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Front Page » November 8, 2005 » Opinion » Opinion
Published 3,084 days ago

Opinion


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate general manager

I spent the last couple of weeks working on a couple of historical projects for the paper. It's one of my favorite things to do, because I love historical research.

The first was the piece I did on the affects the Spanish Flu had on our country and our county in 1918. I find it is always too bad that I have such a limited amount of space to tell such a compelling story.

But often when doing the research I find a lot of amusing things along the way. It can be as little as something someone did that was reported in the paper long ago, or the way the writer of an article used words, some of which whose meaning has changed dramatically over the years.

I found a couple of these kinds of things while working on that article. For instance one headline in a 1918 version of The Sun stated "Carver not right in head." It was a story about a man who had gone crazy and tried to murder someone. At the time the article was written he was in jail and doctors were assessing his ability to go on trial.

Next I came across a letter by the superintendent of schools that was printed in the paper judging the value of an education. World War I had just ended and there was a definite hatred in this country for those who had made up the powers opposing the United States, England and France in the war. Those countries were Germany, Turkey and the combined country of Austria-Hungary. Soldiers from that side of the battle were often called "The Huns."

The superintendent was writing about different types of students, including what he termed "Slackers" or those who have no desire to excel at learning.

How he tied these two groups of people together was amazing. He wrote, "Slaker. Next to the Hun, the slacker is the most despised person in the world today."

You could get away with this in 1918. In today's politically correct world, a superintendent or almost anyone would be out of a job putting that kind of a thing before the public.

Another funny thing I came across was a reference to a word that we use in a certain way today, but no longer attach the extended meaning to. In the case of this passage the writer said that because of the flu epidemic "many people feel that the time for promiscuous public gatherings has not yet arrived."

Based on our present use of the word it hasn't arrived here in Carbon County ninety years later either.

The word "promicuous" in terms of todays language means of course that a behavior has some type of sexual loosness connected with it. But if one looks at the extended meaning in the dictionary (down to about the fifth definition) it can also mean "casual or not related too." I knew what the author meant, but it was still funny.

The New Advocate also had to add its own personal touch to an article about the Spanish Flu by pointing out on Dec. 19, 1918 that "the illness of Ruby deprives the News Advocate of an efficient typesetter for the week."

With medical privacy rules that are in place today, I could probably be sued if I wrote in the paper that someone on our staff had been sick and wasn't able to do their job.

In another line in the same article the writer was talking about a local merchant whose wife had the disease but that he had been staying away from her so his quarantine had ended. The writer out of the blue wrote "Mr. Sutton's time has now expired" meaning that he could go out in public once again.

The first time I read it I thought the guy had died.

Finally, also in the News Advocate, I read that a telephone repairman had acquired the illness. But how that fact was put was very interesting.

"Lynn Strong found a germ on top of a telephone pole while hunting trouble and has decided he got the wrong line."

Some very creative writing to say the least.


I watched them march down the street in their old and tattered uniforms. Old men with bent backs and potbellies, gray hair and bad knees. And yet they were a proud bunch, that band of old soldiers. The flags rippled and snapped. Rifle barrels gleamed in the sunshine. The clomp, clomp, clomp, of their marching feet echoed down the street as everyone became quiet and put their hands over their hearts. I was just a kid and I was proud.

I giggled and acted like a clown as I saluted the flag in my boy scout uniform. My scoutmaster, Dwaine (Pinky) Nelson, took me aside for a short talk. He told me that men had died so I could salute that flag, and I should remember that and show more respect. I could tell from the hurt in his eyes that he was very disappointed in me, and I was ashamed. I never forgot his words. From then on, whenever I saluted the flag, I remembered what my scoutmaster, a World War II veteran, had taught me. Thank you Mr. Nelson.

I found a box of old photographs tucked away in my father's closet. There were pictures of a handsome young man in a sailor's uniform, my father, in a time before I knew him. There were old and yellowing military papers there too, citations recognizing gallantry under fire. The papers told of a brave young man who swam through oil fires on the water to rescue wounded and dying men from a sinking ship. Dad had never told me that story before. Thank you, my father, for your always-good example.

As a boy, I played Taps on my trumpet at the cemetery on Veteran's Day while old soldiers fired a rifle salute. The VFW men were wearing ribbons and stripes, polished brass and shiny shoes. They stood in a firm, straight line in the shadow of the flag as Fred Davis and I rendered Taps as best we could. I had never seen grown men cry before. Thank you, American Legion and VFW guys, for the service you render to our country.

