Patriotism in 2018

On this Fourth of July, in the year 2018, celebrating the 242nd Anniversary of the American Declaration Of Independence from an oppressive government that disregarded the wants and needs of its American citizens, it is well worth it to contemplate Patriotism.

Patriotism, as defined by Merriam-Webster: “love for or devotion to one’s country”

Note that it does not say love or devotion to the current government, or to any elected official. In fact, it can be, and often has been, argued that Patriotism demands holding the government to task for what they do and what they fail to do.

To those that claim that those who criticize Donald Trump and his administration are lacking in patriotism because he’s the president, I have one basic thing to say:

BULLSHIT!

If they really thought that, then by their own definitions, these people have shown a complete lack of patriotism when Barak Obama was President.

Because Patriotism is loyalty to the country, not to any specific person, if the person in high office is acting in a way that is detrimental to the country, it is therefore a patriotic duty to hold them responsible. It is therefore a patriotic duty to dissent. It is a patriotic duty to resist. Loyalty to the person is in fact incompatible with patriotism, because you are putting the person above the country regardless of what that person is doing to the country.

The Declaration of Independence, the signing of which is celebrated 242 years ago today, calls out for dissent and opposition to Trump’s administration where it says as the second paragraph

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

What has Trump done that warrants a Patriotic dissent and resistance? Here’s a partial list:

  • He insults our allies and defers to our enemies
  • He installs department heads that are unqualified on the face of it and who’s missions are to dismantle their departments
  • He is personally profiting from being President beyond a paycheck by not distancing himself from his businesses
  • He is personally profiting from being President beyond a paycheck by manipulating the stock market
  • He ignores the evidence-based consensus of his own Intelligence services regarding enemy cyberwarfare against the United States and takes the unproven word of a sworn enemy instead
  • He claims victory in talks with a hostile foreign leader when he gave what they wanted and got nothing in return, ignoring evidence of his failure
  • Demands certain concessions to agree to a basic principle, then moves the goal posts
  • Enacts a policy of “zero tolerance”, lies about who’s policy it is, claims it’s up to another branch of the government to fix it, then only under pressure from his wife and daughter enacts an Order that only partially rescinds it and attempts to make things worse
  • Falsely claims “national security” to impose import tariffs on our allies triggering global trade wars with allies and other trade partners
  • Directly and implicitly Incites violence against the Media
  • Directly and implicitly incites violence against people of color, other religions and refugees

I could go on and on, but as I said, this is only a partial list.

Trump shreds the Constitution

The United States Constitution, including all 27 Amendments, effects all persons within the borders of the United States including territories and possessions regardless of their legal status or how they got here. This includes all rights, privileges, and obligations.

Donald Trump is shredding the United States Constitution. He is now advocating depriving “undocumented immigrants” their due-process rights as guaranteed by the US Constitution.

Then there is this one, from May: The Trump Organization, owned and still operated by Donald Trump and his children who are also employees of Donald Trump as “Advisers”, has stated that they are not going to bother to separate out moneys taken in from foreign business interests, in clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution which prohibits government employees from the acceptance of gifts, titles and money from foreign entities lest they cause or appear to cause a preference to that foreign entity over that of the United States’ interests. Why? Because it’s “not practical”. Whether hired, appointed or elected, Donald, Don Jr, Eric, Ivanka and Melania Trump are all employees of the US Government. And collectively, several of them, specifically including Donald, own, manage or hold stake in the Trump Organization.

 

1 crying Honduran girl vs 2000

This one instance that the current regime in Washington is now harping on as an overblown response by the Democratic and otherwise Liberal side does not disprove the fact that over TWO THOUSAND children were “separated” (kidnapped, stolen) from their parents attempting to seek entry into the united states, many of whom who were trying to enter legally by seeking asylum through an official border crossing.

And the recent Executive Order that Trump had previously said he could not issue to reverse his own policies, has no provision to reunite those children with their families, seeks to makes matters worse by having the Pentagon set up what amounts to concentration camps at military bases, and will in fact self-reverse on the policy in about three weeks and resume separating (kidnapping, stealing) the children again when they fail to overturn the Flores Agreement that set the 20 day limit on child detentions in the first place. The Flores Agreement is a judgement dating back to the Reagan era.

The crying Honduran girl on the cover of Time was not separated from her mother

Did he ever invite people who were permanently separated from their children due to…

Did he ever invite people who were permanently separated from their children due to school shootings?

Did he ever invite people who were permanently separated from their children due to police brutality?

Did he ever invite people who were permanently separated from their children due to the opiod crisis?

