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Feb. 19 Letters to the Editor

Kudos to UM athletes

On Oct. 2, I was at the Bangor Airport as a troop greeter for the 3 p.m. arrival of a U.S. Marine unit en route to Iraq. While waiting for the flight, I noticed a group of women sitting around in University of Maine jackets. I asked one of the young women what team they represented. She said they were the volleyball team and were on their way to New York to play.

The young woman asked what we were doing and I explained we were waiting for a Marine unit to arrive. They were unloading as we spoke. I told the players they were welcome to join us in thanking the troops for their service, and they did.

The troops were impressed, to say the least, as were the team members.

On Feb. 5, we had the same experience, except this time it was the softball team from the university. I feel sure this experience will never be forgotten by the troops or the players. The university, the women and the people of Maine should be proud of these American women.

Dick Giffard



The habit of eating

During the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt named Harry Hopkins to head the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and granted it $500 million for emergency aid. Hopkins spent $5 million in the first two hours and was roundly criticized by those who thought a slower pace of spending would be better in the long run. Hopkins responded: “People don’t eat in the long run — they have to eat every day.”

Like Hopkins’ critics, Sens. Snowe and Collins believe reducing the stimulus package will save money. (They cut spending for education, Head Start, school renovations, and middle class tax cuts, to name a few.) Pinching pennies on the stimulus package is like making cuts to a soup kitchen’s budget. When it comes to feeding people, you can’t just feed them a little bit — that just prolongs the starvation.

Funding these programs immediately — and monitoring them to safeguard against abuses — is what is going to save us money.

Martha White



Gay marriage’s harm?

Opponents of gay marriage were out in force last weekend, but I note that these outspoken activists, along with many letter writers to this page, never really explain what would be so bad about allowing gays to marry.

Equal rights advocates can cite multiple benefits that passage of a gay marriage bill would bring, perhaps most importantly the sense of inclusion, dignity and full citizenship that comes with an end to discriminatory treatment.

Those who would deny this right invoke religious beliefs and interpretations that many devout persons do not share. And they end their argument there.

However, when it comes to making the rules of civil society, thoughtful, evidence-based reasoning ought to be the basis for action. So then, let gay marriage opponents tell us: Who will be harmed, and how, if the right of civil marriage is granted to all Maine residents. And let them further cite some evidence for these supposed harms.

Questions having to do with the rights of our fellow residents are deeply serious, and decisions should be based on careful consideration of well-reasoned argument and evidence, not unsupported belief. So far the arguments of gay marriage opponents do not meet this test.

Elizabeth Johns



Ethanol alternative

Readers should contact their elected officials about the 10 percent ethanol gasoline we are being forced to use. Ethanol was added to gasoline with little public notification. I did not know anything about this until after the stickers started showing up at the gas pumps.

This gasoline has a very real capability of destroying small engines such as those in snowmobiles, lawn mowers, outboard motors and chain saws.

As I understand it, any gasoline engine without computerized fuel injection is at risk. This is especially true if there is even a hint of water in the gasoline or if the gasoline is not used in a relatively short period of time. There are additives available that are supposed to correct some of the problems, but some publications claim there are no such additives available.

It is my understanding legislation is planned that would exempt vintage aircraft from having to use the ethanol gas. If the pilots can do this (and they should), then so can the rest of us. Why can’t regular unleaded gasoline with no ethanol be available for those who need it for their farm and yard care equipment, along with watercraft and other off-road recreational vehicles? It could be sold with dye in it and with the buyer having to sign for it just like fuel oil and off-road diesel currently are sold.

Perhaps if enough people make enough noise, the politicians will listen to us and do something to correct this problem.

Dan Robertson



The nuances of merging

Susan Cosgrove’s recommendations for interstate drivers, “Advice on merging” (Letters, BDN, Feb. 16) merit consideration, and the letter highlights a problem in the Bangor area which will only worsen as traffic volumes increase. She alleges that some drivers in this state do not know how to merge correctly. That may be true, but her comments may leave some readers with the mistaken impression that motorists in the traveling lanes must yield to merging traffic. On the contrary, they are under no obligation to do so. She also states that the left lane is for passing, not driving; this is not entirely correct either.

The general restriction on continuous travel in the passing lane of a limited-access way is applicable in Maine only when the speed limit is 65 miles per hour. Permitting through traffic to remain there in lower-speed, congested areas facilitates ramp traffic and improves safety. Not surprisingly, this exemption applies to virtually all of I-95 and I-395 in Bangor.

Allowing ramp traffic to merge when conditions permit is certainly appropriate, and most drivers are courteous enough to follow Mrs. Cosgrove’s admonition to make room for entering vehicles when it can be done safely. There are times when this simply can’t be accomplished, and an entering vehicle may have no choice but to stop completely — ask any truck driver. We should all be cognizant of that possibility and be prepared to react accordingly.

John H. Stetson


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