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Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011: Gay marriage, volunteerism and ‘partying’

Personal decisions

I consider myself a liberal, nonetheless I perfectly understand the reluctance of conservatives to allow government (the “nanny” state) to control factors that make us obese. Even though the obesity epidemic costs society millions of dollars in health care and other expenses, I totally comprehend the conservative argument that what to eat and how much to exercise are personal decisions best left to those involved and government should stay out of it. This mindset has covered the morality of our dining rooms and kitchens adequately.

Now, with this argument in mind, can someone explain to me why our bedrooms should still be fair game for government interference, or is it finally time to consider gay marriage as a “personal and individual” decision also?

Carol Tiffin James


Support election-day registration

Matthew Gagnon’s critique of the movement to retain election-day registration is disingenuously framed as a piece of common-sense, “pox on both their houses” centrism. This is ironic given the largest group of people who register to vote on election day do not register as partisans but instead consider themselves to be independents.

It is also disingenuous to claim the effort to end Maine’s practice of election-day registration is being done without a clear partisan motive. The legislature’s strictly partisan vote to end election-day registration stemmed from a national Republican effort to reduce people’s access to the polls. The national Republican movement to reduce access to voting is a direct response to Obama’s success with young and black voters in 2008, an outcome Republican strategists hope to diminish in 2012.

In Maine, Republican strategists want to enhance their party’s chances by limiting youth turnout. Younger voters are among the most likely to use election-day registration. An end to election-day voter registration is thus an effort to reduce the number of people from a suspicious class indeed: not low-information voters, not magical boogeymen who run from polling place to polling place casting multiple votes, but those who were most likely to vote Democratic in 2008.

I support Maine’s longstanding tradition of election-day registration because I am proud of Maine’s record of high voter turnout. A society in which we genuinely encourage all adults to take part in the process.

Emily Shaw


Look at Finland model

How refreshing to read your July 20 editorial titled “Learning from Finland.” I’m not an educator but it is obvious that some people are “gifted” to teach, to instill the enthusiasm and desire to learn and to think. That is not everyone’s “gift.”

Defining what is excellent teaching and those who are excellent teachers is a great goal. The concept of giving students a thinking-based curriculum in place of a memorization-based curriculum is also a great goal.

No politician wants to say no to money for education but it certainly seems that more money hasn’t improved our system. It would well be worth the time and energy of those involved in education to at least look at the Finland model and any other system that is producing positive results. We might even learn something from small schools, charter schools and home schools.

Ellen Reitsma


Being a volunteer

I read Bob Roberts’ opinion piece of Aug. 4. I have no opinion about how much Good Shepherd should pay to whom. But I have an interest in the topic in that I volunteer at Labor of Love, the food pantry in Eastport. Also, I have a personal and professional interest in volunteering. I have been a volunteer in one guise or another for over 40 years. I am the author of “Woog’s Attitude Toward Volunteers Scale,” see Volunteer Administration, Fall 1979, “Development of a Scale to Measure Attitudes Towards Volunteers,” and I evaluated a graduate program to prepare volunteer managers funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

I believe Bob Roberts has disparaged volunteers. The research demonstrates that volunteers perform as well or better than paid employees if two simple rules are followed. First, volunteering should never be a path to employment. It only results in a blurring of tasks and responsibilities and leads to backbiting and ugly competition among volunteers.

Second, a volunteers’ responsibilities and tasks should be clearly enumerated and explained and work should last less than three hours. If volunteers are less reliable or do a poorer job than employed personnel, the problem is usually a lack of good management: just what Roberts is trying to promote. In other words, Roberts has inadvertently insulted those in management who he wanted to help.

Pierre Woog


A nation at risk

The recent debt-ceiling debate, stock-market plunge and credit-rating downgrade prove Washington no longer works for us. It is corrupt and broken, beholden only to the super rich who finance reelections, incapable of solving our nation’s dire problems. This system has to go.

You and I mean very little to today’s politicians except that we still have the vote. The only reason dirty money is poured into false campaigns is to buy our votes and theirs. We must be determined that no amount of secret donations and deceptive ads will buy our votes, or we’ll soon have no say in our future. Nobody wants that except the powerful few. This is our real common ground — with the biggest payoff — saving everything that made this country great. It’s up to you and me, not the pitiful politicians, trivial news media or anyone else.

What can we do? Fact check, shame and punish all irresponsible politicians, news media, businesses and other organizations — and reward responsibility — through our voting patterns, media habits and purchasing power.

We can nullify the Supreme Court’s destructive Citizens United decision allowing corporations to pour unlimited secret money into politics. Demand that government and big business come together now to stimulate jobs and the economy instead of bickering about unyielding ideologies. Tell politicians how we feel and what we’re going to do.

If you really love our country, recognize it is in big trouble and do something about it now, before we end up losing it.

David Estey


Party’s over

I just read the story about the youth who were robbed by people impersonating police officers while they were “partying.” We need to change this language.

Partying implies innocent fun without harm or consequences, when it’s actually nothing more than drug use. Let’s call a spade a spade and get away from glorifying this dangerous activity to help educate our youth that this is not a party. It’s dangerous, it’s illegal and there are no good outcomes.

How can we teach our kids about the reality of drug use when we call it a party?

Jeannine LeBlanc


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