Jackson County Opinions...

APRIL 7, 2004

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 7, 2004

About DST: Spring Forward, Fall Dead
Every now and then – though infrequently – Congress actually does something good. The last time it did something good was in 1974 when, in response to an Arab oil embargo, Congress put most of the nation on Daylight Saving Time for two years.
FYI: The Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over DST in the United States, presumably because the oil embargo related to gas prices, which was the basis for the whole thing. In 1974, DST lasted 10 months, and the DOT concluded that it saved 10,000 barrels of oil a day during March and April. It further concluded that DST saves lives and prevents traffic accidents because it allows more people to travel home from work and school during daylight hours.
You can’t have too much of a good thing. Someone with too much time on his hands (an extra hour a day?) calculated that DST reduces crime because it gets more people home before dark, when a lot of crime occurs.
So, now we have DST six months a year.
Forty-seven of the 50 states participate, with Arizona and Hawaii as the major exceptions. State law in Indiana creates three different time zones. Seventy-seven counties are in the Eastern Time Zone and do not switch to DST. Ten counties are in the Central Time Zone and use Central Standard and Central Daylight times. Five others are in the Eastern Time Zone and watches and clocks there are subject to springing forward and falling backwards with ours. Consequently, no one in Indiana is ever sure what time it is.
The delay of darkness also has health ramifications this time of year. As warm spring days arrive, you’ll see people walking and playing tennis for exercise. Most will give it up after two days, but the combination of good weather and delayed darkness exposes a few couch potatoes to the realities of exercise. Some, because they get no exercise the rest of the year, die from heart attacks during their spring outings, giving rise to the adage, “spring forward, fall dead.”
My preference for DST is personal: It gives me more time to piddle around outside and makes it easier to go fishing.
By moving dawn “forward” in April, instead of getting up at 5:15 to go fishing, I can get up at 6:15 this time of year. Without DST, it would be practically impossible to arrive at the lake at sunrise in June and July when dawn arrives at an unhealthy early hour. Even with DST, dawn is so early during late spring and early summer that after fishing, the best use of that “extra” hour is an early afternoon nap.
The last thing I want, however, is an extra hour to work in the yard. God invented darkness as a means of inducing humans to rest; delaying it by an hour so one can pull more weeds in the garden or spray 2, 4-D on an extra acre of honeysuckle seems blasphemous. The highest use of the extra 60 minutes would be to sit in the shade of the back porch with a tall one and contemplate the goodness of life.
Or, after the mosquitoes come out, go inside and celebrate the blessing of air conditioning.

The Commerce News
April 7, 2004

Easter: A Call To Love, Repentance, Forgiveness
It is estimated that as many as 70 percent of Americans claim to be adherents of the Christian faith, hard though that may be to tell when observing the anger, violence and acceptance of immorality that permeate our culture. Easter, the most important day in the Christian faith, should be a time for Christians to examine their lives and lifestyles to see if they reflect at all the love Jesus demonstrated in dying for humanity’s sins.
That’s a measure no human can fully meet – which is why he died, according to the Christian faith. What Christians sometimes forget is that even as Christ forgave them, he directed them to emulate his love for them in their dealings with other people.
The “love your neighbor as yourself” philosophy was not merely Jesus’ personal lifestyle; it was his command to his followers and his witness to mankind. Just as he offered compassion, forgiveness, patience and love toward “sinners” of all stripes, he expects the same of his followers. Christians, then, should be slow to judgment and anger, quick to forgive, help and love and repentant of their own shortcomings.
Jesus’ message did not conform to the culture and expectations of the religion of his time. Nor does it now. These are attributes that conflict with the norm in the 21st century in which strength, wealth, retribution and punishment are valued, where “sinners” are just as spurned and unforgiven as they were when Jesus lived and when people are disinclined to admit their sins, let alone be repentant of them. Repentance, compassion and forgiveness are central to the Christian faith; those who do not demonstrate those characteristics do not worship the God that Jesus called upon.
“The Passion of Christ” has brought attention to the suffering of Jesus. The world would be better served, however, if in addition to weeping at his treatment Christians resolved more to emulate his loving nature. The need is no less today than it was when he was crucified.

