Letter to the Editor: Anti-BDS Legislation is Unconstitutional

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On October 23, 2017, the state of Maryland became the 23rd state to prohibit government contracts to companies that engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that political boycotts are protected by the First Amendment. It is therefore my opinion that Anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanction) legislation is unconstitutional.

On October 17, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representing Kansas math teacher Ester Koontz, filed a federal lawsuit. The Kansas State Department of Education would not allow Ms. Koontz to participate in a statewide training program run by the Kansas Department of Education because she would not sign a form requiring her to certify that she “is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” Fortunately, on January 31, 2018, the ACLU secured an important first victory in their effort to get the federal district court in Kansas to preliminarily block enforcement of House Bill 2409 that requires state contractors, like ACLU plaintiff Ester Koontz, to certify that they are not engaged in boycotts against Israel.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a movement, was formed on July 9, 2005 by Palestinian civil society organizations as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel. For nearly 70 years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law. According to bdsmovement.net, the BDS movement calls for Israel to comply with international law by meeting with three demands. (1) ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands – International law recognizes the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel. (2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality – one-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians who remained inside the armistice lines after 1948. They are subjected to a system of racial discrimination incorporated in more than 50 laws that impact every aspect of their lives. (3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has set out to control as much land as possible and displace Palestinians simply because they are not Jewish. Currently, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees.

Opponents of BDS claim that the global campaign is Anti-Semitic and seeks to delegitimize Israel, denying the Jewish people the universal right of self- determination. What about the universal right of self- determination for the Palestinians?

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin on March 23, 2017 introduced a bill called the Israel Anti- Boycott Act. Although this bill has been revised, amended by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the original bill called for a minimum civil penalty of $250,000.00 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1million and 20 years in prison for anyone violating any of its prohibitions. Although the revised bill does not mention jail time, it still violates the First Amendment. It unconstitutionally penalizes Americans who participate in political boycotts of companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This latest version would still allow people who boycott Israel to be slapped with criminal financial penalties by criminalizing participation in constitutionally protected boycotts. Companies who boycott Israel in states with Anti- BDS laws are deemed prohibited from investment.
On March 18, 2018 the ACLU sent a letter to the Senate opposing the revised version of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that would criminalize supporting certain boycotts of companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In contrast to the position of the ACLU, those who favor the bill say nobody is being forced to do business with Israel; they are being prevented from cooperating with entities hostile to a close ally. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan expressed a similar stance when he signed an executive order in October 23, 2017 that prohibits the state from doing business with companies engaged in a boycott of Israel.

Unfortunately, such attitudes and the resulting executive orders and proposed legislation prevent companies and individuals from having freedom of choice with whom to conduct business. In my opinion, any restriction on individual freedom of choice violates the values that were written in our Constitution and protected by the First Amendment.

Don Kempel
Church Hill

Letter to Editor: Republican Neighbors Shouldn’t Be Fooled By Trump

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I observed that the Republicans of Kent County had their kiosk in the Farmers’ Market on Saturday. It was sad to see how enthusiastically our Republican neighbors support a president who has chalked up at least 3000 lies in his 1½ years in office and has surrounded himself with a cabinet made up predominately of people unqualified for the positions they hold. Even our Republican governor has distanced himself from Trump.

According to the local party’s poster Trumps priorities include “America’s First Energy Plan,” ignoring the energy plans of President Obama, not to mention George W. Bush, and virtually every recent administration. Amazingly, the President will institute our first foreign policy. How have our presidents since George Washington been conducting foreign affairs? Other priorities for the administration are making our military strong and standing up for law enforcement. Yet who other than the President has been disparaging the FBI and the CIA for months?

Our local Republicans go on to highlight the administration’s accomplishments, such as dismantling “Obama Era Regulations,” These are the regulations intended to protect our environment, including the Chesapeake Bay, and cleaning up the air by promoting an end to gas-guzzling vehicles. Do you really think that we are better off without these regulations? Will our grandchildren appreciate us when they see the dirty world we have left to them to clean up? Will our beloved Eastern Shore be largely underwater because we have a Republican administration and a Republican-dominated Congress that denies global climate change. Our local Republicans are also proud that Trump gave us Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. This is a man who places his conservative ideology above the interests of the American people. And are we also to be happy that Trump and his Congress have given us a new tax policy, which while granting a few crumbs to the middle class, largely benefits corporations and the super-wealthy upper 10%?

I would like to urge my Republican neighbors to stop being guided either by heritage or by ideology, and to recognize that their party is not what it was two generations ago, when Dwight W. Eisenhower was President. Please remember the words of the preamble of our Constitution and dedicate yourselves to bring about policies that “establish Justice, and promote the general Welfare”.

George R. Shivers
Chestertown

Letter to the Editor: Crying Wolf

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Identifying with the aggressor is a psychological process. It describes a person who adopts the perspective or the behavior patterns of someone who has been significantly abusing them in one way or another. It’s how captives often begin behaving like their captors.

