Chinese trade mission for base named for Loring

Gov. Paul LePage will return this week from China and many – especially LePage’s supporters –  are hoping the governor will bring some good news from the Far East. On the table is a potential deal that could bring millions of dollars of investment to the state and along with new jobs for northern Maine.

LePage has been in talks, along with members from the Loring Development Authority, with a Chinese maker of rail cars that could bring a production facility to the Loring Commerce Centre – formerly the Loring Air Force Base – near Limestone.

The base was once one of the largest in the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, and home to nuclear-armed, B-52 bombers during the coldest parts of the Cold War.

Some see irony in LePage’s trade mission to China, a communist nation, in that the base and now the commerce center – or ‘centre’, for those north of Augusta –  is named for Maj. Charles Loring Jr. a Portland native who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, after he flew his crippled F-80 fighter jet directly into a Chinese gun emplacement near Sniper Ridge in Communist North Korea in  November of 1952.

The crash killed Loring but also destroyed the gun emplacement, according to his Medal of Honor citation. 

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Loring also served as a P-47 pilot in World War II, flying 55 combat missions, until he was shot down near Belgium in December 1944, captured and held as a prisoner of war by Hitler’s Nazis until June 1945.  

LePage is negotiating with NORINCO, a giant, state-owned conglomerate that manufactures a wide range of industrial and military products, including anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air, air defense, missile systems. 

The company has also manufactured firearms as well as mining and transportation equipment, including rail cars, a line of which they would like to bring to Loring to service U.S. and Canadian rail companies.

No comment from Poliquin?

On Tuesday, a second attempt by a Sun Journal health care reporter to obtain a comment from former Maine State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, who is the Republican nominee in the race for Maine’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District seat, regarding the bundling of nonprofit bonds with a state guarantee were for naught.

The state in the past has helped nonprofits, including hospitals, by pooling bonding packages together, saving nonprofits millions in interest costs.  

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A policy to disallow the practice seems to have started during Poliquin’s time at the helm. But so far, Poliquin has politely declined to talk about it, telling the reporter at one point before the Republican primary he was too busy running for “federal office.”

The response is surprising as Poliquin is typically gregarious and “a talker,” as several senior reporters and editors observed. We’ve found there are very few things he’s shy about discussing “on the record.”

On the road again

Starting July 20 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows begins her 350-mile walk from Houlton to Kittery.  Bellows trek won’t be the first time a candidate has taken it to the streets, so to speak.  

In 1972 Republican, Bill Cohen, who the Harvard Crimson at the time described as a “liberal Republican” walked some 600 miles through Maine’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District.

The effort helped Cohen win his first term in Congress. Then during the Congress break in the summer of 1973, Cohen hit the road again walking another 300 miles to meet with constituents.

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The second trip was well documented by Harvard writer Daniel Maccoby who accompanied Cohen during the hike.

The reporting is interesting in that many of the issues, including welfare and welfare reform, now before candidates in Maine’s federal and State House races were hot topics of the day more than four decades ago.

Consider this quote from Cohen in Maccoby’s report as he considers concerns raised by working Mainers about welfare cheats:

“The work ethic is still very strong in Maine,” Cohen said, “and these people see a very visible, though not necessarily large, percentage of cheaters. For the working man who goes to work eight to ten hours a day and is still barely able to make ends meet, it’s very frustrating.”

Full-circle effect

In politics sometimes the opposing sides agree on a surprising issue. The old adage, “politics makes strange bedfellows” couldn’t be more true in the case around legalizing marijuana.

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In Maine, members in the libertarian wing of the Republican Party along with far-left Democrats agree that Maine ought to follow the states of Colorado and Washington and move forward with legalizing marijuana.

Both sides, which will more than likely disagree on what to do with any tax revenue from marijuana, if it is legalized and regulated in Maine, agree that prohibition of alcohol didn’t work and neither will prohibition of marijuana.

It’s better, they say, to regulate and tax to gain control and revenue of the use of recreational marijuana than it is to leave it to the largely unregulated – and fraught with crime –  black markets now in force. 

Congress, which has largely abdicated the lead on the marijuana issue to the states, is also now slowly finding its way on the issue.

Last week, one of those strange-bedfellows-moments arrived in D.C. when New Jersey’s liberal Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Kentucky’s libertarian firebrand Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, co-sponsored an amendment that removes federal intervention for the 22 states and D.C., which have regulated medical marijuana industries already.

New York State is also poised to make medical marijuana legal.  The Booker and Paul amendment, which shields medical marijuana patients and providers from enforcement of federal laws in states where medical marijuana is legal, follows a 218-189 approval of the measure in the U.S. House earlier this year.

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