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Jan. 31, 2009 Letters to the Editor

Choose words carefully

As three religious leaders in the Bangor area representing different traditions, we wish to express our concern over the Jan. 10 Op-Ed entitled “No more free lunches for Israel.” Our concern arises from the author’s suggestion that anyone in Maine’s Jewish community who does not publicly speak out against the Israeli offensive in Gaza is somehow complicit in the suffering there.

While we too decry the suffering and the death of innocent people, and would question many of the policies of the Israeli government, we find the indictment of Maine’s Jewish community in regards to this suffering to be unfounded, misdirected and potentially harmful. Maine’s Jewish community is not responsible for the actions and decisions of the Israeli government. To say Maine’s Jewish community is complicit in “the slaughter of children in their schools and beds” is highly inflammatory language, and can only lead to the propagation of prejudice and misunderstanding.

The use of generalizations and erroneous facts, such as the statement that Israel “now brags that it runs our country” and that “Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff maintains dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship,” as well as allusions to class slurs against the Jewish people, may pave a slippery slope toward anti-Semitism.

We are only too aware of the ways in which our own voices have been silent in the face of injustice, discrimination and violence. We find we have no high moral ground on which to stand. And while we are still learning how to speak truth to power in constructive and salient ways, we would implore our larger community to choose their words well when speaking publicly. Words are powerful, and can have unintended consequences.

The Rev. Elaine Hewes;pastor

Redeemer Lutheran Church

The Rev. Mark Doty; pastor

Hammond Street Congregational Church

The Rev. Maury Landry;

Bangor Area Pastoral Counseling Services

• • •

On higher education

In his Jan. 6 Op-Ed, Stephen Bowen (no relation) of the Maine Heritage Policy Center mistakenly equates the “efficiency” of the colleges making up the University of Maine System with the cost to produce one graduate. He asserts that a bachelor’s degree from Fort Kent, for instance, costs the taxpayer $16,636 while the same degree from the University of Maine in Orono costs $48,954.

But this is comparing a small apple with a big orange. Fort Kent has fewer programs, fewer nationally recognized faculty members, fewer students, a much smaller physical plant to maintain and so on; it is not a research university; and it does not offer graduate programs.

Comparing the Orono campus with, say, the University of New Hampshire in Durham would be more apt. At another level of analysis, the notion of “efficiency” as Bowen employs it is decidedly off track.

Universities are not factories producing widgets; universities are, if fact, labor-intensive enterprises whose value to Maine cannot be strictly measured numerically.

College graduates tend to be more civic-minded and engaged in improving the quality of life of the local and regional communities; as higher earners, college graduates tend to be more philanthropic; and they also contribute cultural, sporting and intellectual capital to the community, writ small and large.

Bowen is on target asking about the value of public college education, but his analysis unfortunately misses many of the essential aspects and contributions of public higher education.

Roger W. Bowen

President Emeritus, State University of New York

Prospect Harbor

• • •

Voodoo economics

It was good to see that Sens. Collins and Snowe are supportive of the spending plans to stimulate the economy. However, their calls for business-tax cuts and accelerated depreciation are just the same old, same old Republican mantra.

Mark Zandi, an economist for Moody’s Economy, which is not a leftish think tank, has done a detailed analysis of the value to the economy for various proposals.

In terms of the amount of stimulus for each one dollar spent, the top three are: food stamps, $1.73; extended unemployment benefits, $1.64; and infrastructure spending, $1.59. The bottom three are: corporate tax cuts, $0.30; making the Bush tax cuts permanent (not proposed by Collins and Snowe), $0.29; and accelerated depreciation, $0.27.

Businesses are not spending because consumers are not buying. Henry Ford had this all figured out over 100 years ago, so he raised his workers’ wages. As one Bush famously once said, supply-side economics are voodoo economics.

Other Republican sleight of hand showed up in the BDN’s letters to the editor. Someone repeated the claim that the Obama inauguration cost $150 million, while Bush’s cost only $40 million.

Right-wing bloggers are reporting these figures, without mentioning that they included the cost of security for Obama, but left it out for Bush. Not including security costs, the slightly increased costs for Obama are easily accounted for by inflation and the increased numbers in attendance.

Bonnie Preston

Blue Hill

• • •

Eroding freedoms

I don’t understand the “ban this, ban that” mentality. For example, the LD-40 legislative bill seeks to ban the use of certain electronic devices and cellular phones while driving. Bills like this portray the false notion that Mainers can be safe from harm throughout their lives if they become law. Back in the real world we know this is not true. But they will take away individual liberties from you and me.

I spent 20 years in the military helping to ensure our freedoms, but now our own politicians take them away a little at a time each legislative session.

A police officer should be able to cite a driver if he witnesses that person driving erratically. That is commonsense. But outlawing cell phone or two-way radio use is not necessary. Because of a few irresponsible drivers who “text” or read maps while driving the rest of us have to sacrifice our freedom. This is unacceptable!

This law would erode the Amateur Radio Emergency Service. If ham radio operators cannot use their mobile equipment routinely, they will not install these expensive systems in their vehicles. The state’s backup disaster communications system would be severely degraded.

Other victims of these bills would be events such as the MDI Marathon, Tour de Cure, and parades in which hams provide free communications support.

A friend of mine recently remarked, “I wonder who has more freedoms now? Americans or Russians?” Times have changed indeed!

Philip Duggan


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