News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 6, 2013

Readers’ Forum: October 6, 2013


TERRE HAUTE — A tribute to Ron Laswell

With the death of Ron Laswell last week, the Wabash Valley lost a charismatic leader.

Much has been said about Ron’s outstanding qualities as a businessman and family man, and I shall confine my remarks to a narrow issue, that of mine safety.

Owners of underground coal mines are often portrayed as cruel bosses who treat their workers as expendable pawns by cutting corners on mine safety in a misguided attempt to save a few dollars by risking disaster. I am not refuting this stereotype in general, but I am in the case of Ron. He was a good enough businessman to realize that a major accident was disastrous not only to the workers but also to production, and without production a mine is only a liability, not an asset.

Ron insisted that the corporate culture at his mines must be one of safety; that every employee from the top management to the lowest laborer is a team member who is responsible for his own safety and that of his teammates. Ron’s people were loyal to him because he was loyal to us.

My mother once told me, “I hope you never enter an underground coal mine,” but I was never afraid to go underground because I had confidence that this corporate safety culture was strong. Events proved that my confidence was well-placed. Ron did well by doing the right thing.

— Spencer Young


Still active while parish appeals

From the parishioners of Holy Rosary Church in Seelyville, we warmly invite all to join us in celebration of Mass at Holy Rosary, Monday, Oct. 7, at 6 p.m. We will pray the rosary at 5:30 prior to Mass and join together for dinner at Schelley Hall following the service — RSVP for dinner to Annunciation Parish.

Our Catholic community in Seelyville is in the process of appealing to retain the status as a parish with the hope of continuing the regular celebration of Mass that is so important to our faith community.                                                                                                                                                                      

We celebrate Mass for baptisms, weddings and funerals.                                                                                                                                             While we await the decision of our appeal, we ask for the prayers of the community for our parish, for the parishes just beginning these mergers and closures and for the Church as a whole.

— Jean Anne Jenkins


Morality not best approach to framing gay marriage issue

On Sept. 24, Professor William Wilhelm wrote a letter in which he argued that the move to amend the Indiana constitution to define marriage as limited to one man and one women is immoral.

While his passion is very evident, I must point out that his argument is flawed.

Wilhelm begins with the assumption that any standards that “demean or degrade” the human condition are immoral. From that, we are supposed to conclude that a law which has the effect of limiting the marriage activities of gays is immoral. However, the definition gives us a very poor measure of morality. To start with, how are we to know whether a particular action reaches the level of “demeaning” or “degrading” a particular individual or group? That appears to be a very high standard.

More importantly, the definition is absolutist and views the world in black and white. Reality is more complex, and not every action has purely positive or purely negative outcomes. The definition fails to consider that a particular action may be demeaning in the short run but may be either beneficial in the long run or beneficial for the larger group or society. The approach taken by the U.S. Supreme Court is instructive in this regard. The Constitution guarantees equal protection to all citizens. However, even in the most sensitive cases, the court would allow the government to encroach on personal liberties if the government could demonstrate a compelling state interest.

Wilhelm further assumes that the proposed amendment would deprive gays and lesbians of the right to marry. That is clearly wrong. The proposed amendment does not limit gays and lesbians any more than it limits anybody else. We have to remember that the Indiana marriage law already sets limitations on who can marry. For example, first cousins can marry only if both parties are over the age of 65, otherwise the marriage is void.

Another assumption is that the proposed language affects only same-sex marriages. In fact, the language also invalidates polygamous marriages, even those conducted in another state in which such a marriage might be recognized. We have to acknowledge that many who practice polygamy do so for religious reasons and have experienced a history of persecution.

The proposed amendment defines what constitutes a marriage, and this definition benefits some groups and not others. But is that unusual? Many laws contain definitions which have the effect of including one group and excluding another. The National Labor Relations Act protects employees’ rights to form, join and support unions. However, in the statute, the definition of employee specifically excludes supervisors who have no protection for union activities.

To support his claim, Wilhelm invokes Dr. Martin Luther King’s comments on just laws as expressed in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. However, Dr. King’s own denomination, Southern Baptists, this September barred members who are military chaplains from performing same-sex unions. Black clergy, who should be the closest to King’s thinking, are also opposed to same-sex marriages. Recently, the African American Clergy Coalition acted to oppose same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois.

Wilhelm tries to use Universal Declaration of Human Rights to make the case that marriage is a right and the proposed amendment is a violation of the Declaration. That claim took me to the United Nations’ Human Rights portal where I found a number of human rights topics, but not same-sex marriage. In June, the United Nations launched Free and Equal, a campaign for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. The press release described a number of issues that would be included, but same-sex marriage was not among them. In September, the United Nations sponsored the first ministerial meeting regarding the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. Again, the agenda appeared to cover a number of topics, but not same-sex marriage.

I will leave it to others to discuss Professor Wilhelm’s comments on religion, morality and same-sex marriage.

I have to conclude that casting public policy or social policy issues such as same-sex marriage in the absolutist language of morality is neither particularly easy, especially given the limitations of a letter to the editor, nor perhaps the best way to approach a topic with considerable complexity.

— Herschel N. Chait

Terre Haute

Conservative media the real problem

How can somebody actually think that the tea party will save our economy, when the policies that they champion have brought the world to the brink of economic collapse?

