December 17, 2012

Letters to the editor: Debt cutters should target Pentagon

As a veteran of both the armed services and the defense industry, I think I have a useful perspective on the military budget. And my experience tells me that in our search for ways to reduce our federal deficits, we shouldn't start with hospital and nursing-home care provided by Medicare and Medicaid, but rather with wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

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The Defense Department budget “now has economic and political purposes that often supersede the goal of keeping us safe at reasonable cost,” a reader says.

2008 File Photo/The Associated Press

In my combat tour with the United States Army in Vietnam in 1966-'67, I experienced the waste of resources and weapons that didn't work. Later, in my contracting career, I observed needless cost overruns, padded grants and foolish projects.

The problem is that our military budget has taken on a life of its own -- it's no longer there simply to fund our legitimate defense needs. It now has economic and political purposes that often supersede the goal of keeping us safe at reasonable cost.

That's why closing redundant military bases is so traumatic and Congress continues to vote funds for weapons the top military brass doesn't want or need.

This is evidence of the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address more than 50 years ago. It can now be consider the military-industrial congressional complex.

While continuing to maintain a strong defense against legitimate threats, it's time we dismantled this dangerous complex in the interest of a sounder federal balance sheet, a more stable economy and a healthier society.

We spend more on defense than the next 17 countries combined and account for 40 percent of all the military spending in the world. Politicians and experts from across the political spectrum have called for judicious cuts in our bloated defense budget.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins can be leaders in making defense cuts a central component of the final "fiscal cliff" deficit-reduction deal. I urge them to exercise that leadership.

Alex Mendelsohn

Kennebunk

GOP has long since stopped aiding fight for civil rights

In his letter to the editor titled "Democrats, not GOP, practice racism" (Nov. 30), Jones Gallagher of North Berwick states a number of examples of Democratic racism from the 19th century through the 1960s.

What Mr. Gallagher fails to understand is that our political parties were not as ideologically polarized as they are today and that it was liberals in each party who fought for civil rights while being opposed by conservatives at every turn.

Today, we take for granted that the Republican Party is the conservative party while the Democrats are (somewhat) liberal and progressive. That was simply not the case during most of the last 150 years since the founding of the Republican Party.

It was the signing of the Civil Rights Act that polarized the positions of our current political parties. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the act into law, he stated that he had "just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come."

President Johnson was absolutely correct, as the Republican Party and President Richard Nixon wasted no time in implementing their "Southern strategy" of winning elections in the Deep South by appealing to racism against African-Americans. In the half-century since the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party has carried the mantle of racism with barely any shame.

There is a continuous thread from the Dixiecrats leaving the Democratic Party for the Republican Party right through this past election and Charlie Webster's very revealing post-election comments. Anyone who lives outside the conservative media bubble can see the plain truth.

Ryan Lowe

Portland

'Cookie caper' overshadows day of inspirational talks

Having been an enthusiastic recipient of the wonderful offerings of TEDx, I wanted to write and support this amazing organization that hosted more than 400 people, both students and adults, Dec. 7 at Cape Elizabeth High School.

I am sorry that the actions of a few in what has been named the "cookie caper" ("Police investigate pot cookies at Cape Elizabeth High School," Dec. 10) was somehow confused with TEDx's mission of calling people to creativity, the beauty of being human and a keen awareness that what we are passionate about can lead to great things in this society.

Principal Jeffrey Shedd said it so well in quoting Abraham Lincoln that TEDx is a platform for following "the better angels of our nature."

On a personal note, I was most happy to work with Adam Burke, the executive director of TEDx, and Mark Dvorozniak, a parent, to offer the participants apple butter and Borealis bread as a morning treat. I can assure you this food was only laced with the goodness of Maine.

C. Waite Maclin

Portland

Towns making gay pairs, not the needy, top priority

I think it is wonderful that some communities have decided to extend their hours to accommodate the anticipated increase in certificate of marriage requests for 2013.

Surely I can see how town managers, mayors and council members feel it is more important to spend extra monies in expediting same-sex marriages than to spend their extra monies and efforts in, well, let's say, food pantries and/or heating assistance.

Yes, I'm extremely impressed with the display of fiscal responsibility they demonstrate. It is so reassuring to see leaders who prioritize potential voters from certain groups over the basic needs of their less fortunate citizens.

Next time you notice someone in need on the street in these communities, tell them, "Thanks for not eating today. It's more important that so and so get their wedding certificate."

John Newhall

North Berwick

Wind power places unfair burdens on those nearby

It is interesting to read that wind turbine operators from Green Mountain Power in Vermont instructed police not to arrest the publisher of a weekly newspaper, the Barton Chronicle, who was nevertheless charged with trespassing during a wind turbine protest a year ago, and subsequently spent $10,000 in legal fees defending himself against the criminal complaint.

On Vinalhaven, neighbors of the wind turbines have spent more than $100,000 in a Maine Superior Court action whose goal is simply to get the state of Maine to do a better job protecting people from industrial noise in a rural setting.

While wind power raises more questions than answers, one fact is for certain: It is impinging on citizens' free expression and imposing severe penalties on those in its path.

Alan Farago

Vinalhaven

 

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