Those who heard or read Michelle Wolf’s comments at the recent White House Correspondents Dinner may have reacted as I did. Except for one insightful comment, Wolf’s roast had none of the subtlety and ironic touches of the skilled satirist or the witty comedian. It was the blind rage of a liberal hack, and as a liberal, I found it offensive.

I see in her performance a clear diagnostic indicator of what ails America today. In the Guardian, recently, this headline appeared.

“At the White House correspondents dinner, the buzz was reduced to snore, until Michelle Wolf showed up.” In short, we’re asleep but wake up for the salacious stuff.

Today’s national discourse has been so conditioned as to be aroused only by outrageous behavior, salacious accusations, crude commentary and character assassination. Policy issues have grown boring. Trump once dismissed his National Policy Advisor as “boring.” Was his job to entertain? And as we remain titillated and enthralled by burlesque theatrics, the pockets of America’s national policies get systematically picked

Wolf made this sobering statement to the correspondents. I think she was right.

“You guys are obsessed with Trump . . . you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love

him . . . what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you . . .  sell all your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off him.”

The media, regularly abused by its aggressor has now identified with him.

George Merrill
St. Michaels

 

Letter to Editor: Clarification to Chestertown Spy Article on Voting

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First, please accept our thanks for featuring the recent article on voting. Your Vote Your Voice Maryland feels that citizen participation in this democracy through voting is absolutely essential to the survival of our nation.

In the article section which details the rights and obligations of who can register to vote, you state, you may vote if you “Not have been convicted of a felony, or if you have, have completed your court-ordered sentence…..”

This implies that a felon must have completed his or her entire sentence, including probation. The law actually states, “completed serving a court-ordered sentence of imprisonment.”

This is a crucial omission. In fact, someone who has completed his or her term of incarceration is eligible to have voting rights restored by registering to vote. If they are out of prison, even if on probation, they are eligible to register and have their voting rights restored.

This law is contained in the Election Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland §3-102.

Please note that registration for those completing a term of incarceration is not automatic; upon release from prison, the person must register to vote. This is possible in person at the Board of Elections or the MVA. One can also register online here

As a community service, Between now and the November, 2018 Your Vote Your Voice Maryland will be holding voter registrations at convenient locations in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. Members of Your Vote Your Voice, Maryland who are trained Voter Registrar Volunteers will be staffing these locations.

Thank you,

Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Sinnott
Your Vote, Your Voice, Maryland
www.yourvoteyourvoicemd.org

For more information, please refer to the Maryland State Board of Elections

 

Letter to the Editor: After a College Suicide, A Campus Needs Healing

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I know the Washington College students are in pain, because four years ago I was one of them.

A fellow student committed suicide on campus grounds in the first week of my senior year. Losing him left a deep, slow-healing wound on everyone. In the following days, the college administration made clear efforts to support the students as they grieved.

Now that I have left, I know that sharing news about this type of death is never simple. Considerations, like whether an announcement would cause more pain, must be made.

With a college that sells itself on being like a small town — and which at times can be as claustrophobic — news travels quickly. By the time then-President Reiss issued a public comment through a campus-wide email, students already knew what happened.

Five hundred students, including myself, stood in Martha Washington Square while Reiss and a pastor held a moment of silence for our classmate and friend.

National studies have found that suicide rates, particularly those among college-aged men and women, are on the rise in America. The suicide rate is 12.5 per 100,000 population among ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Five suicides in the last four years can be connected to Washington College, two of which occurred on campus. Two deaths happened this year, and one occurred weeks ago.

Reports from students on the administration’s response, particularly regarding a student-led vigil to honor their friend, puzzled me. I understand that the administration waited out of respect before announcing the student’s death.

I cannot fathom why students were told not to walk to the same place where four years earlier, hundreds of students mourned.

These students were ordered to grieve out of the public eye, and that is upsetting and offensive to me, as an alumna that shared this experience.

A question to the administration: what has been done to improve mental health care on campus in the last four years?

Is there a plan to increase access to care to students and staff that are hurting? Or a prevention campaign that not only ends the stigma of talking about this, but encourages those to speak out if they see a friend struggle?

I am heartsick of the repeating news of another tragedy at my college. The students may not know me, but I know them. They are not alone.

Katie Tabeling

Letter to the Editor: Taking Part on March 24 in Chestertown for Gun Safety

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I have never marched or demonstrated for anything since moving to the placid and peaceful Eastern Shore seven years ago. But on Saturday, March 24, noon to 3 p.m., I plan to take part in the Chestertown march for greater gun safety. It will conclude in Wilmer Park.

The group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence gave a convincing program in town Sunday morning. In comparison to people in other states, our citizens enjoy good security from gun violence. But it could be better.

For one thing, Governor Hogan has seriously undermined the independence of the State Police, who now can and do deny risky individuals their requests for concealed-carry permits. Since Hogan’s stacking a review board with unqualified members, that board has more than doubled the reversals of denials by the State Police.

There is no need for this amateur board when the Office of Administrative Hearings exists just to handle such appeals. Bills have been introduced in the General Assembly to eliminate the problem, and I hope our Delegates Ghrist, Jacobs and Arentz and State Senator Hershey support Senate Bill 741.

