Email Letters: October 3, 2017

Oppose any proposals that would reduce COLAs for federal retirees

As a federal retiree who has served our country for years, first as a U.S. Army officer and Vietnam veteran and then as a Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent and supervisory special agent for over 22 years, following that as a member of a company of retired agents who continued to conduct federal background investigations for another 11 years, I am deeply concerned with a provision in the president’s budget which would eliminate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for current and future federal retirees. I ask that my representative and senators oppose any proposals that would reduce COLAs for federal retirees.

The annual COLA provides protections against inflation, but even the current calculation is inadequate because it understates the impact of health care spending, yielding lower annual COLAs. Reducing or eliminating my COLA further threatens my health and financial security.

This proposal would diminish the value of my hard-earned annuity by allowing inflation to erode the benefit over the course of my retirement. With the cost of goods and medical care on the rise, I will not sit back and allow this attack to gain a foothold.

I have also survived three open-heart surgeries and the implantation of two consecutive heart pace makers/defibrillators. Obviously, medical issues are paramount in my future planning and concerns.

MICHAEL A. HAMMETT
Grand Junction

Air Show provided a great day of entertainment for attendees

Kudos to all who planned, arranged, staged and executed the fabulous Grand Junction Air Show this past weekend. Everyone in attendance was totally cared for, from the initial parking guidance to the gate, to the venue itself. Grand Junction police, parking attendants, security personnel, vendors, and, of course, the professional fabulous Air Force Thunderbirds were all responsible for a great day of entertainment for the entire family. The way the crowd was handled the moment that severe weather was entering the area during Saturday’s show was very well done, and how gracious and considerate of them to allow Saturday’s tickets to be honored for the show on Sunday.

Having attended many air shows with the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels in Arizona, Michigan and Colorado locations, I send congratulations to all who were involved in this magical, fun event. Thank you to all.

YVONNE SPAULDING

Grand Junction

What do standardized tests really measure?

A great deal of importance has been placed on test scores over the years. It is a topic that comes up as a concern when we are talking about many of our schools in Mesa County. Standardized tests do not measure a child’s capability or ability to learn; they measure their performance on a single test developed in Denver.

When I first started working with District 51 in 1996 at a local elementary school, we had some of the lowest CSAP test scores in the district. Our school’s Accelerated Reading teachers noticed how the standardized tests did not reflect the format for most of the teaching and testing that was
currently happening in the classroom. Standardized tests are largely multiple-choice questions. Over the years, teachers have moved away from using multiple choice testing formats to using more open-ended questions, so we could more fully understand what our students have learned and how they are thinking. Multiple choice testing does not tell you how a child thinks.

That year at school, we implemented practice tests to prepare students for the CSAP. The children were taught how to approach the format of the test and given time to be comfortable with the process. When the CSAP results were published in The Daily Sentinel that year, our school’s test scores were reported near the top of the district’s schools.

Did those children really improve their reading scores, or had they just become better test takers? It is not about a score, it is about each child and their individual style of learning. Our students are not numbers; they are individuals.

KAREN SEVERSON
Early Childhood Special Educator MCVSD 51
Grand Junction

War has become impersonal, and assault rifles are killing machines

War today has become impersonal. Except, of course, to those who are considered cannon fodder. They and their friends and family still feel the pain of the death and destruction.

We now have drones to hunt out the enemy, some of which will soon have the ability to actually fire on the enemy without somebody at the helm of remote control. Nobody should have to consider the humanity of having to pull the trigger for somebody else’s demise. Very clean and surgical.

Gone are the days of having to “see the whites of their eyes” before wasting a shot. Hand to hand warfare is now almost obsolete. If the old style was ”retail” warfare it is now ”wholesale.” Assault rifles don’t require aiming. Just fire off multi-rounds in the general direction of the other side’s cannon fodder and you are sure to hit somebody, or something. They are killing machines. People, not other living things. Would a ”sportsman” use an assault rifle on a herd of elk? Of course not. Also very clean and surgical.

Which, if any, other than a modern, wholesale-death warrior needs an assault rifle? Why can’t you have all the tools a modern warrior has at his command for your own enjoyment? But you can have an assault weapon for you own use. To use it, how?

The NRA and other bloodthirsty zealots say that it may come in handy if the government needs to be reined in. But, in any case, the constitution allows it.

As opposed to the British not allowing armed militias in localities and their method of having government army members posted locally to keep the citizens under control, the constitution explicitly said militias comprised of citizens, not the army, were allowed. Why else even the mention of militias in the Second Amendment?

