So Selectwoman Barbara York forwarded an offensive e-mail. Then Casco’s selectmen censured her for her bad taste and poor judgment in forwarding – not creating, mind you, not endorsing, not embellishing, but forwarding – the offensive e-mail. Obviously a story deserving of several days of front-page coverage. I can certainly see why the paper’s circulation is what it is.

However abhorrent the e-mail, in censuring York, Casco’s selectmen committed an act that was far more offensive to all freedom-loving Americans – they violated the spirit of the First Amendment. Government, whether federal or local, should not be in the business of censoring before the fact or censuring after the fact a citizen’s speech. A member of the board does not surrender her rights as a citizen upon joining the board.

The selectmen abused their power. They should be ashamed of themselves. They are free to say whatever they want about the offending e-mail, but they overstepped their bounds when they sat in judgment of another member’s right to speak and that includes e-mail.

As for the newspaper, normally an advocate of free speech, it fell down on the job. It is easy to advocate free speech when the speech is popular.

That said, it is nice to know that everything is going so well in Casco that the selectmen have time to judge the propriety of e-mail messages and that everything is so right with the world that the newspaper can make these investigations front-page stories.

And when you get an offensive e-mail in the future, and you probably will, rather than conducting a witch hunt and show trial, I suggest using the delete key.

Jim Campbell

Peaks Island 

This is a question for Laura Dingley, who said that the racist e-mail was “ a joke, plain and simple, no different from the dumb-blonde jokes that people have made about her” (“Censure, and apology, in Casco,” April 7).

I wonder if she or her ancestors with blonde hair have ever been killed, maimed, harassed or personally humiliated by others due to the color of their hair. If so, has this persecution occurred often and over hundreds of years?

Stacey Steeves

Hollis 

Conjunctions’ functions include starting sentences 

I was inspired to write a response to the March 16 letter by Mark Zimmerman regarding sentences beginning with the word “and” (“Starting with ‘And’ offends this grammarian”).

For a group of words to be considered a grammatically correct sentence in the English language it must abide by certain rules. But none of these rules – none – prohibits a writer from beginning a sentence with conjunctions such as “and” or “but.” And just to drive this point home, this grammatically correct sentence begins with the word “and.”

Yet we have many teachers who teach their students not to do this. So, teachers, on what rule of grammar are you basing this belief? I base mine on the following four examples of written English:

“There is a widespread belief – one with no historical or grammatical foundation – that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions.” (The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition)

“And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.” (Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron”)

“So I let him be, and after a while Momma had to let him alone too.” (Maya Angelou, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”)

“But none of these scars were fresh.” (Ernest Hemingway, “The Old Man and the Sea”)

Grammar is based on codified rules available in a single book; there is hardly an excuse for teaching what is contrary to both the established rules and the precedents set by some of the greatest American writers.

Brian Spigel

student of English, University of Southern Maine

Portland 

Limits keep free market from undermining society 

It is inconceivable that anyone who has taught American history for 40 years could utter the nonsense Russell Warnberg writes on April 3 (“Politics taking control of life”).

What most people think of as unfettered free market capitalism gave us the economic panics of 1837, 1893 and 1929; the corruption of the Gilded Age; the savings and loan crisis; Enron; and the most recent economic debacle, to name only some highlights.

Had the Founding Fathers whom Warnberg lionizes known of the mockery that corporate greed would make of their republic, they would have given up the great experiment and started over elsewhere.

In contrast, the responsible regulation of the capitalist economy has produced much good, including a national currency, the defeat of fascism in World War II, unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare – not to mention the innumerable ways consumers’ health, safety and earnings have been protected from corporate predation over the years.

The truth is that markets have never been free in this country. The great economic catastrophes of American history resulted from the manipulation and abuse of government control to secure gain for the privileged few at the expense of the hard-working many.

The lesson of history is clear: Unregulated capitalism does not create economic justice or the good society.

Obama and his “socialist” policies do not contradict the idea of America at all. Rather, they continue a longstanding American tradition of keeping capitalism safe – from itself.

Patrick Rael

Brunswick 

Topless marchers’ actions will live in Internet infamy 

Hopefully, these women who walked topless to prove something accept the fact that the pictures taken by onlookers will now be spread across the Internet and passed around, and they will have no one to blame but themselves for any “unwanted” attention they will get from now on.

Just think how proud their parents and children will feel when comments are made about them and laughed at for years to come. Oh, and don’t forget conversations around the office watercooler. Hope it was worth it.

Vicki Newell

Pownal