Letters, March 16, 2017

Mar 16, 2017

Implement ranked-choice voting

Last November’s passage of the initiative for ranked-choice voting — or “RCV” for short — demonstrated that a majority of voters believe this change to our election system is a good thing. After digging into RCV implementation around the country I’m one of those believers.

RCV is already working in 11 cities around the country. New York City requires it in all primary races and couples it with an “instant runoff” mechanism to increase competitiveness, boost voter turnout, and eliminate the need to hold run-off elections in the primaries. Five states allow military and overseas residents to use ranked choice voting.

In “winner-take-all” contests — especially three-way races such as nine of the last 11 gubernatorial races in Maine — I felt as though I had to vote against the person I opposed the most, rather than for the person I liked the best. RCV will free me from having to pick “the lesser of two evils.” That alone makes it worthwhile.

Analysts looking at politics in cities using RCV report races are less negative, talking to voters is more important than wooing “Big Money” contributors (since a smart candidate can win by being everybody’s second choice, no matter who their first choices are), and voter turnout is higher than before switching to RCV.

I want ranked-choice voting implemented in Maine because it encourages more people to vote, reduces negative campaigning, eliminates run-off elections, promotes the will of the majority, and will re-energize public debate.

Andy Stevenson

Belfast

Undermining our right

On Nov. 8 of last year, the people of Maine approved citizen-initiated Question 5, “An Act to Establish Ranked Choice Voting.” Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, and Libertarians from every county offered their support in the second-largest vote of the people in Maine history. Mainers chose a system that will give all qualified candidates a fighting chance, keep candidates who are opposed by a majority from being elected, and encourage candidates to focus on issues, not partisan bickering.

On Jan. 7 of this year, ranked-choice voting became law, but still requires implementation. The ballot design must be updated, counting procedures must be arranged, and local officials must be trained. The whole process must be completed efficiently, securely, and transparently.

However, although they lost at the ballot box, opponents of ranked-choice voting are attempting to disregard the will of the people and block the law’s implementation. In doing so, they are undermining our right to direct democracy through the citizen initiative process.

The citizens of Maine have long placed our own bills on the ballot, a right which only 23 other states enjoy. Over the past three years, thousands of Mainers pitched in to put ranked-choice voting on the ballot and spread the word to their neighbors.

The people have done their part. The Legislature and secretary of state now need to act with integrity and uphold their constitutional duty. Implementation must happen now, so that ranked-choice voting is in place by the 2018 election.

Maggie Clark

Montville

Where is Poliquin?

Thank you for noticing and pointing out on your editorial page Rep. Bruce Poliquin's "silence" on major issues facing our country — including possible interference in our electoral process by a foreign power, the rise of the extreme right wing to prominence in Washington politics and the illegal executive order banning travel from seven (now six) Muslim-majority nations.

If you Google "Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump," however, his position becomes absolutely clear. Since the inauguration of the current administration, he has voted 92.9 percent in line with the Trump position. This includes repealing multiple rules affecting protection of our environment, and likely to include elimination of the EPA itself (HR 861, pending); support for repeal of the ACA with absolutely no clear plan of what to replace it with, assured as he himself must feel with a Cadillac health-care plan for life, paid by us, the taxpayer; and he appears to be fully in accord with the Republican plan to overrule the constitutionally protected right to reproductive choice for all women.

Bruce Poliquin has voted for repeal of the rule requiring energy companies to reduce waste and emissions; for repeal of the rule requiring some federal contractors to report labor violations; for the budget resolution to repeal the ACA; for a permanent ban on the use of federal funds for abortion or health coverage that includes abortions — ignoring the reality that federal funds have never been allowed to be used for abortion funding!

And how does he stand on the Kathadin Woods and Waters National Monument? His position is clear to me. And his avoidance of talking directly to his constituents. How he is voting, is clearly in full support of the Trump/Republican agenda. Where is Bruce Poliquin, many Mainers are asking. We probably have a better chance of finding Waldo.

