12-07-2017 Letters and Commentary

WHEN IN DOUBT LEAVE IT OUT … was the first thing I learned from Publisher Tom Sadler 42 years ago. I had just hired on as associate editor at the Capac Journal and Tom was giving me some guidelines to start.

I recall him telling me today’s news would be replaced with something else tomorrow and that it was more important to get it right than to get it in the paper.

Tom, who published the Journal and the Almont Times Herald, mentored me and helped me avoid many of the pitfalls all journalists are threatened by.

He advised that while the news changed rapidly (and continually) erroneous news lingered much longer. Thus the axiom, coined by me and passed on to all the writers I’ve worked with, “when in doubt, leave it out.”

Sadly, the rule doesn’t always save us from printing “wrong” news. Tighter deadlines, more news sources, less reliable news sources, new technology, and the social media are all contributing factors in publishing “wrong” information.

Then the second rule kicks in, when there is an error in the paper correct it as soon as possible upon being aware of it. Never expect it to just fade away, Tom advised.

Own up to your “our” mistakes, take the hit and move on, has always been my advice to anyone, reporter or public official. Errors, untruths, misrepresentation never goes away. Like a pesky wound in a rough spot, it never heals on its own.

Like a wound treated immediately and correctly, mistakes soon heal and are forgotten.

That’s something so many of our political leaders, unfortunately, forget. They deny, lie, obfuscate, instead of owning up to the error and moving on.

We all remember President Richard Nixon saying on television, “I am not a crook.” Few of us as easily recall all the wonderful things he did as president.

NEW FEATURE… Thanks to Bryan and Jan Conrad, owners of the Watervliet Hardware, there is a weather forecast panel on the front page. Actually the occasion is two firsts… not only is the weather forecast panel a first for the Record, it is also the first time there is a weekly ad on the front page.

I hope you find the weather forecast of interest and useful. By the way, the seven-day forecast comes direct from the National Weather Service for the Watervliet zip code.

BEST FALL EVER… Here it is the first week of December and the cold weather is just now upon us. I guess that’s little comfort if you’re still working outside or there’s snow to be shoveled or any of those other things we have to deal with here in Michigan.

Even so, I think this has been the best fall ever, even if the last couple of weeks are more like winter. This past weekend, I heard lawnmowers running not snow throwers. Even the most diehard procrastinators got their holiday lights up wearing sweatshirts or light jackets.

There were fishermen most every day in Hays Park, as well as kids on the skate park ramps and playing basketball. Thanksgiving weekend our visiting grandkids visited Randall Park and spent time playing on the “castle” there and the swings.

Despite the TV commercials touting the winter wonders of Pure Michigan, the seasonal entertainment has been decidedly summerlike right to this week; in my mind, that’s not bad at all.

MERRY CHRISTMAS… despite the lack of snow, the Christmas spirit was alive and well in downtown Watervliet Sunday. The sidewalks were filled with families watching the parade and then most followed it to the Arclight Brewery to visit with Santa.

It was fun to see so many little ones and their excitement to see the parade and then Santa.

That’s what this holiday season is all about, good cheer and happiness to share with all.

I’m always heartened by the huge turnout of kindness to others at this time of the year. Toys for Tots, giving trees, mitten and coat drives, and meals for the needy and special collections in the Sunday services all contribute to the spirit of these special days.

Make sure to continue the holiday tradition with a visit to Hartford this weekend for their Christmas events. See Hometown Holiday Happenings for more information and all the news on local, community, holiday events.

Keep in touch

There is a saying, “When all else fails, pray” that shows that we don’t really have a high regard for the relevance of prayer. It’s a last resort. Personal experiences may have brought us to that conclusion. Maybe prayers that were not “answered” according to our wishes, or disappointing situations in which we saw no results from our prayer efforts. Why even discuss it? Prayer doesn’t work.

And that may be our problem. That word “work.” Do we see prayer as merely functional towards a particular goal? If we don’t achieve that goal, then we get angry, ultimately angry at God. And if He is going to treat us that way, then we just won’t talk to Him anymore. So there!

