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Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012: The fiscal cliff, school restraints and ‘holiday’ trees

Deficit flimflam

We are purposely misled about the “fiscal cliff.” The implication is that it’s all about entitlements. Not true, former President Bill Clinton left a surplus. Then former President George W. Bush gave away billions in wealthy tax cuts and began two wars with huge deficits. He also gave away $2 trillion to Wall Street in “bailouts.” Much of this money was borrowed. The huge interest on these loans is what’s killing us, not public safety nets.

The idea that Medicare and Social Security are to blame is inconsistent with the facts. Social Security is solvent, funded by the employed, and has nothing to do with the deficit. While Medicare does pose future problems, the main reason is Bush’s Medicare Part D rewrite for prescription drugs, a whopping giveaway to big pharma.

Corporate influence is responsible for the current calamity, yet the culprits remain carefully shielded by the media, in a relentless effort to cast blame elsewhere, and protect the river of public funds flowing to the top. So it goes, and the resultant recession is no surprise.

Just as with the election, the elephant in the living room is stuffed into the hall closet for this evening’s family discussion. Voters and taxpayers should not be subject to this grandiose deception, nor be stuck with the bill. You can be sure though, a problem so convoluted will wind up with a solution to match.

Dennis Lopez


Election over, move ahead

With the presidential election behind us and new, enlightening political issues developing rapidly, as a nation we are now ready to see a departure from loaded political statements of sweeping distinction and return to basic attempts at responding to what this nation needs for its people and their vote. While the nation played it close between the president and his rival, here in Maine it was, in fact, “sweeping” — a 56 percent to 40 percent spread does not leave any room for imagination or splitting hairs. In fact, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney’s placement in this state only rivals that of our esteemed Gov. LePage who barely eked out a win with his closest rival in a three-way race.

For decades, this nation has steadily slipped into a deepening divide. Our own Sen. Olympia Snowe finally had enough of the fecklessness and decided she could do better than wasting her time in Congress. Is that the future of honor in government, to leave? It is time to become reasonable and go down a road the people asked for, four years ago.

Let us not forget it is still a democracy and majority rules. We gave the Bush-era tax plan a shot and it failed. Let’s get back to representing the people, not the party, and get things done.

Support the new, Obama tax plan, roll back the old, Bush-era tax cuts and let’s finally move ahead.

Toby Stephenson

Captain, College of the Atlantic


Treaties rights; wrongs

The “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” contains many wonderful provisions for the care and protection of people with disabilities throughout the world. As a person with disabilities, I appreciate the rights I enjoy in the United States, and I wish the same access to a quality lifestyle and appropriate care for everyone, everywhere. Nevertheless, I am glad that the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the CRPD yesterday. Why?

Here is a quote from the CRPD: “States’ parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.” This provision, while apparently protecting parents’ rights, actually leaves room for “competent authorities subject to judicial review” to take children away from the care of their parents. This could lead to unfair discrimination against competent parents whose values lead them to instruct their child in ways that an outside authority deems not “in the best interest” of the child.

Another provision in the CRPD assures disabled persons access to “reproductive health.” This may be used to justify state-funded abortions for the disabled, possibly allowing the state to mandate an abortion for a mentally disabled person deemed incapable of making medical decisions.

Ratifying treaties to provide help for the disabled may be a laudable concept, but we need something better than the CRPD.

Sarah M. Menkin


Dangerous restraint dialogue

There is danger in the dialogue of school restraint rules. There are important factors left out. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, passed 10 years after Judy Coombs was injured restraining a student “known to be volatile.” Under the law the student should be assessed thoroughly to understand his “volatility.”

An individual education plan, or IEP, should be developed with precise strategies to manage behaviors.Then teachers are equipped with more than just “judgment” to keep a class safe.

The IDEA acknowledges there are causes for disrupted learning. Children with autism, a communication disorder, can be frustrated when they don’t understand or aren’t understood. Exposure to domestic violence causes emotional disturbances and poorly developed coping skills. Identifying these underlying causes is not about finding excuses, but finding ways to manage and prevent behaviors so children can learn.

A child who resorts to violence experiences as much distress as the receiver of his or her assault. A good IEP facilitates every effort to avoid that scenario so the need for restraint is rarely necessary.

Development and implementation of a policy for restraint without fully implementing and supporting the IDEA is dangerous for the child and the rest of the school. It ignores the child’s underlying need. A dialogue about restraint that lacks acknowledgement of children’s needs and system failures is dangerous. It must include a review of how the IDEA is being implemented, where support is needed, and only then, what a safe restraint policy will be. Maine can do better.

Moira O’Neill


Holiday equality movement

Regarding the recent story about the “holiday” tree in Bangor, there seems to be a post-election deja vu going on. It seems that “holiday equality” is being declared by public officials. This, in the wake of the success of toppling the 3,000-year tradition of marriage, is well within the grasp of the progressive governmental movement.

Having only a mere 2,000 years of existence, Christmas presents a less daunting redefining effort. Renaming the tree, we’re told, is all these cultural architects want. But, it’s being murmured that references to the Holy Family present an oppressive and outdated stereotype.

Susan Mendell


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