,600 on the account of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee to GOP Marketplace. The indictment further alleges that GOP Marketplace then paid $2,500 to an Idaho-based telemarketing services vendor to place the calls. The vendor allegedly placed several hundred calls to the numbers in New Hampshire, causing them to ring repeatedly and continuously.

The big question that this trial will hopefully answer is how high the plot went and whether then NRSC head Senator Bill Frist and other Washington Republican leaders had knowledge of the operation.


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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Complacency

This PPH editorial is right on the money.
Supporters of securing the civil rights of gay and lesbian Mainers won a victory last week in the Legislature.

A bill protecting people from discrimination in credit, housing, accommodations and other areas on the basis of sexual orientation won legislative approval, and Gov. Baldacci, as promised, signed it.

Those who have worked hard to bring these needed protections into law, and those lawmakers who supported them, should be proud.

What they shouldn't be, however, is complacent. [...]

No Mainer should have to fear reporting being assaulted for being gay because he fears the disclosure would cost him his job. No lesbian couple raising a child should have to worry that the perfect apartment close to the school won't be offered.

To secure protections against these injustices in the law, the supporters of these rights have to do the hard work of raising money and making their case to Maine people. They cannot assume that just because their cause is just that they will prevail at the ballot box.

There is no short cut, only the hard work of making the case to Maine people that their gay and lesbian neighbors deserve to live without fear.

This law has failed twice when every indication before the vote predicted it would succeed. The Christian Civic League and their allies have a strong and motivated bloc. It's going to take hard work to secure equality in Maine.


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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Cartography

I've been working on some Maine election maps recently and I'll be putting them online soon. In the meantime I figured I'd give a very basic visual overview of Maine's political landscape. The information for these maps comes from election studio mapping software. Click on the images for larger versions.


2004 votes by county


2000 votes by county


College education by county


Median income by county


Population density by county

Here's a better map showing the state's population from the Maine GIS website where you can find a ton of interesting maps.



Population density by town

The top map may be the most recent, but a county-by-county view of presidential votes really doesn't do justice to the political make-up of the state. It is nice to see that much blue though.


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Friday, April 01, 2005

Stupid Bills: The College Years

The Maine college Republicans have been crowing about this bill for a while and lately they've finally been getting some press:
Several University of Maine System students told lawmakers Wednesday they have been treated unfairly on their campuses because they are politically conservative. All members of the College Republicans, the students testified before the Legislature's Education Committee in favor of LD 1194, which would require state colleges and universities to publish an "academic bill of rights" to keep students and instructors from being penalized for expressing unpopular viewpoints both in and out of the classroom.

The bill is the work of David Horowitz, a far-right activist who is leading a nation-wide campaign to portray college conservatives as victims. It contains contains some very scary language including a provision that would limit the ability of professors to introduce controversial material into the classroom, and one that would require instructors to present alternative views in the classroom regardless of the merits of those views and their personal beliefs.

Some of the accusations Horowitz has made to justify this kind of law are outright lies, and others are just hilarious. Here are a few complaints submitted to Horowitz's "Academic Student Abuse Center" and noted by Think Progress:
“This complaint applies to the discriminating nature of grading of my English teacher…On the last one, I wrote about how family values in the books weve read aren’t good. I know the paper was pretty much great because I spell checked it and proofred it twice. I got an D- just because the professor hates families and thinks its okay to be gay.” [sic] - Ohio State, English

“We were then required to watch an immoral Seinfeld episode dealing with masturbation, an exercise with little sociological value. She then gave a lecture on ‘moral relativity,’ which she defined very closely with ‘cultural relativism.’” - St. Louis University, Sociology

“Talked about flags as symbols of states and argued that new Iraqi flag was not a result of a transparent and fair process…Claimed AS FACT that other Arab societies had red, green and black in their flags…” - St. Michael’s College, Human Geography

You can read all the submissions to the "Abuse Center" that were made before horowitz removed the website here. These are the kind of crazy complaints that Maine's government and courts would have to deal with if this law passes.

Read the entire bill here.


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