Did he ever invite people who were permanently separated from their children due to domestic violence?

Did he ever invite people who were permanently separated from their children due to inability to afford medication?

 

Trump answers critics of border policy with families of crime victims

Turmp’s order to end splitting families is all show

 

 

As you have probably heard by now, to much fanfare, President Trump has signed an Executive Order reversing his own policy of separating children from their families when crossing the border from Mexico. This is insufficient. The EO was actually drafted by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

What was not as widely announced are the parts of the order that are as bad, if not worse:

Families arrested from now on will be kept together in so-called “Detention Centers”. At first, similar to the ones currently housing over 2000 children. The EO directs the Department of Homeland Security to contract with the Pentagon to start holding these families on military bases. And there are no plans to re-unite families already separarted.

Let me repeat that last bit:

There are no plans to re-unite families already separated.

Nation wide protests and demonstrations against the family separation policy are still happening. If you were planning on attending one, keep that plan. If you have a Senator or Congressperson who has not committed to supporting an existing bill or to write one to make a law to fix this, call or write them. Here in Maine, that would be Republican Senator Susan Collins and Republican Congressman (CD2) Bruce Poliquin – Independant Senator Angus King has already signed on to Senator Finestein’s bill, and Deomcratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has already co-sponsored the House version.

You can find demonstration events co-sponsored by MoveOn.org here: https://act.moveon.org/event/families-belong-together/search/

You can find out how to contact your US Senator here: https://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_correspond_senators.htm

You can find ou how to contact your US Congressperson here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Do not assume this is over, it is not. Do not become complacent. We only got this much becuase of the pressure being applied to the Senate and Congress. We MUST keep it up.

Keep Families Together

Senator Collins,

You said the other day on national TV that you do not support the Administration’s policy of breaking families apart at the border. But then you did… nothing. You have no follow-through where it counts.

You claim that The Keep Families Together Act written by Senator Feinstein is “too broad” and merely asked Donald Trump for more information. You are asking a known liar to lie to you, again.

You repeatedly claim to be a moderate, and willing to work across the aisle, but that only appears to happen on inconsequential items. You are a senior Senator, you have clout. Use it. Work with Senator Feinstein to amend her bill or find something you want that she can support in exchange for your support here. Or work with another Democratic Senator, or Senator King, to write a different bill that better suits your sensibilities.

In other words, do your job.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey Kaplan
Biddeford Maine

We Are One

G’Kar’s Interstellar Alliance pledge from the show Babylon 5, written by J. Michael Straczynski.

Adapted for here and now from a speech in my favorite SF show of all time:

 
The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.
The language is not English, or Spanish, or Hebrew, or French or Arabic
It speaks in the language of hope
It speaks in the language of trust
It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion
It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.
But always it is the same voice
It is the voice of our ancestors, speaking through us,
And the voice of our inheritors, waiting to be born
It is the small, still voice that says
We are one
No matter the blood
No matter the skin
No matter the state
No matter the country:
We are one
No matter the pain
No matter the darkness
No matter the loss
No matter the fear
We are one
Here, gathered together in common cause, we agree to recognize this
singular truth and this singular rule:
That we must be kind to one another
Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us and each voice lost
diminishes us.
We are the voice of the Universe, the soul of creation, the fire
that will light the way to a better future.
We are one.

LePage’s Destruction of Democracy and Legacy

Five times since the Affordable Care Act was passed and signed into federal law, the Maine State Legislature passed and sent to Governor Paul LePage bills to expand MaineCare to more people in Maine. Five times, LePage vetoed it.

Let that sink in.

Maine’s Republican governor, who only got there with a mere plurality of votes (his first term, he got less than %40 of the vote hardly a resounding mandate from the people), has defied the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives. This lead directly to the Citizen’s Initiative that became Question Two on last November’s ballot to force the issue directly from the citizens of Maine, a referendum that LePage cannot veto, to expand MaineCare to cover approximately 70,000 more people. Most of the money required to pay for this is provided by the Federal government through moneys already budgeted and allocated, all Maine has to do is say “yes”. And Maine has the money available for the downpayment before the federal funds kick in this year, and the ability to easily budget it in each of the coming years. The Referendum passed 59-41. It passed with not merely a simple majority, but an almost supermajority. More people voted for this than for LePage in either of his campaigns for Governor.

The referendum set a deadline for April for the LePage administration to submit a plan to the Federal government on how it plans to implement the expansion, with the expansion itself to be implemented by July 2. By law.

So what happened? The LePage administration ignored it. Let that sink in.

