TOURNAMENT OF SHAME

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Shark populations worldwide are in grave peril. Many species of open ocean sharks are in danger of extinction. The spectacle of the Annual Oak Bluffs monster shark tournament unnecessarily contributes to declining shark populations and is an assault on the natural world. This unremitting display of cruelty and disregard for clear conservation imperatives undermines the spirit and character of our Island community. The town of Oak Bluffs justifies this catastrophe by promoting the message that killing sharks for fun and prizes is good for business.

How can we celebrate the ineffable beauty of our Island home in the midst of this crushing, radically flawed tournament of shame?

Steve Maxner

West Tisbury

SUMMER SPECTACLE

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Very often I consider in private how idiosyncratic Island people and culture are. The shark tournament held in Oak Bluffs every year is a case in point. How can Island people, surrounded and sustained by the ocean itself, how in the world we can sponsor a shark-killing tournament with bloody carcasses for all the world to see this waste of good fish flesh and this spectacle of killing the big watch dogs of the seas?

This summer two festivals will be held. One will extol the great price sharks can bring though gambling and the other will honor the preservation of the magnificent animals. Both should teach us some lessons in conservation, but will they?

At an Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting this spring I brought up the fact that certain lines and hooks and ways of catching sharks could be a part of a catch-and-release event where the wonderful animals are not hurt as much by certain lines and hooks. One selectman answered me affirmatively and now I am wondering a few short weeks before the tournament if any of these measures to save the sharks from certain death and destruction have been implemented? It was also suggested that the word monster be omitted in advertising for the blood bath, but — this word is still touted in the news. We all know by now through education that sharks are not monsters and yet our selectmen made no changes with the preliminary advertising. I am letting the people know that attempts to make the shark fiasco a little more humane were suggested to Oak Bluffs selectmen but never followed. Words and meetings can bring change, but apparently the Oak Bluffs selectmen, like the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, discount citizen participation in their meetings. Have our votes and opinions become so much useless fodder in our Martha’s Vineyard representative forums? Well, if so, then a grand old American view of democracy has been abolished right here on quaint Martha’s Vineyard.

Roberta Mendlovitz

Vineyard Haven

NEEDS REPORTING

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Gazette has been pretty fearless in exposing dredging errors, environmental threats and the like on the Vineyard, but I wonder if you would consider also covering the lawsuit against Pie in the Sky Bakery in Woods Hole that the Martha’s Vineyard Saving Bank is carrying out?

Pie in the Sky is a welcome part of many long-term visitors’ trips to the Island: a quirky, excellent bakery and coffee shop just above the Woods Hole terminal which is a “must stop” going to and from the Island. Unfortunately, the bank is trying to prevent Pie in the Sky from unloading their supplies in the back parking lot, something that the bakery has done for over 30 years. Even Bank of America, the previous tenant in the bank space, never objected and coexisted in a neighborly fashion with them.

But not Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank.

I know they are a powerful advertiser with your newspaper, but a bit of coverage of their heavy-handed actions would seem to be the right thing for you to do.

Peter Jones

Boston

LOSING FAITH

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I was enjoying your editorial, Common Purpose, until I got to the paragraph that expressed your support of ObamaCare. I could not disagree more.

When the deeply-divided Supreme Court ruled ObamaCare constitutional, it became the biggest tax increase in U.S. history. The new health care program, now dubbed Obama tax, signals the largest expansion of government since the New Deal. This Orwellian bureaucracy will result in worse care, loss of doctor choice, less innovation and increased costs, further hurting citizens already struggling and killing any hope of economic recovery. Cost estimates begin at $2.7 trillion through 2024 and will add more than $823 billion to the deficit. That’s before the $100 billion from the Medicaid program is factored in. Of course, none of the fiscal impacts will be felt until after the election.

Holman Jenkins Jr. wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The last thing we needed, in a country staggering under deficits and debt, a sluggish economy and an unaffordable entitlement structure, was a new Rube Goldberg entitlement. The last thing we needed was ObamaCare.” As I walked our dog the evening of June 28, I was thinking about what an important day it was. Sunny and beautiful . . . just like Sept. 11, 2001, just like Dec. 7, 1941. Indeed, it was a day of infamy.

