Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: Throwing in the towel

Al Diamon

I quit. You win.

Oops, sorry, haters. I didn’t mean to get your hopes up. I’m not ending this column. I plan to continue using it to trash former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Central Maine Power’s destructive power-line plans, stupid rules for retail marijuana sales, stupid ideas from Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson, stupid ideas from the Green Independent Party, open primaries, closed meetings, ridiculous liquor laws, unworkable gun laws, ineffectual environmental laws, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden’s chronic indecision, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s predictable liberalism, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ artificial independence, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King’s insufferable blandness, Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro’s incurable hatefulness and numerous other outrages that should keep me supplied with topics for ridicule until I’m pushing 90.

But after this week, I’m done complaining about ranked-choice voting.

Even though ranked-choice fulfills none of its promises (it doesn’t guarantee majority winners, it doesn’t reduce negative campaigning, it doesn’t limit the influence of big money in campaigns), any reasonable assessment shows it’s here to stay in Maine, and there’ll probably be more of it in the near future. Only an idiot would think otherwise.

Speaking of which, the Maine Republican Party has launched a People’s Veto campaign to stop the use of instant-runoff balloting in presidential races.

“On person, one vote is a bedrock American principle,” Republican state chairwoman Demi Kouzounas said in a statement issued back in February. “Ranked-choice voting is a direct violation of that principle and threatens the rights of all Mainers and delegitimizes our election process.”

As a longtime opponent of this form of voting, allow me to point out the obvious: This is the stupidest argument against it that anyone could possibly dig up. Ranked-choice is complicated, time-consuming and it discards the ballots of voters who refuse to back one of the top two finishers. But everybody still gets just one vote, and nothing about it threatens anybody’s rights, particularly since it was approved by the voters in referendum not once but twice.

Just because an obnoxious GOP congressman, Bruce Poliquin, got bounced from office in 2018 because of ranked-choice is no reason to make wildly exaggerated claims about its legitimacy. There’s every opportunity in the future for the system to result in an obnoxious Democrat’s defeat, assuming the Republicans don’t keep running Poliquin.

Unfortunately, the GOP seems intent on wasting time, money and effort collecting 63,607 signatures of registered voters within the next three months in order to get this tired proposal on the November ballot. If they gather enough names by the deadline, they’ll prevent ranked-choice from being used in this fall’s presidential election. Of course, their chances of accomplishing that in a coronavirus-obsessed environment are nonexistent, because there’ll be no large political gatherings in the foreseeable future, and going door to door makes no sense when everyone is self-quarantining.

In the unlikely event the GOP succeeds in this pointless endeavor, it’s still won’t help the party’s prospects. This year’s balloting will be a straight-up yes-or-no referendum on the incumbent virus in the White House. There won’t be any second choices. No spoilers. Ranked-choice won’t matter.

But hey, it’s not as if Republicans have anything better to do. Unlike the Democrats – who want to do something about everything – the GOP doesn’t really have a legislative agenda. Well, except for griping about transportation funding. Of course, during the eight years Republicans controlled the Blaine House and one or both chambers of the Legislature, they failed to offer any sort of comprehensive solution to that problem. Because Republicans aren’t fond of solutions.

Getting rid of ranked-choice isn’t any kind of solution. It’s a political ploy designed to distract the public from recognizing the party’s lack of a real agenda. It’s such an obvious smokescreen that it’s more likely to annoy people who believe we have more serious issues to confront than it is to end that kind of balloting.

It has, however, succeeded in convincing me to join the other camp.

Do I have to wash my hands after touching dumb ideas? Health tips may be emailed to

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19 Responses »

  1. " But everybody still gets just one vote". What's the second choice vote called? A nonvote?
    "Unlike the Democrats – who want to do something about everything". Everything to take more money out of our pockets.

  2. Those opposed to the CMP project have been misled, I believe by Republican operatives and by activists organized through efforts paid for by petroleum interests who will lose business in Southern New England when that project is completed. I believe this because of those locals I know Republicans are most determined to stop it.

    I'll provide a bit of background so you understand where I'm coming from. I served as an active duty Marine for 10 years, attaining the rank of Sergeant before making the transition to the Officer's Corps. During that transition I received training in counter-terrorism, guerrilla warfare, intelligence, and to manage air, land, and marine assets in support of combat operations with the intent of routing the terrorists who carried out terrorist attacks while preparing extremists in the Middle East for the full scale invasion they hoped to trigger.

