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With newly-elected Maine Senator Angus King's confirmation this morning that he's going to caucus with the Democrats (yay!), I thought I'd repost a diary I wrote earlier this year during the campaign:

I know very little about former Independent Governor and current Independent Senate Candidate Angus King of Maine. The only insight I have into who he is and what he believes comes from 13 years ago, when he helped pioneer (for good or for evil) the now-widespread practice of providing taxpayer-funded laptop computers to every public school student in the (district/county/state).

The Maine laptop initiative of 1999 gave Apple iBooks (the predecessor to the MacBook) to every high school student in the state, and was highly controversial at the time.

Here's an excerpt from an article about the initiative, from the L.A. Times in 2002:

In an interview last week as he prepares to leave office in January, Gov. King said he realized a fresh leadership approach was needed as he suffered through a soporific session at a national governors' conference three years ago. "Everybody was using the same formula: regulatory streamlining, tax cuts, investments in research and development," King said.

"I had this clear insight that we were trapped at being 37th in per capita income."

That same snowy winter of 1999, Maine woke up to a surprise budget surplus of more than $50 million. King decided to use the cash to help vault the state out of poverty by making it a leader in technology education.

"Dear Governor," fumed an e-mail that summarily arrived at his office: "We are a poor state. Let someone else lead."

"And we will stay a poor state," King responded, "unless we lead."

After a year of haggling, the state Legislature approved a $30-million endowment that staggers the initial apportionment of 36,000 laptops over two years. Foundation donations paid the difference for the $37-million contract with Apple Computer Inc.

This year's seventh-graders will use the current batch of machines again next year, in the eighth grade, while the incoming seventh-graders will receive new Apples.

An annual outlay of $15 million to $20 million -- out of the state's $1.8-billion school budget -- could keep the program going indefinitely, King said. He said that during a 15-hour special session Wednesday, in which lawmakers grappled with a $240-million budget shortfall, no one called for eliminating the laptop spending.

I've bold-faced the key points. Whatever else he may believe, King stood up for:

--Spending on public education
--Investing in technology infrastructure
--Recognizing that the way out of an economic doldrum is not to just slash, slash slash

In addition, according to Wikipedia:
King has called for the continuation of a tariff on imported athletic footwear and rejects discussing the potential removal of the tariff in trade talks with Vietnam, citing the potential loss of jobs at New Balance's Skowhegan and Madison factories, as New Balance is the only remaining domestic manufacturer of athletic footwear.

King opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, believing the amount of oil is not worth the environmental risk of extracting it. He also believes that new developments in the energy field, such as fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline should be subject to "all appropriate environmental safeguards to protect the American people and the American land."

He opposes the creation of a Maine Woods National Park, believing local control is the best way to conserve land.

Government reform
King supports the principle of the No Budget, No Pay Act, to prevent members of Congress from being paid until a budget is passed, but would seek a requirement that any passed budget "works" and is not simply a bad budget passed to meet the requirement.

King supports reform of the Senate filibuster, noting that Senators are no longer required to stand on the floor and speak during a filibuster. He also points out that a 60-vote requirement to conduct business in the Senate was not included in the Constitution by the Framers.

Health issues
King supports the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He is also pro-choice on abortion.

Same-sex marriage
King supports same-sex marriage, stating that it is "necessary to provide couples and their families with equal protection under the law."

Folks, I don't think there's any cause for concern about a Joe Lieberman-style situation here. King sounds like he really is the opposite of a DINO...he seems to be a DIEBN (Democrat In Everything But Name).

To be honest, I find this rather refreshing and have no problem with it--it sounds like his positions are pretty solidly Democratic, but that he just really, truly doesn't like having the "D" label next to his name all the time, which I can respect.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I hope Bernie Sanders (10+ / 0-)

    is his new best friend in the Senate, too.   That is an association that would do the whole country some good.

  •  So, um....where does Maine stand now in income? (0+ / 0-)

    There are great reasons for the laptop program, but I wonder if it had any observable impact along the lines that King was suggesting. All those kids are in the workforce now....

