It’s No Longer A ‘Major Happening’ In Local News 

A READER of this newspaper sent me an email the other day, which caused me to do some serious reflection on what is locally a “major happening”. 
I won’t mention the man’s name, because I believe he had the best intentions and what he wrote came from an honest perspective -- and I don’t want him to get any negative feedback. 

HE WROTE, in part, “I have been a subscriber to your newspaper now for several years and have always felt you covered major happenings in Decatur in a fair manner.  
“I received the edition for this week and I was shocked to see that there was no article in the paper regarding Mrs. Sherri Williamson-Perkins as the newly-elected School Board President.
“To my knowledge she is the first African American female to hold such a position for District 61.  
“If I'm in error about being the first, I believe she still should warrant an article on such an achievement in our district.” 

I RESPONDED to him and explained that, Dr. Jeanelle Norman was the first African-American Decatur School Board President who served many years with distinction. 
The gentleman responded to my email by stating:  “You are absolutely correct regarding Dr. Norman. I had forgotten about the years she indeed served as the school board president.  
“I totally understand you are unable to cover every event occurring in Decatur, however, this still was a major event for our community and especially the African American Community, so I would hope you will consider placing a small article in a future paper covering this as many of the younger generation would not remember Dr. Norman having served in that position.”

OBVIOUSLY, over the many, many years that I’ve been editor I’ve covered a lot of “firsts” and the people who made them. They have broken the gender and color barriers in many areas of our community’s leadership.
While I certainly congratulate Sherri Perkins on being the new school board president, today, African-Americans being elected to an office is generally not a “major happening” in Decatur.  I understand the pride in such an achievement, especially in the black community, and such success should inspire others, but I believe most citizens in Decatur have moved beyond making race an issue in selecting leaders.
That wasn’t close to being true when I became editor of this newspaper.

I THINK what continues to happen in our community is what the civil rights movement was and is about -- that people who now serve as our leaders are not there because of the color of their skin, but the “content of their character”.
All of us should continue to work to inspire others who need good examples and we should always remember the sacrifices that have been made, and are being made to make us a better community.  That needs to keep happening.

YES, we’ve come a long way in 50 years.  It hasn’t been easy but I have personally observed that progress. 
Decatur is not a perfect community when it comes to race relations, but attitudes have been changing -- especially in selecting those who lead us.
Constant vigilance is needed to make sure we continue to build on what others have handed us through sacrifice.  We need to constantly inspire others by remembering those who inspired us to be better people.
Certainly, people like Sherri Perkins, who devote a lot of time and energy to make the community better need to be acknowledged for their efforts -- and thanked by all of us.

ALTHOUGH Decatur certainly has come a long way in race relations, and we have celebrated a lot of “firsts” over the years, we need to work continually to reinforce the positive changes we’ve seen.  We also need to work even harder to make sure all of our citizens who want to succeed in Decatur are offered opportunities to do so.
Today, in Decatur, an African-American man or woman being elected or selected to a leadership position is no longer considered a “major event”. 
The day for that to be a “major happening” in the news department is from another era.
It’s not “major news” because it is no longer unique in our community -- and that’s the real story we need to read.

* * * *

Posted 5/23/15

Common Sense Is Dead And We Mourn His Passing

SEVERAL readers over the past several years have sent me the following eulogy for Common Sense.
I’ve read it before and probably most of you reading this column today are familiar with it.
However, I believe it is worth considering again in light of what’s been happening in our nation and world.
Here it is: “The Death of Common Sense”.

“TODAY we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. 
No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.
He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
  • Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
• Why the early bird gets the worm;
• Life isn't always fair;
• And maybe it was my fault.
“COMMON SENSE lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
  His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

  “COMMON SENSE lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
  It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
  Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
“COMMON SENSE took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
  Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
“COMMON SENSE was preceded in death,
• by his parents, Truth and Trust,
• by his wife, Discretion,
• by his daughter, Responsibility,
• and by his son, Reason.
“HE IS survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
• I Know My Rights
• I Want It Now
• Someone Else Is To Blame
• I'm A Victim
• Pay me for Doing Nothing
“Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.”
--Author Unknown

If you are like me, you have to be concerned about the absence of common sense in so many aspects of our lives today.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Common Sense is dead, but he certainly is on life support. 
There is no question in my mind that “common sense” these days is very “uncommon”. 

