MLK was a revolutionary

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a much more revolutionary figure than our modern characterization gives him credit for. He is best remembered for his leadership in the civil rights movement, but many forget that he spent the years before his assassination fighting for economic justice for what he called the “other America.”

He argued that America “has socialism for the rich” and “rugged individualism for the poor.” King’s words could not be more true today, as we now live in an era when the wealthy donor class expects massive handouts in return for the money they donate to campaigns. The recent tax bill is an example of rich America’s gluttonous socialism at work. With the top 1 percent of Americans owning 40 percent of all wealth, the rich keep getting propped up while the rest of us are forced to fight for scraps.

As we remember King this year, let’s reflect on what it’s going to take to actually achieve the racial and economic justice that he dreamed of and fought for. It will not get any better by doing more of the same. To use King’s words, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Zak Ringelstein
Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

Bill undermines citizen initiatives

I am outraged by LD 1726, which in part would forbid signature collection for citizen initiatives inside polling places, within 50 feet around the building and in the pathway 50-feet wide to any polling entrance, for many reasons.

We have a constitutional right to citizen initiatives. This bill threatens that right.

Forbidding signature collection at polling places is an infringement of freedom of speech and the right to freely petition one’s government.

Voting and signing citizen initiative and people’s veto petitions are both democratic acts, and belong at the polling places on the day Mainers come together to exercise their rights to govern themselves.

The polling place on election day is where voters best exercise constitutional redress of grievances by petition. Mainers have been using this unique opportunity to engage and discuss important issues for generations.

This bill would make collecting signatures at a polling place a Class E crime — it criminalizes a piece of our democratic heritage.

The bill would result in signature collecting in parking lots around the polling place, which will result in chaos, confusion and risk of harm to citizens.

This bill would increase outside money in Maine politics, and reduce the power of ordinary citizens.

Without the ability to collect signatures inside polling places on Election Day, with volunteers tabling in towns across Maine, citizen initiative campaigns would have to rely on paid signature collectors, out of the reach of ordinary citizens, and a tool used only by well-financed interests.

Jeffrey Smith

Net neutrality repeal undermines open internet

The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules negatively impacts consumers and poses a threat to a free and open internet. With the possibility that internet service providers like Spectrum or Verizon can speed up or throttle any content or websites, those providers could use their power to increase their monopoly on the telecommunications industry. Globally, about 10 large conglomerates own most media. Mergers, such as the proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal or Disney buying 21st Century Fox, continue to consolidate and limit consumer control of media.

The internet can be the great equalizer in today’s ever-connected world. Tearing down geographic barriers and bypassing traditional media outlets, net neutrality ensures that all content is accessible to everyone equally. By repealing net neutrality, the 3-2 decision by the FCC allows a provider like Spectrum to slow down access to Netflix in order to discourage use of their competitor’s service and encourage more people to buy into cable television, which they would directly profit from.

According to a December poll from the University of Maryland, 83 percent of Americans support net neutrality rules. Companies from Google to Netflix also stand opposed to the repeal of net neutrality. Repealing net neutrality only serves to enrich internet service providers already raking in record profits. The internet used to be about bypassing gatekeepers and providing a level-playing field for everyone. By reinstating net neutrality, the internet can once again be free, open, and accessible to all.

Corey Watson