Meredith Bruskin

Swanville

Lack of compassion

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” — Mahatma Gandhi. I worry about the lack of compassion that we’re seeing in many of our elected officials — in our state of Maine, other states, and in the federal government.

Defunding the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood  will destroy the lives of many Americans. The ACA has provided health insurance to millions of people who didn’t have it previous to the act. Planned Parenthood provides high-quality, low-cost health care to men and women through health screenings, Pap tests, tests and treatments of sexually transmitted diseases, educational outreach programs, and family planning.

What kind of a society do you want? If you want to see continued health care for people and wonder what to do about it, please call Sen. Susan Collins at 202-224-2523, Sen. Angus King at 202-224-5344, and Rep. Bruce Poliquin at 202-225-6306. Ask them to KEEP the ACA (Affordable Care Act), not repeal it.

A bill, HR 370, has been introduced into Congress to eliminate the ACA. Change the name, if you will, but keep its coverage. Urge them not to defund Planned Parenthood. The bill HR 354 would defund Planned Parenthood. The people affected by the elimination of these two programs are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles and neighbors.

“The real weapons of mass destruction are the hardened hearts of humanity.” — Leonard Cohen.

Linda Garson Smith

Belfast

Open letter to Sens. King and Collins

In writing to you about what I see happening to our republic, I make no assumptions about your understanding of the Constitution (for rhetorical purposes as this is an open letter). No one who is remotely connected with law enforcement in America does not swear to uphold the Constitution. In my estimation, the Constitution is the core strength of our republic. Since the "election" of Donald Trump, however, I have heard and read things that clash with this American's understanding of that same Constitution.

Those of us who study history, language and the Constitution were aware some time ago that, if Trump were indeed elected, he would immediately be in violation of the Constitution, Title One, Section Nine, the last paragraph known as the Emoluments Clause. Here it is:

"No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States; and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress accept of any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince, or foreign state."

Let us take the tricky stuff apart using Samuel Johnson's (1756) Dictionary of the English Language. Present: to favor with gifts. Emolument: profit; advantage. Also, I would comment that an office of profit is such where one gains economic and political advantage for holding it. A "trust under them" is exactly what it sounds like. The question is whether or not the nature of the trust is acceptable to the Congress.

So, unlike what was represented by Trump attorney Sheri Dillon on Jan. 11, that "paying for a hotel room is not a gift," I would offer a different view. It seems clear to me, that the authors of the "emoluments clause" intended to cover all bases if I may use a sports metaphor. No gifts, no profit (from anything) and no position of advantage. That doesn't leave much room for corruption, does it?

Norman Eisen, a fellow at the Brookings Institution; Richard Painter, professor at a Minnesota law school and the White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007; and Laurence Tribe, professor of Constitutional law at Harvard University, have written specifically on the meaning of the emoluments clause and how it applies to Donald Trump. They are in general agreement that Trump is in violation of the clause.

To many, the clause may seem obscure, because they probably are unaware of the history. President Carter put his peanut farm in a blind trust, which satisfied Congress, but at great financial cost to himself. Generally, American presidents have tried to avoid obvious conflicts by providing a relatively transparent view of their finances and how they were going to deal with potential, even perceived conflicts. Trump has done none of this. He has not even released his taxes.

Donald Trump is a different story in every sense. Trump was particularly tough on China, even questioning the "One China Policy." He accused them of perpetrating all sorts of economic evil against America. On Feb. 15, NPR published an article entitled "China Grants a Valuable Trademark Registration" by Jackie Northam. It reports that on the previous day, China's trademark office announced that they had granted a trademark registration for a Trump construction services business. Over the past decade, Trump has unsuccessfully filed numerous applications for trademark registration.

Have you heard anything from Trump on China since? Even without a quid pro quo, the granting of the trademark registration is a violation of the clause by itself. I will remind you that Trump, during the campaign, said that he would address China's "currency manipulation on day one." Silence from Trump.

