Harvard Professor Stephen Walt’s Feb. 22 column, “Why Is Academic Writing So Poor?” makes a compelling case for clarity and concision. Yet sometimes even academics can fail in the opposite direction by simplifying and outright distorting for the sake of persuasion.
A prime example would be Walt’s own 2007 co-authored book “The Israel Lobby” that became a controversial bestseller for its one-sided denunciation of Israel’s influence on American foreign policy.
Ironically, the book retracted several outrageous claims against Israel that had appeared in an earlier co-authored scholarly article.
I wonder if Walt ever mentions these embarrassments to his Harvard students. Somehow I doubt it.
After a graphic description of the alleged brutal treatment of a handcuffed convict at the hands of a prison captain, the BDN’s Feb. 22 article, “Maine State Prison captain arrested, accused of assaulting inmate,” front-page article then points out that incidents like this are on the rise.
It also states that Maine State Prison Warden Patricia Barnhart was fired in early January, “based on management problems that included the number of incidents reported at the facility.”
Well, I would hope so. Imagine the physical suffering that went on because of this bureaucrat.
Paying her through the end of the next month, while retaining her title of warden, was more than considerate under the circumstances. But then we learn that she will be reemployed the very next day as policy development coordinator for the corrections department.
A state employee who has just been fired because she couldn’t enforce policy, is not, on the face of it, the best person you could find to coordinate that policy.
Nor does it suggest that the Department of Corrections takes prison violence all that seriously; at least, not as seriously as the possibility of getting into a lawsuit, and that would look bad on everybody’s resume.
They should risk it. The worst that could happened is somebody gets fired. But that’s not so bad. They’ll be offered a new job the next day.
Paul H. Gray
She’ll get it done
As the parents of two young children, we don’t have a lot of time to invest in local politics. In fact, we don’t usually vote in municipal elections.
Until the Sandy Hook tragedy raised concerns about the safety of our young children while they were at school, we did not see a real need to engage at that local level.
After several frustrating months of working with administrative leadership to increase security, we decided to attend a school board meeting. After attending two different meetings, we decided it was time we support candidates that would help build a more responsive school board.
We moved to Orono because we value small local schools that are focused on the needs of
each child. We want a school board that really listens to our concerns and takes action. For that reason, we have decided to support Jenna Mehnert in her campaign to join the Orono school board.
We believe that having attended Asa C. Adams School herself, she values Orono schools. Being a parent of three school-aged kids, she is willing to listen to all concerned parties.
In addition, with her background running non-profit agencies, she knows how to work with boards to get stuff done.
Attention to obesity
Policies on physical activity and exercise are often overlooked and attract little attention. With the obesity rate as high as it is, the time to take action is now.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. That doesn’t even include the number of people who are overweight.
It is important that we address this issue and create strong policies that promote physical fitness.
The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity has put forth a public policy platform in an effort to help Americans to avoid becoming overweight or obese. This includes the use of transportation, environment, education, work site, tax and other policies to promote and encourage an increase in physical activity.
This could prove to be very effective because it would spread awareness and force people to be healthier.
The NCPPA says, it “does not believe that it is feasible to legislate or regulate individual behavior change.” It also believes “that implementing policy changes to make communities more conducive to physical activity is a more sustainable choice and one that requires decisions by policymakers at the local, state, and national level.”
It is easy to see the U.S. needs help with being physically active, and that is why we should pay more attention to policies such as these.
Most recently, it was determined that it cost two pennies to manufacture one penny. All indications are that penny production will continue.
In the private sector, that would be like if you owned a restaurant and it cost $1 to produce a hamburger, but you sold it for 50 cents.
Every day that went by the business would go deeper in debt. Sound familiar?
Environmental kudos to delegation
As a student at Colby College and a lifelong New Englander, I have developed a passion for the outdoors. Along with generations past and generations to come, I have discovered the uniqueness of Maine’s wilderness.
That’s why I was disturbed to learn that Exxon Mobil hopes to reverse the flow of a 62-year-old pipeline in order to bring tar sands from Canada to Casco Bay.
This pipeline passes numerous lakes and rivers along the way, including Sebago Lake.
Tar sands oil is a sticky, peanut butter-like substance that’s diluted with benzene and other chemicals. It’s more viscous than conventional oil and, when pumped, reaches much higher temperatures and pressures, which increases the risk of destructive spills that are nearly
impossible to clean up.
I applaud Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud for acting to protect Maine from tar sands by writing a letter calling on the government to require a full environmental review of the project and a new presidential permit.
I sincerely hope Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins will protect Maine’s environment, economy and way of life from a dangerous tar sands by signing on to the representatives’ letter.