LETTERS TO THE EDITOR FOR MARCH 1 - 15, 2003

March 27, 2003 12:00 am

We have been fired on

To the Editor:

A lady from Summerville wrote that "we are attacking a nation that has never fired a shot at us or at anyone."

I am sure that was an unintentional error which I hope this corrects for her.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait with 50 divisions, women were raped by the thousands and men were brutalized and killed.

We used diplomacy to keep Israel out of the coalition forces, because their participation would have caused World War III.

Iraq fired 26 Scud missiles into Israel.

After Desert Storm, the U.N. resolution was two no-fly zones, and no weapons of war of any kind allowed in the no-fly zones.

Iraq began to violate the southern no-fly zone with combat aircraft and two Iraqi fighters were shot down.

Next, the Iraqis moved radar into the no-fly zone and the U.N. scolded Iraq, but did not make them remove the radar.

Iraq moved anti-aircraft artillery into the no-fly zone. Again, the U.N. scolded but did not make Iraq remove the weapons.

Finally, the Iraqis fired on coalition aircraft, which immediately took the gun implacement out with a smart bomb.

Iraq has fired on and killed Kuwaitis, fired on Israel and fired on coalition aircraft.

Some have said that our intent is Iraqi oil.

If we wanted their oil it would be several billions of dollars cheaper — and who knows how many lives — to lift the restrictions and buy their oil.

I have said before that because I have seen war, I hate war, and I pray every day that we will not have to go to war.

I don't believe President Bush wants war but diplomacy has not worked. Hopefully it will now, but regardless, Saddam must be disarmed.

Roy Hills

Island City

Preventive war?

To the Editor:

Consider the following thoughts on war:

"All of us have heard this term ‘preventive war' since the earliest days of Hitler.

"I recall that is about the first time I heard it.

"In this day and time I don't believe there is such a thing; and frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.''

— President Dwight Eisenhower, 1953, upon being presented with plans to wage preventive war to disarm Stalin's Soviet Union.

"Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions."

— Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, in his opening statement to the tribunal.

Keeping in touch with our past can greatly influence our future.

Michael B. Farmer

Wallowa

Vicious editorial

To the Editor:

On behalf of all honest people I wish to apologize to the teachers of La Grande and Northeast Oregon. Shame on The Observer for publishing the kind of vicious editorial tripe found on Page 2B of your Feb. 27 edition.

Schools, local and state governments are in financial crisis not because teachers are paid more than they are worth, not because teachers refuse to work for nothing, but because Oregon voters have passed a series of tax laws that have made it impossible for these entities to pay for the services they are asked to provide.

Oregon voters refused to take a pay cut in the form of a tax increase to provide funding for schools and other government services.

It is ridiculous, offensive and vicious to imply that teachers should be singled out and accused of selfishness for not volunteering to work for free.

Your editorial further implies that teachers receive employment benefits far in excess of those enjoyed by others.

You compare teachers' compensation with that of "most workers."

May I remind you that teachers are not in the same category as "most workers." Teachers are appropriately categorized as professionals. Their pay and benefits should be compared to the pay and benefits of other professionals.

Furthermore, pay and benefits should be commensurate with the value provided to the recipients of the services purchased from these professionals.

As a parent, I would be loathe to allow my child to be taught by someone whose estimate of the value of their services was so low as to allow them to work even one minute without compensation.

As an honest and honorable person I do not work for nothing nor do I expect others to do so.

To assert that teachers or anyone should work without just compensation is to advocate return to an institution that was abolished in this country at the price of the many lives lost in the Civil War.

I, for one, do not care to live in a slave state.

Arlene Myers

Elgin

Reduce conflicts

To the Editor:

I've been called a few entertaining things in my 10 or so years of teaching. Being called selfish is new.

That comment, while it caught my eye, isn't really worth reacting to.

However, the spirit and act of intentionally creating divisions within a community when times are hard is.

This is not a great time to be a state employee, dedicated to serving others and the communities they live in.