The bullet had passed through the lower part of his handsome face, ripping his cheek and breaking his teeth. He was back at work now, but the scars would never heal. And yet, he stood before us proudly, wearing his sergeant stripes and talking with a lisp. His eyes burned bright above the scars. He was a drill sergeant and he had a job to do. Thank you, my sergeant, for your courage, your service, your fine example, and the things you taught me.

Someone tied a little American flag to a broken tree trunk on a battlefield in Vietnam. To see it there made me very humble and very proud. It was so small and unimposing, and yet the heavens shook with the power that it radiated. That little flag represented everything we were fighting for: home, family, and all that was dear. That little flag gave me courage when I needed to be brave. It gave me hope when things looked bad. It gave me comfort when my heart was heavy. It gave me peace when I counted the cost. Thank you, young soldier, whoever you were, for putting that symbol where I could see it when I needed to be reminded.

I watched them take the flag from the casket and fold it neatly before presenting it to a grieving widow. Gun smoke lingered in the air from the rifle salute. Goodbye my old friend, Jim Noyes. How many of your neighbors never knew that you and your machine-gun went ashore under fire three different times? Thank you, all of you silent, unassuming veterans out there, who gave your best and get so little recognition for it.

I recently spoke with a woman who lost her only son, her only child, to the Vietnam War. She has been childless now for thirty-seven years, and still she mourns. And yet, she is not bitter. She thanked me for my service. It broke my heart. Thank you, Stella Mobley, for the sacrifice you and so many other mothers have made for our country.

My son, Rex, came home from Somalia wearing sergeant stripes and a chest full of ribbons. He was not the boy who went to join the army. He was a man now and I looked up to him. Thank you, my son, for making your parents proud.

I watched the young man walk into Wal-Mart with three or four of his friends. He was different from the other guys. Though not as tall as some, he stood taller than them all. There was an air of self-confidence in his countenance and a spring in his step. He was a combat Marine, home to go to college and start the rest of his life. I was proud of him, and I went to shake his hand.

Welcome home from Iraq, young Brett Edwards, and thank you for your service to our country.


As the price of heating and electricity continue to rise, I have been trying to do all I can to keep the costs down in our home.

I am slowly converting our incandescent bulbs over to fluorescent ones. We bought a new furnace last year and I remembered to change the furnace filter. And mostly I holler at my granddaughter to shut the front door so she won't let all the heat out.

An article in the paper reminded me that vacuuming the refrigerator coils would keep it running more efficiently. So that became my next task. I now remember why I don't do it very often.

The first task involves taking off the cover on the front of the refridgerator. There are no instructions on how to do it and so it is a fight to the death. Once it is off then the battle becomes one of getting the vacuum nozzle to reach the coils. I think they sell special brushes and vacuum attachments, but I don't have them, so I needed to create one.

I went to find a cardboard tube. There were no empty ones so I took the rest of the paper towels off the one in the bathroom. I wadded those up and stuffed them under the sink to use later.

Once the tool was created I laid on the floor and was squashed by my 85 pound dog, who thought we were playing a new game. Once I could breathe again I turned on the vacuum and found that I could only reach the front coils. The back ones had the most dust and stuff on them.

Now I needed to pull out the fridge. At least they put wheels on them now. The floor underneath was filthy. How that happens is anybodys guess. But I had to take the back off. Six trips to the garage later, I found the right socket to do the job. I only wanted to take off one or two screws so it would be easy to put the thing back on, but I ended up taking all eight off. Then I discovered you can't get to the coils from the back at all. I was tempted to only put enough screws back on to hold the cardboard in place, but in the end all eight went back in.

After pushing the fridge back into place (yes, I mopped the floor first) I still had to tackle putting the front cover back on. Then I remembered the dirty little secret that the appliance industry has been hiding forever; the cover will not snap back on. I thought I could beat them this time and fought with the thing for over an hour, but in the end the cover won. Oh, I got one side snapped back into place and the other side wedged in so it sorta seems okay.

So there it is with only half the coils vacuumed and the cover falling off every time someone bumps it with their toe. I expect to see my electric bill go way down for all that work.


Editor:

Military Retirees now have 227 cosponsors for HR 602, the "Keep Our Promise" Bill. This is enough Congressional votes to pass it. What we need now is someone to pull it out of Committee and place it before the full House for a vote. Unfortunately, it appears as that isn't going to happen without some kind of a miracle. Does anyone out there know a member of Congress well enough to convince him/her to do this for us?

Personally, I believe that most of those 227 cosponsors only did so to prevent losing our future vote. What we need to do is get everyone on board - military retirees, spouses, family members, sympathizers, etc., and show a profound disgust with all of them by not voting for any incumbent in 2006, and we need to let them know we are going to do this now. With the apathy American voters have been showing in recent years, our banding together could force this issue.

