May 27, 2013

Letters to the editor: Bills will greatly advance military justice

Thank you for publishing an editorial concerning the efforts by Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sen. Susan Collins to address sexual assault in the military ("Our View: Bills offer right response to military sex abuse crisis," May 20).

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Measures that address the military’s handling of sexual assault charges within its ranks could change victims’ lives for the better, a reader says.

2009 File Photo/The Associated Press

Although the editorial was correct in saying that the bills move us in the right direction, I would respectfully disagree that they are "small steps."

The bill that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced and Sen. Collins supports introduces significant reforms to the military justice system.

Yet Rep. Pingree's bill creates a greater change in the way that veterans who experienced sexual assault receive their benefits.

A similar bill was passed in 2010 that concerned veterans who had served in battle zones. The question then, as now, is the degree of credibility we are willing to give to veterans who report trauma.

The requirement to specifically document combat experience was eliminated on the basis of a reasonable assumption of combat in a war zone. These bills extend the same assumption of credibility to the testimony of victims of sexual assault.

As a Marine combat veteran of Vietnam, I saw first-hand how a change in policy transformed lives. Respectfully, the passage of these bills into law would be a huge step forward.

Semper Fidelis,

John M. Flagler

Alfred

State grades part of effort to promote charter schools

It is interesting to have the LePage administration provide letter grades for schools. It's an effective way to criticize public schools and for our Republican governor to promote the use of charter schools with public funds.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party with its tea party agenda is working to provide public money to private and religious schools, which selectively choose their students. Criticizing public schools, which must accept all students, is a beginning step.

Currently, a number of Republican leaders are touting vouchers aggressively in Congress and in Republican-controlled states. In the U.S. Senate recently, a voucher plan that would have directed millions of taxpayer dollars to religious schools was defeated. Our Maine senators both voted against it.

The Alexander-Paul School Choice Amendment would have allowed $14.5 billion in existing Title I funds to follow low-income children to any accredited school, public or private. Yet the voucher program in the District of Columbia, passed in 2003, has shown no impact on student achievement.

Several Republican governors are strong advocates for providing vouchers with public funds -- Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bill Haslam of Tennessee, Mike Pence of Indiana, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida.

Vouchers and tuition tax credits would take money away from public schools, and taxpayers would be forced to support the education of a selected few, including those who attend private and religious schools.

What is at stake here? The threat to the funding for public schools and the threat to the separation of church and state.

Education has always been the path to success. Without question, students and teachers do best with smaller classes and support services. Public schools deserve the best of support from our government and citizens.

Gene Proctor

West Bath

Trade group doesn't speak for legislator on tar sands

In his letter of May 20 ("City should reject oil sands resolution"), Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, presumes that the state legislative committee that deals with environmental matters shares his views.

While I cannot speak for my colleagues, the evidence he recites had nothing to do with my reasons for dropping the moratorium from the tar sands bill.

Rather, it was the testimony of the Attorney General's Office that federal, not state, law controlled most issues relating to pipelines that cross state or international borders, which persuaded me that a moratorium would be struck down in the courts, and thus would be an expensive and empty gesture.

The testimony that Mr. Py cites (that oil prices purportedly would spike or that tar sands oil in the pipeline might be mixed with other oil) was never a factor in my deliberations. Nor did I hear any other committee member refer to those reasons.

Rather, most of us are profoundly concerned about the dangers to Maine's environment from a potential spill, particularly since tar sands oil is extremely difficult to clean up and the Montreal-to-South Portland pipeline runs along the shore of Sebago Lake and crosses its main tributary.

The committee's goal is to find a way to counter these and other dangers, either through federal action or some other state restrictions. The study we have asked the Department of Environmental Protection to undertake before the next session will put us in a better position to find a working solution.

Rep. Janice Cooper

D-Yarmouth

Switching parties would backfire on Eliot Cutler

In response to the letter published May 16 titled "Cutler must test himself in primary," I have to disagree with the premise of the writer.

I agree with him concerning Gov. LePage's leadership, and I am definitely one of the 60 percent he mentioned.

Eliot Cutler appears to be a very principled man, a former Democrat and politically experienced, if not in the state of Maine. I believe that he is also a very principled man and knows exactly what he is doing.

If I recall correctly, during the last election for governor, he made it clear that he wanted the freedom to lead devoid of obligation to party tradition and former practices. He knows the odds, probably better than anyone else.

If he were to switch parties now, there would be as many critics accusing him of being politically manipulative.

He's made his choice. He knows the odds. He also has many supporters who will work hard for his election. Personally, I wish him well. Go Independent.

Rachel Schwartz

South Portland

 

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