Yes, two unfunded wars, one of which is now over 12 years old, unprecedented government bailouts of the rich precipitated by the Phil Gramm deregulation policies that combined stock market investments, the insurance industry, investment banking and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are what destroyed the economy of this country. All of this happened before Barack Obama became president the first time, let alone since he defeated the rich Republican candidate, who would not tell us how rich he was, in the last election.

The real problem that needs to be addressed in the media has nothing to do with the editorial staff or the editor of the Tribune-Star. The real problem is the lying conservative media financed by the rich, represented by Fox News, its affiliates and their ilk, propagandizing and downright lying to the public that trusts them as being “fair and balanced” when they are not much better morally than those who are being convicted of Ponzi schemes.

The question is, will sacrificing the food stamp program to better fund the military adventurism of America satisfy the hunger of children? My guess is that anybody who believes that it will is either money-drunk or stupid. Reinstating the fairness doctrine in the media would cure that, but this time let us make the fairness doctrine in the media a constitutional amendment.

The health care debate is over and all of the tantrum-throwing, obstructionist tactics and lies being told by both sides will not change the fact that everybody must have a health insurance policy of some kind or face the consequences. Providing health care for all Americans will not destroy America any more than it has destroyed any other responsible country in the world that is doing it. The rich are being stopped from poisoning the environment in the name of profits and are being forced to leave the Earth in the condition in which they found it. There is nothing wrong with that, either.

My opinion is that the alleged problem with the media that was recently cited by letter writer Don Phillips is due to most of the media having a college education or the equivalent and their knowing how to think things through. If they were taught in school and in college to memorize and to regurgitate, the liberal media would actually be a conservative media and the country would be suffering from bulimia nervosa of the intellect, if not intellectually dead from factual malnutrition.

Will education change? All austerity aside, we shall see, eventually, if appointing a university board of directors during your time as governor and then having them appoint you as the president of said university after you leave office at a yearly salary that is five times the salary which you made as governor every year makes you both morally and intellectually superior, or if it is just another way of getting rich and making your friends rich from the taxpayer’s money.

— John Garner

Terre Haute

Misrepresenting the basic facts

“Man beats his wife, and then celebrates” — this headline is an example of misrepresentation of the facts. Reading this headline alone one could think that the story following is about an abusive husband that physically assaults his wife and then leaves her afterwards to go out drinking with his buddies to callously celebrate.

Or, what actually happened is that the husband and wife both participate in a 5K race for charity and the husband finishes the race before his wife does and teasingly celebrates his victory afterwards. Two extremely different series of events each of which could be carelessly headlined the same.

In the news recently there have been headlines stating that “Conservatives in Congress vote to deny contraceptives to women.” A quick perusal of the headlines would lead one to believe that if this bill passes somehow all women would not have access to contraceptives — and the so-called war on women rights continues.

In fact, this headline is misleading and is a perfect example of the liberal bias in the press. The truth is far different and so much less dramatic. The rider attached to the subject bill actually seeks to restore and protect a fundamental right which, until this administration, was protected by the Bill of Rights — freedom of religion. “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” has been ignore by the HHS directive that all employers, even those that are morally and spiritually opposed to providing contraceptives as part of their health care plans, must do so anyway.

A more factual headline, and one that is not misleading, could have read, “Conservatives in Congress vote to protect the First Amendment.”

— Douglas Elia

Terre Haute

Not everyone likes Diesel Extravaganza

First let me assure letter writer Rita Hawkins that I too am over 70 years old. I now live in Brazil but I grew up and lived in Terre Haute until I remarried and moved to Brazil. I still come to Terre Haute every two or three days so your snide suggestion that I stay home in Brazil isn’t possible.

She seems to forget it is the people from outlying areas that support the merchants in Terre Haute the rest of the year when that Diesel Extravaganza isn’t here. I am sure the merchants that benefit most from this yearly excess are liquor stores and fast-food restaurants. As for merchants welcoming those in attendance, I think she has a somewhat distorted view.

I was in one of my favorite retail shops last week and several of the ladies there thanked me for my previous letter and said they were actually afraid to come to the fairgrounds area to shop when this diesel fest was going on. It seems that not everyone is as sold on this event as Ms. Hawkins indicates. If she enjoys the atmosphere, so much I am sure she wouldn’t mind driving to another town to attend it.

I never suggested that women were dancing on poles, but perhaps Ms. Hawkins may have missed the spectacle of people drinking themselves into oblivion. Surely she didn’t have the time or energy to cover every inch of the fairgrounds. I still think if she wants to expose herself to this atmosphere, that’s fine. It is her choice, but please allow the other 90 percent of the population to express their dislike of this yearly event.

As for suggesting I do something to help those less fortunate than me, since Ms. Hawkins doesn’t know me personally, she cannot make suggestions about what I do or don’t do. In other words, I am entitled to my opinion just the same as she is.

— Shirley A. Thomas


USPS item takes the scenic route

I purchased an eBay item from a person in Logan, Ohio. It was put into the postal system on Sept. 25 and was sent to Des Moines, Iowa, arriving there on Sept. 27.

From Iowa, it was shipped to Cincinnati, Ohio, on Sept. 29. From Cincinnati it was sent to Terre Haute.

This packaged traveled 1,473 miles by the time it reached Terre Haute. Yet the distance from Logan, Ohio, to Terre Haute is 304 miles.

One can understand why the post office is broke and wants to raise the price of stamps 3 cents.

— Fred Roberts

Terre Haute