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Front Page » December 17, 2002 » Opinion » Opinion
Published 4,141 days ago

Opinion


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By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate Publisher

When is it okay for big boys to have fun like little boys?

I believe the answer should be, anytime they want to, but unfortunately many of us struggle with really having fun once we grow up. I enjoy life and have spent years practicing having fun, the way I once did as a little boy, but it has taken a long time and sometimes it still doesn't feel right.

I am not sure how old I was when I started getting more serious and lost the ability to really laugh but I suspect it was sometime after my dad left home and it was just mom and I struggling to make ends meet. I have no idea how my mother made it during those years and what she went through working the farm and ranch trying to keep things together. And I know she didn't mean any harm when she reminded me that I was the man of the house now and had to "be responsible." Somehow I interpreted being responsible as not having fun. But years of that message and years of seeing how much she struggled took its toll and I grew up a very serious person. As a young man I just could not let loose and enjoy fun things. There was always sort of a guilty feeling that I shouldn't be laughing like this or I can't do that because of what my mom might think. I grew up guarded.

I remember once when I was on a date when I was in my late 30's my girlfriend decided to ride the carousel horse in front of a grocery store up in Oregon. I was embarrassed that a grown woman would get on a child's horse and actually laugh herself silly trying to ride it. But she was having fun and had always wanted to do that. I was trying to hide behind the Coke display in case anybody I knew was coming or going from the store.

I can think of a dozen times where buddies of mine did stupid things but I wouldn't because big guys aren't suppose to act like that. It is really hard sometimes to be on the other side when a group of friends are really enjoying themselves, but you can't quite let yourself go there.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when several friends from the local Kiwanis group ventured off to Las Vegas and raced NASCAR type cars at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In real race cars these big boys crawled in and raced eight laps at speeds almost 140 miles an hour. When they returned to Price they brought the videos back and showed them at a regular meeting.

As I watched the videos and listened to the guys kidding each other about the fun they had I jotted down a few of the comments. Later I realized just how much fun these guys had and thought to myself, "Man I wish I would have gone and had fun like these guys!"

Here were some of the comments made at the program where the videos were shown.

"Understand that you will die if you wreck!"

"Death was mentioned several times in the release we signed."

"Any last words?"

"That could have been me passing my pace car."

The sounds of the engines and the smell of racing fuel was the best part."

"I was surprised the camera was fast enough to catch me."

"Yesterday I could not spell race car driver today I are one."

"That's my car."

"Didn't you win the award for the best dressed driver"

"Who's this Mr. Lamination?"

"I can't believe the team of Dave, Dave, Dave and Danny won"

"I got up to 145 miles an hour and it wasn't that fast."

"How do I get a job at that place?"

"This was a real show"

It was all about a new experience for 12 local guys, but it really was about creating new memories, and maybe a few new lies. Every time they tell the story the speed gets a little faster and the talent a little better.

You can bet I'll be joining them in the spring when they go again.


As Christmas approaches, I become more anxious to get the headache of the seasons over with. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, but by the time that the holidays dwindle down to an end, I become more frustrated by the minute. Therefore, I have comprised my list of the 12 days of Christmas that effects us all.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I realize just how much I am sick and tired of holiday commercials. Every commercial that comes on is set to the theme of the holidays. This is a good advertising scheme for the millions of companies that partake in this campaign, however, it is very tiresome by the twelfth day to hear of the savings you'll find at various stores.

On the eleventh day, I decide to quit being such a scrooge and set up my tree. Thank goodness that it is artificial because I'm the kind of person that would take two or three hours to select the perfect "real" tree. A tree in a box is the perfect tree to me these days. It is easy and you know that all your ornaments from the previous year will all fit, because they did last year. So not only do I have to have the perfect looking tree, I also have to have all the ornaments that adorn it in the proper place. I will spend hours rearranging ornaments to make the tree look "even." However, my three year old likes to hang ornaments all at one side at the bottom of the tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I decide that the tree looks kind of funny sitting in the front room with no decorations surrounding it. Therefore, I decorate the house. Decorations are fun to look at, but a pain to set up. Between rearranging the decorations on the tree on a regular basis, and setting up the holiday decorations, I am fed up with the seasonal items that are cluttering the house by the time I'm done decorating. Call me a grump, but my idea of fun is not sticking dozens of window clings to my windows, just to peel them off in a few weeks time. I'm also not a big fan of picking up table decorations that are tipped over by the cat time after time.

