New World Disorder and America's Future

Those of us participating in the 31st Camden Conference last weekend were braced for serious dialogue given the conference theme "New World Disorder and America's Future". We were not disappointed. From Friday's keynoter Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School to the final address "This Too Shall Pass" from Chas Freeman, a retired dean of the Foreign Service, the Camden Opera House was alive with spirited dialogue, healthy debate, and a sense of community as welcome as it is rare these days.

Day 3 of President Elect Trump

A note on this piece: writing is a way for me to process the results of this shocking Presidential Election. I have written something each day since the election and what is here  represents how it takes shape and meaning for me. It is really for me and maybe my kids. Lots of voices trying to make this seem like a "normal" transition. President Obama meets with Trump in the Oval Office. David Brooks takes his best shot at a "healing", responsible Op Ed in the New York Times. Try as he might, he can't quite pull it off (note last paragraph). The View From Trump Tower

The State of the Union

Those regular readers of this blog will know that it has been a few months since my last post. My pen has been stilled for two reasons: first my wife Sally and I took a lengthy trip to Europe in June to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. More fundamentally, I have not known what to say. I am deeply troubled by the political situation in our country.

The New Africa

The 2016 Camden Conference was devoted to Africa, the new Africa to be specific. Just what the new Africa meant was sometimes unclear but generally it was meant to distinguish it from "Africa: The Hopeless Continent", a much-remarked on cover story from the May 13th, 2000 issue of the Economist.

Scouting for Boys

Recently I came across a quote that caught my imagination.  It was from Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell, the British General who founded the scouting movement back in the early 1900's.  The quote went something like this:  "When a knight comes across a difficult situation like being confronted by a dragon, the knight does not hesitate but charges right in, armed only with his lance.  Even though hopelessly overmatched, the Knight invariably triumphs. This is just what a scout should do when confronted with a dangerous situation."

North to Alaska

The first surprising thing about Denali National Park, in the heart of Alaska and home to Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain on this continent, is how few animals one sees.  It is not that the animals aren't there in this largest and most remote of America's National Parks.  The Park abounds with grizzly bear, caribou, Dahl sheep, and moose but, unlike Yellowstone or Glacier, Denali is not accessible by car. 

The Negotiator

In the book Mitchell talks about his working relationship, when he was Majority Leader of the Senate, with Bob Dole, then Minority Leader.  Their relationship was built on mutual respect.  They had many disagreements.  However, they forged even more understandings and accommodations that resulted in the passage of significant legislation, including a landmark Clean Air Bill.

Lee Kuan Yew

Who among you has heard of Lee Kuan Yew? He died last week and his headline in the Washington Post ran "Lee Kuan Yew, whose efficient but often heavy-handed leadership helped transform Singapore from a chaotic British colonial backwater into one of the world's most prosperous and orderly states, died March 23rd in a Singapore hospital. He was 91."

Camden Conference 2015 - Russian Resurgent

My wife and I are just back from the Camden Conference. This year's topic was "Russia Resurgent". With Russia's aggressive support of rebels in Eastern Ukraine and its earlier annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea, the topic could not have been more timely. Reflecting this, all three Conference venues: the Camden Opera House, the Strand in Rockland, and the University of Maine's Hutchinson Center in Belfast were sold out, over nine hundred attendees in all - quite remarkable for a cold and snowy February weekend in mid-coast Maine.

Portland Symphony's 90th

The Pastoral, Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, is a favorite. It is unique among Beethoven Symphonies as it depicts a lyrical walk through the Viennese countryside on a lovely day. Birds are singing, the local band is playing; a (famous) thunderstorm intrudes but quickly gives way to peace and calm. John Tanzer, the Portland Symphony Orchestra's principal timpanist, recently told me that, though he loves this music, it has little work for the timpani, except during the thunderstorm. Most of the other eight Beethoven Symphonies , of course, have plenty to keep a timpanist on his toes.

Election 2014

What to make of the 2014 elections in Maine?  Against the odds (or so it seemed to this observer) our incumbent governor Paul LePage is returned to the Blaine House with a much higher proportion of the vote than in 2010 (48% versus 38%).  Moreover, it seems he would have beaten Democratic challenger Mike Michaud even if Independent Eliot Cutler had not been in the race – given that Cutler’s final (disappointing) 8% was estimated to be approximately two thirds Democratic-leaning and one-third Republican leaning.  All of this from someone thought to be vulnerable for a litany of good reasons known to most all of us.