--Posted 5/16/15

I shot this photo of Clayton Moore
following my interview in 1985.

It Was A Thrill To Interview My Childhood Hero

I REALLY enjoyed compiling our “Scrapbook” feature that was in this week’s print edition on pages 4 and 5 of the Decatur Tribune.
That’s because it’s about the Lone Ranger, the childhood hero of so many of us when we were growing up in a different era.
Back then, Westerns on radio, television and in the movies featured characters who were larger than life -- and most of us wanted to be just like them.

ALTHOUGH I liked Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid and others, it was the Lone Ranger that attracted me because he had a strong sensitivity to right and wrong, never charged for helping anyone and often didn’t hang around to even be thanked by the people he helped.
He never killed anyone (he only shot to disarm) and, most of the time, he would encourage those he met to do and be better.

THE LONE Ranger was a great role model for so many in my generation, but, unlike most of the Western stars back then, he was a fictional character.
However, Clayton Moore, the man who portrayed him in all of the television shows (except a few when John Hart took his place when there was a contract dispute) was real and over time it was hard to separate the masked man from Moore.
That’s why it was so enjoyable for me to interview Moore when he came to Decatur to appear at a Special Olympics event at Millikin University in 1985.

I WILL admit that I had just a little apprehension about meeting the hero of my childhood.  I wondered if he would be anything like the fictional character that I had admired many years earlier. 
I had interviewed a few “screen heroes” over the years who had much less popularity than the Lone Ranger and was disappointed in them.
Those interviews were with minor Western stars -- with names most people have forgotten.
I’ll leave it at that.  All of them have passed on.

I WAS sure that Clayton Moore would not create the same negative impression when I interviewed him -- but, it had been a lot of years since I was a kid, and I didn’t know for sure what to expect.
I guess I didn’t want to be disappointed and have fond childhood memories of a hero I admired crushed to pieces.

WHEN I interviewed Clayton Moore thirty years ago, I found him to be everything I had hoped he would be -- and even more.
One of the photos I shot of him is on page 5 and there’s more in our archives somewhere. I also had the “Newsline” daily television program at that time, so somewhere in all of the boxes of interview tapes, I also have the video interview with Clayton Moore buried deep in the tons of boxes of recording tape that are in storage. 

CLAYTON MOORE was gracious, patient and seemed to be very pleased that I knew so much about him as the Lone Ranger and that I had been such a big fan when I was a kid.
I found myself being a big fan of the Lone Ranger and Clayton Moore all over again.
I never dreamed, when I was watching him on television years earlier that I would be talking with him and asking all kinds of questions decades later while he patiently answered all of them.

I LEFT the interview with a real sense that Clayton Moore in person was no different than the Lone Ranger on the screen that I admired as a kid.
Later that day, one of the reporters from WAND-TV told me that, when she interviewed him, Moore had asked about me and then added: “He is really a nice man.”
Over the years I’ve been blessed to be honored many times as a  journalist, mayor and private citizen, but to have my childhood hero, the Lone Ranger, say to someone that I’m “really a nice man” ranks up there with the best.
I really didn’t feel worthy of his compliment, but it sure made me feel good -- and still does.

UNFORTUNATELY, I never had the opportunity to thank him for the kind words, because he “rode off” to other places -- just like in the movies.
But no one had to tell me who that masked man was who made me and millions of others feel better about ourselves -- it was the Lone Ranger.
“Hi-yo Silver, and away!”

Posted from the April 29th print edition of the Decatur Tribune

* * * *

Decatur Conference Center and Hotel  -- it had to be saved

The Mayor Always Votes Last -- Except For One
‘Crazy’ Night When The Decision Was Made For
The City To Buy The Decatur Conference Center
And Hotel

MOST citizens don’t know the order of voting for six city council members is rotated for every meeting.
The order is always different.
The mayor always votes last and he is not part of a rotation, which means  the mayor is the tie-breaking vote when there is a 3-3 split.

THERE was one time, about eight years ago, that out of the approximately 150 council meetings I chaired as mayor that I didn’t vote last -- and it was under a strange set of circumstances on a pressure-filled vote on whether the City of Decatur should buy the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel (DCCH) or forget it.  
For many, it seemed like one of the craziest ideas that the council had ever voted on, but, unless we made a decision that night, an auction of the DCCH was going to take place in a very short amount of time -- and it was likely going to be sold to a non-profit organization.
That meant we would lose all of the tax revenue it generated and the DCCH’s ripple effect in sales to other businesses.

