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May 14th

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Letters to the Editor Policy

Some Things Were Better

Being a Curmudgeon and potential Old Geezer, I have some complaints. Young people probably believe the world is getting better and maybe it is, but there were some things that were better a few years ago. For instance:

1. When you were in a store and dealing with the salesperson, they were not talking on the phone. They paid full attention to you. Like you were a real person with feelings (not to mention money to spend). Now, in many stores and businesses, the person behind the counter is talking on the phone while waiting on you. This makes me feel like I'm either invisible or nothing but an annoying interruption in the salesperson's day. I would also like to know why salespeople interrupt a transaction with an actual customer for a potential customer on the telephone. Shouldn't the telephone customer be told to wait until the sale with the physically present one is finished?

2. They used to give you your change by dropping the coins into your hand, which you quickly dropped into your change purse. Then they handed you the bills and receipt, or better yet, stuck the receipt in your bag with your merchandise. Now they pile the whole mess on your hand with the coins on top sliding all over the place.

3. Stores and businesses used to have an operator. This was someone with an impersonally kind voice who immediately connected you to the department you asked for. Now they have Phone Menus from Hell which waste hours of your time and cause anxiety, depression and the desire to climb on top of buildings and shoot people. I don’t understand how the installation of all this fancy equipment costs less than paying one person to be the operator and do the job right.

And 4. Even if you understand the Phone Menu from Hell, when it finally rings the department you requested, no one answers and in the extremely rare instance that they do, they don’t know anything. Store and business people used to know a lot. Furniture salespeople actually knew about their furniture, appliance salespeople knew the appliances, etc. There were actually saleswomen who fit you for a bra. Believe it or not. Today, it seems the only salespeople who know anything sell hardware.

Oh well, at least today we have DVD players and airbags.


Margaret Karmazin

Susquehanna, PA

Ten Commandments? No Thanks!

America's ongoing fetish for the Ten Commandments continues unabated. As recent local print ads indicate, there is a new national organization to promote the idea that they are "the moral foundation and anchor of American culture and society", and to combat evil secularism. Before anyone falls for this ponderous rhetoric, we need to realize a few things.

First of all, the Ten Commandments are not, repeat, not the basis of our laws! Please do not cite laws against murder, theft, and perjury as evidence they are. All organized societies prohibit these things, because they serve the universal needs of human society, not because they're on some unseen old slabs. The fact is, our laws grew out of English Common Law, which began while they were still pagan.

The main threat of this Decalogue Idolatry is that it opens the way to Theocracy. Now, to be consistent, don't Biblically-derived laws call for Biblically-mandated penalties? And the Biblical penalty for violating any of the Commandments is usually death! So let's take a look at what America would be like if we actually enforced the Commandments:

Over one million Hindu Americans, and unknown thousands of neo-pagans, would be killed for worshipping a god other than Yahweh. Freedom of Religion (which means any religion!) in the First Amendment would be sacrificed to the First Commandment. We cannot have both backed by any force of law.

Anybody who does anything on the Sabbath other than pray would be executed, just like Moses had a man killed for gathering sticks. And remember, the Sabbath is Saturday. Call Sunday "The Lord's Day" if you wish, but it's not the Sabbath.

Anyone who commits adultery would be stoned to death. That would take care of over half the population.

Tired of the bloodbath yet? And there's so much more! America would be a desolate place in a Ten Commandments tyranny; "morally purged" but empty, and unable to stand up to international threats. Like that of militant Islam, the flipside of the Taliban Christianity we're plagued with here.

Christians who obsess about the Ten Commandments should realize that they're Jewish laws, only 10 of the 613 injunctions of the Mosaic Code. They cannot be isolated from the rest. So should we really enforce all of them? We'd need to ban mixed-fiber fabrics and shut down the Red Lobster, for starters.

Or perhaps we should appreciate the fact that the secularism that is much-maligned these days has worked well for us and protects our freedom. Pushing the Ten Commandments moves us toward replicating the mentality of Middle Eastern pastoral nomads of 3000 years ago. That was a horrible, primitive culture and a horrible time and place to live. Why in God's name would anyone want to emulate them?


Stephen Van Eck

Rushville, PA

The Second Noble Experiment

It was a grand and noble experiment. Today it would be called the War on Alcohol; then, in a more moralistic time, it was simply Demon Rum. To exorcise this demon the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed and came into effect in 1920. Henceforth ". . . the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquor within . . . the United States . . . " would be a crime. Nine months later the Volstead Act was enacted which stipulated fines and imprisonment for the newly-created class of criminals.

The Rev. Billy Sunday expressed the exalted expectations of prohibitionists: "The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent."

The reality was disappointing. Demand for the forbidden "fruit" increased sharply. Bootleggers peddling bathtub gin and moonshine stepped in to fill the demand. Gangs developed into organized crime, rum-running liquor from Europe to the states. Speakeasies flourished. By 1925 there were more than 100,000 illegal saloons in New York City alone.