    I would have identified as largely conservative at that time, but I remained apolitical because it had become clear to me that our representatives in Washington, whether Democrat or Republican, were willing to fully support our efforts to contain that threat. I based this on the fact that they had been unwilling to provide the kind of security that was put in place after 9/11 way back in 1996 when it was first requested by the CIA, FBI, and FAA. I know what we knew of the threat then because I was expected to do something about it if ordered to do so.

    I left the Marine Corps in the summer of 2001 because I had become so upset by the lack of support coming from Washington I feared I would not be able to lead Marines on their behalf. To be blunt, I'd lost complete respect for our political leaders and wasn't willing to support their abandonment of the containment strategy that was adopted to protect us from weaponry and unstable leaders left in the Middle East at the end of the Cold War. As a military leader I supported the strategy that I believed was most likely to limit the growth of extremism while providing security adequate to protect America and her interests from those who'd already been active for the better part of a decade. I can't tell you how many times their activities impacted Marines I cared about or came close to impacting me during that time.

    Shortly after my departure I spent a few years attempting to seek support for containment from allied nations on my own because it was then clear Washington intended to abandon that strategy, and would use their failure to provide the security necessary to prevent what we witnessed on September 11, 2001 to justify it. I maintained that effort for about 4 years before the realization that it was then too late to prevent the region from destabilizing as most national security experts had said it would when they first assessed the possibility of invasion and occupation to contend with it at the end of the Cold War. I chose to seek another college degree when I was finished.

    In 1996, while studying for a Mathematics degree in Secondary Education I met a Colonel who had assisted the nation by using his expertise in Geology to improve our Cold War defenses. He was a pragmatist, not a partisan, and I took so much comfort in my interactions with him I eventually allowed him to convince me that it was possible for me to become a Geology professor too. Ultimately, I spent 7 years studying the topic, receiving 3 degrees, the last a Masters acquired after intense research conducted at Brown University. I make note of this because Geologists were among the first scientists to realize what global warming might mean for us humans.

    Throughout those 7 years I periodically studied Climate Change and attended presentations given by the nation's top researchers in the topic. What I discovered in the process is that the link between the growth rate of industrial pollution and global warming is undeniable, but that those who profit from the production of that pollution will endeavor to do so while encouraging others to do the same. And so I have watched Washington refuse to respond to yet another threat insufficiently while the public is yet again misled.

    If the power generated by HydroQuebec is not allowed to reach Southern New England then both the greenhouse gas emissions from that facility and those currently generating power in Southern New England will continue to warm our atmosphere. There is no question about this. We can debate how much we'll cut greenhouse gas emissions by shutting down natural gas driven plants in Southern New England, but the question of whether it will be helpful to replace that energy with that produced by HydroQuebec is undeniable.

    For Mainers, who receive most of their fuel from Canada as it is, this shouldn't be a problem. And I'm not just talking about electricity, which Canada provides in Northern Maine. I'm talking about diesel, gasoline, and natural gas too, the bulk of which comes to us from Canada because it makes economic sense to import it from there rather than from more distant sources.

    What Southern New England is trying to do with the corridor makes good sense because it will allow them to limit the use of natural gas acquired at greater cost from places like the Middle East and Russia. This would allow for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions even if HydroQuebec were to use locally sourced natural gas to generate some of the energy needed.

    Honestly, I'm surprised how often activists allow emotions driven by misleading information to steer their conversation, but it happens time and time again. The "no corridor" campaign is a perfect example.