THE city council retirement of Councilman Patrick Laegeler at the end of the month, as written about in the “City Beat” column at the right of this page, brought to my memory the DCCH vote night and when I didn’t vote last.
Everyone knew that council members Mike McElroy, Betsy Stockard and I would vote for the purchase and three other council members would vote against it.  We didn’t know how Laegeler would vote and I’m not sure that he even knew when the city clerk started calling the roll.

I DON’T remember where Laegeler was in the council voting rotation that night, but I do know that he was still struggling with his vote when it was his time.
Laegeler asked me at least once to come back to him when it was his turn to vote after the next council member in rotation voted. 

THEN, with five of the council members having voted, it was time for Laegeler to vote and he still wasn’t quite ready -- but the vote could not be delayed.  The council had to make the decision that night, or it most likely was curtains for the DCCH as we knew it.
The atmosphere was extremely tense and I know that it was hard for Laegeler to justify a vote for the City of Decatur to buy a hotel -- because it hadn’t worked out well when other cities had purchased hotels -- and it didn’t seem like something a city should do.
When he said he wasn’t ready, and for me to go ahead, for the only time ever, I was not the final vote.  I voted “Yes” and tied the vote at 3-3.

MY VOTE put even more pressure on Laegeler, because, instead of the mayor’s vote being the tie-breaker, his vote would be the tie-breaker and all eyes (including mine) were on him, waiting for his decision that was going to impact Decatur for a long time.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Laegeler said: “It’s against my better judgment, but Yes.”
My heart started beating again!
Well, we all know now how that “crazy idea” turned out.  We sold the DCCH to Steve Horve in a matter of weeks (who has transformed the place), got all of our money back, plus interest, and all of these years later, the DCCH continues to generate tax revenue for the city coffers.
It may have appeared to be a crazy idea, but I had studied the financials and knew it would benefit the city -- but it all came down to passing by one vote.

EXCEPT for that one time, I always voted last and was the tie-breaker on some other agenda items, but I have to admit, I’ve always felt a little guilty of allowing Laegeler in the position to have so much pressure on him.
I know that he caught a lot of heat for the “stupid” decision because I did -- more flak than I caught on anything else I voted on during the years I served.

I SHOULD have insisted Laegeler vote before I did but I didn’t because I wasn’t sure that he would vote “Yes”.
I was proud of the vote he made that night. Even though any one of the three other votes in favor counted just as much, Laegeler’s vote came under a lot more pressure.
Without his vote, the idea for the City to buy the hotel would have gone done as another crazy idea that was voted down. 

IT’S BEEN very rewarding to watch that crazy idea turn into something this is so good for the community.
Laegeler cast a lot votes over the years he served, but probably none as “crazy” than the DCCH vote.
It took guts for him to vote for that “crazy” idea and break the tie. 
I’ll always remember that night.  

Posted 4/22/2015

Doors Shut, Floor Flops And My Teacher ‘Miss Screamer’

I WAS getting ready to walk into the lobby of our building the other day, when a woman a few feet in front of me, quickly opened the door and let it close in my face!
I know that she had seen me because she had looked up at about the time I was heading for the door.
It’s not something that she unknowingly did, because when she got to the second door in the lobby, about ten feet inside the first door, she let it go in my face again!

I DID not recognize the woman, and to my knowledge we had never met.  Maybe there was something I had written in the Tribune that she didn’t like and was being “discourteous” for that reason.
Maybe she had something occupying her full attention and wasn’t aware of anyone around her.
She could have been stressed out over something in her life and really didn’t notice there was someone behind her.  
When the lobby elevator doors opened she barged inside and pushed the number of the floor she was going to visit. The two of us stood silent until the elevator reached my floor and I got off.

WHEN I got out I uttered a somewhat cheery “Have a nice day!” but got no response.
I think my admonition came too late. I don’t think there was anything I  could have said that would have brightened her day or wiped the scowl off of her face.
I think all of us have days that aren’t the best, for a variety of reasons. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and be understanding, but I am surprised at times with the lack of common courtesy, or when courtesy is extended and it is ignored.
Back in my younger years I usually tried to make getting a door shut in my face a “teachable moment” for the person doing the door shutting, by acting like I ran into the door because they let it shut, and on a few occasions a long time ago, I pretended to be knocked out and fell on the floor!