During the first year of prohibition crime climbed 24%, drunkenness and disorderly conduct increased 41%, drunken driving rose 81%. By 1932 the number of convicts soared 561%. Then, after thirteen years of prohibition, America finally said, "Enough." The Act was mercifully repealed, but the damage was done. Gangs had been transformed into mafia syndicates; ordinary racketeers became mob dons. Crime was now big business, organized and looking for another product to sell. The government would soon oblige.

Beginning in 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics began compiling information inimical to the hemp industry. This was in response to vested interests in the cotton, timber, paper, and related industries which stood to lose billions if the superior fiber of hemp were used for cloth and paper making. The Bureau instigated a campaign of deceit and misinformation which formed the basis of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This legislation eventually had the effect of criminalizing cannabis on the grounds that it caused "murder, insanity, and death."

In 1914 the Harrison Narcotics Act levied a tax on opiates and cocaine. This law was successively amended and supplemental with escalating draconian penalties. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 also followed the path of progressive radicalization until selling one hemp-based cigarette could mean imprisonment for life.

The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 marked a point of proliferating legislation and drug-related government agencies – at last count there were 50. Not to be outdone, in 1971 President Nixon declared an "all-out offensive" on drugs, "America's public enemy number one." It was the War on Drugs.

Well, who's winning the war? Predictably, no one. Since 1980 the U.S. has spent $300 billion on drug control. This year it is slated to reach $70 billion. Has this reduced the number of drug addicts? In 1914 the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed because of concerns that 1.3% of the population was addicted to drugs. In 1970-71 the War on Drugs was initiated due to the fact that 1.3% of the population was addicted to drugs. And in 2006 what percentage of the population is addicted to drugs? One-and-a-third percent.

The other factor that has remained constant throughout the years is the availability of proscribed drugs.

What has changed is the prison population. There are one-and-a-half million drug-related arrests every year. Not surprisingly this is largely responsible for the burgeoning prison population. Since 1970 the prison population has increased 600%. Currently, two-and-a-half million citizens are under lock and key in the United States. Proportionate to its population this is more than any other reporting nation. About 25% of these inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. This year the orange-jumpsuit population is projected to increase by 48,000. Prison construction is booming.

Drug prohibition has meted out the same results as did alcohol prohibition. Both cures were worse than the disease. But perhaps the answer has been with us all along, unrecognized. Deal with drugs as we did with alcohol. Legalize drugs so that, like alcohol, it can be regulated and controlled. This would be the drug cartels' worst nightmare. The profit motive in a $60 billion domestic market would all but vanish. Legalization and regulation would eliminate the crime, violence, bribery, and corruption that have always been part and parcel in black-market trade; the problem of drug usage would be dealt with by a different means.

Consider another highly addictive and deadly drug, nicotine. Tobacco kills more people – a staggering 418,000 a year – than alcohol and drugs combined. Suppose the government tackled this drug addition as it did with other addictive substances. One needs only to look at the past to predict the future. Fortunately, this didn't happen. But something else did: education. During the last ten years 50% of cigarette smokers have quit and the numbers are still falling. Education has succeeded where coercion has failed.

Alcohol continues to be a problem. An estimated 120,000 deaths occur annually due to its abuse. Drugs, too, take a fearful toll. Illegal drugs are responsible for 45,000 fatalities yearly. (Legally prescribed drugs claim 106,000 every year.) But as terrible as these numbers are, continuing the War on Drugs will be as counterproductive as was the noble experiment with alcohol.

Chief Norm Stamper, Seattle Police Department, (ret.): "The Drug War has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery." Mr. Stamper speaks for the 5,000 members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization composed of former police and DEA agents. In the wretched underworld of drugs, their voices offer a chorus of hope.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

Who's Bickering?

While I certainly agree that a major part of the solution to the current oil price gouging and profiteering is the development of ethanol, bio diesel, and other alternative technologies, that is only 50 percent of the solution.

The other half is the enforcement of current laws. Criminal prosecution of the profiteering oil baron CEO's and their henchmen will send the message that big money does not put one above the law.

Think about it: At the first drought, bad crop, or other such excuse that can be generated, don't you think that the corporations that control the flow of ethanol and bio diesel will begin to price gouge and profiteer as well? This obscene activity must be stopped now, to prevent future exploitation of the American public.

How quickly we forget history. President Truman put caps on the banking interest rates to stop price gouging and profiteering. Half a century ago, his critics said that such caps would destroy the banking industry, and propel us into a second depression. Well, over half a century has passed and there are plenty of banks, and plenty of bankers making plenty of money. The oil/fuel industry has reached the point where the free market can not control it anymore. We need fuel, be it ethanol or oil, the same as we need air and water.

The solution has several parts, not just one. In addition to supporting new fuel technologies, we need to demand the U.S. Attorney General do his job, and, the President finally do his.


Barney Wilkins

Gibson Township, PA


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