Letters, Dec. 26

Dec 26, 2019

Kids learn what they live

I read with great interest your news article and thoughtful editorial regarding middle school boys playing field hockey.

I am 78 years old, male, and in total favor of allowing boys to play middle school field hockey. I am talking about middle school teams only.

I have some experience with boys playing at the middle school level. In 1979 I was living and working in Augusta, and my eighth-grade son and sixth-grade daughter attended St. Mary's School (now, St. Michael's). They practiced at the Lincoln School field on the street where we lived. My son went to watch his sister try out, but they were one player short of being able to field a team, so they asked him to play, and he agreed. He enjoyed it a lot. The game involved a stick and a ball ... what's for a boy not to like?

The RSU 3 folks, I feel, are missing one significant factor in favor of allowing boys to play middle school field hockey. From my experience, it enabled my son to learn how to treat female players as "equals." Learning to treat young ladies as equals, to me, is an excellent reason for the middle school league to change its rules.

Brian Callahan


Column was 'misleading'

Mr. Poulton's recent column, "Free Medicare for all?" address an important subject in a misleading fashion. Medicare recipients are more satisfied with their care than privately insured patients. Medicare's overhead is a fraction of that of private insurance. Compensating those of us who have "paid into Medicare our whole lives" is a problem of equity, but not insoluble.

To introduce "illegal aliens" into a serious, complex discussion is waving a distracting red flag in hopes that your readers will charge like enraged bulls. Your snide skepticism — "claim," "surely any savings will be offset..." "People will abuse..." "ill-informed or flunked high school math" — do not advance the dialogue.

Nowhere do you acknowledge that our present health care cost approaches one-fifth of our national goods and services. There are only so many ways to fix the present unsustainable system, and I hope that in future columns you will address them.

Lower quality. We have unevenly distributed quality. The U.S. starts from below the top 10 nations on measures such as longevity and infant mortality. So no one wants to cut quality.

Cut costs. This is where the savings are, and they not only hurt, but they threaten values that matter, such as freedom of choice, including freedom to make bad choices. We can either stop spending on items that do not improve health care, or stop paying as much as we do for services, procedures or boutique care.

Prevention. This can be oversold, but keeping people away from ERs by giving them preventive care or another option like a primary care provider will save a lot, for example.

"Rationing." We should insist on cheaper but equally effective medications and procedures. We should deny payment for treatment that has been proven to be ineffective. I do not endorse the idea that a patient should be given a treatment that the doc or nurse does not think will be helpful, just because the patient wants it.

Our government is deeply involved in health care, notably from the CDC, and NIH, the VA, as well as Medicare, Medicaid and other functions. The federal government pays for more than 40% of health care already. And I think our country would be better off if there is a day when everyone has access to health care.

I am a retired physician. I believe there is some inequity in doctors' incomes. But to invoke the image of an overworked, underpaid surgeon behaving less than his or her professional best dishonors thousands of doctors who took an oath, and, as my father advised me when I told him I was going to medical school, "Don't expect to die rich."

Dr. John Merrifield

Exeter, N.H., and Liberty, Maine

Ed note: The above letter was edited for length.

Science denial

One of the most disturbing trends in American culture today is science denial. We are exposed to it at every level, from the national to the local conversation. It is dangerous because it undermines agreement about what constitutes evidence and reality, without which we cannot be a functioning community or democracy.

Science denial has been characterized as exhibiting the following:

1) Fake experts

2) Logical fallacies (including red herrings, misrepresentation, jumping to conclusions and false dichotomies)

3) Impossible expectations

4) Cherry-picking

5) Conspiracy theories

Every one of these techniques has been used repeatedly by the opponents of Nordic Aquafarms. It is a not very difficult exercise to take any post or letter or article they have written which purports to convey scientific information and to see where and how these types of arguments are being employed. I encourage you to try it.

If there are scientifically credible considerations which weigh against permitting Nordic Aquafarms, I would welcome seeing them. However, convincing me is not important. What is important is that the state and local permitting agencies gather all the relevant information and make the correct decision about what is best for Belfast, for Maine and the planet.

In the meantime I am both saddened and exhausted by the close to two-year-long drumbeat of bad faith argument and pseudoscience which has been battering us. It is now escalating even further, as evidenced by a recent full-page ad in the Free Press. That ad goes well beyond science denial (which at least masquerades as scientific discourse) into full-on fantasy and propaganda. The ad was paid for by yet another pop-up organization whose purpose seems to be to fund legal opposition to Nordic Aquafarms. It is a tragedy that possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars which could have been used to help people locally have been donated basically to pay for attorneys.

There is no question that whatever the outcome of the Nordic Aquafarms proposal, the big winner of this conflict will be those attorneys.