OVER THE years I found the “floor flop” didn’t accomplish a lot, except make me look like an idiot -- even more than usual -- so a sense of maturity overwhelmed me and I quit the drama.
Besides, the person who had let a door slam in my face by acting like he or she didn’t see me, usually acted like they didn’t see me knocked down and continued on their way.
Although I don’t think I made anyone more courteous as a result of my “performance”, I always try to be courteous in my surroundings in the way I treat people, but it is not always easy.

ACTUALLY, I wasn’t totally to blame for my actions as a young man.
It all went back to fourth grade when I had a teacher (who seemed like she was 100 years old) who would scream and shout at our class, causing everybody to fear her.
Anyone who asked a question would receive a scream answer.  Not too many questions were asked.
I was telling my mother about the teacher and she said, “The next time the teacher screams at you fall out of your seat like she scared you really bad!”

I WENT to school the next day with a real sense of confidence because I felt a little drama (with my mom’s blessing) was going to teach Miss Screamer a lesson.
When I asked a question about something I had to do, Miss Screamer bellowed “YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING BUT DIE AND PAY TAXES!”
On mom’s advice, I fell out of my seat like I had been really scared!
I won’t reveal what happened next, except to say that mom was right 99% of the time -- but that wasn’t one of the times. 
I later learned, that mom had been joking when she gave me that advice and she had never expected me to do it.
She was horrified by my actions!

I LEARNED two valuable lessons that day: (1) mom had a great sense of humor and, (2) sometimes “drama” does not produce the intended result.
Still, I must point out that, for the rest of the school year, Miss Screamer yelled at every student in the classroom -- except me.
I think she was afraid I would flop on the floor again!

* * * *

Reprinted from April 15th Print Edition of The Decatur Tribune Newspaper

Lies And Politics:  They're Getting To Be Best Friends

• Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CNN last week that he has no regrets about telling a lie from the senate floor, that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid income taxes for ten years, in order to get President Obama re-elected.
In fact, he seemed proud of telling the lie.
“They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win did he?” said Reid.
That whirling sound you hear is George “I cannot tell a lie” Washington spinning in his mausoleum.

•  How can senators and representatives lie and get away with it?  Check out Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution that states that members of Congress shall “be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.”  
The only exceptions to this rule are for treason, felonies and “breach of the peace”. 
It’s like everything else.  Congress doesn’t live under the same rules that apply to the people they are elected to serve.

•  I heard one of Harry Reid’s defenders on a talk show the other night defending Reid’s lie by saying (with a straight face) “It’s just politics,” and telling lies is part of the process.
“Politics” is what is wrong with this country today -- on both sides of the aisle.
Remember the time when “politics” and lies didn’t have such a close relationship?
•  Wouldn’t it be great if politicians, Democrats and Republicans, started remembering they weren’t elected to represent their party, but the American people?

• Republican Congressman Aaron Schock resigned his office recently because of alleged inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money and filing to be reimbursed for mileage at twice the number of miles than were actually on his vehicle.  He faces possible federal charges.
It’s interesting that talk of federal charges began when he resigned from Congress.  While in office he  had a level of protection from serious actions against him, because of Article 1, Section 6 mentioned earlier in this column.
Once he became a private citizen again, and the Congressional privilege was gone, he had to face up to alleged lies the same as anyone else.
That shows you the difference between a congressman and citizen. 

• It seems to me that, out of 318,881,992 residents of the United States, that we could get a higher level of quality in candidates than what I’ve seen offered by both political parties.  

• A man once told me that most people run for Congress with good intentions and either get swallowed up and become a part of the negative culture or get disillusioned by the wrong they see and quit.

•  I believe there are still good people who serve in office for the right reason and remember the why they were elected, but, by all indications they are becoming an endangered species.  We can protect and preserve this species by electing, or re-electing, candidates who tell us the truth.

• Last week, I started receiving news releases and requests for contributions from candidates running for Congress in the 2016 election.
We had an election in November and one on Tuesday of this week and it is a year-and-a-half before the next General Election.
Give politics a rest for awhile... PLEASE!