On the ninth day of Christmas, I decide to take some time away from the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas, so I sit down to watch television. The second I turn the TV. on, I find a Christmas program. This reminds me of the long list of things I still need to accomplish to prepare for the big day, but despite that I am determined to watch a little TV anyway. So I start to thumb through the programming only to find that 90 percent of the shows are set to a holiday theme. The other 10 percent are programs that are in the lower channels on the satellite and are all in a foreign language. I'm sure that if I could understand what is being said, it is probably about the holiday season too.

I turn the TV off and continue to work on my Christmas projects.

The eighth day finds me stringing lights around the outside of the house. I know, I waited too long and the weather is at the peak of its bitter bite, but for the past two months, I've waited for my husband to help out with this project. I decide to do the light stringing myself just to prove that I can do it on my own. After all, if I come down with pneumonia, my husband will have to take on the responsibility of taking care of his poor sick wife who froze hanging "his" lights. Well it's worth a shot anyway.

Now that the lights are sparkling brightly outside, I enter the seventh day. Today, I decide to finally fill out holiday cards. I have been pondering the thought of doing this for months, but, being who I am, I have to make things complicated by hand stamping and crafting each card. Two hours later all I have completed is four lousy cards. This was the deciding factor in running down to the store and buying a cheap box of holiday greetings. I usually make the easiest things complicated, such as writing cute little sayings inside the card underneath the original phrase, but not this year. Sorry to everyone who receives a card from my family; the thought and sincerity was there, just not the above and beyond projects you usually receive.

After I have filled out all my cards, on the sixth day, I head for the post office to mail them off, and then to the stores for some last minute shopping. Every year I vow that I will start my shopping in the spring like my grandma use to do, but I'm lucky if I make it by Dec. 25. So, by shopping on the sixth day, I'm actually ahead of schedule.

As soon as I enter the store, my mouth drops. There are shoppers as far as the eye can see, and these people are those who are waiting in the checkout line. I mosey through the store with a blank and overwhelmed look on my face, gathering gifts as I go. By the time that I decide I am through with my shopping, I enter the most dreaded part of the shopping trip, the checkout.

As I stand there, quickly becoming inpatient, I notice that I am surrounded by fellow shoppers. I'm not in this "sea of shoppers" because the store is extra busy, but because there are only two check out lines open in the entire store. No wonder this massive amount of humanity is located in one central location.

Now, I'm no genius, but I know that these stores hire extra help during the holidays. So where is this help? It sure is not located at the checkout stands. I find it is often located at the store eatery where the hard workers are sitting around drinking coffee and laughing at the frustrated shoppers. It's enough to drive one to shopping cart rage.

By the fifth day, I decide to finish my shopping, and venture on to the stores one last time. (This trip is to usually pick up what I forgot the day before.) On this day, I realize just how rude people really are. Maybe it is the tension of the season, but I cannot make it through the store without somebody running into me with their cart. I am a person that was raised to be polite at all times, and I try to pass these manners along to my daughter, but at the store amongst these rude and unfriendly shoppers, my daughter learns her fair share of colorful phrases and words.

By the fourth, I'm just happy to be alive after strolling through the cluttered stores. On this day however, I have reached the point of absolute irritation. That's why when I turn on the radio and all I hear is Christmas songs, I scream. I'm sure that I have been hearing these songs for the past month, but up to this point, I have successfully drowned out the melodies.

Three more days left, and I decide that I will bake holiday goodies. Sure I waited quite awhile, but at least my baking will be fresh for Christmas day. Each year, my mom and I bake homemade cookies, but after getting married and moving out, I decide to start my own baking traditions. I'm not ashamed to say it; my mom's cooking is sure a lot better than mine; and certainly easier. This year I've decided to just sample mom's baking and maybe cook some ready made cookie dough.

With only two days left until the day we've all been waiting for, I decide that it might be appropriate to wrap the gifts I slaved so hard to buy. I unload the artillery out of the closet and lock myself in my bedroom to wrap gifts. The only problem with this is that I locked the cat in with me. As I look around the room at the mountains of gifts, I take a deep breath and begin the job at hand. I start cutting the paper and zip down the roll, when my cat puts his nose under my scissors. Luckily I didn't cut his nose, but I did trim his chin hairs a bit.