Various groups have since sued the LePage administration to force him/it to follow the law. The Maine State Attorney General, Janet Mills, refused to defend the LePage administration in this, so LePage hired outside council. The Court rendered its verdict on June 4: The LePage administration must follow the law as written and submit a plan, deadline June 11. With the implementation date on July 2. What happened next? On June 7, the LePage administration through the Department Of Health And Human Services filed an appeal.

This is just the most recent and most inhumane way that LePage is destroying democracy in this state. By acting contrary to what the people have repeatedly said they wanted, including by a direct ballot question. Then ignoring the result.

And all of the Republican candidates for Governor have pledged to follow LePage’s lead.

RCV in Maine

Ranked Choice Voting. What a sticky issue.

Initially, I was all for this. After all, since 1974, only twice has a Gubernatorial Candidate in Maine won with an actual majority of votes rather than a mere plurality, and both times it was the incumbent’s reelection:

  • 1974: James Longley (I)  39.7%
  • 1978: Joseph Brennan (D) 47.8%
  • 1982: Joseph Brennan (D) 61.9%
  • 1986: John McKernan (R) 39.9%
  • 1990: John McKernan (R) 46.7%
  • 1994: Angus King (I) 35.4%
  • 1998: Angus king (I) 58.6%
  • 2002: John Baldacci (D) 47.2%
  • 2006: John Baldacci (D) 38.1%
  • 2010: Paul LePage (R) 37.6%
  • 2014: Paul LePage (R) 48.2%

There are many reasons for this, not all of them due to political polarization between the Left and Right, as this trend has been going on for decades, during times of cooperation and freeze-outs between the Left and Right. A large cause of this is Maine’s tradition of Independent or Unenrolled candidates. It is not uncommon for there to be multiple Independent candidates for elected positions up and down the ballot, so even after primaries, since Independent candidates pretty much by definition do not have primaries, there can be three, four, five or even more candidates on the General Election. So it’s the outlier that can get an actual majority rather than the norm.

And the lack of majority support is a problem. When someone gets elected with a mere plurality, there WILL be lots of contention between that person and the majority of the people, who did not vote for them. This needs to be fixed.

Ranked Choice Voting is a way to do this. But even though we are using it in the primaries on June 12, and depending on the outcome of Question 1, may use it for some positions on the ballot in November. We’d be using it for US Senate and US House seats, it will NOT be used for Governor due to a 19th century Amendment to the Maine Constitution that specifies that State positions are to be decided by Plurality Vote.

I was initially all in favor of RCV as the way to fix this. After all, it’s an instant run-off method of voting. If your preferred candidate came in last, they are eliminated and your second choice then gets your vote. Lather, rinse, repeat until one candidate gets that 50%+1 vote magic number. Faster and cheaper than having run-off elections to accomplish the same thing. Perfect!

Then I started listening to people who’s opinions I trust who are opposed to this. Most of them aren’t opposed to it because they prefer the plurality method. They are mostly opposed to it because RCV itself can skew the results away from a true majority pick. Consider the Senate race. Two Independents, a Democrat and a Republican.

As a Democrat, I am going to rank the candidates Democrat, then Independent 1, Independent 2. And not rank the Republican at all. The Republican candidate is going to rank the Republican first and the Democrat not at all. They will probably rank the two Independents the same way as me and for the same reason: Independent 1 is the one we know and is better than the other party, Independent 2 is better than the other party. The Independent voter will likely vote Independent 1 first as he’s the known candidate not affiliated with either party, then it’s a coin toss for the rest, depending on the stance of Independent 2 and the voter’s left/right general leaning.

That is, assuming that all voters even rank more than one candidate. If Voter 3 only ranked one candidate and that candidate gets eliminated, then that voter has less say than Voter 1 who ranked all candidates.

Conversely, if Voter 1 ranked all candidates and their number 1 rank makes it all the way, then they too have less say because they did not get any input in the elimination rounds. Dose that matter? Yes. Because when factored in with the lack of ranking Voter 3 did, the final runoff may have had a different set of candidates, and thus maybe a different outcome as each lowest-ranked candidate is eliminated.

I am still voting YES on Question 1 to Veto the Legislature’s attempt to delay-and-repeal RCV in Maine. But only because it’s better than what we have now, not because I think it’s the answer.

Ranking the Democratic Candidates

Here in Maine, we are going to be using Ranked Choice Voting in the primaries on June 12, and there are seven Democratic candidates running. That means, that with the always-available Write In slot, we can rank up to eight candidates. I am ranking five. Two weeks ago, I was only planning on ranking four. So who am I voting for and why? Let me start with who I am NOT voting for.