• I still believe in the promise of America, but have a difficult time believing in the promises of politicians. All you have to do is look at the extremely low approval ratings of those in office to know that most Americans have lost faith in national leaders.     

• I still believe the truth in Psalm 33:12 that’s been printed on page 2 of every edition of the print edition of this newspaper for nearly a half century:   “Blessed  is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
May God continue to bless, protect and be with the United States of America. 

* * * *

Posted 4/11/15 from the 4/8/15 print edition of the Decatur Tribune

Remember ‘Basic’ Television Programming?

SOMETHING happened to our cable tv service last week.
We have the basic cable service, but it became even more “basic”.  The only things that worked on the set were the on/off button and channel buttons.
When we couldn’t fix the problem, Comcast was called and do you know where the Comcast employee was from who tried to solve the problem? 
The Phillipines!
That’s what she said when asked.
When she made the adjustment to the modem in order to restore the basic service we had, it made me think seriously about where we are today.
If a woman who works in the Phillipines is able to make adjustments on our television modem from thousands of miles away, what else can companies see or do in our home from thousands of miles away that we don’t even know about?

WELL, at least I am now able to use my favorite feature on cablevision -- the program guide that has the name and description of what’s on each channel. I use that feature a lot because I’m always searching for something worthwhile to watch in the small amount of time I have to watch tv.
There’s so many channels and so little to watch that’s worthwhile. If some of the titles of the shows get any worse, the program guide might have to be rated for adults only!

REMEMBER “the good old days” when we only had three or four channels to select from and there was always something worth watching -- even with so few channels available?
That was back in the 1960s when FCC Chairman Newton Minow called television programming “a vast wasteland”.
I wonder how he views what’s on television today.
Today, “basic cable” costs me $138.00 per month and that doesn’t grant access to much of anything that’s on the channels.
Decades ago, we had “basic television”, along with an antenna -- and the cost was $00.00 per month!

WHILE I’m on the subject of television viewing, what are the odds of changing the channel during a commercial break and not running into a commercial break on the channel you’re turning to -- even two channels where both are carrying sporting events?
I always seem to run into more commercials when I change stations to check on the score of a game on another channel!

BY THE WAY, when it comes to commercial breaks, there was a time when it was difficult to make it to the kitchen (or bathroom) and back to the television during a commercial break.
Not anymore.
I think I can use the bathroom, wash my hands, pick up a snack in the kitchen, defeat ISIS, and get back to the television program before the commercials are over.
What I really dislike is, when they have several commercials in a row, then come back to say the program will continue in a minute -- and run more commercials.
They keep coming back and announcing the name of the show so the viewer won’t forget what show he is watching!

OVER THE past few years I’ve become an even greater fan of PBS, not only because they have some extremely interesting programs like Frontline and more -- but because the only commercials they have are between programs.
The only problem that presents for many television viewers is that, many times, the bladder can’t last as long as an hour between visits to the bathroom!
Maybe one commercial break every half hour should be mandatory out of respect for senior viewers.

ACTUALLY, I know that television will be with us for the rest of our lives because, despite all of the trashy programs, there really is some quality programming available -- and that’s what makes it worthwhile. I wouldn’t want to be without it as a source of information, sports and entertainment.
Still, I can’t help but let my mind drift back 50 years to my free television programming on that black and white screen in the mahogany television console in the living room.
It was in the first house I bought with my first car in the driveway.
The payments on the house and car totalled $115.00 a month -- $23.00 less than I pay per month for television programming today, plus the seller of my first house left his television antenna on the roof so it was free, too.
Now, that was inexpensive “basic” television programming!

--Posted 3/29/15 from print edition of Decatur Tribune (3/25/15)

* * * *
A Little Bit Of Everything From 'Soup To Nuts'

• I BOUGHT a bowl of soup at a popular drive-through restaurant on Pershing Road (guess which one) a few evenings ago as I’ve done before and, like before, I didn’t think there was much “soup” in their bowl of soup.
So, when I got home, I used a measuring cup to find out how much soup was actually in the bowl of soup.
The answer: the bowl of soup contained one cup of soup.
The restaurant also features a cup of soup, but, if a bowl of soup is actually only a cup of soup, how much does a cup of soup contain? A gulp?
I won’t name the restaurant because I like the food and would like to eat there again -- and maybe a bowl of soup is whatever a restaurant determines is a bowl.
It doesn’t seem like much of a bowl of soup to me, but I don’t have to buy it.