After spending several hours wrapping gifts, I am finally done. The cat was a big help, but his chin and tail are not as full and fluffy as when we started.

One day left, I reach my ultimate stress level. I am now faced with the task of finishing my homemade project that I have started for everyone in our family. Although my project changes each year, I never seem to be ahead. I am the type of person that feels that handmade gifts make the best presents of all. By this point, Christmas Eve however, I begin to wonder.

Finally, the day has come. It is Christmas day and I get to relax and celebrate.

It is a fulfilling feeling to watch all those whom I made gifts for open the "big gift" from my family. It is also a joy to watch my daughter's eyes light up when she opens each gift of hers under the tree. It is even more fun to watch her ignore her toys and play in the boxes.

Although I'm sure that I will be an absolute grump during the entire 12 days, I am thankful for what I have been blessed with. I also take the time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and celebrate the birth of Christ.

I'm sure that each of you could relate to at least one of my 12 days of Christmas a lot better than the original version of the song. (Who really knows what all that stuff is anyway). I do ask however, that you take the time to relax and enjoy your holiday season, even if it is only on Christmas day.

Merry Christmas!


Rushing to adjourn for the year, the lame-duck Congress has just given an early indication of what to expect next year: brazen codling on behalf of the biggest contributors to their campaigns. This time, it comes in the guise of "homeland security" and "terrorism insurance."

Start with the new Department of Homeland Security. While this massive government re-organization may ultimately result in better coordination among the far-flung bureaucracies tasked with protecting U.S. borders, waters, crops, imports, airports, and politicians, one might ask why House legislators felt it necessary to take the straightforward bill they passed earlier this year and tuck a host of unrelated provisions into the version they sent to the Senate�in "take it or leave it" fashion.

The revised bill will limit legal liability for companies that produce vaccines, a gift to drug manufacturer Eli Lilly, which faces lawsuits from families touting new research which connects thimerasol, a preservative used in vaccines, to autism. Pharmaceutical companies gave more than $19 million to federal candidates and parties in the last election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of that, the number one giver was Eli Lilly, which provided at least $1.6 million, 79 percent to Republicans. These totals don't include the estimated $30 million spent by drug makers on TV ads backing Republican candidates from front groups with innocuous sounding names like "United Seniors Association" and "Citizens for Better Medicare." (The final total will be higher, as these figures don't include the last two weeks of the election.)

Another provision that sailed through the House, and ultimately the Senate, will undo a ban originally sponsored by the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) on any government contracts related to homeland security going to companies that use foreign tax havens to avoid U.S. taxes. A bi-partisan Who's Who of ex-elected officials turned mercenaries lobbied for the amendment, including former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, former House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX), Bush family confidant Charlie Black, former House Appropriations Committee chairman Robert L. Livingston (R-LA), and former Keating Five Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ.). Among the companies seeking the measure: Accenture, the Arthur Andersen spin-off; scandal-ridden Tyco International, and toolmaker Ingersoll-Rand.

When these and other special-interest provisions came to light, many Senators complained vociferously and Democrats, along with Republican maverick John McCain (R-AZ), tried to get them excised. But they lost that fight after the White House and Republican leaders promised to tone down the offending provisions with corrective legislation sometime next year. Don't hold your breath: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has already stated that he only agreed to "consider" any such changes.

At almost the same time, Congress gave final approval to a bill demanded by the insurance and real estate industries providing up to $100 billion over three years to cover 90 percent of future terrorism-related insurance claims. Government aid would kick in if terrorism-related losses exceed minimum levels of an insurance company's premiums, which in some cases could mean that taxpayers will be liable from an insurer's first dollar of losses. In addition, insurers would be required to repay very little or no federal assistance. This approach is a marked departure from the original House bill, passed last winter, that would have required insurers to cover the first $1 billion cost of a terrorist attack, with the federal government offering long-term loans to help pay for the rest. But the insurance industry wanted direct aid and lobbied hard for the Senate version promoted by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), that would have insurers pay for the first $10 billion of an attack out-of-pocket but then put taxpayers on the hook for the rest.

The insurance and real estate industries are among the biggest contributors to political campaigns, having supplied $27.5 million and $42 million in just the 2001-02 cycle alone. Senator Dodd has received $562,000 from the insurance industry during his career in the Senate, putting him at #7 among all his colleagues in takings from that lucrative source. He called the final bill a vital "safety net" for the insurance business.