The bigger loser will be our community, whose cohesion and common understanding are being consistently and deliberately eroded. Science denial is pernicious, because a functioning society depends on agreeing about what is real and how to know it and whom to trust.

I worry about how long and difficult and painful it will be to re-knit our bonds after this experience.

Trudy Miller


Response to Nordic ad

Nordic Aquafarms officials, in their paid corporate lobbying ad in last week's Republican Journal, stated that they are grateful to their neighbors and community in Belfast and wish some amongst us happy Holy-Days. Ordinarily these wishes of happiness and joy would be extended to all, not just a select few.

They are grateful to the Belfast City Council for attempting to bestow to their corporation the clean, cold waters of Penobscot Bay. I am grateful that these waters are not theirs to bestow. They are grateful that they have been able to co-opt the active support of some self-proclaimed neighbors in Belfast and Waldo County and received support from a select few of the organizations that have jumped the gun and supported their factory proposal and its 7-million-gallon waste dump before state review of the environmental effects.

I, likewise, am grateful this holiday season — grateful that Nordic's submerged lands lease application has been halted in its tracks by the Maine Attorney General's Office, and is being reviewed by the Waldo County Superior Court, the Coast Guard, and respected members of educational institutions for environmental destruction, accuracy and hazards to us all.

How crass and pitiful is it for Nordic officials to assume that their Corporate Thankfulness has a place in our community at this time of year? For them to co-opt our children’s holiday art for their corporate office window and attempt to use these sacred days of Hanukkah, the Solstice and the birth of Jesus as a tool in their propaganda machine seems a bit out of step with the norm here in Waldo County or anywhere.

The millions budgeted for lawyers and engineers and Nordic's corporate propaganda program would be better spent on grants for small-scale locally controlled and truly sustainable aquaculture, if the goal were truly to feed the hungry and employ and house the poor instead of making money for the rich investors from Carnegie Bank .

Better yet, the company could just take the half a billion bucks from its privileged friends and set up a trust for authentic sustainable farming, local sustainable industry with a high employee to low impact ratio. Perhaps grants for the study of a carbon-neutral future?

Happy New Year, neighbors!

Paul Bernacki


Fish tales

I finally figured it out after two years. The naysayers’ protest against Nordic Aquafarms has to do with fish pee and poop, known from now on as fish p&p. They equate 95% filtered p&p being discharged into the bay as if it came direct from a spewing chemical plant.

In 2018 lobster landings (info provided by the state) were about 113 million pounds; yikes, that is about 100 million lobsters, and on top of that, the number of pogies caught was 13 million pounds. Those big balls of herring I saw this summer, not just in the bay, but in the harbor, and all those lobsters are using our waters as their private sewer. It’s shameful.

All this protest is about filtered fish waste, and acting as if it is toxic waste is absurd. Imagine taking the fish that used to be in the bay and placing them in a building on land, similar numbers, same p&p but now filter and remove 95% of any waste, then returning the water to the bay and declaring it toxic and bay polluting.

Penobscot Bay is considered one of the cleanest bays in the U.S., despite what the native fish types do. I agree we need to keep it that way, but adding a little treated fish p&p isn’t going to bother it. On the other hand, there is absolutely no discussion of the discharge pipes of the many sewer treatment plants flowing into the bay, or the leaking septic systems that have closed the clamming from Searsport to Rockland. Isn’t Bayside’s sewer pipe notorious for leaking? I wonder if any houses in the area have faulty septics. High coliform counts from human waste are a problem, but not fish p&p, so why aren’t the p-watch folks up in arms about that? Is it a little too close to home?

Bottom line: Fish waste from a lot of fish is already part of the bay’s ecosystem. Fake alarmists will try to convince you this is a bad thing. My tropical fish in my 20-gallon tank are laughing.

Steve Hutchings


Wants to repeal vaccination mandate

As a mom of three, I was willing to sacrifice my short and busy Maine summer to collect 1,856 signatures for the People’s Veto of LD 798 because it was easier than packing up to move out of state.

We came to the Midcoast four years ago and immediately felt at home here. But if legislators are allowed to make medical decisions for our family, we no longer feel safe. Governmental mandates will not change the minds of the families that have any view outside of the “one size fits all” health care mentality when we want to delay a very aggressive vaccine schedule.

They will only succeed in driving us out of the state. LD 798 has already caused families and small businesses to move from a state that we know has trouble maintaining a vibrant population and can barely handle the tax burden.

My family and hundreds of others will sell our homes and take our tax dollars and small business-supporting incomes to another state that values medical freedom and bodily autonomy. And there will be countless others who will not choose Maine for this reason. Please join me on March 3 to vote Yes on 1 to keep Maine open for growing families.

Bethany Allgrove


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