• THE HEADLINE on the news website reads: “Hertz Puts Cameras In Its Rental Cars, Says It Has No Plans To Use Them”.
Question:  If Hertz has no plans to use the cameras, why are they installing them in their rental cars?

• LAST WEEK, another attempt was made to pass legislation to let local governments skip posting public notices in newspapers and instead only post the notices on their own websites.
Thursday morning, Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford), decided to call House Bill 261 for a vote in the House Counties and Townships Committee.  
Thankfully, the bill was defeated by a vote of 6-5.
Proponents of the bill contend that it will save taxpayers money and will be more efficient than posting notices in newspapers.
That’s pure baloney!  When has government ever taken over anything and been more efficient and saved taxpayers money?
Audits by the Citizen Advocacy Center have found that where local governments are already required to post notices of meetings, agendas and minutes to their own websites – they are posting meeting minutes less than half of the time! 
They posted agendas only 57 percent of the time and notices of meetings 73 percent of the time. 
Meanwhile, newspapers, like this one and the Herald & Review, are required to post public notices they print in the newspaper to a central website so that service is already being provided -- and the website notice is free to the public.
Attempting to pass legislation so government bodies can start posting their own legals to a government website is nothing more than an attempt to tamper with the public’s right to know what is going on in their government.
It would allow government to check on itself to see if citizens were being provided proper notifications.
That’s horrendous legislation and an affront to the people’s right to know and should be defeated everytime it raises its ugly head!

•  DO YOU know what item in this column has generated more questions and comments than any other subject during past month?
The answer is “Christine”, my car, and whether or not she (or it) actually started her engine in a downtown parking garage -- when no one was around her, or trying to remotely start her.
Christine, named after the demon-possessed car in the movie by the same name, has done a lot of strange things since I bought her last year and, as you know, I’ve written about a few of them in this column.
I just received my insurance premium for Christine. 
It seems a little high for a car to just drive back and forth to the office.
I assume the premium amount includes monthly exorcisms.

• ONE EMAIL I received last week came from a reader who stated his belief that I was a “certified nut case” because of those articles I wrote about “Christine”. 
I was “flattered” until I realized that he had probably confused me with former Decatur Tribune columnist Sparky, “Decatur smartest squirrel”, who still works for this newspaper “digging up” nuts in our community.
Sparky knows where all of the nuts are hidden -- and for your information -- he’s never threatened me!
Besides, I don’t know what would give the “certified nut case” accuser the idea there’s something wrong with my mind -- unless he thinks there’s something crazy about an editor who drives a car with a mind of its own and hires a squirrel to write a newspaper column!

* * *

Posted On March 21, 2015 from Decatur Tribune Print Edition

Inexpensive Lie Detector Test Might Work

IT’S amazing how words have changed and been altered during my lifetime.
Probably the most familiar word, which isn’t used much any more, is “lie”.
Not many people ever admit to telling a lie these days -- and even though there is often indisputable evidence to the contrary, they look us in the eye and sometimes angrily deny telling a lie.

WHEN I was a small child my father had his own “lie detector” to use if I ever thought about telling a lie -- or so I believed at that young age.
He told me there was a spot between my eyes that would start turning red if I didn’t tell the truth.
Sometimes, he would ask me a question at the dinner table and then look intently between my eyes to see if the spot was turning red.  

I NEVER had any occasion to lie to my dad, and if I had, I would have been terrified to face the “lie detector”.
It was a lot like the claim back then that your nose would grow if you told a lie.
Parents didn’t have the expert advice to deal with their young children back then so they passed along myths and other creative methods of trying to keep their children on the straight and narrow way.
I often wondered if the place between my eyes (which I never saw when I looked in a mirror) would burst into flames if I told a really BIG lie!

ALL THESE decades later, I thought about my dad’s creative “lie detector” method when I first heard NBC News’ Brian Williams apologize for claiming that he was on a helicopter that was forced down in a war zone in 2003.
“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams said.
About all of you know about Williams’ “mistake” because it’s been on the news for the past week.
He has even given up his anchor position for several days while his network investigates this story (which he repeated for 12 years as being true) and some other comments he has made about what he saw in news stories he has covered.

