Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 31, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 31, 2003

Resolutions: Kept Some But Broke Most Of Them
Another year has raced into history with alarming speed. It seemed like a few years ago I marveled that the turn of the century was approaching; now it’s (almost) 2004.
When he was eight or nine, my son Steven used to feature the “hill of life” on each of my birthday cards, the slope getting ever steeper on the downside. The gravitational pull of time hastens the passage of years. In truth, there is no uphill stretch in the hill of life; from birth, each year moves with increasing speed until they fly by with supersonic velocity. To a child, it may seem as though eternity passes between Christmases, but to someone of my model year, Christmas arrives with appalling frequency second only to that of doctor visits and medical procedures.
I’m not complaining about aging, for the alternative is none to appealing; rather, I’m commenting on the speed with which a year passes and the seeming lack of time to have accomplished anything of note. What was accomplished during the year that was so fleeting?
I confess. I am prone to listing “resolutions” or, less threatening, goals, sometime around the first of the year, and last January I made the mistake of typing them out and keeping a copy on my desk top (the real desk, not the computer). The idea was that they would remind me and motivate me to improvement. Today, that seems like a silly idea indeed.
I came up with 35 things to accomplish, some to do with personal improvement, some with work and others that were more of a to-do list for the year.
Sadly, I can find but 11 of those in which I made reasonable progress; but 13 at which I failed outright. Only six did I absolutely fulfill.
Who wants to read about failure? My “successes” included:
•Giving blood six times during 2003: I actually managed to give seven times. One can donate blood every 56 days, and I pretty much gave on the 56th day, starting Jan. 11. That doesn’t keep the Red Cross from sending me mail urging me to become a “regular” donor, however.
•Improving the quality of my reading: I managed to increase the number of books I read and the percentage of those that were about people or events of importance. They included biographies of John Adams and Eva Peron, a couple of books on the Oregon Trail, “The Histories,” by Herodotus and a three so-called classics. I also found time for some entertaining but un-noteworthy fiction, of course.
•Keeping my weight at 180: OK, I fudged a little. I’ve kept it at 183 or lower, down from a high a couple years ago of 196.
I made some progress on goals relating to planning and organization. The other successes and the failures I will keep to myself. Suffice it to say, I have a head start on drafting the 2004 objectives, though maybe not a realistic hope that the rate of success will be higher. I will be sure to add some easily-achievable goals (grow more tomatoes and basil in 2004, for example) in the hopes of claiming some success.
Before we know it, 2005 will be on the horizon. When that happens, I want to have at least something positive to show for 2004. I hope you will too. Happy New Year.

The Commerce News
December 31, 2003

Another Year Passes Into The History Books
It’s impossible to summarize the events of a year in a few words, particularly when what stands out for people about any given year is more often something from their personal lives, not progress or controversy in the pages of a newspaper.
2003 saw the war in Iraq, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the recovery of the stock market and what appears to be improvement of the national economy. It produced no major terror events, though we have all learned to live with the possibility that one may occur any day.
Locally, 2003 was a busy and, in many ways, a good year. That it could have been better goes without saying, but isn’t that always the case?
We may not like its location or the scheme by which it is financed, but the county’s new courthouse, long needed, is quickly becoming a reality. The economy shows signs of improving, the city of Commerce has made great strides in a number of areas (infrastructure, appearance, a new middle school being built) and we’ve seen strong support for Eric Redmon’s recovery and the Jackson County Comprehensive High School Advanced Choral Ensemble, reminds us that we remain a close and supportive community. The cheerleaders and girls’ softball teams won first place in the state and the city’s ISO rating went down.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners continued its quest to consolidate power, there was no shortage of crime and the difficulties of managing our rapid growth continued, all pretty much as expected. There will be more of the same in 2004.
The past year had its ups and downs. Now we look forward to better things in a new year.

Ignorance Can Be Deadly
A study by Harvard University suggests that Americans are woefully ignorant of the facts related to the flu and the vaccine that can prevent it. That ignorance has health repercussions.
Almost half of Americans believe that one is likely to contract the flu from the flu shots; twenty-six percent believe that there are frequent, sometimes fatal side-effects of the flu vaccine. In addition, Americans do not understand the seriousness of the flu, believing that it kills less than 10,000 people per year, when in fact it kills 30,000 or more annually, chiefly among the very young and those with immune system deficiencies.
The result of that ignorance is an apathy about getting flu shots that will contribute to the disease’s severity and death toll, and because this year’s outbreak occurred earlier than normal, many who gave little thought to getting the vaccine earlier are starting to reconsider, only to be frustrated by the national shortage.

