• Thank you, President Obama

    In January 2000, I led a small university delegation to Havana. We were in Cuba to meet with Cuban government officials and Cuban academic leaders to discuss the possibility of setting up academic exchanges. Relations with Cuba were thawing in the Clinton administration’s final year in office; our delegation was able to fly nonstop from JFK to Havana, an easy 3.5-hour flight.

  • Eyewitness to Gaza

    Having viewed countless reports, photos and videos, we felt prepared for what we would see on our visit to Gaza in early December 2014. But the reality was overwhelming. No video can capture the scope of the destruction, block upon block of Israeli-demolished apartment buildings, bullet-sprayed shops and homes, children playing in rubble, men searching for reusable stones.

  • The two-tongued sea

    The assignment for the seventh- and eighth-graders was to select one of Dylan Thomas’s topic sentences, each borrowed from a paragraph of his famous “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” and use it to begin their own recollection of their local or familial holidays. We had read Thomas’s wonderful story, watched an excellent film version of it and looked outside as the snow hushed the Wednesday morning town — inspiring writing weather, to be sure, for kids in a harbor town in a Northern latitude.

  • Breakdown in American criminal justice

    Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the federal district court in New York has written a much-circulated piece in the Nov. 20 issue of the New York Review of Books, in which he laments the breakdown in American criminal justice caused by abuse of the plea-bargain system. He writes, correctly, that “the criminal-justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray or what the average American believes.” He quotes Jefferson’s expression of faith in the jury trial as “the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

  • America’s Transformation

    Liberalism is best applied through big, centralized government. Liberalism incorporates the belief that government knows best and must, therefore, limit individual freedoms, heavily regulate business, control educational curricula, health care, banking, and so on, as well as dominate states’ rights.

  • The Nuclear Option

    The Maine Yankee nuclear plant was commissioned in 1972 with a license to operate until 2008. During every year of operation, changes were made to improve safety and performance. The watchword: “Let’s not do anything to jeopardize our application for a relicense in 2008.”

  • Culture clash

    On one side, you have the arcane practices of shared governance, academic freedom and tenure, all notions central to the operation of higher education for the past 100 years and that are embraced by university faculty across the nation. On the other side, you have university system administrators decrying budget deficits on campuses and aggressively seeking ways to cut costs. The clash between these contrasting positions has hit the University of Southern (USM) Maine loud and hard. Fifty faculty members at USM stand to lose their jobs and the University of Maine System (UMS) will “save” an estimated $6 million as a result. A different bottom line: public higher education is not a privately owned paper mill nor should it be treated like one.

  • Deceptive statistics

    Some of the economic statistics put out by the government and parroted by the mainstream media for general public consumption are downright misleading. It is not that they are inaccurate, false or biased. It is just that what they imply is different from what actually is. It is more that they give an incomplete perspective. It is what they don’t say that causes much of the misinterpretation.

  • The economic health of average Americans

    Lately people have been coming up to me and saying, “The economy is looking good, don’t you think?” I respond, “What makes you say that?” A frequent reply is, “Well, the stock market is doing well, job growth looks good and people are getting a heck of a deal on health insurance.”

  • Maine’s Ebola Sense

    The first thing we have to say about Maine’s legal test in respect of the Ebola quarantine is that Kaci Hickox is one lucky nurse. If we had to sit out the incubation period for some horrible disease, the place we’d like to do it is Aroostook County. This glorious wilderness, dappled with lovely lakes, small towns, quiet roads, and sensible people is the kind of place about which those who toil in the big city can only dream. We’d bring an easel and some oil paints and look at nothing but fog and forest until the danger of fever had passed.