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Feb. 8 Letters to the Editor

Understanding TANF

Thank you for the Bangor Daily News’ coverage of the recent TANF report released by advocates and educators and for professor Sandra Butler’s excellent OpEd. As a former TANF recipient and participant in the Parents as Scholars program, it is heartening to see a study that reflects my own experience on TANF.

It was an exhausting time, taking a full load of college courses, working part time and caring for my son, who has autism. I graduated in July 2008 and am now employed as a licensed social worker. I have a well-paying job with benefits and no longer must rely on TANF or food supplements.

In my current line of work, I see parents who also rely on TANF. Many of them use TANF as a bridge from one low-paying job to another. Others are able to benefit from the Parents as Scholars program. All of them and my own experience paint a very different picture than the cruel rhetoric that’s so prevalent.

The BDN’s coverage is an important first step to help people really understand that TANF is not a chosen way of life but rather a valuable program that lifts people from poverty, increases self-confidence and greatly enhances overall quality of life, as I experienced firsthand for myself, my son and my community.

I’ll be forever grateful for the help I received during that time when I so desperately needed it. I’m proud that my tax dollars go to funding this critical program.

Thea Day


Enabling Charlie Sheen

The news was saying Charlie Sheen was carried out on a stretcher from the place where he was staying. Our 11-year-old great-granddaughter and her two friends looked at each other, got giddy, and put on a wry, knowing, “what’s up” look. They huddled and discussed what was going on with one of their favorite TV people.

What’s going on is we’re enabling Sheen — who, from what I can see, is hard not to like — to continue promoting a lifestyle that is largely immoral and sometimes illegal.

There was a briefcase full of cocaine, porn stars and prostitutes involved in this “adventure.” Will there be any prosecution? How do you get that amount of coke?

I’ll bet there’s a kid not two blocks from there who’s been arrested for having a bag or vial of crack and going to do time in jail. Or some girl selling her life for some of the same who would kill for an opportunity to appear in his life.

CBS won’t do anything except make him stay at some spa for a few days.

Lawyers, probably, are keeping the police at bay. I’m not hearing anything from politicians or other performers. I think we should call our political representatives to help us end what we’re enabling. Things are getting worse, and we should do what we can.

Michael Tammany


Qualified to lead?

I learned about American exceptionalism from Kathleen Parker (BDN, Feb. 2). At first, I thought she was talking about French existentialism, which is fine for the French, but apparently it means that our country is “uniquely qualified to lead the world.”

Of course, this requires countries that are uniquely qualified to follow, but I couldn’t think of any. And the phrase is so vague that you and I could say we agreed with it and I could be thinking about the body of music called jazz while you could be thinking about all the wars we think we’ve won, and we wouldn’t have agreed about anything.

In order to lead in this world, a country needs to understand the interests of others, to marshal its resources in an efficient and discrete manner, to recognize commonality of interests and work towards consensus, and to lead by the example of its own accomplishments. If a country tries to lead simply by proclaiming to the world that it is uniquely qualified to do so, the only tool it can deploy in the end is force, either economic or military, because otherwise there are no followers.

This is a dangerous road. Let’s loudly and civilly debate our accomplishments and misadventures and try to learn as much about others as we think we know about ourselves, for the louder our politicians claim that we are uniquely qualified to lead the world, the less qualified we become.

Judson Esty-Kendall


Keep spotlight on Sudan

Although Egypt has the world’s attention right now, we should not neglect other hot spots in the world, including Sudan. As noted in the Feb. 5 BDN (“Sudan fighting…”), January’s peaceful vote overwhelmingly favoring partition of the country does not mean that the process of setting up two nations will go smoothly. The situation and potential for a renewal of the conflict is far from resolved, and South Sudan will not become an independent country until July 9.

There are still several post-referendum issues, such as wealth and resource sharing, citizenship, the demarcation of the border, and the disputed Abyei region, that have potential to reignite armed conflict if the international community walks away.

Now is the time to prevent violence and mass atrocities in Sudan relating to the partition. We ask our fellow citizens and our Congress members to urge the Obama administration to keep the focus on Sudan, as we have done individually.

Shirley and Ronald Davis


Put workers first

The BDN’s Feb. 5 story indicating that Republicans and Gov. LePage intend to pass a “Right to Work” bill is evidence of wrong-headed and mean-spirited policy. LePage vowed to “put the people first,” but it is clear that he and the Republicans have every intention of putting the interests of the rich and powerful first.

Right to work legislation would be best called the “Right to Work (for Less).” Its intent is to weaken the forces (unions) that advance the living standard of Maine workers. Those who believe unions are a thing of the past should understand that when unions are gone, so too will be the ability of all workers to protect themselves from the exploitation of the rich and powerful.

Unions serve to ensure that all workers are protected, not just the union’s membership. Making Maine a “right-to-work” state gives us all the right to work harder and longer at multiple jobs with less pay and benefits just so we can support the family we then have no time to see. This does not “put the people first.”

Duane Lugdon


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