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Monday, September 2, 2013: Religious intolerance, health care coverage and Obama’s schoolmates

Worthwhile information

Because of a recent, excellent BDN article, I visited the sixth floor Diversity Collection at the Glickman Library in Portland. Since it was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I asked for information on Maine’s participation. Photos of Portland leaders were shared with me from their collection. Every religious group and every racial group was represented in the photos.

Thanks to the BDN for informing me of the special collections nearby. Our state of Maine is diverse in our own way.

Martha F. Barkley

Belgrade Lakes



Those of us who were children in World War II wondered how the German people could allow what happened to the Jews. I no longer wonder. I see the same indifference displayed by us, whether it was the slaughter of innocent Christians in Rwanda or the slaughter of innocent Christians in Egypt. Our political and journalistic leadership support not the slaughter, but those who slaughter. In this case it’s the Muslim Brotherhood.

Clergy of every denomination, Christian or Jew, must speak out and unite their congregations to put pressure on our elected “leaders” to stop pandering to the Muslim Brotherhood and cut off any foreign aid that would support them. In the last five years, we have consistently been supporting the wrong side in conflicts, working to replace bad leaders with those who are infinitely worse.

Each of us needs to ask, “What can I do to stop this terrible killing of people whose only crime is to adhere to a faith with which their murderers disagree?” It will happen here if we don’t stop it in its tracks. At least let us call our senators and representatives, and speak to our clergymen.

Patricia Colling Egan


Can of worms

Why would the U.S. assume responsibility for punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using poison gas on his people when there exists an International Criminal Court with the job to bring those guilty of such atrocities and other war crimes to justice? Oh, that’s right, the U.S. does not participate in the International Criminal Court because the U.S. does not want to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

We demand the right to commit whatever acts we deem to be acceptable without any oversight or second-guessing by others. And if our allies, such as Iraq during its war with Iran, decided to use chemical weapons, then that must be acceptable, since we didn’t seem to have a big problem with that.

We are not the world’s police force. What Assad did to his people is disgusting and deplorable, but there are other options than American military force for bringing justice to the world’s victims. With Russia now entering the picture, this is one can of worms best left unopened by the U.S.

Stephen Blythe



The Aug. 28 BDN editorial, “LePage, legislators get bond priorities backward,” is half-right. It’s correct in that the state should be paying for National Guard armory maintenance out of regular tax revenues instead of with borrowed money.

Where the paper gets it wrong is singling out the armory bond as a misplaced priority among the five bonds taken up this week. The reality is that all of the projects funded with borrowed money — road and bridge repairs, community college and university upgrades — are routine expenses of government that should be paid for with regular tax revenue and not with borrowed money.

The reason why we have resorted to bonds to get it done is the unmitigated growth of the state’s welfare agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, which now consumes almost half the state budget. MaineCare, the biggest expense of DHHS, has nearly doubled in cost during the past 15 years. Every year, the Legislature has to grapple with shattered DHHS cost estimates that result in budget-busting shortfalls, eating into our funds for other priorities of state government.

Some justify this infrastructure borrowing by likening it to a family buying a house. That’s a false analogy. Clearly there’s no way a family making $50,000 can pay cash for a $150,000 house. But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to find $150 million for infrastructure in a $3.15 billion annual state budget. Or perhaps there is a reason: The percentage of Mainers receiving public benefits ranks second-highest in the nation, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Former Rep. Doug Damon, R-Bangor

Marsters’ proof?

This letter is in response to David Marsters quote in an Aug. 28 BDN story about President Barack Obama: “How come nobody from his school’s come forward to say, ‘Oh, I know him.’ How come people from his family never say, ‘I know him. I went to his wedding; I was his best man?’ Nobody’s saying, ‘I’m a friend of his.’”

My sister-in-law Liesbeth Gerritsen was a classmate of Obama’s at the Punahou School in Hawaii. She most certainly does remember him. Should you need photographic proof, there’s a class photo here:

Obama is in the last row. Liesbeth is in the row just in front of him, second from left, in the green dress.

Whatever one’s opinion of Obama, there are certainly classmates who remember him, regardless of what Marsters believes.

Tess Gerritsen


Expand coverage

Maine recently received a $33 million federal grant to improve efficiency and service in Medicare, Medicaid and the private health care market – an important step. Another way to improve access to affordable health care is through Medicaid expansion.

Thousands of Americans have lost their jobs and cannot afford health insurance or are working in jobs without health benefits. Expanding affordable health coverage in 2013 through the Affordable Care Act would have helped more than 16,000 Mainers ages 50 to 64-years-old, who find themselves in this situation and who do not qualify for Medicaid health coverage.

Unfortunately, our legislature couldn’t garner enough votes to override the governor’s veto of Medicaid expansion.

The ACA expands health coverage options — just one element of the law that would give people without insurance access to preventive and primary care. Over time, expanding affordable health coverage would keep costs down across the entire health care system. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation published a 2013 report stating that Maine would save almost $700 million through this measure.

It’s common sense: If there is a way to help residents get back on their feet after losing their jobs, the state should take advantage of that opportunity. Maine missed the initial chance in 2013 to accept millions of dollars in federal funds to offer residents health insurance as well as reduce hospital debt and charity care. We urge our elected leaders to do the right thing in 2014 and expand health care coverage for hard working Mainers.

Rich Livingston, AARP Maine, volunteer state president


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