  3. I will voting NO CORRIDOR with a lot of emotions.
    I am not a robot.
    Check the box.

  4. Jamie, wow. I guess this can at least connect to one line that Al wrote. I read your first paragraph stating that CMP project opponents have been mislead, followed by a couple of "I believes." I knew at once you were wrong on both accounts. Time and time again we see fake grassroots movements (known as astro-turfing) fail because the people involved are too few in number and it doesn't catch on with others because of it's fake identity OR because the movement needs to lie to people to push their agendas and people see through those lies. The grassroots efforts being put forth in Maine in the past almost 2 years have been the REAL thing. Started by a couple of long time white water rafting guides (who were truly alarmed at what they learned), this has grown to people across the state and even beyond. These people have learned about both sides of the issue and continue to be against it. If opponents were trying to lie to people to win them over, they would always be able to hear CMP's own message in numerous ways. (Articles, ads in newspapers and on the radio, CMP's representatives at all of the town hall meetings and debates and more) And yet many many thousands are opposed to this project. A state wide poll last year pegged at better than 70% against. I don't think petroleum interests never mind Republicans could possibly pull that off. And there is at least some support by Emera of some groups but that's by electrical competitors, likely the thing CMP would do if Emera was pushing a project. The "fossil fuel interests" and "dark money" calls have been to smear the real grassroots.
    The next 4-5 paragraphs, I didn't know where you going but nonetheless offer you a sincere thank-you for all of your service and considerable work for this country.
    The ending: ("manmade") Climate change. I'll explain as briefly as I can my ongoing thoughts on it. I was a teen when I first read the Time Magazine article on the coming Ice Age. It was spoken about as a theory based on thirty years of temperature readings that had been dropping since the '40s. There were more similar articles but much the same at the time. I had an interest in it and read what I could. I took the info in without any feeling or need to call it right or wrong. Just a few years later in '80 or the early 80's, articles were coming out that were saying we're warming! And not only did they turn 180 degrees in five years but it became routinely spoken of as fact. And then came the predictions, dozens then hundreds of them for the year 2000 and some beyond. No judgement, but some skepticism at this point. And time marched on. Temperatures did rise through the 80s and 90s, but as 2000 did roll around, virtually none of the predictions were coming true. The media sure wanted people to think so along with the IPCC. Then there was Climategate I and Climate gate II (and others) and I read many articles of scientists being browbeaten, stigmatized or black listed just for questioning the possibility of something being presented as not quite true. That's not the scientific way. And obviously tons of politics got involved. So, still an open mind, but skeptical. As we go into the 2000s there is a measurable lull in the warming, (this matches up with new name of climate change) extending itself into what becomes a plateau of the warming. No warming in 15 years, even though there is the constant drum beat by now of an ever-warmer planet along with maps every month with larger areas of red that we learn are much put together with guesstimates of areas that have no measuring devices. I heard that CO2 causes warming of our atmosphere. I understand the concept, but is it really that ridiculously simple? That's a very linear route in a world where virtually everything runs in rather complex cycles. I had questions I could never find answers to. To determine how much man is changing the climate, wouldn't you have to know fairly closely where we are "supposed to be" on our climatic cycle and order to find the difference? What started and ends ice ages? I've learned since that the IPCC mission was only to look at man's effect on climate change. How can that be figured without looking at the whole picture? Anyways, this is getting long for spur of the moment and I'm trying to keep it short. Without more reasons at the moment, by 2015 with the Paris Accords and having read though portions of it (incredibly dry), I've become convinced that IF we are contributing to climate change, it is negligible. An admittedly fair theory to be looked into was hijacked by bureaucrats and politicians for a variety of reasons and now is pushing a narrative largely devoid of science behind it. Oceans levels have been rising at the same ongoing rate that they have been since before the industrial revolution. Ice caps, though they dipped in the 90s and early 2000s, are well within normal range right now and everyone's heard the predictions. Snow is still around. There's so much more I could add but I'll offer one here: (46 comments from 46 scientists that worked FOR the IPCC!) I've also found and gotten a taste of how much has been learned (by scientists) about the sun and earth and their interactions (and more) in the past 15 years almost none of which gets incorporated into the IPCC's models, which after all is what the warming has been (just models). I'm no scientist but I dare say I have more common sense than much of what I see in the climate discussions and predictions.
    So in the end, I would say that CMP is happy to jump onto the climate change band wagon (as are many companies) to further their goal of getting this project for its obviously lucrative ends $$. Enough. Thanks.

  5. Sorry for anyone who tried that link. Just Google - 46 comments by 46 scientists - and you should be able to locate it.

  6. Wow.. either a long winter up there in Maine or some have cabin fever , 'self secluded' themselves or whatever they call it.. I must get out this morn and get enough food and grog for another week.. get back here and sit in the shade with a good book.. Suggest some here find a good book and write smaller comments...Reading one paragraph was enough for me... try writing without so much fluff..

