The Commerce News
December 15, 2004
No Such Thing As A ‘Simple’ Do-It- Yourself Project
It seldom pays to go against your instincts. I was reminded of that last Saturday when I decided to replace an exhaust fan/light fixture in a bathroom ceiling.
My brother-in-law Larry is partly at fault. He can fix anything short of the seventh game of the World Series. Over Thanksgiving we were admiring his handyman skills and Barbara asked my sister if we could “borrow” Larry for a few days.
“Well, Mark, what do you have that needs to be done?” Larry asked. When I mentioned the fan which Larry has recommended replacing in every visit for the past decade he noted that “it should be a simple job.”
The memory of my last do-it-yourself against-my-better-instincts job had faded. It was a utility building my son, Steven, convinced me “we could build.” We did, and there are no level floors, straight walls or parallel boards.
“Turn off the power first,” Larry advised, which I took as an insult to my intelligence. Of course I turned the switch off to remove the fixture.
I got to meet two nice electricians and a roofer before it was over. Call it a combination of “mission creep” and the law of “unintended consequences.”
First, I could not get access to the fixture from the attic, so I worked from below. But while in the attic making that discovery, I noted that the decking in a section of roof was soaking wet.
Expletive deleted. Wanted: roofing consultant.
The fixture was held in place by three nails large enough to hold down railroad ties, necessitating use of a pry bar.
I undid the wiring, making a mental note of which wires went here.
(Note to self: forget mental notes; mark the wires).
At the hardware stores, I learned that today’s fan/light fixtures have grown in size, meaning I had to saw a bigger hole in the bathroom ceiling. “Simple,” was fading fast.
I next discovered that the mounting flanges on the new fixture were on the opposite side of where I needed them. There was not enough slack in the electrical wires to reach those in the box if I mounted it as designed.
I compensated by drilling seven holes in the opposite side of the steel frame. Now to do the wiring.
As I began untangling wires, there was a “snap,” and the lights went out. I discovered that the power supply fed the fixture first, then the switches. The logic of that escapes me.
Naturally, that circuit was not indicated on our electrical panel. Turning all the breakers off and back on failed to give power to the bathroom. Or to the master bathroom and the plugs in the garage. Even with a circuit tester, I could not find a live wire.
I surrendered and called the electrician.
Scott Hill and Joshua Hanley listened to my explanation with reasonably straight faces, quickly found the problem, installed the fan and even swept up the insulation out of the bathroom.
“You were close,” encouraged Hill. He explained something about a ground-fault plug in the laundry room. I nodded as if that made sense to me.
I went up in the attic during the rain later that day to visit my leaky roof. It was considerably less damp. Maybe it only leaks on sunny days.
The good news is that Barbara has decided that we really don’t need to replace the exhaust fan/light in the other bathroom right away.
We’re saving that for Larry.
State Should Be Honest With All Taxes, Fees
As the 2005 session of the Georgia General Assembly draws nigh, one way the new Republican majority can build credibility with the taxpayers is to return honesty to taxes and spending.
It has long been state policy to levy a tax or fee for a specific purpose and then use the money for something else. For example, the per tire “recycling fee” charged when tires are purchased was established to cover the cost of collecting, recycling and disposing of old vehicle tires. When the state budget got tight, however, Gov. Sonny Perdue took that money and put it to other uses. The tax is still being collected.
Likewise, a 2003 law requires developers to pay an extra $80 per acre into a fund used to prevent the erosion of soil from development projects. The developers are paying the fee, but most of the money is being diverted to other purposes.
This amounts to political theft by diversion and it further riles up taxpayers who are already on edge. It’s hard enough to make taxpayers understand the need for fees to recycle tires or prevent the siltation of streams under the best of circumstances. When voters see the state raiding special funds during lean times, they get more wary of new fees and taxes, so that the next time a special fee or tax is proposed, no matter how great the need, voters will see it as another government scam.
When voters understand and agree with the need for a tax or fee, they will pay it with little complaint. However, when their government has a record of diverting funds from those taxes to other uses, the public becomes extremely cynical about any kind of special tax or fee. It’s time for the General Assembly to cease the charade. If it’s going to take our money, it should at least use it for the purpose it was taken. And when the state opts to close a program for which fees or taxes are specifically levied, it should cease taking that money from the taxpayers.
The Commerce News
December 15, 2004
A Really Bad Idea
“The Pentagon is engaged in bitter, high-level debate over how far it can and should go in managing or manipulating information to influence opinion abroad, senior Defense Department civilians and military officers say.”
So said the lead paragraph in a New York Times article Monday about a debate on just how much lying the United States should engage in to sway the rest of the world. We’re not talking battlefield disinformation here. We’re talking about things like planting news stories in the foreign press and on foreign websites.
This is not a new concept. Remember the story of brave, beautiful Jessica Lynch using her last round of ammunition before being taken prisoner in Iraq and subsequently made an American heroine following her rescue? It turned out she did not fire her gun at all, and the truth about her rescue was considerably less dramatic than the version the Pentagon first put forth.
What bothers the Defense Department is its inability to sell the rest of the world on America’s policies, particularly those relating to the war in Iraq, whereas the enemy appears to get its message across through the satellite TV network Al Jazeera.
Even if the Pentagon can’t see the ethical dangers, it should realize that the press thousands of news services, TV networks and stations, newspapers, websites and magazines will eventually ferret out or stumble across the truth, laying open the lie. Disinformation is a time-honored strategy of war, but it is impossible to provide one story to the press in Egypt and Iran and another to the rest of the world without the differences being noted.
