It was perversely satisfying to read in the paper that one of the buildings that ruined the view of the downtown skyline from 295 and west has serious financial problems (“Bayside Village in default, bank says,” June 4).

Seems like just punishment for a silly project. If I wanted the feeling of driving through downscale buildings that crowd the highway, I could go drive back and forth through Worcester, Mass.

I realize that some very well-meaning people look at development in Bayside as progress. Development and “progress” are not always the providers of lasting good, which leads to the other reason I am writing.

Some weeks ago, an editorial warmly encouraged the buying of new energy-efficient appliances (“Old fridge program could cool costly energy demand,” April 14). The faith of the well-meaning is heartwarming, but I’d rather encourage buyers to calculate how long the new, efficient appliance is rated to work.

My understanding is that new refrigerators (energy-saving) from a very major franchise now come with a one-year-only warranty on the compressor. One may save electricity, but is there a real saving if the refrigerator is needing a new motor in just a few years?

Landfills may be glutted with energy-saving machines, when the old models typically lasted 20 to 30 years. I personally deeply regret getting rid of a perfectly functioning older refrigerator for a new, energy-saving one that required a whole new motor a few months after the warranty expired.

Jo Diggs

Portland

Business, Insight material equally pro-corporate in tone

I am writing to commend The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on the redesign of its Sunday editorial and business sections.

These used to be confusingly separated, but now the lead Insight/editorial page is at the beginning of one section of the Sunday paper, and the lead Business page is at the end of the same section. Carryover columns from those different lead pages thus mingle in the center of that section of the paper.

This is very informative of the general orientation of the Press Herald/Sunday Telegram under Richard Connor, as it is impossible to tell whether a column in the mingled interior pages of that part of the paper began in the Insight or in the Business sections.

The reader has to track a particular column back to its origins, because the themes, tone and conclusions of articles in the Business and Insight sections are entirely indistinguishable.

Mr. Connor himself and columnists like Tony Payne reside on the editorial side of the paper and function as mouthpieces for Maine’s business community, while columnists like Charles Lawton play the same role as reliable business apologists in the more congenial terrain of the Business section.

Since there is not the faintest possibility that the Press Herald would ever allocate a regular column to a labor leader or — heaven forbid — an advocate for poor people, this consistency of ideology and layout looks set to continue.

I foresee a steady flow of columns in both parts of the paper, advocating cuts to social services and education, tax breaks for businesses and genteel union-busting, between now and the elections in November.

Scott MacEachern

Brunswick

Writer overlooks examples of Democratic intolerance

Like most people trying to twist history to fit their worldview, Leigh Donaldson has left many inconvenient facts by the side in writing his June 7 column (“Republicans now the party of ‘no’ on any kind of social progress”).

A greater percentage of congressional Democrats voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act than Republicans.

In fact, 31 percent of Democratic senators (compared with 18 percent of Republicans) voted against the bill while 37 percent of Democratic congressmen voted nay (compared with 20 percent of Republicans). In fact, some of the most infamous bigots of the 1960s era were Democrats, including Bull Connor, George Wallace and Paul B. Johnson.

In terms of other social issues, Democrat Bill Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Act into law in 1996, and Republican Dwight Eisenhower asked Congress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in 1958.

There are many other examples of Republicans and Democrats not behaving they way Donaldson thinks they do or did, but there is neither the time nor the space to list them all.

Ultimately, politicians want to get re-elected, and they will do whatever it takes to reach this goal, Republican or Democratic. But to insinuate that the members of the Republican Party are racist, sexist, homophobic or haters of the elderly, poor and infirm is simply untrue.

I find it concerning that folks such as Donaldson who claim to be all-inclusive and understanding can so easily summarize a person based on a letter next to their name and immediately brand them.

Isn’t that what laws such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act were trying to stop?

Ken Tatro

South Portland

Teaching reading requires motivating young learners

Regarding “Teaching reading requires knowledge” (May 28):

Unfortunately, the discussion about whether reading should be a purchased program or whole language continues, more than 20 years since it began. It is sometimes referred to as “bottom up” or “top down.”

The argument is really unnecessary. Whole language is a philosophy, not a method. It asks that children become immersed in and excited about books and reading.

Whole language asks that children be read to from the very earliest weeks of life; that parents and teachers model an excitement and desire to read; and that books are available and visible in the classroom dealing with every content area.

We are definitely shamefully remiss if we do not teach children beginning sounds, phonemic awareness, word families, prefixes and suffixes, how to predict, and discuss comprehension strategies with them.

We must also provide them with prior experiences if they have not had the opportunity to learn of the subject being read about.

However, no matter what method or technology we use, no matter how much we pay for the latest program, no matter how many specialists we hire, the bottom line is that children will not read or even care about reading if they are not interested in the material being required.

The job of the teacher is to motivate children to want to read and to help them find meaning in the subject about which they are to read. That will not come with more and more worksheets or more and more gimmicks with technology. It will happen if children learn how to attack words and have background knowledge and a reason to read.

Let us put aside the argument about whole language versus programs that teach reading methodically. We must remember and celebrate the philosophy of whole language and also teach children the basics about literacy. They cannot be separated.

Virginia H. Stelk

Literacy specialist

Yarmouth

Westbrook students do a lot to help animals at shelter

A big “thank you” should be given to Westbrook Middle School’s Life Skills class. Throughout the school year, this class pops and bags popcorn for sale to students and teachers to raise funds for special projects.

This year, the class took half of its proceeds for a month and as a class went on a shopping trip to the local pet store, where the students purchased food and toys for cats and dogs.

The following day, the students took their hard-earned purchases to the Animal Refuge League. Everyone, including the animals, is very grateful to these very thoughtful students.

LeRay Bassett

Portland

Backers of Israeli policy misrepresent Gaza actions

The letters supporting the Israeli military raid on the Gaza flotilla (“Why blame Israel for self-defense?”; June 5) obscure recent and past history.

One letter claims that Al-Jazeera sources show humanitarian activists “initiating mob violence.”

However, the Al-Jazeera journalist on board the Mavi Marmara reported that the first shooting came from the Israeli military before boarding, and that, within a few minutes, the Israelis were using live ammunition. (http://tinyurl.com/29zcppt)

Another letter claims that Hamas is “dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel.”

The leaders of Hamas have told former President Carter that “they would accept a peace agreement with Israel if the plan were approved through ‘a referendum of the Palestinian community.’” (tinyurl.com/39cjk2j)

Supporters of Israeli policy continue to misrepresent Hamas in order to hide the obstacles to peace constructed by Israel, including its refusal to stop building settlements.

Although it is frequently claimed that Hamas seized power in 2007, Hamas was, in fact, democratically elected in 2006. In 2007, the party that lost the election, Fatah, tried to seize power from Hamas in an military attack planned and funded by the U.S. government. (tinyurl.com/242sn8h)

The rest of the world is calling for an independent, impartial investigation into the raid on the Gaza flotilla, and an end to the blockade on Gaza. Let us join them in demanding that our officials find a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Cristina Malcolmson

Portland