It doesn't matter if you are a teacher, a state trooper or mental health worker, morale isn't exactly soaring at the moment.

Singling out a group and calling them selfish because they are unwilling to donate two days pay to the statewide budget crisis isn't helpful.

All La Grande School District employees are being asked to continue to serve kids with ever diminishing resources.

Our legislators have given us no light at the end of this tunnel. I suppose I could have voted to donate my $500 to the cause, but it just seems like an odd thing to be asked to do.

Why us and not you? Most teachers put kids first in a variety of ways every day. Many teachers put in extra time and donate personal cash to the cause.

The real question is whether the public truly values a quality education? Is the community of La Grande willing to put kids first? Are the people of Oregon willing to do so? Have those questions already been answered? I don't know.

I do know that I will be spending $200, and all day Saturday, with many other Eastern Oregon teachers taking a class on "Reducing Conflicts in Schools."

Hopefully I'll learn something new about taking care of kids, creating a safer school, reducing instead of creating conflict.

Pete Ridder

La Grande

Go in peace

To the Editor:

I look hard to see what is usually right in front of my face. I am a human being who has come to realize that I am addicted to life, love and happiness.

And I can, just for today, carry on no matter how hard things may seem around us.

There is always tomorrow, and as long as I help my friends with hope, they too will be there to help me when I am in need.

To me this is heaven, which translates in the older languages as truth. Some very special friends of mine told me ‘To thine own self be true.'

If this seems confusing to you, maybe you need to look within for the answers. I seek to be sought, to be found. So just for today, be happy. Wave to a passer-by and put a little bit of kindness into their day. Let his light shine from within you.

We all have it in us to let it shine and be true.

My hope is that America is not lost. Let us fix ourselves first so that we can help our friends in this troubled world. Let us united stand, for life, liberty and let all see the American way.

Remember what our forefathers said. It's on our means of trade: In God We Trust.

May you find him now. Go with peace, friends. Smile and be happy. Love is the way.

Louis H. Michaels

La Grande

On gun licensing

To the Editor:

In The Observer of Feb. 18, Richard L. Jones describes why we should have federal licensing of guns.

All Jones is doing is hiding his anti-gun position behind what he would like us to see as a harmless federal licensing provision.

Taking the position that licensing guns will reduce injuries and death is about as sensible as saying that licensing motor vehicle drivers has reduced traffic deaths.

There are stupid or careless people out there with automobiles, airplanes, motorcycles and all sorts of equipment.

Operators of most of those activities must be licensed. Stupid and careless people also have firearms, but licensing the firearms won't reduce injuries and death.

Licensing would open the door for the next anti-gun step, registering all firearms, so that it would be easier for the federal government to confiscate them upon whatever pretext it might dream up.

It would also create another class of criminal, because many of us would refuse to seek a license if such a law were to be passed.

Who is going to decide who should have guns and who should not? Of course, it would be the federal government, which would create another layer of bureaucracy and hire thousands to determine who is suitable to possess a firearm.

We seem to have developed from a nation of strong people who stand on their own two feet into a dependent mass that wants to feel warm and fuzzy at all times, and that believes the government has the responsibility to keep us safe from ourselves and others.

Nothing in the second amendment to the Constitution refers to licenses or registration.

Our right to keep, own and lawfully use firearms without interference from any governmental authority must not be abridged; misuse and criminal activity notwithstanding.

William Reynolds

Enterprise

Cut administration

To the Editor:

Most of us figured Measure 28 would fail, and being that it did, we have tightened our belts accordingly.

It's time for our legislators to stop all foolish spending and to finally get their priorities straight. Time also, obviously, for the schools to do their cutting in the right places; some of us think it should start with administration.

I like the idea someone had concerning superintendents, which is to have one superintendent per county.

I suggest one principal and one assistant per high school; one secretary and volunteer help.

Administration has been making the decisions of where to cut, but there has been no cuts in administration where there seems to be a surplus.

