Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am a lifelong Democrat and peace activist. I believe in diplomacy first and that war should only be an option when all else has failed.

This stated, I am strongly against the stand by Cindy Sheehan and the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council against President Obama and the war in Afghanistan. The President inherited this mess. He was emphatic against the war in Iraq and is withdrawing our troops in a prudent manner.

As for Afghanistan — the Taliban is once again a serious and deadly threat. Just last week they issued a directive that if they found someone with ink on their fingers those fingers would be cut off because that meant they voted. For the sake of humans in that country, especially women and girls, the Taliban must be stopped.

Holding a life philosophy of peace first is to be strived for. At the same time we must face the harsh fact that regimes without conscience only bow when forced to.

Susan Desmarais

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

An open letter to President Obama from the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council:

Dear President Obama,

Welcome to the Vineyard. May you and your family find peace and renewal here.

We Vineyarders have a long tradition of respecting the privacy of our visitors. We also feel our responsibility to guide and support our elected leaders.

As you well know, the previous administration’s policies were dishonest and unsuccessful. They ignored climate change, damaged our international standing, wrecked our economy, fostered prejudice and fear and caused the needless death and suffering of Americans, Iraqis and Afghans.

We thank you for your efforts to discard these failed policies.

War is not the answer. Invasions, occupations, and bloated military budgets are not a sane way of life. You have begun to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. We urge you to bring them home from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well.

You have begun to redirect money from destructive military waste to creative domestic and international programs. We urge you to accelerate this.

We remain optimistic that you have the wisdom, ethics, and competence to promote peaceful solutions. Have courage. We support you in this.

Alden Besse and Sarah Nevin

Vineyard Haven and Edgartown

Alden Besse and Sarah Nevin are cochairmen of the peace council.


Editors, Vineyard gazette:

To Virgina Crowell Jones: if someone’s maid is actually “routinely” flying to Zabar’s, can I at least submit an order to her? And to Mr. Low: I’ve lost my own amount of sleep due to the Blues Squadron the past few nights. Does President Obama have any idea how crabby a community without sleep can get?

Janice Fouks Blum

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

With all the excitement here on the Vineyard as the Obamas vacation on our small Island, the August issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine reminds us that the first sitting president to visit the Vineyard was Ulysses S. Grant in 1874. Since that time numerous presidents have visited, most recently Bill Clinton and his family on several occasions. Of course, Barack Obama and his family have visited the island several times in the past, this being the first time as President of the United States. Everyone on the Island seems excited by this Presidential visit, especially among the African American community who have been property owners here since the late 19th century. One of President Obama’s friends vacationing with him this week is Chicago physician Eric Whitaker, who is a key informal advisor on health care reform. Eric was my assistant in the early 1990s for an American Cancer Society focus group study of prostate cancer awareness among African American men conducted in Boston’s inner city neighborhoods. He was a graduate student at the time at the Harvard School of Public Health and he took this experience to Chicago where he began taking health care to barbershops and other nonmedical locations in the attempt to reach those outside the boundaries of routine medical care. As Obama and Whitaker play golf and basketball this week, I am sure their dialogue will include issues germane to making health care accessible to all in this society.

Philip S. Hart



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

With all due appreciation for Tony Balis’s kind advice to the President in last Friday’s Gazette, I want everyone to be very clear that the Obama campaign on the Vineyard was always, from beginning to end, totally a team effort.

From the first living room meeting on a wintry day in January until the last poll closed in California in November, this campaign galvanized year-round resident supporters in every Island town. Volunteers worked phone banks to persuade voters not only in Massachusetts, but also in Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, New Mexico, and Florida. Many volunteers took weekend trips to New Hampshire to go door-to-door with campaign literature and persuasive scripts, and took additional and repeated road trips to key counties in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Island artists did what they do best, and some 70 artists created an amazing art auction at the Dragonfly Gallery, limiting the charge to $100 per piece of art, and raising over $20,000. Many other volunteers did the grunt work of tracking the phone calls and the results, and reporting — town by town and night after night — to the Massachusetts campaign (OFAMA), so they could in turn report in to the national, and we all could maintain the momentum.

In the end, we won the votes of every town on the Island, and voters went almost five to one for Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin. One of the great joys of having the Presidential family visiting right now is that so many Vineyarders feel so connected to “our” President!

So while we do the Island thing‚ and respect the Obamas’ need for a true vacation, with real privacy, let’s also continue to show our support by writing letters or making calls to those senators and congressmen and women who haven’t yet gotten behind the President’s health care reform plan.

We worked hard to elect this man as our leader. He’s been working hard for us. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, reach out, and do it again. Our time to pass health care reform is now.

Paddy Moore

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

As an American who lived in Canada for 30 years, I’d like to tell people what it is really like living with the Canadian medical system. All in all, it was great.

We’ve heard the statistics, that Canadians spends about half as much per person on health care as Americans, yet have better health outcomes by most measurements (infant mortality is 23 per cent lower; Canadians live two years longer and are 30 per cent less likely to die from a preventable cause). For me, the most important was the peace of mind knowing that you are always covered even if you get a costly illness, change jobs, or find yourself unemployed.

Let me clear up some misconceptions about “freedom” and the Canadian system. I had the choice of any doctor in the country; no worry about whether he accepted a specific insurer or about deductibles or co-pays. My doctor ran his own practice, and co-owned a building with several other doctors. Three of them got together to offer a drop-in clinic every morning from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and any of their patients could just show up and get treated immediately, before a small problem turned into a major and costly episode. Within three blocks of my house near downtown Montreal, there were five other drop-in clinics open to everyone. All operated at no cost to patients, other than the relatively low-cost insurance that all Canadians have deducted on their income tax statements.

Both my children were born by cesarean section and the complications from the first one kept me in hospital for a week. The only bills were the $50 charges for cable television and long-distance phone calls. Same thing for the cancer treatments and ultimate death of my husband’s parents, both involving months of hospital stays. The year before I moved back to the U.S., my mother was visiting from Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve when my 80-year-old neighbor fell down a flight of stairs and hit his head; my mother was amazed when he returned less than three hours later all stitched up, after a CT-Scan, an MRI, and being given a clean bill of health by a heart specialist.

My husband lived through the enactment of universal health insurance in Canada, pushed forward by Tommy Douglas, the Premier of Saskatchewan. It was characterized by the same hysterical fears and cries of socialism that we are hearing today. But the Liberals, the equivalent of the Democrats, pushed it through. Now, Canadians wouldn’t give it up. A few years ago, Douglas was voted The Greatest Canadian of all time.

When my husband and I decided to move to the Vineyard, one of our greatest concerns was giving up the Canadian health care system. Now I have to worry again about what might happen if we lose our coverage and are one illness or accident away from bankruptcy.

I hope President Obama and Congress stand up to the misrepresentations and short-sightedness of those who are making huge profits from the status quo and implement meaningful health care reform here.

Linda Thompson