Same old story: Greed trumps miners' safety
It's happened again. The lives of 29 more men have been sacrificed to the greed of a mine operator.
I was born 80 years ago in Harlan, the daughter of a coal miner. Early in my life, I heard about men having to go into the mines when they knew the air was "bad." With the equipment we have to monitor the quality of the air, there is no reason to send men and women into the coal mines when the air is toxic, or to keep them there if the air turns toxic after they go in.
What will it take to force coal mine operators to protect the lives of miners from "bad" air? Fines are considered just a cost of doing business. Will 29 deaths in a West Virginia mine make a difference, or will they become just another cost of doing business?
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'You know' ubiquitous
I do? How do you know that I know? And why do you keep talking if I already know?
The expression "you know" now makes up 10 to 15 percent of spoken English. This makes English the easiest language to learn. Every sentence may have "you know" repeated in it several times.
Restating "you know" is a compliment. I become a knower. This is a person who needs no further instruction. This person is on top of things — no matter what the topic. People become rocket scientists and brain surgeons without effort.
How did we become such knowers? It seemed to happen without effort. Suddenly, "you know" swept the land. Everyone became wiser. Even the dullest people are told: "You know." Those who know nothing instantly become knowers.
This new nation, this new language, this new knowing calls for some legal recognition. Perhaps it's time to add "you know" to our currency, the Pledge of Allegiance and to the Constitution.
GOP vs. Dems
For those citizens who cannot discern any differences between Democrats and Republicans, especially the conservative wing of the Republican Party, consider the following example.
Scenario: It's broad daylight. A man is lying face down in a gutter on a street in Anytown, U.S.A.
A conservative Republican happens to walk around the corner and see the man. "Look at this!" he exclaims. He goes up to the guy and nudges him with his foot. "Get up, you bum. What's the matter, you drunk? You're a disgrace to my city. Get a job, make something of yourself."
Then this smug, self-righteous, condescending, conservative Republican saunters on down the street.
Same scenario: It's broad daylight. A man is lying facedown in a gutter on a street in Anytown, U.S.A.
A liberal Democrat happens to walk around the corner and see the man. The Democrat runs to his side and kneels down. "Hey, buddy, are you all right? What happened? Did you get hit by a car? Are you hurt? Don't worry, I'll call for help and stay here until they come."
And the Democrat remains at the man's side, because he cares enough to help a fellow American.
So when you're trying to decide for whom to vote — and it's hard to determine truth from lies during a constant bombardment of political advertising — just remember these two truths:
At its conservative core, the Republican Party is the party of contempt.
At its liberal core, the Democratic Party is the party of compassion.
William S. Watts
Slam on Christians
I like the Herald-Leader's Life and Home section on Saturdays. The Opinions page is another matter. An April 10 column by Leonard Pitts Jr. was "the pits" for me.
The headline was "Killing in the name of a weak God," or as Pitts explained, "a few words about 'Christian terrorism.'" (His idea of a few words was about 530).
Pitts named some "Christian terrorists": Eric Rudolph, Matt Hale, the Phineas Priests, Scott Roeder, Matthew and Tyler Williams and Timothy McVeigh.
Why did Pitts write such a column? His point was to show that terrorism is not exclusive to Islam. He asserted "we have seen no shortage of 'Christians' who believe Jesus requires — or at least allows them — to commit murders."
"No shortage" of Christians who have committed murder in the name of Jesus Christ? The word shortage means "deficient," "wanting" or "lacking." Apparently, Pitts believes there is no lack of examples of Christians murdering other people.
I believe his article is another example of the attack on the Christian religion that has been going on in the United States for decades.
Back to the Life and Home section. There was also an inspiring story about the Rev. Michael Powers, the chaplain of Keeneland racetrack.
A man of God, a Christian pastor. I think it is accurate to assert that there is "no shortage" of Christians like him.
Rev. Bill VanZant
U.S. betrays values
A great nation does not torture, does not preemptively start wars with weakling countries, does not trash and ransack their thousands-of-years-old civilizations and does not impose sanctions that UNICEF reports kills hundreds of thousands of children.
A great nation does not spy on its own citizens. A great nation doesn't keep hundreds of prisoners offshore without a trial. A great nation doesn't prop up failed banks and a failed market with trillions of dollars, then refuse to regulate them.
A great nation doesn't spend $2 billion a day on defense, or $3 billion a year on Israel, while its own infrastructure, education and health care are on the decline and while its debt mortgages the future of its own children.
A great nation doesn't tolerate for a second its director of national intelligence placing Americans on a death list without a trial or the president himself approving the assassination of its own citizens.
We who have thrived for 250 years have become a mediocre country unworthy of the countryside we despoil or the principles on which we were founded.
We are little more than the stewards of our own decline; we mock our Constitution, international law, even minimal standards of decency, putting to shame the vision of a free people. We are manipulated by a media choking with special interests.
In short, we have become unworthy of our democracy, a people dwarfed by indifference, greed and by the blind eye we turn to the misery of others.
A better pay plan
I like this idea of executive salary cuts, but believe it should be extended to include elected officials at all levels of government. I suggest we not pay them anything during the work year and at the end of the year, we vote on how much of their salary and expenses they have earned and pay them in one lump sum.
We could do this on an individual state basis.
Government occasionally follows the old adage, "even a blind pig will pick up an acorn every now and then" and does something right.
Donald R. Fugette