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May 19, 2011: Bin Laden, talent show, pension

The key bin Laden question

Osama bin Laden’s death has given rise to endless editorials, OpEd columns, letters and  attempts by military, political and church leaders to rationalize or condemn killing him. All the voices I have heard, at some point in their messages, express how conflicted they feel in how to react.

Some celebrate outright in the name of patriotism and revenge. Some temper their response in order to not provoke retaliation. Some find killing a person inhumane and morally impossible to justify. But I have yet to hear anyone ask, “What have we done to drive someone to do what he did?”

As my wife and I watched the towers fall on the TV in 2001, that was the first thought that came to our minds. Bin Laden waged war for what he believed, in the ways that were available to him — as do we. His methods were not pretty, and ours are no more so.

Shouldn’t we look deeper into why we are so hated by so much of the world? Could our affluence and greed-driven foreign policies have anything to do with it? I do not see how we will progress one inch toward “ending the war on terror” until we are willing to address the inequities between our world and the one for which bin Laden fought and lost his life. Until we recognize that we are also at fault, it seems unlikely that anything will change, and we will find ourselves trying to kill bin Ladens for a very long time.

Carl A. Chase


• • •

Talent show snub

It saddens me that I will no longer be directing the talent show for Eastport.

I have received an email from the president of the Fourth of July committee notifying me that “in order to put forward some new ideas, we will be having someone else directing the talent show.” The reason for my replacement is as follows: “It was noted that the participation has dropped off in the past couple of years” and “we need to focus on ways to build it back up.”

Participation in the talent show has not dropped. This event lasts for hours. The attendance is also abundant, with people sitting and standing on the floor because the bleachers are full. There  is a wide variety of talents participating.

There are no grounds for these reasons for replacing me. I was not informed that change wanted to be made. I would think after 32 years of volunteering for the talent show and the Fourth of July committee that the committee would have a little respect for their volunteers.

What’s happened to our small town camaraderie?

Blanche Metcalf


• • •

Don’t cut pensions

I worked as a public servant in Maine for 31 years, beginning as an eligibility worker in the food stamps program and retiring in 2007 as program administrator for Washington and Hancock counties. The governor’s plan to cut retiree pensions to pay for his new tax breaks for wealthy Mainers will have serious impact on retirees like me.

The pensions of public workers in Maine are modest. They are based on public employee wages that are lower than wages earned in the private sector for similar work, according to a comprehensive labor market survey that the state paid Crescendo Consulting of Portland to perform at a cost of over $52,000.

Because of state employee cuts to balance the state budget over the last 20 years — such as shutdown and furlough days, frozen merit steps and years without raises — my compensation was smaller than it should have been. But it was enough to live on.

I received one cost-of-living increase in 2008. I should be eligible for a widow’s benefit based on my husband’s Social Security, but cannot receive that due to federal laws known as the Social Security Offsets.

Also, retired state workers have federal and state taxes deducted from our pension checks. We pay the same taxes as other Maine residents. Let’s truly “share the sacrifice” instead of expecting a few small groups to be the only ones to bear the pain.

My pension is the only thing I can rely on to get by. The retirement system should be strengthened, not weakened.

Lois Baxter


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