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Tuesday, May 05, 2015
  • The young man sat down across from my desk. He was obviously perturbed about something so while my mind raced through every possible scenario for him coming to my desk, he struggled to speak.

    “I want to know whose money is it,” he said.

    I waited. He went on.

    “THEY are building that monstrosity and I attend the meetings and they keep talking like it’s their money or it comes from federal grants. They act as if they don’t understand where tax money comes from.”

    Then he waited while I formed a response.

    I knew what he was speaking about.

    The local government was gung-ho about spending several hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project and, because very few people showed up at this particular board’s meetings, the elected officials assumed their plans were OK with the taxpayers. Or, it never occurred to them to ask.

    The young man seated in my office became fascinated with government through a class in college.

    He wasn’t married and didn’t have a girlfriend (as far as I knew) so he attended as many government meetings as he could. For all I knew, C-SPAN was his favorite TV channel. 

     
  • I wish I had taken time to get more formal education when I was younger. Undoubtedly some people who know me wish I had done so as well.

    But there is one thing education cannot do; it cannot make someone a good person. A trial going on this week affirms that truth.

    You have heard about the woman who finished in the top 5 percent of her class yet shot her boyfriend multiple times and then said to police, “I gave (my boyfriend) the nose job he always wanted” followed by peals of laughter.

    I wonder why the news keeps reporting she was an honor student, as if being an honor student somehow makes one honorable. We know that is not true.

    I knew a girl many years ago whose father was doing time in prison. His actions left his family practically destitute, according to mutual friends.

    He was a professional man with a doctor of laws degree so I am sure he was not only intelligent but in all likelihood had been an honor student.

     
  • I'm sure everyone who follows politics is aware of "Christmas Tree Bills."

    I first heard the term at a meeting sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce many years ago. Elected officials reported to those in attendance what was happening in Indianapolis that year.

    One state senator talked about Christmas tree bills and the term captured my imagination.

    A Christmas tree, of course, starts out as a single tree and then is "decorated" with lots of baubles and lights to make it prettier.

    Likewise a Christmas tree bill starts out as a single entity, for one purpose, a purpose someone believes is very noble, a much needed piece of legislation.

    Then, other politicians see the popularity of the bill as a means to sneak some of their pet projects through the General Assembly and on to the governor's desk.

    It seems to me the recent religious freedom act in Indiana is a classic example of the subterfuge politicians use. While not a Christmas tree bill, and while the intent was very good, a bill is a legal document and the wording is crucial.

     
  • I am a child of the '60s, a decade from which we are still reeling, and if we aren't careful, historians will one day look back and remember it as a key time in the decline and fall of the American Empire.

    I was a teenager during the '60s. That meant there were lots of questions, few answers and even more important decisions to make.

    College was one of those decisions.

    Neither one of my parents had formal education beyond high school. My grandfather worked on the railroad from a very young age. He put Uncle Doc and Aunt Jessie through college but did not go to college himself.

    Uncle Doc became a dentist (hence the nickname, "Doc") and Aunt Jessie became a school teacher who taught English in the Gary school district while Doc had his practice in the same area.

    So, when I was growing up, Doc and Jessie were two of my college role models. So were my cousins, Rick and Lou Ann. They were 6 and 12 years older than me and both attended Michigan State University long before I had to make any decisions about higher education.

     
  • This is the 50th anniversary of the dreadful Palm Sunday tornadoes. Ten tornadoes ripped through Indiana in the worst natural disaster I had seen in my short life in 1965.

    We often complain about what the government does poorly or wrong, but weather forecasting has improved dramatically in the last 50 years thanks to satellites and cooperation between the National Weather Service and private industry, such as The Weather Channel and Accuweather. I would imagine a much larger database of weather patterns collected over the years has contributed to the improvement. Also, events such as the Palm Sunday tornadoes have made us more aware of the danger preceded by dark, swirling clouds.

    People are still injured and tornadoes cost millions of dollars in damage every year but we do a much better job of warning people than in 1965 when the Palm Sunday storms devastated too much of the Hoosier state.

     
  • I wrote about social media (a.k.a. Facebook and Twitter) recently and how great it is. This week I have been thinking about the underlying foundation of social media -- the social part.

    I am re-reading Stephen King's novel about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

    King has said in interviews he carefully researched the history of the assassination and then he wove a fictional story about time travel into the true story for his novel, "11/22/63."

    The premise is, "What would you do if you could travel back in time and stop the assassination?"

    I don't want to give too much away, but his main character actually stops Lee Harvey Oswald and saves Kennedy's life. How is that possible? You will have to read the book.

    This weekend, I was reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis in King's novel. I was 9 or 10 at the time and didn't remember too much about it; only that I walked home a different route after school on the day after Kennedy spoke to the nation on national 
  • We knew it was coming. Those "kids" of a couple decades ago are now officially in charge.

    I suppose we can see it many places but today I want to talk about the people in charge at our national media outlets. Do the producers really get up in the morning and think, "It's all about me?" Or does it just seem that way.

    Take for example . . .

    A recent "Saturday Night Live" skit that made fun of a young woman being recruited by ISIS.

    "Take care of her," the girl's dad said.

    "Death to America" was the response.

    Now, "Saturday Night Live" has always been edgy and quite often made people uncomfortable. Remember, "Let's kill Gary Gilmore for Christmas?" It was a skit about the upcoming execution of a murderer that was scheduled to take place around the holidays. That bothered me for obvious reasons.

     
  • I have Leonard Hofstadter's line on my phone from "The Big Bang Theory." The line is, "What's going on?" every time someone messages me.

    Last week, I was on my way to an oil change when our school corporation texted me about a two-hour delay the following morning.

    I pulled into a parking lot, pulled up our newspaper's website administrative page and quickly added the notification to our website's front page.

    People learned about the school delay and made necessary arrangements hours before the delay would be on TV or any other media in our area. 
  • I see The Indiana House may be taking budget matters into their own hands and that could mean no cut to the Indiana State Library. Earlier, Gov. Mike Pence announced his budget goals which included reductions to the library including the end of the Genealogy Department and the INSPIRE online research tool.

    It probably won't be a surprise that this newsman likes books and the information libraries contain. In this time of social media we need all the balance we can get.

    I have mentioned several times how much I enjoy social media. This column is not contradictory, but the fact is, we need information that has been carefully researched, accurate and more than eight minutes old.

    I am very uneasy when I hear comments like, "I don't need to read the newspaper, I have Facebook and Twitter." Much of the information on social media is rumor and none of it is well researched. No opposing viewpoints are presented.

     
  • Dear Montgomery County,

    It's Saturday morning and a little past 5 o'clock. It's also Valentine's Day and that means Linda and I will visit Red Lobster later today.

    This is going to be about a few things. I am too satisfied to get on my usual high horse and develop one topic for several hundred words. This will probably sound more like one of Hawkeye Pierce's letters to his dad than a newspaper column. 

The Paper of Montgomery County,
a division of Sagamore News Media

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