News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 21, 2013

Readers’ Forum: April 21, 2013


TERRE HAUTE — Vouchers need

continued support

Indiana’s school voucher program is working and we hope area legislators will continue to support improvements to this important initiative. Here’s why.

Indiana families deserve choices and we have a responsibility to provide all students with access to a high-quality education that meets their particular learning needs. While most students are well served by their local public school, some families need other options and vouchers provide those who cannot otherwise afford it, that vital option. This is about acknowledging that parents are in the best position to decide what setting is best for their children.

It’s also important to remember that the voucher program sends money back to public schools and forces all schools to be more competitive. Vouchers save Indiana millions of dollars each year because they are capped at 90 percent (or 50 percent) of the per pupil allotment that the student would receive in public school. So, it will always cost the state less to provide a student a voucher.

To those who say we should wait to expand this program, I encourage them to think about the faces of the individual children who need an option today. We cannot wait while our kids sit in schools that aren’t meeting their needs for another year. Vouchers are already working for more than 9,000 students statewide and the program needs to be improved to provide more families with access to great schools regardless of their income level or zip code.

— Lindsey Brown

Executive Director

School Choice Indiana

Missing those

movie listings

I think that there should be ads in the newspaper about what movies are playing.

To me, folks should know what’s playing at the movies. I really do miss seeing what is playing at the movies.

— Martha Silverman

Terre Haute

Is escalation

in rancor really

what we need,

Mr. Bopp?

In the April 9 T-S article subtitled “TH attorney says it’s time for GOP to get personal in attacks on Dems,” new NRC special counsel James Bopp Jr. is quoted as saying that Republicans want to ignore personal attacks, “because we think personal attacks are despicable.” (Even, Mr. Bopp, when the governor of Indiana calls the president of the United States a terrorist?)

Mr. Bopp goes on to say, “It seems to me the Democrat policies are really trying to create a dependency class of poor and disadvantaged people that then can vote for them.” Yes, of course, the Dems are famous for trying to drive down wages, same as the unions are.

According to the T-S article, Mr. Bopp then notes, “the high unemployment rate for the black community and single women.” He furthermore says the Republican Party suffers from a perception issue. Do these comments about blacks, single women and the poor sound to you like a party that is attempting to be perceived as one committed to the principle of inclusion? Inclusion, even for those perennially lethargic aforementioned subsets of ne’er-do-well unemployed mostly Democratic voters? Even for those lazy-bones union workers and our supreme teachers? Perhaps, Mr. Bopp, the perception is merely a reflection of the reality. Perhaps, what the GOP really needs is a gigantihumongonormous sweater, the better to pull the wool over our eyes.

Mr. Bopp seems to feel that the tea party activists have not been doing enough to ramp up the rancor of political discourse. (We witness their restraint on these very pages with almost daily regularity.) The Obama presidency, says Mr. Bopp, “is having a severe, detrimental effect to our country and we don’t want that to happen again.”

Oh, yes, we do, Mr. Bopp, as evidenced by the results of a not-too-distant election. (Note to GOP: add more wool.)

To be clear, it is the cold, hard currency of a brighter future that President Obama brings to our country, not the bitter tea of failed imaginings.                               

Perhaps, Mr. Bopp simply intends to imply he believes the president’s policies are detrimental to the interests of blacks and single moms, though nonetheless intentional and politically motivated. Even that would be incongruent reasoning and woefully incorrect, as symptomatic of paranoia as some things those liberals say.

The solution to our problems, we should believe, is to eliminate any and all limits on campaign contributions? Just when we think there are signs of compromise on the horizon, it seems that, within the ranks of the GOP, there is not yet a shortage of tea party hystericons. Even at the highest levels.

Ironically, if coincidentally, the same April 9 issue of the T-S also contained an article detailing the visit of former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to Indy in an effort to raise money for his new Super PAC so they can stave off attempts by extremist Super PACs within the GOP to derail the future campaigns of moderate Republicans who may vote for immigration reform. These conflicts must be a dream come true for Mr. Bopp and his “Citizens United” approach to campaign finance reform. Tons of money are being raised and spent. Political consultants set sail as ill winds blow. Which is the better course, to seek compromise or to settle for escalations of rancor in our rhetoric? (I, too, should tone it down a notch sometimes.)

On a more hopeful note, there are signs of compromise on the national stage as well as locally. A joint effort on immigration reform may finally come to fruition.  In Congress, of all places! Can you believe it?

And Republicans at both the state and local levels appear willing to spend great gooey gobs of gopher money on road repairs and other infrastructure improvements. (Only, please, don’t call it a stimulus package.)

— Clay Wilkinson

Terre Haute

Glad that former

Muslims speak out

I must say that some letters to the editor are excellent these days. That’s one good thing about extreme conflict in society, it gets the best of thinkers highly motivated. My life is not boring, but the Trib-Star is a daily adventure that I look forward to.

