Coal barge

In reading the good piece by Wayne E. Reilly, I assume that many readers were surprised at the number of coal barges that came up the Penobscot River once “ice-out” was obtained. Why, in 17 million acres of trees, would we import coal from Pennsylvania to heat our homes? There are two reasons — one obvious, one more subtle.

The obvious reason: The energy stored in a cubic foot of coal bin is 10 times greater than the energy storage in a cubic foot of woodshed. Wood sheds must be much larger that coal bins.

One hundred years ago, an upper-middle-class household could hire a “furnace man.” He would come in the morning, shake down the furnace, remove the ashes and bank the fire for the day. This would be repeated in the evening. The mess of coal burning would be confined to the basement; the furnace man would never invade the privacy of the family.

Richard C. Hill

Old Town

King surprise

My jaw dropped in amazement at the news that independent Sen. Angus King voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act and has suggested he might join the Republican caucus.

Far from being in the interest of the average Maine resident, King’s action and proposal play into the hands of the rich, who have little concern for fair treatment of women (or anyone else) and support policies to benefit themselves, including opposition to raising abysmally low minimum wages.

If he identifies with the Republicans, King will join the ranks of those who want to eviscerate Medicare, changing it to a voucher system; slash food stamps and Medicaid for the needy; cut unemployment insurance benefits; and enact voter ID laws to suppress voting by the poor and minorities, to name only a few examples.

At the same time, we can count on the Republican caucus to support tax breaks for the rich and unstinted spending on needless weapons and foreign wars.

Far better if King would emulate independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who stands firm against regressive policies and is a champion of the poor and middle class.

Gene Clifford

Mount Desert

Primarily Cain

Since Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, is leaving the U.S. House to run for the governorship, we have a fun race for the House to contemplate. The eventual candidates, who I predict will be Republican Kevin Raye and Democrat Emily Cain, are quite different, and much more will be said about those differences in the coming months. However, in the immediate present, i.e. until June 10, the Democrats will choose between Democrats Cain and Troy Jackson.

I think we know both of them pretty well by now. Although they have voted similarly (and with their party) many times, Jackson has a worse record on things that are important to me, like women’s rights, reasonable firearm safety and the environment. Why, just last week, he attempted to interfere in the imposition of justifiable environmental fines on one of his buddies, an action that (if you believe the comment section in the BDN) is roundly criticized by people from all political parties, should cost him the primary, and would certainly cost him the general election once the Republicans were done with him. And his views on abortion are just weird: He would outlaw abortion even if the mother’s life was in danger but permit it for rape and incest? Where’s the logic in that? By trying to make himself “Republican lite,” Jackson appears not to be standing for anything except his desire to get ahead politically. Therefore, I wouldn’t trust him in that hotbed of corruption, Washington D.C.

Cain, on the other hand, has been consistent and steady in her beliefs, and she reflects them in her votes. She is for reasonable rules on unauthorized private gun sales and background checks. She gets high marks from the League of Conservation Voters and the Maine Women’s Lobby. She’s not a flip-flopper. She’s bright, articulate and sensible. Her leadership is recognized.

I’m voting for Cain in the primary. I hope she wins, and then we get to duke it out with Raye. Looking forward to it.

Abbie McMillen


Background checks

I’d like to comment on Mary Anne Royal’s April 11 BDN OpEd, “Maine should vote on universal background checks for gun sales.” I am not opposed to the idea of universal background checks. However, the Northern Maine Chapter of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence seems to think this will reduce the problem of gun violence. It won’t.

With few exceptions, the mass shootings and other gun shootings here and across the nation are perpetrated by people who had access to guns legally. Either they already owned one or had guns available in their house or through someone they knew. Shootings happen on military bases, schools, malls and most recently on the interstate. Background checks won’t stop such acts.

Will there be a new group formed now called the Northern Maine Chapter of Maine Citizens Against Knife Violence? My point is that this society has many people with short tempers, mental issues and anger management problems. Laws and groups with fancy names won’t solve the problems. If a person or several people want to kill someone, many options are available: Guns, knives, gasoline, cars, fists, a hammer or a bat, just to name a few.

The problem is our society is getting sicker as time goes by, and we seem to be unable to stop it. My solution is that I have a concealed weapons permit but don’t need it if I open carry. A person bent on harming me or someone in my vicinity will think twice if they happen to spot a 9mm on my hip.

David Winslow


IQ candidate

Proposal: No person can become a candidate for national office unless the potential candidate has an IQ of 60 or more.

Charlie Cameron