Here are some ideas that may help us refocus on prayer’s value, and on why we should be encouraged even if our ideas of “results” don’t happen:

We pray because we believe someone is listening – we are not talking to the wall. That’s faith in itself. Prayer expresses faith. That’s good.

God may have better plans than our plans, even if suffering is involved. We learn more about sailing in storms by having to sail through storms, rather than just sailing in calm waters.

God “knows the end from the beginning” and every interrelationship in between. Getting our way may have long-term negative aspects we could never understand right now. We trust enough to pray; we may need to grow trust while bearing-up-under-the-burden.

What does prayer do? It keeps us in touch with God, who may have new things for us to learn about Him, about His goodness, and about His plans.

Remember the promise, “The effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous man avail much.” (James 5, KJV) Our prayers can make a difference for others and for us. Keep in touch.

Question: Can I refuse to give my Social Security number to a private business?

Answer: Yes, you can refuse to disclose your Social Security number, and you should be careful about giving out your number. But, be aware, the person requesting your number can refuse services if you don’t give it. Businesses, banks, schools, private agencies, etc., are free to request someone’s number and use it for any purpose that doesn’t violate a federal or state law. To learn more about your Social Security number, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Question: I served in the military, and I’ll receive a military pension when I retire. Will that affect my Social Security benefits?

Answer: You can get both Social Security retirement benefits and military retirement at the same time. Generally, we don’t reduce your Social Security benefits because of your military benefits. When you’re ready to apply for Social Security retirement benefits, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

Question: I’m planning to retire next year. I served in the Navy back in the 1960s and need to make sure I get credit for my military service. What do I need to do?

Answer: You don’t need to do anything to apply for the special credit for your military service — it is added automatically. For service between 1957 and 1967, we will add the extra credits to your record at the time you apply for Social Security benefits. For service between 1968 and 2001, those extra military service credits have already been added to your record. So you can rest assured that we have you covered. Read our online publication, Military Service and Social Security, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10017.html. And when the time comes to apply for retirement, you can do it conveniently and easily at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.

Question: Is it true that if you have low income you can get help paying your Medicare premiums?

Answer: Yes. If your income and resources are limited, your state may be able to help with your Medicare Part B premium, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts. State rules vary on the income and resources that apply. Contact your state or local medical assistance, social services, or welfare office, or call the Medicare hotline, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), and ask about the Medicare Savings Programs. If you have limited income and resources, you also may be able to get help paying for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778) or visit any Social Security office.

Also, see our publication, Medicare (Publication 10043), at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html.

For even more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Day of Infamy: The Lessons and Legacy of Pearl Harbor Day

By Christopher Kelly

On Sunday December 7, 1941, seventy-six years ago, planes of the Imperial Japanese Navy streaked over Pearl Harbor bombing and torpedoing the American fleet at anchor.  More than 2,400 Americans were killed that day.  President Roosevelt quickly called it a “Day of Infamy.”

Pearl Harbor Day beckons us to step back and reflect not only on the “Day of Infamy,” but also, on the many other incidents in which attacks have occurred on U.S. soil.

The “Day of Infamy” was followed by several months of fear – particularly on the West coast of the United States.  Japanese submarines prowled off the West coast.  The 1942 Rose Bowl was initially cancelled but then moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where Oregon State beat Duke, 20 to 16.

In February of 1942, a Japanese submarine shelled the Ellwood oil refinery near Santa Barbara with its 140mm deck guns.  In June of that year Fort Stephens in Oregon was bombarded by the deck guns of a Japanese submarine.  That same month two remote Aleutian islands, Attu and Kiska, were invaded and occupied by Japanese troops.  Dutch Harbor in Alaska was bombed.

Panic swept the West coast.  Japanese-Americans were shipped to internment camps and denied their constitutional rights.  This was a gross overreaction by the U.S. government but the threat and the danger from Japan were real.