  7. Some go on so long I am not sure what they said and doubt that they could repeat it,thankfully.

  8. I thought the column was about ranked choice voting? I agree that ranked choice voting is more complicated, and in general that is not a good thing. So I personally don't like it. But it's not the reason Poliquin lost - a lot of people enjoyed the chance to choose another candidate first; otherwise they'd have had to vote for one of the top two. I suspect Golden would have won in either system. It also certainly doesn't deny the right to vote. And if the second choice is counted, that's still only one vote. One vote gets counted per person. It's already been ruled constitutional many times. So is it a great system? I don't think so. But it's not some kind of evil denial of rights or process!

  9. The effort to stop Southern New England from receiving power from HydroQuebec is supported by both Republicans intent on undermining Democrats who support Governor Mills and those who've allowed themselves to be misinformed. Our region is one of the few in Maine where you will find significant opposition among those identifying as Democrats because it is one of the few regions where the opposition has focused its efforts. Those have received significant support from pseudo-environmental outfits funded by fossil fuels.

    NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is a major factor among those who bought into early exaggerations that borrowed a page from the efforts of those opposed to the Wind Turbine project of a few years in a successful attempt to upset those concerned with the region's sky line. It grew from there, and I know quite a few Republican activists who egged it on as I know them quite well. They're likely snickering at the division they've managed to create locally right now.

    I dislike politics because politicians play games like this. The vocal Republicans of this region didn't suddenly go quiet around the time that the "No Corridor" campaign began. They directed it from behind the scenes carefully stoking that fire among Democrats who might otherwise support a local newly elected Governor.

    I'm surprised more locals haven't thought to ask themselves why everyone else concerned about Climate Change in the region favors the CMP project while they oppose it, but I've also come to expect it. The opposition employs a strategy that works. They attack alternative energy projects anonymously so as not to attract attention to themselves while generating opposition. It's a strategy that works well for them.

    For those of you who are concerned about Climate Change you should know that science is not decided by the few scientists who may speak in opposition to the CMP project. Industry has never had no problem motivating a few to make assertions contrary to those favored by the scientific community. Sometimes they pay them for it by financing their research, and at other times they spread misinformation that inspires the unsuspecting scientist to speak out before they've fully studied the question.

    The scientific community still favors the use of alternative energy as they fight Climate Change. That hasn't changed because some studies have given rise to new questions about hydroelectric energy generation or because scientists with an interest in the region directly impacted have spoken in opposition to specific projects. The scientific community knows that alternative energy projects will come at a cost to ecosystems in their immediate vicinity and prefers them to fossil fuels generation which impacts us globally.

    No source of energy comes without a cost. Alternative energy requires the use of rare earth minerals acquired through mining operations that impact local ecosystems, for instance. The challenge is to choose the source that has the smallest overall impact. As it stands, that means accepting the damage a new power line does so Southern New England can reduce demand that has it buying liquified natural gas from Russia and the Middle East.

  10. If hydropower is so green and good for the environment we should be building more dams in Maine. We should be producing the power here and selling it to Massachusetts. If we can’t produce it here because of regulations, the. We should not give up our landscape, and our forests for this corridor.

    As I have said before, there are a minimum of three other routes that make more sense than putting this line through Maine. The best route, with the least environmental impact, globally, is the one through Vermont. This route has been permitted, and is ready for ground breaking. They won’t move on that route because of the cost. This is NOT a project about leasing the environmental impact. This is NOT a project about moving to green, renewable energy. This IS a project about making the most money possible. Maine is the third state to be approached with this line. We are third to be offered the project, because our state does not have the ideal route. Vermont was first. Great route, too expensive. New Hampshire was offered a lot more incentives to rate payers, but they would not be bought. Maine is the last hope. They paid off our governor, paid her brother to support it. They are paying for lobbyists and advertisements to convince Mainers it is a good thing. I wonder how much this will ultimately cost the companies involved to get the corridor built? Would they have been better off accepting the cost of the Vermont route?

  11. Notice how Mills is not on his list.

  12. "I agree that ranked choice voting is more complicated, and in general that is not a good thing. So I personally don't like it.". Finally something Scott Erb and I can agree on! Never would have thought!