That's food for thought

Leonard Morse

La Grande

Road condition a factor

To the Editor:

My heart goes out to the families of the deceased and the survivors, including Megan Helm, in the horrific van crash on I-70 in western Colorado.

I can"t begin to comprehend the pain of the families who lost their dear children. I also don't condone the hate directed at Megan at her sentencing hearing last week.

Yes, Megan is partly to blame. However, the greater blame goes to Ford Motor Company and management who acquired and used these vans and let young, relatively inexperienced drivers like Megan operate them.

These 15-passenger vans should never have been on the road. I've driven them loaded with kids and you cannot avert your attention for even a second. I've driven successfully for over 40 years with zero accidents. From my experience with these vans, I would never let a young adult operate a passenger model.

Add to that one thing that has never come out in the media. When that portion of I-70 was constructed, the right of way was sprinkler-watered for weeks to address the expansive soil issue. Now, some 20-odd years later, the condition of that portion of I-70 is atrocious from expansive soil problems.

Yet, the speed limit remains at the much-too-high level of 75 mph through this segment. I travel it frequently, sometimes daily.

It amazes me the speed has not been lowered to a more reasonable 65 mph until the DOT can get the highway rebuilt, which is needed desperately.

Exactly at the spot of the tragic accident are haphazard-looking repairs to try and level a sinkhole on the highway, yet nothing has been said.

I'm not sure whether these were made shortly before or after the accident.

I welcome anyone connected to this tragedy to contact me and I will show you myself, given reasonable time to make arrangements to meet near the site.

Please forgive Megan. I pray she can someday forgive herself. There is far greater culpability for this accident on other shoulders.

Bill Clark

Grand Junction, Colo.

Stop blaming Helm

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter in regard to the article in The Observer of Feb. 27 on the case against Megan Helm.

First I would like to say to Megan that she is a strong young lady to put up with the punishment and grief that she has endured in the past year.

As for the Zigich family, it is ridiculous what happened in that courtroom.

What makes them think that by standing at the podium and saying those heartless things they will bring back their son?

And to show her the pictures! She was there — she saw it first hand.

I am sure that the picture is one that will forever be in her mind. I wonder if they are proud of the impression they have made of themselves.

If their intention was to sway public sentiment against themselves then they have accomplished it.

The accident was unintentional and should be forgiven.

The accident was just that — an accident.

Kate Carroll

La Grande

Will The Observer give?

To the Editor:

Recently The Observer editorialized that La Grande teachers were being selfish in not turning over 1 percent of their gross income to the school district.

In not returning this money, The Observer said, the teachers were hurting La Grande students.

Interestingly, The Observer did not say that La Grande's doctors, dentists, lawyers, nurses, professors, foresters, biologists, social workers, engineers, managers, publishers, editors and other professionals would likewise be selfish for not donating 1.1 percent of their gross incomes.

Since The Observer's existence is completely dependent on subscribers being able to read, its commitment to schools is huge.

Can there be a bigger stakeholder in education? The paper also chooses to spend considerable ink on school sports and activities.

Therefore, I challenge The Observer to return 1.1 percent of its gross to the La Grande School District. I estimate this would be a check for $15,000 to $20,000.

Think of the positive impact this action would have on both the school district's finances and the community. By taking this leadership role, The Observer could galvanize the citizens of the La Grande district into a powerful force for the good of our schools and our children.

The moment The Observer commits to a 1.1 percent donation and genuinely urges all professionals and family wage earners in La Grande School District to do likewise, I will enthusiastically join this grassroots, community-wide effort to add money to our school budget — even knowing the only real solution to Oregon's money problems will require concerned voters and courageous legislators.

Chas. Jones

La Grande

Bush has wrong focus

To the Editor:

It is hard to believe our president is so focused on war with Iraq when so many issues at home are not being met, such as crime out of control.

What about the mass disorderliness this nation has sunk into because of George Bush crying wolf for two years.

No wonder people are out there stealing, killing, raping and that fraud is so prevalent in a country that used to be so rich.

