Lies, damned lies and statistics
In a recent Saturday morning address, Gov. LePage made reference to this witty phrase that was popularized and misconstrued by Mark Twain. While far from the most egregious remark ever made by our esteemed governor, it is interesting and insightful to consider the contrast between the originally intended meaning of the phrase and the implications of LePage’s usage.
The original remark is attributed to Baron Courtney (1895), and the full quote is “After all, facts are facts, and although we quote one to another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, ‘Lies — damned lies — and statistics,’ still there are some easy figures
[that] the simplest must understand and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.” In this context, it appears that “damned lies” is intended to emphasize “lies” and that “statistics” is offered as a contrast.
Demagoguery is nothing new. Today, as was also true in 1895, there are politicians who are willing to say anything to support an ideological position, regardless of whether these statements can be supported by facts. Statistics, in the broadest sense, are the facts and figures that reflect the true state of the world, the economy and the environment around us. They aid our understanding of the world and should be used to guide reasoned decision-making. We may chuckle at his witticisms, but do we really want to be governed by an individual who displays outright disdain for facts? Or perhaps we should prefer a less colorful but more astute official who bases decisions not on ideology but on the reality that the statistics reflect.
Gary A. Churchill, Ph.D.
Help our neighbor
It’s time for all of us in Maine to step forward and help our fellow community of Brownville. The rain they got last week has devastated their town in many, many ways.
We all can help by contributing money to their town office directly or through fund drives or even yard sales. Brownville needs our help, let’s step forward and help them through this terrible time.
A salute to Chief Justice John Roberts, who, in spite of being a conservative Republican, realizes that it is time for the U.S.A. to join the rest of the civilized world in providing the opportunity for health insurance for all. While Justice Roberts doesn’t agree with President Obama, he found a way to get it done. Currently ranked somewhere around 21st in the world in public health, this court action will allow us to slowly care for the most vulnerable of our population and, eventually (10 years out), actually lower health care costs.
Maine, on the other hand, will financially suffer, short-term. For the $400,000 that the governor and attorney general spent fighting this benefit and for the cost of reinstituting all those MaineCare benefits that were unwisely dialed back.
Times have changed
Three cheers to Michael Socolow for his timely June 27, OpEd concerning misguided priorities in the Bangor public schools. It’s astonishing how parents, school boards and other community stakeholders desire to direct so much attention and resources to athletics to the potential detriment of maximizing learning and other nonathletic enrichment opportunities for students.
I’m probably a dinosaur with regard to having a deep understanding for today’s social/cultural attitudes and passion for athletics. When I was in high school on Long Island, N.Y., in the ’50s, parents attended choir, band, and drama performances to the same degree they showed up at sporting events. Our football field was terrible, and in spite of that, the truly gifted players went on to succeed in college and professional sports. Our high school graduated individuals who forged outstanding science, engineering, business, medical and performing arts careers. There was a balanced perspective, appreciation and support for both the student athlete and nonathlete. Parents did not attempt to interfere with the decisions made by school-appointed personnel over the fact that their child would not be a starting running back or the first chair in the clarinet section.
It’s important to have a safe athletic environment, and money invested in that direction indeed has value. With Maine’s economic viability at stake, it seems paramount to also utilize external resources that become available to optimize the education of our students and provide appropriate extracurricular outlets that will best prepare them for the additional training and social skills necessary to become productive members of the state’s work force.
G. Lansing Blackshaw
Recently the Center for Public Integrity released its most current report on corruption and accountability in all 50 states. Using a rubric made up of 330 metrics and condensed into 14 categories, the center examined issues concerning accountability and ethics in each state government. The states were given grades from A to F. I couldn’t wait to see the list of the most corrupt state governments. I figured that New Jersey, California and Connecticut would probably be at the top of the list. Then I found that they weren’t even on the list.
I was shocked and dumbfounded to see that according to this report, the State of Maine was No. 5 on the list of the most corrupt state governments. Maine received F grades in nine of the 14 measured categories, including legislative accountability, lobbying disclosure and public access to information. Overall grade is 56%; public access to information … F; legislative accountability … F; political financing … D+; ethics enforcement agencies … F.
According to the report, there is no law in place to force Democratic state Sen. Jim Brannigan to disclose that the organization he was a director of received $98 million in Maine government contracts. On Feb. 1, Republican state Rep. David R. Burns was arrested for violating campaign finance laws such as falsifying records and misusing funds.
Maine is a small state. There is no reason that we can’t get to know who our representatives are. During this election cycle, let’s find out who these folks are who pass laws that govern all aspects of our lives.
Rev. Gerald Oleson
Regarding the wealth of candidates: If you want to use wealth as a measuring stick, disregarding intelligence, ability, compassion and successes, then kick out the present elected officials that abound with wealth.
Angus King is a successful, caring, intelligent and savvy individual. There are good people in this political arena and he is top-shelf, classy and a whole lot smarter.