In the last two years of World War II Japan launched thousands of Fu-Go balloon bombs carrying incendiary explosives.  They hoped to set American forests ablaze.  The jet stream transported these devices to at least fifteen American states including Wyoming and Iowa.  In May 1945 six people were killed in Oregon by a Japanese balloon bomb.

We Americans often forget this, and assume that, we are invulnerable to invasion and attack.  Are we not protected by the great moats of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans?  We tend to forget that these “moats” have also been highways for invasion and attack.

In fact, successive waves of invasions have shaped our country in countless ways. The English founded Jamestown while the Spanish held Florida and the French tried to establish settlements in Texas and Louisiana (“Nouvelle Orleans”).  The Russians colonized Alaska and even built Fort Ross in Northern California near what is now called the “Russian River.” They occupied Fort Ross for thirty years from 1812 to 1842 attempting to grow crops that would sustain their Alaskan possession.

Even as we look back, Pearl Harbor Day is an apt time to look ahead to the future and consider potential threats to our homeland we currently face.

Seventy-six years ago the threat came from Imperial Japan. Today the threat comes from a blustering dictator in North Korea. Kim Jung Un’s threat to attack the U.S. with intercontinental weapons is not entirely without historic precedent in light of Japan’s World War II Fu-Go bombs. But the potential scale of destruction it represents is. Kim is capable of exploding crude atomic devices. Two North Korean missiles have been fired through Japanese airspace. The risks of today’s escalation are palpable. Let us not forget that weapons of mass destruction led our nation into war in Iraq.

Pearl Harbor famously united public opinion in the United States.  “Remember Pearl Harbor” became a rallying cry.  A nation that was woefully unprepared on December 7, 1941 was rapidly transformed into a vast arsenal of democracy.

Seventy-six years have changed the tempo and potential devastation of modern warfare.  Kim Jung Un’s grandfather launched the Korean War in 1950 with a devastating invasion of the south.  His grandson has the capacity to launch multiple Hiroshimas.

Surveying the political landscape today, our nation seems more divided than ever.  Will we have the wisdom to recognize the threats that face us, to remain vigilant and to preserve peace in a world troubled by murderous dictators?  Will our leaders have the wisdom to meet bluster, not with more bluster, but with strength?

 Christopher Kelly is an American history writer based in Seattle and London.

Chili cook-off raised $5,000

Dear Tri-City Record,

Thank you for your support of Sodus Township School District #5 and helping us make our fund-raiser a huge success! With your help, we raised over $5,000 for River School! I would personally like to thank you for your generous donation. It is with your support that we will continue to make a positive impact in the lives of our students. We already have several activities planned including a visit from the traveling naturalist from Sarett Nature Center and attending “A Peter Rabbit Tale” at the IUSB auditorium.

Thank you again for your charitable donation. We encourage you to visit the River School website at www.riverschoolk8.org or our Facebook page for more information on our school and our learning initiatives in the Sodus community. Please do not hesitate to contact me at llausch@riverschoolk8.org or (269) 925-6757 if you have additional questions or would like to learn more about volunteering at River School.

Educationally yours,

Laura Lausch, Principal

Guns and irresponsible people

Dear Editor,

Your editorial of Nov. 9 has prompted me to send you another editor’s view on guns and irresponsible people.

On TV of Tampa, Florida was a review of a church in that area (due to the shooting in a Texas church). They have made their church a gun friendly place to repel any gun terrorist entering their church. Their statement is people are responsible to protect their loved ones and neighbors against attack.

Hal K. Bundy, Lake Alfred FL

P.S. How many people are seriously injured or killed in automobile accidents each year? Yet there is no strong outrage to ban autos, trucks, motorcycles, etc., or to require more intense driving instruction!

Think outside the gift box: Donate blood and give more life

The best gifts can’t be bought in a store. The American Red Cross urges eligible donors to give more life by giving blood this December.