The letter titled “Former Muslims Speaking Out” by R.B. Abhyankar gave me tremendous hope. The letter should be printed in every newspaper in the U.S. every day for the next month. I think it would be effective and affordable. If you did not see this letter, look for it in the April 4 edition of the Tribune-Star.

In the letter, Abhyankar identifies a social advocacy group and its goals. The Apostates of Islam are against violence and they encourage Muslims and others through their website. The letter was passionate and raw and direct. People who write like that can make a difference and improve things in society.

President Bush used America’s military in a way that I thought was morally wrong because a foreign nation had not declared war on us. I think Americans, like any past military conflict, look back now with hindsight and feel regret for decisions that caused high losses on both sides.

President Obama may or may not mean well, but eight years of his office will have us all completely bankrupt or a reasonable facsimile of it. No job and no retirement. Maybe the poor will all have a really good free phone they can loan to others who already have a better phone. Hopefully, of course, the poor will have health insurance. All that is left to do is figure out how a government program can operate efficiently. That should be easy.

My nature and my usual strategy is to complain and suggest and scold. One positive effect Abhyankar has had already is he got me to focus on the positive for a change. Thank you most sincerely, Mr. Abhyankar.

Hopefully, the Trib will reprint the letter. Even if it doesn’t, I am going to make it a point to read the website

— Cliff McDaniel

Terre Haute

No winners in

anti-Islam rants

Thank you to the Tribune-Star for publishing Dr. Arthur Feinsod’s letter of April 7. Dr. Feinsod is completely correct — Dr. Abhyankar’s campaign of anti-Islam letters show a clear bias which is not constructive and can only harm the community, its public discourse and economic prospects.

Dr. Abhyankar’s entire public persona is built around castigation of Muslims. Anyone who doubts this point should Google “Ramachandra Abhyankar.” You will find numerous letters by Dr. Abhyankar that show a clear bias against Muslims. You will not find any letters on budget deficits, gun control, sovereign debt crises or any other matter of public interest. This guy has a one-track mind and a personal obsession with denouncing Islam and Muslims.

Without a doubt, there are many Americans who have reservations about Muslims, but most are smart enough to control those reservations because they respect diversity, tolerance and community, or because they at least want to preserve their reputations. I feel sorry for Abhyankar — unable to control his obsession and, indifferent to all consequences, his only public legacy will be his prejudice.

I am sure Abhyankar feels vindicated by the few community members who support his contempt for Muslims. But individuals with this worldview usually represent a tough crowd — their feelings fundamentally reflect insecurity, marginalization, powerlessness and rage. Abhyankar may be pleased when these feelings are directed toward Muslims, but they will ultimately be focused on the Hindu community as well.   

Some, including William Munson in his April 10 letter, argue with Feinsod that the anti-Islam dialogue should continue in the interest of free speech and to avoid censorship. This is neither true nor relevant. If a reader sends a letter to The New York Times about her marble collection or the superiority of the Aryan race, the Times is free to reject the letter — its opinion page is precious real estate which should provide a forum for constructive dialogue — not a forum for trivial musings or the rage of lunatics. The idea that this is a First Amendment or free speech issue is laughable, and Munson is clearly confused on this point.

And then there is the economic impact. Sophisticated employers evaluating the Wabash Valley will diligently review the community, including this forum. If these employers have a diverse workforce, they will think twice before bringing jobs to town. At Starbucks’ latest annual meeting, a shareholder activist noted that Starbucks is losing customers because of its support for gay marriage. CEO Howard Schultz responded, “… it is not an economic decision to me. … We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds. … You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Without a doubt, employers will choose locations where all employees will be welcome, and, unfortunately, some of this community’s public dialogue appears to be hostile to certain racial and religious groups.

In short, there are no winners in this anti-Islam dialogue and the discourse represents a dead end for this town. The Muslims lose, the Hindus lose, the public discourse deteriorates and the community is less attractive to outsiders.

In contrast, Dr. Feinsod’s letter reveals true leadership and a better path for the Wabash Valley. His letter clearly seeks to raise the level of discourse in this paper with the goal of making this community a better place for all people.

Readers can decide which kind of public discourse models the community they want to live in.

— Tina Christian

Libertyville, Ill.

Prohibiting pot

accomplishes little

Thanks for publishing Mike Travelstead’s thoughtful letter: “Making sense of marijuana debate” (April 14).

I’d like to add that those who think that marijuana prohibition somehow protects our children and society, I’d like them to view a short Youtube video featuring former California Superior Court Judge James P. Gray. Go to and search for  “Judge Jim Gray” or search for “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.”

You will see that marijuana prohibition substantially increases all other crime. Back in the 1960s, police solved more than 90 percent of all homicides. Today they solve just over 60 percent. Why? Because of our so-called war on drugs. There are great financial incentives for police to make drug busts and confiscate the drug dealers’ money and property, but no financial incentive to solve rapes or murders.