As the Google website has shown, military retirees are constantly being shown as the primary drain on the Congressional budget. The more people view this diatribe, the more we lose valuable support from them. Therefore, we need to take immediate action.

We need to make our intentions public, state by state, in every accessible forum.


Editor:

I find it ironic that the party who cares so much about children while they are in the womb; so much so that they want to block any and all access to abortion, seems to care nothing about these same children once they are born.

The Republican Party is now in the process of pushing through a budget that denies care for these children by cutting spending for food stamps, Medicaid, foster care, school lunches, child support enforcement, daycare, student loans and many other important safety nets. In addition, this budget will require that all children born today pay for the Republican increased spending on defense, without proper oversight, and tax cuts for the wealthy.

If they sincerely care so much about children, perhaps they ought to consider the health and security of children - they must insure that enough children are cared for today to pay off their debts tomorrow.


Governments in the U.S. take approximately 40 percent of the country's total income in taxes. In other words, nearly half of all the income generated each year is sent to governments to spend.

The good news is that a growing number of people pay no federal taxes at all. According to a recent Tax Foundation report, 29 million people had no federal income tax liability in 2000, and the number was expected to reach 44 million in 2004. The bad news is that people who do pay taxes much pay more to make up for those who pay nothing.

Writes Daniel Mitchell at The Heritage Foundation, "According to data from the Internal Revenue Service, the top 1 percent of income earners pay nearly 35 percent of the income tax burden; the top 10 percent pay 65 percent; and the top 25 percent pay nearly 83 percent. The bottom 50 percent of income earners, on the other hand, pay barely 4 percent of income taxes."

Federal income taxes are only a small portion of the taxes we pay. We also pay federal payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, state income taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, death taxes, and excise taxes.

Except for excise taxes, these taxes fall most heavily on the most productive members of society. This doesn't make excise taxes better: They fall randomly and unfairly on people based on their habits and needs without regard to their ability to pay or use of public services.

The growth of government spending is what makes this tax burden necessary. The federal budget grew 14 percent in President George W. Bush's first three years, with discretionary spending growing nearly 50 percent. The 2006 Bush budget would increase the Department of Education budget by 40 percent since 2001 and the Department of Commerce budget by 85 percent.

Bush's 2006 budget was supposed to be an "austerity" budget that finally would rein in spending, but it started with a proposed 3.6 percent increase in federal spending and has taken wing from there. The energy and transportation bills signed by the president are budget busters, and the just-announced spending to "rebuild New Orleans" is likely to make 2006 another record-breaker.

If government is too big, as Republicans love to chant, why is it growing larger and at a record pace with a Republican president and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress? Why did it grow at a slower rate when Bill Clinton was in the White House?

Meanwhile, state governments have been indulging in their own spending orgy. Between 1990 and 2000, total state spending grew by a staggering $512 billion, or 89 percent. All of that new built-in spending is moving through today's budgets like a pig through a python, causing state politicians to cry about "budget cuts" even as they reap record revenue increases due to the reviving national economy.

Voters need to hold to the fire the feet of elected officials, and especially Republicans who pretend to be pro-taxpayer. Officials who cut taxes and balance budgets need to be rewarded with success at the ballot box, and those who raise taxes and increase spending should be targeted by taxpayer groups and lose elections.

Tax and expenditure limits, such as Colorado's Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR), are a structural solution to the problem of too much spending during good economic times and tax hikes during bad times. Efforts are underway across the country to adopt TABOR through referenda and initiative where they are allowed, or legislatively if not. Those efforts deserve everyone's support.

Voters need to be far more aggressive in opposing excise taxes and so-called "sin taxes." These taxes often pass by dividing the public--pitting smokers against nonsmokers, beer drinkers against nondrinkers, tourists against residents, and so on. They are easily hidden from taxpayers, a good example being the Spanish-American War tax on telephone service.

Privatization and outsourcing of government services are widespread, have been closely studied, and typically increase the quality of services provided while reducing spending. They need to be promoted and aggressively defended against attacks by public-sector labor unions and their allies on the left.

It's easy to complain about taxes and then do nothing to lower them, but how free are you when governments take half or more of your income? Even serfs in the 16th and 17th centuries typically owed their feudal lords only a quarter of their crops and livestock, and often much less.

Our forefathers fought a war for independence over taxes that were far lower than those we now pay without complaint. It's time we got up off our sofas and demanded real tax relief.

Joseph L. Bast is president of The Heartland Institute and publisher of "Budget & Tax News."


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