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 08:04:11 AM PST

    •  29th (8+ / 0-)

      As of 2011, the most recent year info is available.

      Keep in mind that our numbers are also impacted by the fact that we're the oldest state in the nation, with a significant chunk of our population retired (or on a low or fixed income from part-time or seasonal work).

      The laptops are making a difference, esp. in rural households where there is little in the way of infrastructure or library access.

      "When did it fall apart? Sometime in the '80s / When the great and the good gave way to the greedy and the mean." - Billy Bragg

      by Vacationland on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 08:09:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  another source (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FischFry, Vacationland

        According to the U.S. census Maine sits at #32. I'm not sure which source the article was using but by both measures (what's your source?), it looks like Maine has improved their position.

        •  Mine was Census, I think? (0+ / 0-)

          The rankings vary depending on whether you include retirees/disabled in the per capita income; some include and some exclude those...there may also be adjusted figures since the data I cited (Maine was not as impacted by the recession because we weren't doing as well before it, but we're also not recovering as fast as the rest of the region).

          By either measure, we've improved (and they have made some improvements to tech infrastructure) but we have a long way to go and lag behind the rest of the region. Some of it is just down to sheer difficulty of living, working, and providing basic services in rural areas with harsh climates and a small population.

          "When did it fall apart? Sometime in the '80s / When the great and the good gave way to the greedy and the mean." - Billy Bragg

          by Vacationland on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 05:02:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The laptop thing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, Aspe4

    sounds like a huge waste of money. Education is NOT about technology; sure, the schools can't be crumbling and so on but there is no proof whatsoever that students learn better when they're using technology/playing with gadgets while learning. Innovative learning methods are great, sure. But technology and this laptop initiative are usually just crutches that mask the real factor behind student outcomes - great teaching.

    Seriously, that money would've been spent way better if it had been invested in teacher education and pre-K education. We all like technology and I wish every kid had a laptop etc. but it's simply not a good use of resources if the goal is to improve LEARNING.

    I don't know much about King. Hopefully he will be a solid senator. I just wanted to comment on this.

    •  A laptop is very important (10+ / 0-)

      to a kid whose family cannot afford one, especially if they have no library in their community. It elevates them to a more level playing field with students that do have a computer. I would just hope that these students have access to internet service that is affordable.

      Sure, we can go on and on about all of the good we could do for public schools, because lord knows they have been neglected for far too long, but Governor King stepped up and got something done. I respect him for that and I'm sure if you ask the kids and their families, they respect him for it also.

    •  Disagree (7+ / 0-)

      Fundamentally. And so would Sugata Mitra!

      Keep in mind, great teaching (or great resources of any kind, including doctors and dentists) is something very hard to come by in an extremely rural state. Not a lot of hotshot education grads want to live in the middle of the woods, teaching or working in remote places with limited resources. For the same reason telemedicine saves lives in places like this, giving kids access to the internet (in a place where even reliable phone service is not a given) can quite literally change lives.

      We do (or did, until our current Teabagger Gov took over) invest in Pre-K and ongoing teacher education, but again, rural logistics make this extremely difficult in some areas of the state.

      "When did it fall apart? Sometime in the '80s / When the great and the good gave way to the greedy and the mean." - Billy Bragg

      by Vacationland on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 08:47:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        And thank you for the link, I'll watch it later when I have time.

        However, I still think the laptop program is a little bit misdirected. Giving all kids in Maine a laptop? Sure, it's better than having some kids that don't have a good access to the internet etc. But I still think the money could be spent more efficiently (it is not a very progressive program; all the rich kids in Maine get a laptop as well?). But perhaps I'm wrong because of the rural dynamics of Maine that you mentioned. This program would not make much sense in more urban areas.

        I'm just inherently skeptical of people who claim that technology is the magic bullet in education. It is all about the fundamentals - I'm all for enhancing education through technology when it has proven to be effective (generally, technology is our friend for sure) but more often than not investments in technology in the realm of K-12 education are completely wasted; it's not the technology but what you do with it and often the latter part is completely missing.

