When it comes to accountability, the U.S. Congress is totally exempt. The fox is guarding the henhouse.

Congressional vacations were traditionally long to accommodate travel by horseback and overland stage to one’s home state and to facilitate communication with constituents.

In these times of jetliners, email, Twitter, cellphones and voicemail, television, large staff, not to mention large unemployment figures, vacations and holidays extending to double those of we the people seem excessive, expensive and arrogant.

Especially when the purpose appears to have morphed from listening to constituents to campaigning and impugning one’s opponents. These activities can be accomplished with less expenditure, and I might add waste, of time and money by the use of technology not available to our forefathers. Further, I ask what employer provides its employees with the ultimate benefit – to decide when and how much of a pay increase to visit upon themselves?

The ultimate benefit to we the people would be the institution of a performance-based salary for Congress structured and administered by a nonpolitical, transparent, nonlobbyable (oxymoron?) entity.

Think of the effect it would have on reducing governmental spending.

It is time for we the people to rid ourselves of our complacency and to insist on government accountability to us and not to themselves.

Lanny Wenthe

Bridgton

High military spending needs to be controlled

In a letter I recently received from Sen. Olympia Snowe, she indicated she considered any military spending to be for “common defense.”

In his letter to the Press Herald published Sept. 6, George Harlan pointed out how little Bush’s invasion of Iraq defended the United States. Only by a stretch of the meaning of the word could either of our attempts to use military force to establish democracy in Muslim countries be called defense.

It is quite possible that our military bases around the world encourage terrorist attacks more than preventing them. The insistence of our government on keeping a base in Saudi Arabia was given as the reason for the attack on 9/11. Many if not most of the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan have been the result of terrorism, not battles.

Harry Truman as a senator during WWII made his reputation by making sure that wasteful spending on the military was kept to a minimum.

We need more senators with his mind-set, rather than that of Olympia Snowe.

Charles Brown

Brunswick

As we mark the 10th year of war in Afghanistan, it is worth remembering that it is costing our nation $10 billion every month.

Maine can’t afford to fix its bridges or its roads, social progress is being destroyed and unemployment is growing. The gap between rich and poor is increasing each day.

Maine’s share of the cost of wars since 2001 is $3.4 billion — that’s equal to one year’s budget in Augusta. Stop and consider how our tax dollars could have been used in our state instead of being wasted on endless war.

Studies show that military spending creates far fewer jobs than if our tax dollars were invested in education, health care, home weatherization or building rail systems.

If we want to see a real economic recovery and real jobs creation, then we must call on our elected officials to “bring our war dollars home” (www.bringourwardollarshome.org).

Let’s demand that our money be used to do good things here in Maine.

Bruce K. Gagnon

coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space,

Bath

I appreciate your printing George Harlan’s excellent piece on “Bush’s policies in Iraq had nothing to do with Arab Spring.” Mr. Harlan has everything just about right.

Now we have another low-IQ ego from Texas aspiring for Republican glory. The GOP’s bitterness, racism and greed will finally bring the country to its knees.

And President Obama is turning out to be like J. Alfred Prufrock in T.S. Eliot’s poem who, after being too timid to woo a lady, in his old age doesn’t dare even eat a peach.

Frank Day

East Parsonsfield

Newsweek magazine on Sept. 12 added the costs of 9/11 until the present time. It is $3.3 trillion, of that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have amounted to $2.6 trillion. Are those figures enough of themselves to sink a “Ship of State” without the robbers of Wall Street with their loopholes and criminal financial dealings, allowed by some politicians before and since 9/11? No need to name names.

We must learn that every terrorist’s act is not an act of war. There are other ways to deal with them without calling out the National Guard and all of our Army and Navy and Air Force.

We must not always be governed by acts of Congress or even our president when they are obviously wrong,

In sum, I do not believe our Republican representatives or the media have done very well for our country since 9/11. We must have the truth in time.

Philip Thompson

Portland

Lights began to shine around Back Cove at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 11. From my vantage point near Payson Park, some shone brightly, some only as a small beam merging with the glow from a huge harvest moon mirrored on Back Cove.

The idea for “A Time for Light” originated with Grace Braley, long-time peace activist and member of Peace Action Maine. She and other members and friends of Peace Action Maine envisioned diverse groups of individuals and organizations coming together as a way of moving beyond the fears and hatreds generated after 9/11. Braley says a goal was to “gather the many, many in this region who want no war and want a different approach to our societal issues.”

An air of excitement filled the air as we walked toward Back Cove. People wanted and needed to feel that they are not alone in their knowledge that war is not the answer. At 7:30 p.m., when the lights came on, over 700 people encircled Back Cove. Some people prayed, some sang, some read litanies, the Fukushima marchers beat their drums, while others stood in silence.

Reza Jalali, local author, scholar and Muslim, echoed this sentiment earlier in the day as he spoke on the theme “Many Prayers, One World” at the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church. He said, “Maine can be the model for how we can live together in harmony and peace.”

And so we lived our values as we gathered in the cool air on the evening of Sept. 11, 2011, letting “our little lights shine” to lead us out of a world of fear and hatred. We are all one people. Let us extend our hands of loving-kindness to one another.

Sally Breen

Windham