May 4, 2012

Letters to the editor:
Cannon played role in Maine history

There has been much attention given to the "Boxer cannon" recently loaned to Maine Maritime Museum. On May 26, the exhibit "Subdue, Seize and Take: Maritime Maine in the Unwelcome Interruption of the War of 1812" opens at Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. A signal event of the war was the battle between the USS Enterprise and HMS Boxer in the Gulf of Maine. This cannon from HMS Boxer will be on view in this exhibit.

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click image to enlarge

Steve Bosse, an employee of Cote Crane and Rigging, guides the historic cannon as a crane moves it from the steps of Portland City Hall to a truck for transport to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath for the bicentennial exhibit of the War of 1812.

2012 Press Herald file/Gordon Chibroski

I would like to thank the Maine Historical Society, which owns and has cared for the cannon since 1894, and the city of Portland, which has stored it for decades, for loaning the cannon to the museum for this exhibit. Thousands of people from across Maine and around the country will have an opportunity to see this historic artifact and many others from our own collections and on loan from around the state. The War of 1812 is considered the birth of the modern U.S. Navy, and certainly it was a formative period in the transformation of the fledgling United States and, ultimately, the emergence of Maine as a state of the union.

The Maine Maritime Museum preserves and shares of all of Maine's maritime heritage from Kittery to Eastport and up the waterways into the heart of the state. We welcome people from all over to find their own story here.

Amy Lent

executive director, Maine Maritime Museum

Bath

Recently I was interviewed by Edward D. Murphy for an article he was writing about one of the HMS Boxer's guns ("Historic cannon heads to Bath," April 27). I really enjoyed reading it. I wanted, however, to take a moment to point out that Mr. Murphy misunderstood a couple of things I explained to him.

First, the wind off Pemaquid Point turned and came out of the southwest, not the southeast, the afternoon of Sept. 5, 1813. Also, Samuel Blyth was killed during a broadside delivered from the Enterprise's larboard (or, port) side guns. Later, the Enterprise got ahead of the Boxer, came about and delivered a broadside from its starboard guns that turned out to be the coup de grace.

Additionally, Mr. Murphy wrote that the Enterprise's victory reasserted American naval pre-eminence in the war after a series of setbacks earlier that summer. In fact, it was one particular reverse -- that of the Royal Navy's Shannon over the U.S. frigate Chesapeake.

Lastly, it is absolutely untrue that Portland residents could have heard the battle. There is, however, some debate as to whether the proprietor of the Portland Observatory would have been able to see the smoke from the vessels' guns with his powerful telescope. Perhaps not, but in his anxiousness, it is entirely plausible he at least thought he saw something.

David Hanna

author, "Knights of the Sea: The True Story of the Boxer and the Enterprise and the War of 1812"

New York

Voters must demand better Clean Election system

Thank you for the editorial explaining the toll that the Maine Legislature has taken on our Clean Election program (April 25).

The drop-off in participation, while disappointing, is entirely understandable. Rather than strengthening the program after a court decision took away the matching funds that allowed candidates to run on a level playing field -- one of the best parts of the program -- a majority in Augusta took the path of least resistance and did nothing.

Naturally, the diminished system is less attractive to candidates, especially those who face very tough races against high-spending opponents. In this era of colossal super PAC spending, we can expect another onslaught of so-called "independent" spending, and if history is any guide, much of it will sling mud and level spurious attacks at targeted candidates.

The Legislature could have equipped Clean Election candidates with the means to respond to these sorts of attacks by passing a "requalifying" amendment to the law. This would have kept the program strong and viable for most candidates, and it would have done so within existing resources.

This system, which was used by candidates in both parties, encouraged independent decision making by elected officials and an open stream of communication between the officials and the constituents who supported them. This decision opens the door to outside influence of large spending in Maine politics and causes our leadership to become less accountable to the people they represent.

By doing nothing, our Legislature's majority has amplified the voices of the best-funded special interests at the expense of candidates, voters and democracy itself. Now it is up to voters to cut through the noise and find out exactly what candidates stand for. Put them on the spot and ask them if they support a strong Clean Election system for all candidates.

Isabelle V. Weyl

Portland

Reader questions GOP approach to saving money

Two revealing developments occurred recently. First, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to cut yet another program. This time it was the federal food stamp program, which helps feed a significant number of poor children.

Several days later the Obama administration announced that it would expand a Medicare competitive bidding program for medical equipment to a growing number of cities with the intention of eventually becoming available nationally. The program was a one-year experiment in nine metro areas which saved money for both patients, who bear part of the cost, and taxpayers without compromising quality or access. This program reduced costs by 42 percent for 2.3 million people. Nonetheless, Republicans in the House introduced a bill to repeal the bidding program, stating that it was flawed because it would force smaller suppliers out of the market. This may seem to make sense, except more than 50 percent of the companies that won bids were small suppliers. While I see this as a no-brainer, it baffles me that the champions of the free market system are against something that would save money for everyone.

So because the Republicans are worried about the deficit, they want to cut money to feed the poor and want to give that money to the military to buy more "stuff" that the Pentagon neither asked for nor wants. However, they are against a program to cut costs for Medicare, the largest source of our growing debt. I just don't get it.

Ann Marie Briggs

Kennebunkport

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