  13. So ,let me if I've got this right,ranked choice voting gives me the opportunity to vote once for two different people and gives me two chances at picking a winner.Still confused about the one vote thing.Have see heard about the kiss idea? Keep It Simple Stupid.

  14. TG, Good points but a correction for you. NH was the first choice, they rejected it. Maine is currently the second choice. If the effort here fails, Vermont could still be chosen and their project is already fully permitted. It is more expensive because they designed it to be far more environmentally mindful than CMP's "cheap and easy" design. The wonderful benefits of Canada's hydro can still be realized by southern New England if Massachusetts would bring the line down through Vermont. It doesn't need to be in Maine or Maine's north woods for any reason.

  15. The transmission lines are going through Maine, there's no question there. We only talk about it because someone thought to use the topic to attack Janet Mills and managed to upset enough locals in the process to make it appear organic. They'll keep stoking that fire long after the CMP project is completed.

    Same old tactic, invoke an emotional response by feeding a distorted point of view to the public. As usual a few smooth talkers got things going while being careful not to expose their true intentions. Once up and running they could back off and let those triggered make it look like a grass roots movement.

    It's politics as usual, following a tried and proven recipe. If you look outside those parts of Maine targeted you'll find Democrats largely favor the CMP project. They hold to conventional scientific beliefs which maintain that hydroelectric facilities release fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. Only in those parts targeted have larger numbers of Democratic voters bought into the argument that it might be a better idea to wait on hopes and dreams to replace the fossil fuels currently used to generate electricity in Southern New England.

    No doubt the effort has borrowed upon real ecological concerns to erode support for this project. For instance, they've taken a study showing that the decay of vegetation flooded by hydroelectric facilities emit greenhouse gases that fall over time and used it to argue that all hydroelectric facilities are bad because some emit high levels of greenhouse gases initially. What they don't tell you is that those emissions drop off dramatically as the flooded vegetation is depleted. Nor do they bother to tell you that natural gas is exactly that, a greenhouse gas produced by the decay of vegetation over millions of years which we are releasing over decades.

    Losses sustained during the capture and storage of natural gas are so great researchers have concluded that it is more damaging in terms of warming than coal. While you may have concerns for local ecology you should keep in mind that Global Warming and the resulting Climate Change are having a greater impact than local projects. It's easy to lose sight of that when you are asked and choose to focus so intently on the immediate damages that construction may have.

    Keep your eyes on the big picture and don't allow yourselves to be cajoled into believing that the immediate damages done by construction are permanent.

  16. I’ve found that the people who like to listen to themselves talk (ex. Jamie and Pine Tree), the less they have worth listening to.

  17. Its simple to me. Anytime you can place an X in front of more then one man for the same job its not one vote as an informed decision its wishful thinking. As far as power usage I challenge anybody to stick their neck out and publicly make a list of plants that will be shut down and not replaced for environmental reasons because of this new power source. Its not going to happen, not for that reason. I pity anyone who swallows this B.S. More,More,More is the American mantra now. Go ahead keep track of what comes and goes and prove me wrong. We are in a struggle with the dollar bill right now and its a matter of life or death for many,what chance does a little dirty air have? Which is more important America, playing the games or living our life?

  18. Al,
    While I do appreciate the fact that you are not prejudiced, meaning anyone who deserves a few choice words, gets the full unabridged version.
    Rank choice voting is like back yard badminton or Japanese baseball, full of second chances or in hopes of not wanting to defeat an opponent in a humiliating manner.
    Majority voting is not predjudiced or demoralising, it is merely the voice of the people by the people for the people.
    Think of the on / off switch on your computer, it's a one or a zero, no maybe, no deposit / no return.
    I've heard alot about what Mainers are going to lose with the CMP Development, mostly from people who like dreaming of hugging trees ( they have parks there where people can engage in this activity). What is not recognized by masses who walk with blinders to obstruct the view of the homeless and other victims of social dysfunction, is the money gained by this project, might deliver their communities from the oppressions they choose to ignore.
    Out here in the sticks, we also know the pains of poverty and oppression, but in some way we are grateful to the land owners who contribute to our infrastructure through the payment of taxes for the land they own.
    Presently, CMP contributions pay for fifty percent of the SAD74 budget.
    Education is the greatest tool to deliver our children from oppression and ignorance. I wish you well.

  19. Captain Planet - really have to agree with you. Falling asleep reading these.