I am NOT voting for Donna Dion. While she received enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot, she tried and failed to qualify for Maine’s Clean Election funding, which shows a lack of broad support, or a lack of organization or both. I had seen her gathering signatures for her petition to be on the ballot, in person.  I have never seen anyone collecting signatures on her behalf, which again points to either a lack of support or organization, or both. Since she failed to qualify for Clean Elections financing, I had tried to find a campaign contribution site for her as part of gathering that info for ALL of the Democratic candidates for all positions that include Biddeford, and failed. When I attempted to reach out to her campaign to get this info directly, it took a week and a half to get a response, and it came from her directly, not from a staffer (again, lack of support and/or organization), and she does not have one. She takes cash or checks only through a PO Box. I am not voting for her because she doesn’t stand a chance, and has not shown any ability to even run an effective campaign, I am not going to trust her with the State government.

I am NOT voting for Janet Mills. I think overall she’s doing a good job as Attorney General, but that is a very different job. She has been able to block some of LePage’s bad policies. She has been able to work around some others (using a court awarded windfall to buy and distribute Narcam to multiple police departments after LePage kept blocking the availability through health care), using her discretion to decline to defend LePage’s policies in court, etc. However, she has also used her discretion badly.

She has been fighting to prevent the Penobscot Nation’s water rights to the river of the same name. Water rights codified and guaranteed in their Treaty with the United States. When she failed to block those rights, she has sued the EPA to loosen water protection laws as it pertains to one specific river, the Penobscot, which has the effect of denying the Penobscot peoples from using the river for sustenance because the water would then be too polluted to be usable. Janet Mills then joined in on a similar lawsuit in Washington State that has the same effect to a Native People there.

While she currently has a failing grade with the NRA, at one time she did have an A+ rating with them during her time in the State Legislature for voting down common sense gun laws that are again in the national consciousness after multiple mass shootings at schools and public venues.

(I am not going to address gun issues elsewhere in this column as everyone else is straight-forward in supporting common-sense gun legislation while still supporting gun rights in general.)

So, on to those that I AM going to rank.

In fifth place, Diana Russell. Honestly, one of the main reasons I’m ranking her at all is due to her work to get RCV a reality, even sacrificing time and energy from her Gubernatorial campaigning to fight to get the Citizen’s Veto on the ballot to restore RCV after the Legislature tried to kill it, then defending it in multiple lawsuits by the GOP. However, from what I have seen of her, she is a better activist than administrator. She was elected to the Legislature previously on an activist agenda, and from what I can tell, didn’t accomplish much. Her campaign now is one of an populist activist that is destined to be fighting the Legislature rather than working with it to accomplish even common goals. And she has now run into a couple minor campaign finance violations, one may have been a legitimate error, but the other is a definite should-have-known-better issue.

In fourth place is Mark Dion. I was going to leave him out until a couple weeks ago when I finally had the chance to hear him speak, just him not part of a panel discussion/debate. Former police officer, former Sheriff of Cumberland County, former State Rep, current State Senator. He is definitely more on the Conservative side of the party, but still, his Law And Order stance is tempered in a big way by basic Humanity. His law enforcement career has always had the focus of helping and working with the community. He helped setup community centers to get kids and others on the edge off the streets and into productive activities. Prevention, rather than clean-up.

Slots one, two and three, however, keep shifting, and mostly because of Adam Cote.

Last Summer, Adam Cote wasn’t even on my list, then over the winter as I heard more of and from him, he slowly moved up my list to number one, but now has slipped back down to two or three. Army vet, very involved in Clean Energy both in and out of uniform. He created and ran a company that dealt with assisting with making clean energy policy around the world.  But of all the candidates, he seems to be in a feud with Mills, with both of them twisting facts about the other. As noted above, I’m not voting for Mills anyway. So this is a bit of a knock down, but as it’s the only thing I have against him, he’s still on the list.

Probably my number one pick now is Mark Eves. Former family councilor, former State Rep, former Maine Speaker Of The House. In that position doing his job, he earned the ire of Gov LePage who used his bully pulpit to block an unrelated job offer to Eves when Eves got term-limited out of the House. Of those I’m ranking, Eves has the most experience in Maine State Government leadership. Mark Dion may have more time based experience, but not as high, which in my opinion gives him an edge on how to get things done, and get them done right.

Which leaves Betsy Sweet in positions two or three. She hasn’t worked IN the State government, but has worked WITH the government for decades on multiple issues and topics. She is also one of two Democratic candidates that applied for Clean Elections funding and the only one to qualify. I think that for me, Eves nudges above her only on the basis of in-government experience.