When I was little, we worried a lot about the bogeyman. Nobody had proved he existed, but that was exactly what made him so frightening. Without a description to constrain him, the bogeyman was free to become the sum of your fears, in whatever shape you chose.

I couldn’t help recalling this as someone stopped me recently to ask if I’d oppose the local export of tar sands oil, visualized by some as flowing out to the world through the Portland Pipe Line terminal.

The pipeline has been pumping for a long time, and its present operations look virtually identical to any that could be imagined in the future. Tankers arrive and transfer cargo. They sail. The pipeline stretches, largely unknown, from Portland to Canada.

Opponents say that tar sands oil is worse than what the line now carries, but that distinction would mean little to most if a major spill occurred.

We are an energy-addicted society, obliged to live amidst the infrastructure of our choices. As long as we want central heat and jet travel, fuels will be extracted and transported by the means that are available. If we stop the pipeline, it will go another way.

And while pipelines are not without their own history of accidents, the tragedy in Lac-Megantic shows the potential consequences of one alternative.

Tar sands crude is toxic stuff, extracted by an inefficient process that is devastating to the landscape — a lot like coal mining. The point is that to shut off a fire hose, you need to find the hydrant, not stick your finger in the nozzle.

If we are unhappy with the consequences of our demand for energy, we need to find ways to use less, not wage piecemeal fights against each imagined threat to the landscape.

Elliot Rappaport


Critics of hateful comments forget ugly attacks on Bush

It is true that derogatory comments are harmful.

The people who are complaining about David Marsters are, however, the David Marsters of attacks on the Bush administration.

Sabattus Town Manager Andrew Gilmore called Marsters’ actions “hateful” and “deplorable,” David Hench reported (“Local official rebuked for offensive Obama Web post,” Aug. 28). The bashing of George W. Bush was also “hateful” and “deplorable” — I recall CSPAN broadcasting a march in New York City with participants toting signs calling for the assassination of the president.

Civil rights advocates in Hench’s article were paraphrased as saying that Marsters’ statement is unacceptable and requires a strong response because, if ignored, it can pave the way for more serious behavior in society.

I also recall a photograph of Libby Mitchell — who has been a state senator, speaker of the Maine House and a gubernatorial candidate — holding her nose next to a picture of Bush.

Hench quotes Steve Wessler: “When somebody who is seeking a public position says something like this, it tends to encourage other people. It legitimizes this. ‘Maybe it’s OK to take this a step further.’ “

Had these same civil rights advocates not chosen politics over decency, perhaps there would now be less serious behavior. If you plant the seed of hate, later on, hate will be your harvest.

You reap what you sow.

Kevin Benjamin

South Portland

A big ‘thank you’ to backers of candidate in District 19

I’d like to offer my sincere “thank you” to the many volunteers who assisted me in my campaign for the District 19 state Senate seat.

Your willingness to make phone calls, go door to door in all weather, put my signs on your lawns (moving them weekly to mow and then replacing them), and support me with Clean Election donations, letters in the papers and constant encouragement is appreciated more than you know.

While I will not be serving in the Senate, I will continue to work with many of you behind the scenes to make our state a better place to live.

I started my career in public service and volunteerism at a young age, delivering Meals on Wheels and canvassing my neighborhood for the Jimmy Fund and Red Cross with my mother, who instilled in me that it is what you do when no one is looking that defines your character.

A special thanks to all the veterans and service members who worked so hard on my behalf.

I stand firmly on your shoulders when I say, as the daughter of a World War II Purple Heart recipient and wife of a Vietnam veteran, that I will forever continue to cover my heart with my hand and pledge my allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

A final “thank you” to the people who took the time to vote, whether it was for me or one of my opponents. You are the ones who make our democracy work.

Paula Benoit

former state senator


Suggested reading material: the fascinating Constitution

Seems like just yesterday that I put away my snow shovel and long johns; now it’s after Labor Day. Time to put our whites away and send the kiddies off to school, lunch bucket in hand, complete with an apple for the teacher — if anyone still does those things.

However, one of the things that children all across America will be doing the week of Sept. 17-23 is studying the U.S. Constitution as part of Constitution Week. In commemoration of the signing of the Constitution in 1787, I would like to encourage readers to join me Sept. 17 in reading our Constitution.

Dr. Benjamin Franklin referred to it as a “Constitution for the ages.” The Founding Fathers studied all the nations down through history to find what did and did not work as a government.

No other nation before or since has had such an effect on the rest of the world, which makes America the greatest nation ever.

The framers of our government isolated 28 Principles of Liberty, which they referred to as the “ancient principles.” These ancient principles are self-perpetuating, therefore constantly rejuvenating, hence still the boldest, freshest ideas known to man.

The Principles of Liberty can be found at the National Center for Constitutional Studies, nccs.org, along with the Constitution, which can also be found and downloaded at us.gov.

Whichever site you choose, please be sure to read our ageless Constitution again. If you have never read the Constitution, I would urge you to read it for the first time. After all, as an American, it is your Constitution.

Dave Ricker


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