Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dunlap, other top state election officials received classified briefing on threats to voter systems

The U.S. intelligence community has been warning elected officials and the public for some time now about the past, present, and future threat Russia has posed to the integrity of election infrastructure. In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I report on an unprecedented briefing by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the office of the Director of National Intelligence on the matter given to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and nine other members of the executive board of the national association for secretaries of state.

I spoke to Dunlap for the story, and you can read his thoughts and message in the piece.

Dunlap is known nationally for his role in the closure of President Trump's controversial election fraud commission, on which he was a member. His suit to obtain working documents from the group -- which he says he and other Democratic commissioners were denied -- is still in federal court.

The Russian threat to election integrity was floated and quickly dropped by Dunlap in the early days of the commission, but has been a consistent priority for US Senator Angus King (I-Maine.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gov. LePage scuttled Wiscasset traffic compromise, attorney says

Maine Governor Paul LePage personally intervened to kill a compromise between the state transportation department and the town of Wiscasset over a controversial traffic project there, an attorney for the town told residents this week.

I have the details in today's Portland Press Herald, which is also available online here.

For fuller background on the project, this story lays it all out, including the governor's chain of aggressive correspondence with constituents about the traffic problems in the midcoast town and how the Maine DOT lost the confidence of town residents after reneging on promises made about the project, including the use of federal funds and the historic preservation reviews that come with them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trump renews push to eliminate LIHEAP, Sea Grant, NEA, other programs

Last year, President Trump tried to eliminate a wide range of programs with an outsized impact in Maine, including Sea Grant, low income heating assistance, community block grants, the National Estuarine Reserve system, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Legal Services Corporation, a major  funding source for Pine Tree Legal Assistance. Congress ultimately told him to pound sand.

Yesterday, his new budget proposes again to eliminate these and other programs. As I report in today's Portland Press Herald, Maine's Congressional delegation -- from conservative Republican Bruce Poliquin to liberal democrat Chellie Pingree and more centrist US Senators in between --  is not on board.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Trumpism, the American Nations, and the 2016 election

My latest installment of the "Balkanized America" series is up over at Medium, this one interpreting what happened in the 2016 presidential election via an American Nations lens, with some lessons for what this means for the president's popularity going into this years' midterm elections.

Earlier installments in the series have run the gamut from debunking the assertion that the greatest divide in US politics is between urban and rural voters (hint: regional cultures have a far greater effect) to how the existence of these cultures shaped the run-up to the 1787 constitutional convention and even the reproductive clustering of North Americans (which surprised even me, as the paradigm argues for cultural effects, not genetic ones.)

Hope you find it useful.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Speaking on the crisis in the oceans and Gulf of Maine, Portland, Me., Feb. 7

I'll be speaking about the crisis in the world's oceans and in the Gulf of Maine on February 7th at the Portland Public Library here in Maine.

The talk -- which kicks off at 6pm in the Rines Auditorium in the main library on Monument Square -- is the 2018 Sustainability Series Keynote. It's free and open to the public.

As a foreign correspondent, I long focused on oceans policy and global environmental reporting, and my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas, took me to Antarctica, the tiny atoll states of Central Pacific, the coral reefs of Belize, the depleted cod banks of Newfoundland and the troubled waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Black Sea. My second book, The Lobster Coast, told the story of coastal Maine and its ecosystem, and "Mayday," a 2015 series I wrote for the Portland Press Herald, was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.

I'll be speaking about the nature of the multi-faceted marine crisis, what it means for humans, and what might be done about it. Hope you can make it.

[Update, 2/6/18: A heads-up that with weather on this way, this event could get postponed. Keep an eye on this space or the library website over the next 24 hours.]

[Update, 2/6/18, 1530 ET: Indeed, this event has been cancelled because of the storm. Will be rescheduling for March or April and update that here at World Wide Woodard.]

[Update, 2/14/18: This event is now taking place March 7th at 6pm.]

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bill would stop states from blocking municipal broadband projects

Last year I wrote about a bill introduced in Maine's legislature that would effectively block towns from building their own municipal high speed data networks, even when -- as is often the case in rural Maine -- existing providers have refused to do so for them. The bill, modeled on one created by the American Legislative Exchange Council that has become law in 17 other states and introduced by that group's state co-chair, was ultimately and unanimously defeated in committee.

Now a bill has been introduced in Congress to prohibit states from passing such legislation. I report in today's Portland Press Herald about why its been introduced, what ALEC thinks of it, and how one of its co-sponsors, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-ME01, has to say about the bill and its prospects in Congress.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Talking American Nations with KBUR's "Heartland Politics"

Recently had a conversation with Monmouth College political science professor Robin Johnson about America's regional cultures and their implications for the Midwest generally and the 2016 election results in the Upper Mississippi Valley in particular.

Our talk aired on this week's edition of Johnson's program "Heartland Politics" on KBUR in Burlington, Iowa, right in the heart of what I've called Trump Democrat country and with a broadcast area encompassing a swath of eastern Illinois (where Monmouth is located) and parts of northeastern Missouri. You can hear it again Tuesday morning at 0930 Central Time or right here online.

For more on voting patterns in the 2016 election, see this piece and this one.