Sunday, February 26, 2006

As goes Harvard, so goes the Nation?

How the Liberal Arts Got That Way

And, therefore, reason to hope that the present cycle of reaction will eventually come to an end?

Mr. Pearl wishes to explain the resignation of Summers by comparing it to the University’s pre-Civil War ferment. His comparison seems a bit strained, but the course of events from the 1830s to 1869 (the election of Charles William Eliot) is a fascinating story of liberalization followed by repression and culminating in the collapse of reactionary resistance.

Perhaps it is foolish to generalize from a nineteenth-century college campus to a twenty-first century megastate, but I offer the thought in hopes of injecting a note of optimism to offset my previous expressions of pessimism about the fate of our country.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Minimum wage -- scare tactics

Re: Wage talk more than minimum by Edward D. Murphy, and

Minimum wage hike wouldn't have a big impact on MaineAs such, it's probably not worth sending this anti-business message.

I don’t have time to show up and wait on you at your Editorial Board hearings, either here in Cumberland or at your Portland offices, but I do care and most strenuously OBJECT to the shallow, sloppy work that Edward Murphy and John Porter did in today’s minimum-wage coverage and associated editorial, which belies the banner across your building trumpeting your perennial status as “New England’s Newspaper of the Year.” (You look more like a small-town gossip sheet to me.)

Your reporter (Murphy), failed to conduct even a rudimentary investigation of the true nature of the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), the supposed “think tank” that testified against the wage hike. EPI is in reality the creation of a restaurant-hotel-alcohol-tobacco lobbyist. (See footnote (1), below.) I looked through the list of minimum-wage studies on the EPI site. They look like they’re coming from academicians – then I remembered David Card and Andrew Krueger, the Princeton University economists whose studies showing no job loss from a moderate increase in the minimum wage have been reviewed and accepted by hundreds of economists. Neither Card’s nor Krueger’s name appears on the EPI site. That EPI is a smokescreen is built into its very name, chosen to confuse (reporters like Murphy) by its resemblance to the Economic Policies Institute, which supports increasing the minimum wage. The EPI site also includes a great deal of character assassination of Acorn, a grass-roots organization that represents the lowest-paid workers.

Your editorial page editor (Porter) is willing to set aside justice for fear of damaging an image of our state that’s he’s bought into at the behest of vested interests. The fallacy that he offers us, equivalent to “don’t make waves,” is, for an editorial page, just plain childish. But it’s a tipoff that the people Porter listens to are the state’s movers and shakers, especially those nearby the Press-Herald’s offices in the financial district. Porter probably lunches with corporate lawyers and bankers, maybe even hobnobs with them in his home community. As a result, when it comes time to make a tough call, he parrots their line. (Or maybe he just reads Murphy’s reporting and, like Murphy, starts taking at face value what EPI and like-minded “think tanks” have provided for the consumption of expedient thinkers such as himself.)

Let’s take an example of one way in which Porter’s reasoning could be extended: billboards. When I drive across Maine, I don’t have to look at billboards, and I’m thankful. I’m thankful because I get to see all that Maine has to offer, unsullied, and also because there’s a message in the billboards’ absence. It’s a sense of what’s just and a proper sense of priorities. I’m also thankful because, when I visit Michigan or Florida or Texas, there’s a billboard in every direction. I never get to see what those states have to offer, and I get a message about where their priorities are. Porter has been listening to people whine about how our state supposedly discourages business (never mind about the businesses that have been encouraged to locate in Santa Fe, New Mexico or San Francisco, California, because both of them have higher-than-national minimum wages, and never mind, right here in Maine, that there are plenty of people who visit, buy second homes, spend money on guides/antiques/hotels/restaurants because of a sense that the state is pristine that they get when they drive across it) for so long that it wouldn’t be beyond reason to see him come out in favor of allowing free rein to billboard advertising in the name of “improving” Maine’s business image. As with billboards, so with the Governor’s Dirigo health-care effort, environmental protection, and a host of other considerations, all for fear of sending an “anti-business” message.

In conclusion, I think you would do well to get rid of both Murphy and Porter and take me in their stead. That would save you money, plus you would get the job done right.

(1) From Source Watch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy: (
“The Employment Policies Institute is one of several front groups created by Berman & Co., a Washington, DC public affairs firm owned by Rick Berman, who lobbies for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. EPI, registered as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, has been widely quoted in news stories regarding minimum wage issues, and although a few of those stories have correctly described it as a "think tank financed by business," most stories fail to provide any identification that would enable readers to identify the vested interests behind its pronouncements. Instead, it is usually described exactly the way it describes itself, as a "non-profit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth" that "focuses on issues that affect entry-level employment." In reality, EPI's mission is to keep the minimum wage low so Berman's clients can continue to pay their workers as little as possible.
EPI also owns the internet domain names to ( and (, a website that attempts to portray the idea of a living wage for workers as some kind of insidious conspiracy. "Living wage activists want nothing less than a national living wage," it warns (as though there is something wrong with paying employees enough that they can afford to eat and pay rent).”

Monday, February 06, 2006

VARSITY. The principal team representing a... school in sports competitions.

Dear Editor, Portland Press-Herald:

Isn't it time for this newspaper to rethink the kind of message it's sending in its sports section?

Despite widespread worries about student achievement and endless debates about school funding, the sports section, in columns like "Athletes of the Week" goes right on in its little world of pretend-professional sports. Couldn't you at least recast this column? Let the jock-writers go on with their business of touting teeny sports heroes/heroines, but add, right alongside, "Scholars of the Week"?????? (And I DON'T mean "scholar athletes" -- have your real writers get out there and uncover heroes in all the other walks of student life: scientific inquiry, the arts, public service…) GIVE KIDS WHO AREN'T VARSITY FIRST-STRINGERS SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF, SOMETHING TO ASPIRE TO !!!

Richard Wolfe
Cumberland, Maine

Friday, February 03, 2006

Climate Expert Muzzled

Date:      Sun, 29 Jan 2006 11:56:41 -0800 (PST)
From:     "Richard Wolfe" <>
Subject:     Climate expert muzzled

In which Goddard Institute Director Dr. James Hansen finds himself dogged by people who (1) don't want to hear about global warming and (2) are careful never to put anything in writing.


The question is, what hole did “recently appointed” public affairs officer George Deutsch crawl out of, and did someone get the axe to make way for him? This man is obviously nothing more than still another of the Administration’s enforcers, and the press ought to be investigating the circumstances of his appointment. Isn’t the real crime here the peopling of our civil service with apparatchiks devoid of any connection to the agency they serve, functioning for all practical purposes like Kremlin “political officers” under the old Soviet regime?

Richard Wolfe
Cumberland, Maine