Pity The Baseball Players
“Baseball’s average salary rose only a little bit this year, and players may be crying foul,” began an Associated Press story last week about pay for Major League Baseball players.
Because the average salary in 2003 of $2,372,189 was only 3.3 percent more than the average salary of baseball players in 2002, the union representing the players is investigating whether there has been collusion to keep wages down.
Collusion or not, MLB will have a hard time winning fan sympathy for the low rate of salary increases. In a poor economic year, many working-class citizens would have been glad to take a 3.3 percent pay increase; the fact that the increase for baseball players averaged $75,756 just reminds one that professional athletes live in a different world.
If they believe they are victims of collusion, the players should just go on strike again, or quit baseball and try making a living in a real economy. They would make less money, but they’d gain a whole new perspective on salary increases.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
December 31, 2003

Remember our troops this New Year’s
Half a world away, thousands of American troops are spending this holiday season in harm’s way. Time magazine named the American GI as its “Person of the Year” for 2003, a deserving tribute to the men and women who are in far-flung places attempting to make the world a little safer for all of us.
A few days ago one of those soldiers, Beth Bond Landry, daughter of Ron and Sarah Bond of Jefferson and a former high school classmate of mine, sent a lengthy email to her family about the situation in Afghanistan where she is currently serving in the military. I can’t print all of it here, but the following are a few excerpts that I think capture the life of our soldiers in that troubled part of the world:

“We got some good work done and I got to fly in a number of helicopters — I even got to go out at night and almost got to do down on the hoist, but we ran out of time. Still, it was a beautiful night, with an almost-full moon that was so bright you could just about see colors. I think the thing that struck me the most when we were flying was how potmarked the landscape was with craters....
“The scars this country carries are in you face at every turn....It’s still so shocking to me to drive through Kabul, the capitol of this country, and to see what were beautiful old buildings at one time, but now are missing the top floors. There are actually few places you can look that aren’t at least marked by gunfire of one sort or another, if not huge gaping holes from rocket attacks....
“For someone from the U.S., it’s surreal. Even though we see so much violence in the media, most of us haven’t experienced it first-hand. It actually reminds me of an article I read the other day about a man who’d been blind since he was three who regained his sight after an operation. He said that even though he could see, his mind couldn’t process what was coming in. He could look at a bookcase, and although the visual picture made it in, he couldn’t get his brain around it. That’s how I feel. We were headed out of Kabul on the way back to Gardez a few weeks ago, driving down a four-lane highway, the main street in Kabul, and traffic came to a standstill because a heard of 5 or 6 water buffalo were crossing the road...You see things like that and it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. Your mind just sort of retreats from the bizarre sights it’s being confronted with and you’re left feeling like you’re watching a movie, something that can’t possibly be real — yet it is.
“As I’ve been sitting here writing, listening to Worldspace Radio, there’s been all sorts of weapons fire outside, and I don’t even think anything about it. Isn’t that strange? The only thing you want to know when you hear an explosion is, ‘Was it us or them?’ About an hour ago, they were firing large-caliber weapons; now it’s rifle and handgun fire; that was some sort of mortar just then...and in a few minutes, there will be a huge explosion that will literally lift the roof slightly, and more of our ever-present dust will filter down through the logs and boards and straw and mud that form our ceilings. That’s reality here.
“I’ve heard so many people comment on how they’ll feel when they go home from here and everyone says the same thing — we’ve all been changed forever by this experience. Just being able to take a shower every day without worrying about how much hot water (or out here, how much water period) you’re using, being able to have ice cream whenever you want it.....
“I think all of us have been made more grateful for what we have in our lives at home, not just the normal big stuff like our families and homes, but for the everyday stuff we all take for granted.... we have so much it’s almost embarrassing.
“Being in an area like this where, in the back of your mind, you always are aware that this breath could be your last, just does something to you. You become so much more aware of what’s going on around you, so much more focused on the here and now, so much more grateful for the breaths you do take and the smallest things you have that you can enjoy. We don’t really worry about it. It’s just a factor that you have to take into account. But I have to say this — having the possibility of death so close makes you feel more alive than you’ll ever feel anywhere else. The unfortunate truth is that everyone is one breath away from death, but when you’re in what we usually see as the ‘real’ world, we make plans; we live like tomorrow has been promised to us when it hasn’t. If I didn’t know this before, I certainly do now and I’ll always be grateful for my time here and the chance to have that lesson firmly engrained in my heart and mind.”

Let us all hope our soldiers like Beth, who are spending this holiday season serving in some far-flung place, get to come home in 2004 — back to fill the empty chairs at the dinner tables across this nation.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
December 31, 2003

Our New Year’s Resolution: Let the light shine in 2004
Here on the eve of 2004, we are a troubled nation. Fear has become a pervasive part of our lives, a bright thread in the fabric of our political culture. Closed-door government meetings, sealed records and secret court proceedings have all become a part of our national character.
But a nation that operates out of fear is a nation destined to crumble. Fear is a cancer no political system can battle. It can rot the nation’s foundation, invade the political system and eat away at freedom and justice.
It is also a cover for political mischief. Under the guise of “public safety,” more and more governments are hiding their actions. A large veil of secrecy is coming down around many governments in this nation, from the national to the local level, all in the name of “public safety.”
Government leaders, of course, welcome such secrecy. No government official at any level of government likes having to work in the open. No government official likes the public to see and hear the debates it has over a wide variety of public issues.
Just send us the money and don’t ask questions is the prevailing view of many government officials.
But this nation cannot survive by operating in secret. Our governments, national to local, must be open to the public.
It is time for us all to shake off this sense of fear that has created an atmosphere for greater government secrecy. It is time we tell our elected officials, local, state and national, that we expect them to operate in the open and to not use “public safety” as a cover to hide things they don’t want the public to know about.
Our resolution is very simple: Let the light shine on government in 2004.

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