Everyone should read the book "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston to learn how the Ebola virus was brought to the U.S. in 1983 and not by the terrorists as the Bush people would have you believe.

The high cost of living in this country is the real problem and when you have lost your job it is hell. There is no expectancy of hope if this boy president with his plans of discomfiture continues.

Letha Johns

La Grande

Good show

To the Editor:

To the students and teachers at the La Grande Middle School, congratulations on the culture fair held at the school Feb. 10.

What a grand showing. I did not have time to really look at all the photos, clothing, reading material and foods the students had on display, but just a walk through the room was fascinating.

You are all to be greatly commended for a fine show.

Charles Maddock

La Grande

On to state tourney

To the Editor:

I would like to congratulate both of the Greenwood Destination Imagination teams that are advancing to the state tournament next month. They have dedicated many hours over the past five months and it showed at the competition.

The Greenwood 3 team, composed of Chelsea Brown, Hailey Liles, Alix Miles, Carley Miller, Katie Tandy, and Andrea Simons, amazed me with their dedication. Two members of the team, in fact, found out at the last minute that they could not be at the competition. However, they continued to join the team meetings to help in any way they could. The remaining four teammates kept a positive attitude and went to the tournament believing they could win.

The Greenwood I team spent almost every Saturday for the past 5 months building props and scenery. I am proud to see our Greenwood students acting in such a responsible and upbeat manner. Good luck to both teams at state.

Lori Miller

La Grande

This war not justified

To the Editor:

With all due respect to The Observer's editorial of Feb 26, people who protest against war with Iraq are not doing so because they dislike President Bush, or in most cases because they are pacifists.

Wars are fought for many reasons, some good others less so. Reasonable, intelligent, thoughtful people can and do disagree on the justifiability of individual wars.

To be against one does not require you to be against all wars any more than supporting one requires you to support all wars.

People all over the world are protesting because they believe that the proposed war, at this time, for the given reasons, is not justified. They believe the potential costs outweigh the benefits.

Because the costs would include the deaths of some of our finest young adults as well as innocent Iraqi civilians, it is important that both anti-war and war proponents have the opportunity to make their cases in an atmosphere free of intimidation and name-calling. Neither side has a lock on brains, empathy, courage, or patriotism and they both want what is best for our country and the world.

May our country do the right thing, whatever that may be.

Jon Norem

La Grande

Sanctions hurt Iraqi citizens

To the Editor:

This is in regards to Alexa Leavitt's letter supporting the war: If you had done a good amount of research, did you fail to miss the part about U.S. sanctions aginst Iraqi civilians?

According to the U.N., over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a direct result of U.S. sanctions, which don't allow food and basic medical supplies to enter the country.

Was that information anywhere on cnn.com or Newsweek? Most of the deaths have been children. I am saddened by our loss on Sept. 11, but the U.S. has participated in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands around the globe. Wake up and smell the napalm.

Craig Coleman

La Grane

PERS debt taking toll on public

To the Editor:

I owe $5,000. You owe $5,000. Every citizen in this state owes $5,000.

Families of five owe $25,000 to insurance and retirement programs for state employees and teachers; $16 billion lost in the stock market divided by a population of 3 million.

We and many other citizens do not have this money to give in the form of taxes. Our state mandated programs, education, roads, police, nursing homes and many others are being cut because of the debt.

The PERS folks got the benefits, the people benefitted by PERS should take the cuts, not the general population who got nothing.

John and Jan Petersen

La Grande

Licensing won't help

To the Editor:

In response to Richard Jones' Feb. 18 column about licensing gun owners, although I agree that it's up to the gun owners of this country to do something about the deaths and crimes committed with guns, his idea of issuing licenses to gun owners is ridiculous.

First, having a license to do something doesn't automatically make people act responsibly. All you have to do is take a drive and watch licensed automobile drivers do irresponsible things.