A NEW word has emerged about the lie Williams repeatedly told, at least I don’t remember hearing it used before.
Instead of admitting to a lie, Williams “misremembered”.
Undoubtedly, some politicians are already drooling about the opportunity to use that word -- “misremembered” -- when they are caught in a lie.

“LIE” has been watered down over the years evolving from “fib” to “untruth” to “miscue”, “misstep”, “misspoke” and many other terms to soften the word. Republican and Democrat politicians have tried to make “lie” more acceptable to the human ear and eye over the years.
Here’s some examples...”I am not a crook”, “I did not have sex with that woman -- Miss Lewinsky”, “There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”, or “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.  If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.”

THE PROBLEM in recent years is that about everything politicians say someone has recorded.  In the case of President Obama’s “like your doctor” statement on selling his healthcare plan, network cameras recorded him telling the lie to 23 different audiences. 
If politicians will not admit to telling a lie to millions of people, what can we do to determine the truth from a lie when any of them makes a statement?

I THINK we should start calling a “lie” by its proper name -- “lie”.
Since we have celebrities and politicians (both Republicans and Democrats) who lie routinely, and then lie about the lie they tell...we may have to use a simpler way of finding the lie.
I’m going to start looking at the spot between their eyes to see if it starts turning red when they are talking!  Many of them will be as red as Rudolph’s nose and may be asked to guide Santa’s sleigh at night.
It should work: after all my dad would not tell a lie about his lie detector!
Still, for added confirmation, I’m going to look at the length of a politician’s nose before and after he tells me something he claims to be the truth.

Posted 2/12/15

A Salute And Thanks To The Macon County Honor Guard

THE Macon County Honor Guard has been the subject of a few “Letters to the Editor” during the past month.
A Bethany man, Larry T. Kellogg, posted the first letter, which was somewhat critical of the honor guard for not being able to be present at the memorial service for his father, who was a veteran.
Apparently, there was a Christmas party planned for the veterans, with the catering already contracted, which created a conflict.
RON Sloan, a member of the honor guard responded to Mr. Kellogg’s letter to point out the reason the group was not able to participate in the service and also to explain all of the services the Macon County Honor Guard participates in during each year -- a staggering number.
Mr. Kellogg responded to Mr. Sloan’s letter under this week’s “Letters To The Editor”. 

OBVIOUSLY, our letters to the editors contain the opinions of the letter writers, not mine, and they are free to express those opinions in this newspaper -- as long as profanity is not used and the length of the letter is reasonable.
I understand why this is a sensitive issue for Mr. Kellogg because of the death of his father and wanting to honor his father’s memory and his service to our country.
For that service, I’m sure all of us want to express our appreciation and also express our condolences to Mr. Kellogg on his father’s death.

HOWEVER, based on personal experience, I’ve always had a high level of respect for the members of the Macon County Honor Guard.
I’ve been at countless events and services where the weather has been bone-chilling cold or so hot that I thought I would pass out -- but the Macon County Honor Guard was there. 
There are many stories from families who appreciated the time and energy the honor guard members expended to add a “special honor” to the memorial service of their beloved veterans.

AS MR. SLOAN wrote in his response letter: “The guard is made up of mostly 60, 70, and 80 year old men who are retired or semi-retired. We receive no pay for doing a job that we feel HAS to be done... 
“...Each funeral takes around 18 Honor Guard members. We have approximately 25 members, so you see we have pretty much a full time job with no pay, other than the satisfaction of giving a veteran his just dues.
“Here’s the Macon County Honor Guard 2014 Report: A total of 163 funerals were provided; 21 doubles (2 in one day); 1 triple (three in one day); 50 out of town.”

HE CONTINUED: “We traveled 4,216 miles, used 3,549 rounds of ammunition, plus Memorial Day Service (2) Veterans Day Service, Pearl Harbor Remembrance, flag presentations/educations at schools, churches, colleges and conventions.”
Last year, they were unable to honor 50 requests for their services at funerals.
Mr. Sloan wrote: “Most people retire to play golf, fish, camp, go to Florida for the winter or to just chill. By volunteering we have given up our retirement. We choose to do this as we all feel our nation’s veterans and our comrades in arms deserve us to be there for them if at all possible.” 
Fortunately, in Mr. Kellogg’s case, the Moultrie County Honor Guard and the U. S. Navy were able to participate in his father’s service and that’s good to hear.