A second legislative measure (House Bill 1302) would allow household members to have guns removed from a person they feel has become threatening to himself or others. The concerned relative would seek a civil court order that would prohibit the possession and purchase of firearms by the designee, on a temporary basis.

With Congress deadlocked on meaningful change on this issue, I hope the legislators of Maryland can take the lead with these common-sense steps.

Linda Weimer

Letter to Editor: Galena Thanks Kent County Tourism Office

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If you have passed through the North County in recent weeks you will notice a new addition on state highway signs pointing to the antique stores in Galena.

Bernadette Bowman, Director of Kent’s Tourism Development Office, had petitioned the State Highway Administration to mount signs directing travelers to Galena’s Antique Center. After some years and continued prodding, the money to fund the project was provided, and signs were placed on US 301 and other approaches to Galena. Tourists, who would otherwise miss the antique market in the center of our village, now are alerted to these important commercial businesses. We await spring with heightened anticipation of increased visitors to our town.

Thanks, Bernadette!

William Graham
Main Street, Galena

Letter to Editor: Chesapeake Bay Bridge Plans Lack Foresight

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As previously reported on the Spy, the Maryland Transportation Authority is now conducting a $5 million study to identify the location of a new Chesapeake Bay bridge crossing and to explore potential financial options. The study is expected to be completed in late 2020.

We have also read that interest has reached fever pitch among those who depend on the bridges, specifically: where exactly a new bridge will be built. Six crossing zones have been proposed, spanning an area of 100 miles. In addition to the resources assigned to the study and expended by advocates for and against various locations, Annapolis legislators are holding standing-room-only hearings on bills that would alter the present planning process. These include a proposal to prevent anyone on the Eastern Shore from having a vote in any decision as to where the bridge is located (HB0560 and SB34) and a proposal that would disallow any crossing to terminate in Kent County (HB1199). Residents of the Upper Shore jammed into the firehouse in Chestertown last month to express their concern that a crossing terminus on the Upper Shore would permanently alter the rural character of the area.

In the past 70-80 years, increasing automobile traffic has compelled public officials to build more roads, which have drawn more cars, which require more roads, etc., etc. This cycle is not sustainable, nor is it necessary in this new age. A third bridge at all is a twentieth-century solution to this decades-old traffic problem. In Thank You for Being Late, author Thomas Friedman notes that the advances in technology have “snuck up on us very fast.” Remarkably, for the past 50 years, computational power has doubled every two years. He quotes Ray Kurzweil, inventor and director of engineering at Google: “Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the twenty-first century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace.”

Maryland policy-makers need to consider that, by the time a bridge location is determined and agreed upon, and funds are approved at multiple levels, and construction starts, we will likely not be driving our cars at all. Driverless cars are likely to be commonplace by then. Algorithms can be developed to transport vehicles across the Bay evenly and at speeds that will make toll lane backups history. These and similar revolutions in technology may make it cost-effective to take vehicles across the Bay by ship, by high-speed rail, or by other means that are over the horizon.

Our leaders must accept the ongoing technological acceleration and adapt to the times. The current study should be the end of discussion of a third Bay Bridge anywhere.

Muriel Cole

Kent County

Letter to Editor: For A Sane Gun Policy; America’s Ready

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A recent Quinnipiac Poll conducted in February this year revealed that American voters support stricter gun controls by a 66 to a 31 majority, the highest level it’s ever been. An 83 to 14 percent majority supports mandatory waiting periods; a 67 to 29 percent supports a ban on assault rifles and an almost 75 to 15 percent of Americans feels congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence.

If these figures are remotely indicative of our present situation, why is congress so intimidated by the gun lobby? The majority of Americans are for stricter gun controls and the country is behind a sane gun policy, so where’s the hang up?

George Stephanopoulos, president Clinton’s then spokesperson, once offered this thought, what he called “one small vote for the NRA.” He said of the organization that its members diligently call their congressmen, or write to them, vote regularly, are generous contributors to the organization and aggressively stand up for what they believe. In an ironic way, he offered the NRA member as a profile of a democracy’s model citizen. If that’s true of its membership majority, Stephanopoulos may be on to something significant.

The difficulty getting sane gun laws may lie less with the NRA than with a passive and disorganized electorate that feels outraged but hasn’t focused the outrage into well-organized political muscle.

I was surprised to learn that few actual candidates are bankrolled by the NRA. Instead, they strategically pour millions into negative ads against any unsympathetic candidates they identify.

According to Sunday’s New York Times of 2/25, “It’s really not the contributions,” said Cleta Mitchell, a former N.R.A. board member. “It’s the ability of the N.R.A. to tell its members: Here’s who’s good on the Second Amendment.”
“Far more than any check the N.R.A. could write, it is this mobilization operation that has made the organization such a challenging adversary for Democrats and gun control.”

The NRA also gains political potency by presenting a single focused agenda with an unambiguous message- great for sound bites: you’re safer owning a gun, and your government wants to take them away. They project a dominoes theory – let the government take our assault rifles away, and then they’ll take our shotguns and pistols, next.

Gun safety advocates clearly have the numbers. Now we need to seize the moment and get organized.

George Merrill
St. Michaels