His suggestion of making penalties severe enough to deter people from using firearms without a license appears to be misinformed and conceived without any research. Currently there are more than 20,000 firearms laws in the United States. A sampling of some federal laws and their penalties are as follows:

1. It is a crime punishable with 10 years imprisonment for a convicted felon to possess any firearm.

2. It is a crime punishable with 15 years for a criminal with three prior violent or drug-related felonies to possess any firearm.

3. It is a crime punishable with 10 years to transfer a firearm knowing that it will be used to commit a violent or drug-related crime.

4. It is a crime punishable with 10 years to transport or receive firearms or ammunition in interstate commerce with intent to commit a felony.

In addition to imprisonment, fines for violating federal firearms laws can be as high as $250,000.

As you can see, there are sufficient laws in effect to deter gun crimes. The problem is our judicial system is not imposing the maximum penalties on criminals.

Being a law-abiding gun owner, I believe all U.S. citizens would be better served if it was mandatory for all children to participate in a firearms safety class, whether they ever own a gun or not. We need to ask our congressmen to demand that our judicial system impose maximum penalties on anyone committing a crime with a firearm.

Gary Predmore

La Grande

Theater too loud

To the Editor:

Growing up in La Grande I have memories of hoping we would somehow manage to get 10 cents to attend one of the three theaters, the Liberty, the State or the Granada, on the weekend.

There was no TV but we all waited for Saturday night to hear the most popular songs of the week.

I still love to attend the theater and share the excitement and emotions of a new movie.

My one problem has been that the volume has been so loud that I must leave within 20 minutes. Do you agree?

Lorene Malone

La Grande

Drag people along

To the Editor:

Today there is talk of war, sabers are rattling, troops are strategically positioned and ready to strike. Now consider the following quotation:

"Of course the people don't want war... That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

— Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler's deputy chief and Luftwaffe commander, at the Nuremberg trials, from "Nuremberg Diary" by G. M. Gilbert.

Frightened? Terrified? Outraged? Do you wonder if there is a better way? Let your voice be heard — and pray.

Susan Castles

Baker City

Safety takes back seat

To the Editor:

I am one of the 129 laid-off Oregon State Police troopers. I believe that there are many facts regarding the state police that Oregonians need to be made aware of. Here are a few:

• Many offices will only have eight hours of coverage per day. As a result, response time to stranded motorists, crashes, driving complaints and backup calls will increase dramatically, or unfortunately, may go unanswered. Also, thousands of drunk drivers will not be apprehended. Sadly, people will be injured and killed in DUII-related crashes.

• With threats of terrorism and direct links in Oregon, we are laying off cops while other states are beefing up their levels of public safety.

• It costs the state taxpayers over $100,000 for the first year of training per trooper and about $45,000 per forensic scientist. It will cost the state about $17 million to replace these people. In order to save $8.4 million (cuts resulting from the failure of Measure 28), our state is losing the $17 million it has spent to train these individuals.

Other state, local and even federal agencies are recruiting our troopers. They know the savings they will get in time and money by hiring us, because Oregon already has made the investment. We are losing many highly trained, intelligent people to other states and agencies.

• The new 2001-03 Budget Rebalance Plan that was just passed by the Senate restores $465.2 million to essential services. Out of this money, OSP troopers will receive $391,200, less than one half of one million dollars. This will only restore 40 out of the 129 positions that were lost. Priorities?

Oregonians should be outraged at the apparent lack of importance given to public safety by the leaders of our state.

Ryan Kehr

Lincoln City (formerly of La Grande)

Take two days in summer

To the Editor:

I take exception to the letter published on March 3 in which the Elgin woman wanted to apologize to teachers for all the honest people in the area.

I consider myself extremely honest and hardworking and I don't think teachers need an apology. They have what a large percentage of the state doesn't have: a full-time job with benefits. They ask every year for more and more.

Even sparsely educated people know when money is short and you don't have it, you do have to make do with what you have. Not teachers. It's "give us more money or we will strike."