OVER THE years, I believe the Macon County Honor Guard has served our veterans and their families with distinction and honor -- and I salute their efforts and the reasons behind what they do and they’ve always had my support.
For obvious reasons, they can’t be at all of the services -- but last year they were able to honor over 75% of the requests.
That’s a very high percentage for an all-volunteer group of mostly senior citizen members.

--Posted 2/7/15

‘Christine’ Has An Automotive Nervous Breakdown

LAST SPRING, I wrote a column about a “pre-owned” car (it was a few years old) I had purchased to drive to and from the newspaper office each day.
The car was like new, with very low mileage, and loaded with lots of features I would never use.
I hadn’t owned the car very long when a series of strange happenings seem to be part of its “personality”.
I wrote that I was beginning to wonder if the car was “possessed” (not repossessed).

  I STARTED referring to my car as “Christine”.  That was the title of the movie that was about a car that seemed to have a mind of its own. 
In my first column about the car, I detailed a lot of experiences I had with that electronically-advanced hussy.  It seemed to me that “Christine” was giving me warnings and orders all the time -- “check this, check that, gas tank low, tire pressure two pounds low” and on and on.
It was obvious to me that “Christine” knew a lot more about my car than I did -- and she liked to constantly remind me of that fact.

WELL, on the coldest winter day of last week, I walked to the parking garage where “Christine” was, got inside from the frigid weather -- and she wouldn’t start.
I figured it must be the battery but, even with a dead battery “Christine” continued to alert me to problems.
One message from “Christine” stated: “Drive carefully. There may be ice on the road”.
Why did I need to worry about ice on the road when the car wouldn’t even start?

I NEARLY got frostbite being outside trying to start the car with cables and I couldn’t even get the hood open! I finally called to get it towed.
When the tow truck arrived, “Christine” had locked her wheels making her impossible to move.
Apparently, Christine had suffered a massive automotive nervous breakdown and electronic heart attack!
Everything was shut down!
It took quite-a-while to drag her out of the municipal garage and “rush” her  to the emergency entrance of a local automotive hospital -- also known as an auto repair garage. 
By that time “Christine” wasn’t talking to me -- I was talking to myself! 

MY FATHER, Sam Osborne, was a mechanical genuis and I don’t remember anything that he couldn’t fix. 
Dad once told me that “The more you get on a car, the more you have that can go wrong.”
Dad was a wise man.
“Christine” has so many features that can go wrong that it is impossible to anticipate even a few of them.
But some of them can completely shut down the car, leaving the driver scratching his head trying to figure out what had happened.
It seems to me that, somewhere along the line, the technology designed to make our life easier has made it more stressful.
Sometimes, I think we’ve forgotten that the most important job of a vehicle is to get us to our destination safely -- not talk to us, or entertain us, or distract us with countless “features”. 

I DON’T blame the dealership that sold me the car.  That’s the technology of the present age and what people want. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a car from them again.
I think it’s probably my attitude.  
I come from an automotive era that, when my car’s battery went dead, I could push my “straight shift” car, jump in the seat, pop the clutch and start the engine -- and be on my merry way.
A lot in the automotive world has changed since those days and, like a lot of people who remember those days, I feel somewhat lost in today’s automotive technology.

I GOT “Christine” back Monday and the mechanic, who has worked on countless vehicles over many years, told me he had never found a similar situation with any car he had worked on.
A sensor had come loose that connected the brake with the starter.
He said “I found out what had happened, but it’s still a mystery as to how it could happened.”
He said that, the place the sensor was located could not “accidentally” be disconnected by human hands.
No. I refuse to believe that she would intentionally shut herself down.
Still, even though “Christine” and I are now on friendlier terms, and I’m enjoying my car, I’m thinking of putting my mechanic on a retainer.

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Posted 1/15/15

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Paul Osborne
Editor & Publisher

Columns Are Printed With The Most Recent Displayed First

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The photo across the top of the page shows the northeast corner of downtown's Lincoln Square and the statue of Abraham Lincoln marks where he gave his first political speech.

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