        •  What will the kids be using in the future? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          science nerd, chimene, Vacationland

          Give a kid a laptop and they will learn to use a computer.

          What job today doens't rely on computers in some aspect?

          The laptop program was a bold initiative as opposed to the all too repetitive call of cuts cuts cuts.

          "I'm not scared of anyone or anything, Angie. Isn't that the way life should be?" Jack Hawksmoor

          by skyounkin on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 09:54:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  If the Republicans won the Senate, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    homo neurotic

    he would've caucused with them. We won, so he'll caucus with is--which is a much better fit for him, in any case.

    I expect he'll be a fine senator (and there's no question that he's a huge upgrade) as long as we maintain our majority.

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 09:42:55 AM PST

    •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      not sure he's quite that fickle

      if the g.o.p. regained senate control BUT only by virtue of a fresh new wave of anti-science, anti-math, batshit crazy republicans, i do not think angus king would have signed on to ride the crazy train. then again, there are many reasons as to why that scenario didn't come close to unfolding.

      he's pretty principled, and pretty dedicated to nuts and bolts of policy.

      keep your eyes on the sky. put a dollar in the kitty. don't the moon look pretty. --becker&fagen

      by homo neurotic on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 10:03:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  my two cents (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    science nerd, ChuckInReno, Brainwrap

    once upon a time, i actually traveled in upstanding, respectable circles.

    in the mid 90s, i was employed as environmental manager for one of maine's largest industrial facilities, a position of some visibility (and a tremendous level of stress, but that's a tale for another day). i was appointed by then governor king to sit on a statewide steering committee to help frame the state's environmental challenges and opportunities.

    anyhow, it's not as though me and angus are anything approaching bff's. but in addition to having the chance to meet him on a few occasions, i was an observer of his two terms as governor.

    thanks for this diary, my sense is that this pretty fairly outlines what can be expected from senator elect king.

    i do not expect him to be lockstep. but i expect even less anything even remotely liebermanesque / dickish.

    he's going to be reliably straightforward. he's wonkishly sharp.

    and there's a distinct possibility that his skill set and his stance as an (I) may be of value in bridging the yawning chasm between the two major parties (although i'll hasten to add that the lion's share of responsibility for reconciliation lands squarely on mcconnell and minions).

    keep your eyes on the sky. put a dollar in the kitty. don't the moon look pretty. --becker&fagen

    by homo neurotic on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 09:59:49 AM PST

    •  is there any special interest group that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      homo neurotic

      has funded King's political career more than any other, to which he has demonstrated allegience? Or is he, in fact, completely independent of those who donate money to him?

      •  that is an excellent question (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wdrath, chimene

        and in light of my having left maine for california twelve years ago, my capacity to offer helpful response is limited.

        perhaps a current mainer can shed light -- i'd be curious to hear the response too.

        just had a peek at the open secrets accounting of big donations for and against his senate run.

        the thing that really leaps out is that the u.s. chamber of commerce ponied up big to beat him -- my recollection though is that at the STATE level, he was held in pretty high regard by much of the maine business community, during his runs for and time as governor.

        keep your eyes on the sky. put a dollar in the kitty. don't the moon look pretty. --becker&fagen

        by homo neurotic on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 10:51:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  When King was governor here.... (0+ / 0-)

    ...there was a palpable sense that he was in office to govern and not grandstand.  Most of us felt we were in goood hands with him at the helm in Augusta, and his immense popularity was well-earned.

    Plus, unlike our current tea party blowhard, King is just a really nice guy.

    By the way, I can tell you now that one of his distinguishing features that people will notice and grin at, besides the mustache, is the pair of reading glasses he wears around his neck.  It gives him an academic look, and it fits him to a tee.

    I'm looking forward to watching Angus in action.  Olympia Snowe, I think, just burned out as the tea party flustered the so-called "moderate" Republicans like her.  King will be a vast improvement.  I bet he'll even have an infuence on Susan Collins, and give her some cover to move leftward a bit.


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