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Wednesday, March 11, 2015: National pride, reducing recidivism and free speech

Second language

Shame on the University of California Irvine. A lot of people have served our flag and a great many died for it, so to remove it from one of our universities is a disgrace.

Why are we so concerned about offending someone over our national symbol? If we were to go to another country and make the same demands, we would probably be killed for it.

It is time for us to stop worrying about offending others and time for them to adjust to life here.

If this country continues on this path, English will be taught as a second language.

John L. Clark

Bangor

Disrespectful comments

It has recently come to light in that state Sen. Michael Willette of Presque Isle posted an image and comments on his Facebook page that are disrespectful, even libelous of President Barack Obama. That Willette would share these views over his dinner table is disappointing, but that he broadcasts them in social media is disturbing. We often hear about the lack of civility in modern culture — a readiness to go for the quick insult or derogatory sound bite, this is an unfortunate example of the trend. We look to our leaders to set an example, not lower the bar further.

I urge the Maine Senate to hold their colleague and, by extension, all publicly elected officials accountable for their public speech. Willette should be reprimanded by the Legislature, a move that will restore public faith that their leaders understand a difference of opinion is far removed from slander.

Tim McCreight

Harpswell

Right to conceal

I am wondering how many people who voted for Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn would support his recent vote to do away with background checks giving anybody the right to conceal weapons. If he and his colleagues succeed, it would mean any nut case, criminal, or terrorist could go to a gun show, buy a semi-auto weapon and hide it on his or her person.

His stance on this gun issue is as mystifying as how and why Brakey, a would-be 20-some actor, got elected and mysteriously appointed to chair the Senate Health and Human services committee without any training, qualifications or experience in that area, or in elected office.

How does someone raised in Ohio, who moved to Maine in 2011 to lead the libertarian Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, rise to such prominence?

The other question is whether Brakey is representing Auburn and the rest of District 20 or his base of libertarians, who also gave a lot of money through the now-defunct Defense of Liberty PAC where he served as chairman until last year?

Unless there are a ton of Libertarians in District 20, it is my hope that Republican caucus will do a better job of electing qualified candidates who will represent them and not a bunch of outside politicians with deep pockets.

Patrick Eisenhart

Augusta

Postal red ink

In February, Anthem disclosed that hackers stole data on nearly 80 million customers and employees, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, email address and other personal data. The company said it would use the U.S. Postal Service to contact those affected to tell them how to protect themselves from damage resulting from the theft. It explained emails and phone calls purporting to be from Anthem were suspect and should be ignored—authentic information would come by mail.

With data breaches spreading (the Ponemon Institute found 43 percent of companies were victims of cyber attacks in 2014), clearly the Postal Service is indispensable for damage control.

Members of Congress who advocate for dismantling and diminishing the Postal Service will surely get no argument from cyber bandits. They should, however, get plenty of flak from the rest of us.

The Postal Service gets no taxpayer dollars, funding its operations through stamp sales. It earned a $1.4 billion operating profit in Fiscal Year 2014, and in the first quarter of 2015, $1.1 billion.

The postal “red ink” some in Congress cite to argue for closing plants and cutting service was manufactured by a 2006 lame-duck Congress that mandated the Postal Service to prefund future retiree health benefits 75 years ahead. No other government agency or company is required to do this. The $5.6 billion annual prefunding charge is what’s turning postal ink red.

Congress should undo the harm and let our vital postal network survive, and even grow with new products and services.

John Curtis

Surry

Reduce recidivism?

With our new Maine Department of Corrections commissioner comes a plan to reduce the time inmates have with their loved ones. Why? The answer from Commissioner Jody Breton wasn’t the budget, but “it is only three hours a week at the Maine Correctional Center and eight hours a week at the prison right now. From our perspective, a medium inmate is a medium inmate and should get the same privileges at either facility.”

There have been a multitude of studies proving that regular contact with family and loved ones significantly lowers recidivism. Why isn’t the Department of Corrections, which touts program after program on our local news and public broadcasting stations, doing more to foster family contact as opposed to this recent attempt to sever family ties by shortening time together with an inmate?

Maine State Prison is 60 miles away from Portland. People drive there from as far away as Caribou. To reduce the visit schedule creates an added burden on families who already make it a point to spend the day or weekend in Warren to be with their loved ones because they understand the importance of maintaining a family connection. The cost of gas, meals and, in some cases, hotel expenses can be very expensive in an area like Rockland, not to mention.

If the Department of Corrections wants to reduce the headcount in its facilities and reduce recidivism, they should increase visiting hours at Maine Correctional Center in Windham and leave well enough alone at the prison in Warren.

Michelle Sanborn

Westbrook

Free speech

I am a strong advocate for free speech and free political discourse. It is a healthy part of democracy. That said, allowing Matthew Gagnon and the Maine Heritage Policy Center free space on the BDN’s editorial page is wrong. Gagnon and his organization clearly have a partisan agenda. It is far to the right of most Mainers and considered by many extreme.

Do extreme right wingers have a right to express their opinion? Of course, they do. Should a partisan PAC and “think” tank be allowed free column inches in a prominent Maine newspaper to propagandize for their agenda? I say, No.

Jeff Weinberger

Montville



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