Meanwhile, the two million Americans whose unemployment benefits are expiring in the next few months won't see their safety net extended anytime soon. Congress's adjourning means the death of a $4.5 billion Senate proposal that would have extended the current temporary unemployment insurance program passed earlier this year. Many will lose their benefits just before Christmas. The Senate had hoped to give another 13 weeks of benefits to people whose unemployment checks run out after December, with 26 weeks for workers in high unemployment states. Alas, these average folks don't have the cash to pay Bob Dole or Chris Dodd to look after their interests.


It's 10 p.m. -- do you know what your government is up to? It seems that Iraq is not the only "regime change" that the Bush administration is working on. The U.S. government has apparently decided that President Chavez of Venezuela must go, one way or another.

True, Saddam Hussein is a brutal tyrant who has invaded and threatened neighboring countries -- whereas Hugo Chavez was democratically elected, has shown no ill will toward any of his neighbors, and tolerates a steady barrage of virulent, hate-filled propaganda against his presidency from the major Venezuelan media.

But these distinctions can be blurred, because both have offended the U.S. government, and both are sitting on a lot of oil. So most Americans can be forgiven for having similar impressions of the two leaders, given what they hear from the U.S. media. A recent op-ed in "The Washington Post" referred to the Chavez government as a "dictatorship."

Remember it was barely more than six months ago, on April 11, 2002, that opposition forces overthrew the democratically elected government of Venezuela. They installed the head of the business federation as president and dissolved the legislature and the Supreme Court.

The Bush administration at first welcomed the coup, retreating the next day after it became clear that other countries in the Americas were not going to recognize the illegal government. And of course administration officials denied having anything to do with the coup.

There is a pile of evidence to the contrary, indicating that they had a lot to do with it. There were numerous meetings between Bush administration officials and coup leaders in the months preceding the coup. We also know that the opposition received money from the United States government.

But even more important is the political support and encouragement that Washington provides. Those who are trying to overthrow the government of Venezuela at this very moment know that the United States will do its best to recognize and support any resulting dictatorship. They know this because neither the White House nor the State Department has indicated that a coup would result in any diplomatic or commercial sanctions against an illegal government.

It would be a simple matter for the Bush administration to make such a statement. But even in the recent mobilizations of October 21 and December 2, with rumors of coup attempts flying everywhere, our top officials have maintained a telling silence, and carefully avoided saying anything that would discourage the violent opposition.

The United States also supports the opposition's call for early elections. Although the Venezuelan constitution provides for a recall election halfway through the president's term, the opposition does not want to wait until August.

There are two reasons for their impatience: first, the economy is in a deep recession right now, and it could very well recover by August. Venezuela's economy would get a tremendous boost from an increase in oil prices that would likely result from a war with Iraq. Second, the recession is prolonged and deepened because investors are essentially on strike against the government, taking money out of the country and withholding investment in hope of getting a new president. Like any strike, it cannot continue indefinitely.

Of course it does not make any more sense for Chavez to hold early elections than it would have for President Reagan to have done so in 1983, when due to a recession and unemployment his approval rating bottomed at 35 percent.

But the U.S. press -- together with the Bush administration -- pretends that this is a perfectly reasonable demand.

A little-noticed retraction published in the "Chicago Tribune" on April 20 summed up the extreme prejudice of our major news organizations against the president of Venezuela: "An editorial on Sunday mistakenly said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had praised Osama bin Laden. The "Tribune" regrets the error."

Oops.


What? No Messiah presentation in Price this Christmas season? What a disappointment.


The Palestinians, the Israelis, the U.S. and the world have paid, and will continue to pay an enormous price in blood and money for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. That occupation is the fuel that fires the hatred that has led to terrorism.

There are at least two possible solutions: The Israelis could obey the United Nations mandate to leave Palestinian lands or they could give full citizenship to all the Palestinians and allow them to share in the great American largess.

Giving the Palestinians the same standard of living enjoyed by the Jews would probably end their rebellion. We fault the Palestinians for terrorism, but what other force of rebellion against the occupation is available to them?

The occupation of Palestinian lands is the major contention for al-Qaida and the other terrorists to inspire their terrorist activities. Blaming the victims is how both the terrorists and Israelis justify their acts of brutality.


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