In December, donations decline but the needs of patients remain steady. During the holiday season, set aside an hour to give the most important gift – give blood and give more life. To encourage donations, all those who come to give blood or platelets Dec. 21, 2017, through Jan. 7, 2018, will receive a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

Make an appointment to give blood by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Upcoming blood donation opportunities in Berrien County are Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Friday, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. at American Red Cross, 3838 Niles Road in St. Joseph.

Is there an aging driver in your household?

If you or someone you know is concerned about the driving skills of an older motorist, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson wants you to know there are excellent resources available to help families with aging drivers.

The fastest growing segment of our state’s population is residents age 65 and older, Johnson said. The topics of aging and driving raise a lot of questions among seniors and their families. Fortunately, Michigan has an award-winning program to supply answers.

The week of December 4 has been declared nationally as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week and the State of Michigan has officially recognized the week by issuing a statewide proclamation. About 1-in-7 drivers is age 65 or older in Michigan. Experts predict that number will rise to 1-in-5 drivers by the year 2025.

The Safe Drivers Smart Options website at www.Michigan.gov/agingdriver was created for aging drivers, their families and professionals, such as health care providers and law enforcement. The website includes self-assessment driving tools, videos, links to driver refresher courses and other community supports for aging drivers; information about how medications and health problems may affect driving; and lists of resources available to drivers once they stop driving.

Its three primary goals are to: Help aging drivers continue to drive safely; help aging drivers who are no longer able to drive safely transition to non-driving; and provide community resources and mobility options for those no longer driving.

The decision to give up the keys can be traumatic for drivers and their families. Especially at this time of year, when people are reconnecting over the holidays, the topic of older drivers may be suddenly brought to the table as concerns are raised about changes in a loved one’s driving behavior.

The Safe Drivers Smart Options website is a statewide response to the need for information on this important and challenging subject. It was developed through a collaboration of public and private agencies as a much-needed strategy to promote safety and mobility for Michigan’s aging adults.

The website has been recognized nationally by the 2017 Public Affairs and Consumer Education Awards Program (PACE) as the Division Winner for Internally Developed Website Technology. PACE recognizes public relations, public affairs and consumer education excellence among the motor vehicle, law enforcement and traffic safety agencies across North America.

“Aging drivers can be a difficult topic,” Johnson said. “Each family faces the issue in the way most suitable for them. But I want all Michigan residents to know that help and information is available through the Safe Drivers Smart Options website.”

 More information about the Safe Drivers Smart Options campaign and the agencies that support it is available at www.Michigan.gov/agingdriver.

Is the new Senate tax plan a middle-class tax cut or a giveaway to the wealthy?

Dear Editor,

The Republican tax plan is supposedly designed to spur business investment, create jobs, and put more money in the pockets of middle-class families.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), however, indicates that new tax cuts would be either temporary or nonexistent for those earning less than $50,000; and many people in this tax bracket would actually see a tax increase. The real winners are those earning more than $500,000/yr.  The tax plan gives away about $91.7 billion to those earning $1 million/yr.

Congressional Republicans claim that slashing the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 20% would encourage U.S. investment. They also claim that reducing taxes on corporation profits held overseas would bring back $2.4 trillion for reinvestment in the U.S.

However, a Nov. 27 Los Angeles Times article cites a 2004 Bush administration attempt to spur investment in U.S. jobs by reducing the tax on foreign earnings to 5.25%.  The “Homeland Investment Act” did lure $300 billion back to the U.S.  But a 2009 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the returned money did not lead to domestic investment. Instead, most of the money was returned to shareholders through stock buybacks or dividend payments.  In 2011, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the impact on job creation was nearly nonexistent.

The CBO indicates this tax plan will create a $1.4 trillion deficit over 10 years.  Republican lawmakers are talking about cutting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security benefits to cover their new deficit.

Instead of giving the wealthy a huge tax cut, Congress should be closing tax loopholes, creating infrastructure jobs, reducing student debt, and expanding health insurance for all Americans.

Call your congressional representatives and tell them if they vote for this bill, you won’t vote for them!

Ken Peterson, Buchanan


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