Even when times are tight as they are now in the state, they won't even give up two days. They are paid year around. Those two days could easily be taken in the summer with lower food costs, lower heating bills but no, it's OK for everyone else to tighten up the budget as long as they get their paycheck.

Truly professional people have intelligence (they can read the economy), they are equipped with compassion (there are other budget issues like the elderly) and are able to work with others.

Teachers think only the janitorial staff and administration should take pay cuts.

Where do you see professional?

We taxpayers are not even getting what we pay for now.

Linda Caverly

La Grande

Walk in teachers' shoes

To the Editor:

I have been reading The Observer and listening to the radio concerning the teachers in La Grande.

It is interesting that people are upset that teachers are not willing to work without pay. I believe it is their right and I stand behind them 100 percent. I had the privilege of working for the district close to 20 years. The teachers I worked with wear many different hats. They are there before school opens, during their breaks and their lunches.

They are there many hours after school for their students and any parents who show interest in their children. The teachers are counselors; they sometimes are protectors when students are hurt emotionally, physically or mentally. They spend money out of their own pockets to supplement the supplies that they are unable to purchase due to cuts in the budgets.

The teachers here also have children in the system and like all of us pray that their children will receive the best possible education.

Let's see, if the teachers work days without pay, does that mean they can shop for free, use utilities for nothing, not pay for gasoline to run their cars, have two days without paying rent or their house payment?

Maybe we need to look at the administration and see where cuts could be made, or better yet, have them work only four days a week. The administrators, while they are there for a reason, are not the ones who deal with children every day. When you start going after the teachers and cutting more programs you are hurting the children, yourselves and the teachers.

Maybe those who are so upset with the teachers need to walk in their shoes for a week or so to see exactly what they do.

Vicki Lund

La Grande

Public lecture overkill

To the Editor:

I have known David Jenkins since his birth. The exceptional talent he has demonstrated in the arts has certainly earned the respect of those of us who know him.

His compassionate care of his father, Homer Jenkins, in the final days of his life also demands our admiration.

These noble accomplishments, however, have been overshadowed somewhat by recent events.

In an open letter published by The Observer in the summer of 2001, David made his homosexual coming-out statement. One would think that should suffice. However, recently in the Feb. 26 edition of The Observer, a front-page article titled "Coming home queer" reiterated David's proclamation of his sexual orientation.

A public lecture by David in La Grande ensued on the same issue. One might conclude this is overkill.

What a shame that such a gifted person like David is so obsessed with his sexual orientation that it becomes a primary focus of his life. And what a shame that The Observer can't find anything more newsworthy to grace the front page of the newspaper.

David Hamlin

Vancouver, Wash.

Teachers make sacrifices

To the Editor:

In reference to The Observer's Feb. 27 editorial, I have never known a selfish teacher.

I have known plenty of teachers who spend hours outside the school day to make things better for kids, teachers who come early and stay late. I have known teachers who take work home and stay up past midnight getting it done so kids can receive papers or tests back for quick feedback.

I have known teachers who go to classes and clinics on weekends, usually at their own expense, in order to become better teachers. I have known teachers who are the only positive influence in a student's life. I have known teachers who have become mentors and friends to troubled teens when everyone else had given up on them.

I have also known teachers who are discouraged with the profession. I have known teachers who are tired of being asked to pay the price for voters' decisions.

The media made it clear what the consequences might be if Measure 28 failed. The teachers and other public employees joined together to help spread the word. These are, no doubt, the very people who voted for Measure 28.

And, they are the very people who are criticized for not wanting to take salary cuts. According to The Observer's editorial, they are the selfish ones.

Teachers often deal with more than 30 kids in a classroom, trying to teach them the skills and values they will need to live happy and productive lives, students who are emotionally disturbed, physically or mentally challenged, gifted or asleep.

I challenge the writer of that editorial to find a selfish teacher and then spend one week doing that teacher's job as well as the teacher does.

A little attitude check might be in order for those who think teachers are selfish.

Gwen Waite

La Grande