— Kirk Muse

Mesa, Ariz.

Newport sewage plant a debacle

Newport knew they would need to have access to a sewage treatment facility. At first the plan was to send the sewage produced by the townspeople to the facility located at the nearby Army Ammunition Plant for processing. The Newport Town Council voted to build a new facility at the cost of $5.7 million instead of using the existing facility at the army ammunition plant.

A bid for land was presented to the owner of a nearby parcel of land and the owner refused to sell. The town council found another parcel of land and offered to pay $70,000 of borrowed money for around nine acres they thought was within the Newport city limits. They later discovered that most of the newly acquired land was not within the city limits. The town council announced in the local newspaper that they were expanding the city limits to include land for the new sewage plant.

The sewage plant must be at least 500 feet from any residences and 150 feet from any railroad. The land that was bought by the town will not accommodate this requirement. If the required 500 feet from a residence is met then the required 150 feet from a railroad cannot be maintained.

The townspeople presented to the town council a petition with 160 names in protest to the plan to spend over $5 million on this project. The council ignored the wishes of the townspeople and continued with the plans to build a new facility in Newport.

The city has applied for and gotten grants from the state and federal government to pay for all but around $1.2 million of the cost of building the facility. The town council has borrowed around $250,000 more or less to pay for land and surveys and other expenses related to the project. The people of Newport will now be responsible to paying back the $1.2 million share of the building expense plus the $250,000 borrowed by the town council plus the cost of running and maintaining the new facility. The state and federal governments will pay an additional $4.5 million in the form of grant money from state and federal taxes.

The country and the state and the people of Newport cannot afford this type of wasteful spending. Why would the town council elect to pay over $5 million for a facility when one already exists that would serve the purpose of the town?

— Harold and Alayne Roderick


Dowsing is a useless myth

In the April 15 edition, I was disappointed to see Mike Lunsford’s column on dowsing splashed across the front page. Dowsing is no more than pseudoscientific drivel that has no place in the front page of a newspaper or any other page, for that matter.

The title of the article, “Dowsers’ provide hope more than science,” should have been my first clue that I was about to experience a blizzard of nonsense in the proceeding paragraphs. Dowsing has been the target of multiple, rigorous scientific studies, all of which clearly find that dowsers have no higher success rate in finding anything, whether it be water or otherwise, than if they had simply chosen at random. And Mr. Lundsford would have us believe that this provides more hope than penicillin, or a polio vaccine, or an eventual cure for AIDS or cancer?

Lunsford’s claim that “hydrologists, geologists, theologians, and skeptics, alike, have a hard time explaining dowsing,” is utterly ridiculous. Dowsing is very easily explained by modern science, and a simple Google search will provide even the laziest among us with ample proof that this method doesn’t work in finding anything. Time and again, dowsing has been attributed to the ideomotor effect which refers to involuntary and often imperceptible movements spurred on by the suggestion that something is supposed to happen. This is why dowsers often are the most sincere pseudoscientists because they don’t know that this is even happening thereby fooling themselves as well as those around them.

Some might say that this is a harmless practice and that there is no reason to be speaking out against something so innocuous. However, the United States is currently ranked among the lowest of any developed nation in terms of scientific literacy, and silly notions like dowsing are not helping this statistic. Also, the United States government has spent tens of millions of tax dollars on dowsing equipment whose manufacturers claim that they will detect explosives, illegal drugs, or survivors of catastrophes. Several people have died as a result of these empty boxes that do nothing but line the pockets of their producers that understand how gullible people can be.

This and all other pseudoscientific notions are far from harmless. They often prey on the desperate and misinformed. We should be far more concerned with moving our society forward instead of insisting on anchoring it in the dark ages.

— Christopher Gagnon

Terre Haute

Great medical care right here

I recently had a major surgery. Prior to the surgery, I contemplated asking for a referral for physicians in Indianapolis. After the fact, I am extremely grateful that I chose to stay in Terre Haute. My surgeon, Dr. Leuking, was great about communicating with me prior to and after the surgery and the surgery went off without a hitch.

I was also fortunate to have Dr. Ferguson as my anesthesiologist. Dr. Ferguson came to my room every day and would sit and talk with me; he was great about encouraging me and he kept me extremely well informed.

Not only did I have great physicians, but also terrific caregivers. Union Hospital provided me with a clean, safe environment to recover in and absolutely phenomenal staff. As soon as I entered the surgery area, and met and spoke with the nurses, I knew I would be well taken care of. After surgery, I was placed on the third floor and had great nurses caring for me there also.

I would like to mention a few by name: Amanda, Sara, Rebecca, Breona and Angela. And Tayler and Alexis were nursing assistants that helped provide excellent care. And last, but not least, Lynn, in housekeeping, did a fantastic job cleaning my room every day and was friendly and interesting to talk to.

You may choose to go outside of Terre Haute for medical care; as for me, should I need medical care in the future, I will stay right here.

— Christopher S. Prather