Public Snockered By Same-Sex Marriage Issue
Give the politicians credit; they have an infinite capacity to avoid the real issues of life by substituting emotional and divisive matters instead. Such is the hullabaloo over same-sex marriage.
The issue isn’t the sanctity of marriage. If anything is jeopardizing marriage in Georgia, it is the heterosexual community which is having children out of wedlock at a record rate and divorcing at the drop of a hat. Banning same-sex marriage is an end-run around more worrisome problems like education, health care and transportation.
Expect more of the same as the presidential election nears. Instead of debating deficit spending, Iraq and the economy with more than sound bites and photo opportunities, the candidates will line up to discuss same-sex marriage and their stances on amending the Constitution to prevent it.
It may be politically successful to play to fear and bigotry to win an election, but what gays and lesbians do has no effect on the status of marriage and serves only to draw attention away from areas that are more important. This country is in a quagmire in Iraq with no exit strategy; it is jeopardizing its economic future with rampant deficit spending, its Social Security system is in danger, its medical system is collapsing and it remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Let’s not let the candidates skirt these real issues for a fabricated emotional ploy.
Voters should make the candidates discuss real issues. The same-sex marriage debate is designed to distract voters from important but complex matters.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
April 7, 2004

Time near to act on exiting Iraq
I’m not a student of Iraqi history or politics. I don’t know all the Byzantine paths of power in that country, or how its religious leaders control the public agenda.
But it is increasingly obvious to even those of us who are unschooled in Middle Eastern politics that it is getting close to time for our U.S. military to pull out of that nation and come home. We have toppled its dictator and we’ve attempted to build some sort of democratic stability, although our success in the latter is debatable.
In short, we’ve done our part. Now it’s up to the people of Iraq to decide their own fate. If that means they turn on each other in a civil-religious war, then so be it. Our interest in that country, its potential for state-sponsored terrorism against Americans, is finished. There are no weapons of mass destruction and its psychotic dictator is sitting in a U.S. military brig.
But withdrawing from our entanglement in Iraq rubs against the very makeup of our American character. Americans don’t run from a fight; we stand our ground and give as good as we get.
And yet, there are times when even a military victory can turn into a national defeat, when the only way to win is to know when it’s time to declare victory and come home.
There are only two courses for the U.S. military to take now in Iraq — either we turn to diplomacy with fanatics, or we destroy its radical towns, mosques and kill thousands of its people.
But there is no diplomacy to be had with fanatics. People driven by deep religious or social convictions of their own rightness and the world’s wrongness are often just an emotion away from mass murder in the name of their god. It has happened in Christianity and it is happening now in Islam.
How does this nation seek a diplomatic solution with people of such a mindset? How do you talk with someone who is willing to strap a bomb to their body and blow both of you up?
You can’t.
And yet, the other option is no better. Unleashing the military to face hostile militants in urban areas is a no-win solution. Unless we are willing to obliterate those towns, killing in the process thousands of innocent citizens, it will be impossible to stem the flow of militant attacks on Americans.
Perhaps either of those options would be worth a try if some key American interest were at stake. But in Iraq, such a key interest does not exist. American homeland security is not going to be compromised by Iraqis riding in the desert on camels.
And so the only option is to proceed with turning over control of occupied Iraq to the people of that nation on July 1, as planned, and to bring home the American soldiers who have served in this conflict.
If that leaves the nation in civil war, if the people of Iraq splinter along religious lines and begin killing each other, if they reject our democratic model of governing, then it is their choice, their lives and their nation to destroy.
Sometimes, societies caught up in such chaos and deep ideological conflict have to wash themselves in their own blood until they tire of the killing and dying.
And that is not a lesson which can be taught by an occupying force of different cultural beliefs. To believe it can be is to delude ourselves about the limits of both American military power and American political ideals.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
April 7, 2004

Time to reform Ga. school funding
A fight has broken out between state legislative leaders and the state’s local school systems. The crux of the heated disagreement is money — state leaders are again cutting local school funds and blaming local systems for being spendthrift while local school leaders blame state officials for misleading the public with hocus-pocus budget numbers and declining revenues.
Because of this funding fight, a number of school systems in Georgia have joined hands to file a lawsuit against the state and its education funding system.
To many in the public, this subject may seem rather remote. But the truth is, the outcome of this fight will hit all of us in the pocketbook. Unless some major changes are made, local school property taxes will continue to rise at a rapid rate.
The truth is, if most citizens knew how convoluted the state’s education funding formula really is, there’d be a revolt in Georgia. The system of allocating state funds to local school systems is so complex that most school board members don’t even understand it.
While state officials often claim that funding to local schools has gone up in recent years, they do not say that a majority of those funds have gone to teacher pay increases, not to other expense items.
While state funding has been stagnate in local schools, state and federal mandates have not. Local school systems must now deal with a slew of onerous mandates, many of which have little to do with improving the quality of education in Georgia. But local systems have been left to pay for those mandates from local funds, not increasing state or federal money.
We believe that it is time for Georgia’s school funding formula to be overhauled, even if it takes a lawsuit to force that issue to the table. It is increasingly clear that state legislative leaders lack the will and even the expertise to level what has become a very slanted funding playing field.

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