I implore you, therefore, as strongly as possible, to defend our Constitution from what is a blatant violation of the referenced article and section. I realize that findings from the investigation into what Trump knew about Steve Flynn and Paul Manafort's dealing with the Russian government may find him in violation of the Logan Act and guilty of treason. I strongly suggest that this investigation must be conducted independent of the Justice Department, which is headed by a Trump supporter. Nonetheless, the emoluments clause violation cannot be ignored.

Please respond to me regarding your view of Trump and the emoluments clause.

Robert Richard

Belfast

Tsunami

This is not just a challenged president. This is nothing short of a corporate/military coup that appears more fascist every day. This is a tsunami! It also did not just pop up overnight. It is the result of decades of deliberate organizing by right-wing conservatives.

Trump is simply surfing the moment to bask in the attention and feather his nest. This agenda of dismantling government and the safety net will do damage to people and the environment.

However, the backlash of resistance is growing to such proportions, that not only will the coup fail, but the progressive momentum it has inspired will be an even larger tsunami of peace, justice and sustainability. This growing dynamic and often indigenous-led resistance is a broad coalition of activists in all sectors. The line is drawn in the sand. The coup absolutely must fail — and soon — for two reasons.

The primary reason is that the window is closing on our chance to possibly keep climate disruption from precipitating a collapse of the life support-carrying capacity of the Earth over the next few decades.

The second reason is that in order to craft an international collaborative strategy in response to this existential threat, there must be global cooperation. The infantile climate denial and the accent on militarism, isolationism, and saber rattling coming from the Trump administration is counterproductive to the focus and rapport that is required to cooperating on this monumental task.

Peter Baldwin

Brooks

What if?

Here are some suggested titles for this letter: "Elderly Health Care,” “Thought Experiment.”

You are on the board of a national corporation. What would you do if you had a CEO, Mr. AB, who appeared to have the genetic condition, Marfan’s syndrome, very long limbs with high risk of fatal aortic aneurism, and episodes of severe depression as well. Make sure he was cared for by an expert cardiologist, and urge him to seek psychiatric treatment for his mood disorder. What if he were the POTUS? (President of the U.S.) Further, you might also be sure that he had Secret Service 24/7….

What if you had a different CEO, Mr. DE, up in years, recovering from a heart attack? Make sure he had the best heart doctor and was in structured cardiac rehab, not just golf. What if he were the POTUS?

What if you had another elderly executive officer, Mr. DC, who had pacemakers and defibrillators in his heart, and had an unexplained episode where he shot a fellow hunter in the face? You would make sure he continued to have the best cardiac care.  What if he were the VP?

What if you had just hired a new CEO, Mr. D., also a senior, who seems to be unwilling or unable to read company documents, and can’t recall the last, or any book he has read. Instead he spends four to six hours a day watching TV, stays up all hours on his insecure cell tweeting about news from what some would call “fringe” websites. Then he tweets out misinterpreted versions of what he saw there, putting himself and the company at legal risk. And intersperses these tweets with tweets about the emcee of a TV show he used to star in.

Indeed, Mr. D. appears to have a short attention span. He can’t focus long enough to answer a two- or three-part question. On receiving  counsel from several advisers, he usually attends to the last person’s advice only. He forgets what he has said or done weeks, days, or hours ago. He takes the slightest criticism personally and treats those who offer it as enemies, exhibiting poor anger control.

You would see that he gets his next annual physical from a nationally renowned clinic, rather than his current internist. If you were the physician doing this exam, you would do thorough tests to rule out all medical conditions that could account for these behaviors. Start with the simplest, an eye exam to see if he needs glasses, but may be too vane to use them in public, and get him contacts if appropriate.

Failing the discovery of treatable illness, you would do a “mini-mental-test,” the first in a series of psychological and psychiatric evaluations, looking for early dementia. Then, if indicated, proceed to a full neuro-psychological evaluation.

What if Mr. D. were the POTUS? Insist that he receive the best available medical care, or, as it is called these days, “health care.”

Jeanne Gail, Ph.D., PA-C

Belfast


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