There is another major impact if ObamaCare is implemented. It will mean a new government program that, “takes control of your behavior in the way that a parent would of a child, and it diminishes us in terms of our autonomy and our ability to achieve things, even for liberty, on the world stage,” in the words of Dr. Keith Ablow, bestselling author and noted psychiatrist. This cannot end well. He also wrote: “You think Occupy Wall Street looked like a spectacle — imagine tens of millions of adult children of Barack Obama deprived of their direction, of their moneys . . . Guess what — when the piggy bank ain’t there, these are the people who are going to take to the streets with rocks.”

Now comes a CBS report saying that Chief Justice John Roberts was going to vote against ObamaCare but was pressured to change his mind. Who got to him? Powerful Democrats in Congress? Lobbyists? Clearly, he was aware of the mounting pressure brought by liberal media outlets that favored the act and Obama himself spoke emphatically on the matter. Justice Roberts may have worried about the court’s reputation. Well, a new Rasmussen Reports poll found that faith in the court dropped again that week and 56 per cent of Americans feel justices pursue a political agenda. The implications of Justice Roberts’s change of heart are far-reaching and ominous.

The people will finally have their say on Nov. 6. Mitt Romney pledged to the nation hours after the court’s decision, “If we want to get rid of ObamaCare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama.” The country is hungry for a leader it can believe in. Romney has a plan to lead us out of the Obama Depression and bring us together, involve us in the process rather than listen to elite idealogues and Hollywood stars.

Republicans must also recapture the Senate, then vote on ObamaCare, the tax measure. Repeal will come with only 51 votes. That is certainly doable. The Republican base is fired up. The Tea Party will re-engage. Independents and some Democrats will vote against Obama and their representatives who helped ram the wildly unpopular ObamaCare through Congress. We can’t afford another four years of Obama.

Peter Robb

Holliston and Oak Bluffs

SONGS FOR PEACE

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Words of John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and many folk singers echo around this troubled world.

Holly Near is on a nationwide tour including San Francisco, Chicago, Concord, Nantucket and here in The Old Whaling Church on Sunday, July 22. Her songs of peace have inspired many for over 30 years. Our 50 to 60-year-old daughters alerted us to her music and we have been Singing for Our Lives ever since. In fact that song is Number 170 in the Unitarian Hymnal! So congregations have been singing it for decades. We all can swing with its lyrics.

War is not the answer. Singing for peace may be.

Roger and Jane Thayer.

Edgartown

FOUR BLASTS

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Steamship Authority’s vessel Martha’s Vineyard now sports a vintage whistle, the pleasing sound of which harks back to a time of proper ships, staterooms and service to Nantucket and New Bedford. We listen for the departure whistle from Vineyard Haven as the Martha’s Vineyard sets sail to go about her appointed rounds, including her later stops at Oak Bluffs.

Another memory called to mind is that of the marching band playing upon the upper deck. A vestige of this is seen in today’s band arriving for the Portuguese festivities in August. Just like the annual Illumination and activities outdoors in the Camp Ground, tradition here in Oak Bluffs, even now preserved in its architecture and many parks and classic hotels, often goes inadequately appreciated. But what a tradition to restore, on clear days in season!

The restoration of the whistle now aboard Martha’s Vineyard echoes a similar restoration aboard Eagle, now in service between Nantucket and Hyannis. Appreciation for this should go to Mr. Flint Ranney of Nantucket and the Steamship Authority.

Whistle signals are not optional; they are mandatory, in accordance and compliance with the rules of the nautical road.

The whistle now aboard the Martha’s Vineyard results from considerable efforts over time to accomplish this significant contribution by a group of Islanders interested in the preservation of nautical customs, traditions and usage, and the Steamship Authority.

The steamers (really steam, not diesel) used the whistle signal one short, one long, two short (blasts of the whistle), which is Morse code for the letter L, and may have meant “landing” for vessels approaching a pier, to alert both the line handlers and dock hands on the pier. One short blast on the whistle meant “visit complete, prepare to get underway.”

Those with long memories will fondly remember those days of side-loading ships (never called ferries) before the days of roll on, roll off made possible with the double enders, beginning with Hackensack and Islander. These were the days of the New Bedford, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamboat Company, owned and operated by the New Haven Railroad as an extension of their lines from New York and Boston to New Bedford and Woods Hole. Time has brought many changes: ports served (no longer Edgartown), ownership, the vessels themselves, side-loading to the roll on roll off, the use of transit sheds, and governance (from the New Haven to the Authority).

It would be nice to see the appropriate use of whistle signals by all local vessels and an appreciation by the local and traveling public of the lawful measures provided for their protection and safety, and in particular the steamboat whistle now aboard and used by the Martha’s Vineyard.

John Boardman

Oak Bluffs