The idea of creating an office to distort the truth is one that should be permanently shelved. America’s credibility abroad is suspect enough as it is. Our government needs less distortion of facts, not more.
The Jackson Herald
December 15, 2004
The America they fight for?
The soldier with his wife and two small daughters straggled into the small Midwestern airport around 5:30 a.m. He was dressed in desert tan fatigues and brown boots. His First Army insignia was on his right shoulder sleeve, his name over his right shirt pocket.
In his arms he carried one of his sleepy daughters, a little girl maybe three-years-old with long hair that stood in stark contrast to the cropped hair of her father.
He was young, mid-20’s. His wife looked even younger, small and thin with dark hair and a pleasant, if reluctant smile.
After confirming his ticket at the lone ticket counter, he carried a small black bag in one arm and the child in the other. He walked about 25 feet to a plastic chair in the small area which served as the airport’s terminal.
There was not a big crowd around. Maybe 15 passengers were waiting to catch the early morning flight. A few airport employees also stood around, waiting.
Without having to be told, everyone knew the soldier was off to some distant land.
Had he been home on leave? Or perhaps this was his first assignment away?
Scenes from television news reports came to mind of American boys in similar uniforms covered with dust and sand. And blood.
The soldier’s voice and that of his wife were muted and sparse.
The children struggled to stay awake.
The soldier and his wife struggled to say many things without actually speaking.
Airports are often large and impersonal. Getting lost in the crowd usually isn’t a problem.
But there was no anonymity at this small terminal.
Eyes glanced at the family, but only for a second. No one wanted to intrude on what they knew was a private moment of parting.
Yet everyone felt drawn to the young man, his wife and two sleepy girls; they were a picture of quintessential America.
The soldier massaged the ticket in his hands while he waited. In a while, another young soldier wearing the same uniform entered the room. His girlfriend was with him. They met another couple who looked to be his parents.
The two soldiers nodded to each other, but didn’t speak. Their worlds had suddenly become very small.
When the boarding call came, passengers moved into a line to pass through the small airport’s security.
But the soldiers stayed behind.
One last hug.
One final kiss.
Holding on and being held.
The woman at the gate quietly told the soldiers to take a few more moments. The plane wasn’t leaving yet and other passengers had to clear security.
When it was my turn, I piled my coat and hat into one gray plastic bin, a laptop computer into another and my shoes and carrying bag into a third. My small overnight suitcase then followed into the mouth of the X-ray machine.
In sock feet, I walked through the lone metal detector. Nothing beeped.
I was asked to point out my bags and to step to one side. The security guard said that I had been selected. He had me sit in a hard chair while another guard took my belongings to a nearby table.
One at a time, the guard passed his hand-held metal detector up and down each leg. Then I stood, stretched out my arms, and the detector-wand was waved over my body.
It found a dime in one pocket.
It found the metal on my belt buckle.
It beeped at the metal in my glasses.
It found the aluminum wrapping around a single Tums in another pocket.
While the guard continued his search, I watched as the two soldiers left their families, passed through security and walked out of the building to the tarmac.
After I had been thoroughly checked with the wand, the guard began to pat me down.
The turtle neck collar of my shirt was searched to make sure no bomb was hidden there.
He felt under my arms.
Under my belt.
It was a small terminal and there was nowhere to hide. The other employees watched, half board, half asleep.
Finally satisfied that there was nothing of interest on my person, the guard allowed me to put on my shoes and belt and proceed a few feet to my belongings. I was asked to watch as he opened my overnight suitcase and began pulling out all my dirty underwear and scattering it about on the table.
He opened my toiletries bag, taking out a hairbrush, toothbrush and deodorant. He carefully searched the rest of the bag’s contents.
Having removed my clothes from the small suitcase, he began swiping it with small round disks which were then put into a nearby machine. He flipped through all my file folders and papers. Another guard played with my laptop computer to see if it was working.
Eventually, my laundry and belongings were stuffed back into the bag. My computer was returned, my hat and coat retrieved.
I was allowed to walk out the door, across the tarmac and board the plane.
As I walked down the aisle of the half-empty commuter plane, I saw that my assigned seat had been taken.
I found another empty space a few rows further back.
The two soldiers were talking to each other in hushed tones.
The plane taxied to the runway and lifted off with a shudder into the pre-dawn darkness.
I looked out the window into the black sky and wondered: What kind of America are we asking those soldiers to fight for?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
Decembeer 15, 2004
Parks to be commended for serving county
The work load has more than tripled over the past three decades. The office space became more and more cramped with tall boxes and books piled to the ceiling, taking over all available space.
Yet none of that stopped long-time Jackson County clerk of courts Reba Parks from having a smile on her face.
For more than 31 years, Parks has been willing to stop whatever she was in the middle of and lend a helping hand to the county residents, lawyers and others who stopped by the busy clerk’s office for assistance.
The small county courthouse became even more crowded in recent years, but Parks could still find whatever document that was requested.
In one of her last major projects, Parks supervised the move from the old courthouse to the much larger new facility.
It is an efficient and organized work space, and she can also be credited with that.
While many government departments are sometimes filled with controversy and disputes, that has not been the case in the clerk’s office, where Parks has provided solid leadership.
While we have faith that those who follow in Parks’ footsteps will also do a good job and make their own mark in the office, we have to say, on behalf of many, many citizens, “Reba, you will be missed!”