No, we have gutless, and venal, members of congress in the employ of gun manufacturers not allowing the prohibitions of the personal weapon of war in the hands of the public as with the case of almost all other tools of war. But it is impersonal, clean and surgical.

Welcome to Las Vegas! But there are some things that don’t just remain in Vegas. It’s a reminder of our irrationality and acceptance of electing people who are under the control of those who are eager to sell firearms to the public, even tools of mass killing. It is a very clean, impersonal business. Almost 600 people and their friends and relatives wonder about that.

As always, follow the money.

JOHN BORGEN
Grand Junction

It is way past time for common-sense gun legislation

Las Vegas. 59 dead. 527 wounded. Innocent families destroyed by grief. I am sickened and horrified. And I am angry. Angry that the National Rifle Association holds my elected officials hostage to their strident and unreasonable demands that any U.S. citizen ought to be able to purchase an AR-15-style assault rifle (or a whole arsenal of them). Angry that it no longer feels safe to do ordinary activities in my country. Angry that yet more people are dead at the hands of people with weapons no citizen needs to have in their possession.

When the right to “bear arms” interferes with my right to enjoy life, to attend church, to learn at school, to study at a university, to enjoy nightlife at a club, to be treated at a hospital, to dance at a country music festival, whose right wins? I believe our Declaration of Independence includes the phrase: “we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable: that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It is way past time for our representatives and senators to take a stand for the rights of ordinary Americans to be safe in our own country. It is way past time for common-sense gun legislation. No one needs to own an assault weapon. I will be contacting my representatives today. No more needless massacres. This. Must. Stop.

SHARI VANDERVELDE
Grand Junction

How to find and provide support in wake of national tragedy

This morning we awoke to horrific news of the largest mass shooting in modern United States history. While we don’t yet know a lot as to the motivation of the shooter, at this point the “why” does not matter for the at least 59 people who were killed and the more than 500 injured. Suffering is great, and long after the physical injuries heal the psychological trauma will remain. As fellow Americans, we are also emotionally traumatized by this horrendous event.

We must understand this and do what we can to support ourselves, our family, friends, colleagues and our community in getting through this national tragedy. As despicable as it is, this event can be a unifying influence to our common good.

Protect yourself and your loved ones, particularly children and adolescents, from the overwhelming broadcast and social media coverage that will be sure to dominate over the next few days. Limit exposure to the graphic and traumatizing sounds and images of the violence and suffering.

And talking is important. Talk to your children and reassure them in a manner appropriate to their age. Connect with those for whom you think this event is particularly emotionally triggering. Maybe that’s you, we all need help on days like these. It’s OK to reach out, your friends want to help and professional support is also available.

24/7/365 Mental Health Crisis Local Hotline: 888.207.4004
24/7/365 Colorado Crisis Services Statewide Hotline: 844.493.TALK
Text line: Text TALK to 38255

You may also want to look for a Mental Health First Aid training in your area @MHFACO.org. Mental Health First Aid teaches how to recognize and deal with the signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge or crisis, what to do in an emergency and where to get help. It’s never been more important for us to have that knowledge and skills.

SHARON RAGGIO
President & CEO Mindsprings Health
Grand Junction


The GOP tax proposal would be a true ‘job-killer’

Under the GOP tax proposal, health expenses may no longer be deductible. Without medical deductions, retired people on fixed incomes (who tend to have more medical expenses) will send more money to Washington and spend less locally.

The tax proposal helps the rich in the form of eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Estate Tax. They try to sell the Estate Tax repeal as helping small businesses and farmers. From Forbes, June, 2016: “As for the multitude of family farms and small businesses that are sometimes put forth as the reason for eliminating the estate tax, there will be no material affect. Almost none of these family operations are impacted by the tax today.”

This proposal is a true “job-killer” and not just for CPAs and tax prep services. Significant number of retirees living in the valley means a significant hit to the local economy, as previously disposable income that was spent here would go to Washington. Drain the swamp indeed!

FRANK HOLT
Fruita


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Contrary to the Sentinel’s “head-in-the-sand” editorial opinion (“We need baseball now more than ever”), what we really need is not more baseball but—as Shari Vandervelde aptly writes—sensible gun safety laws.

Conservatives and gun rights enthusiasts tend to worship at the altar of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose rhetorical slight-of-hand and arrogant sophistry in District of Columbia v. Heller turned our Second Amendment jurisprudence on its head.

In Heller, Scalia dismissed the argument “that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment” as “bordering on the frivolous”, but posited a false (“bordering on the frivolous”) equivalency between “arms” (weapons of war, within the rubric of a “well ordered militia”) versus “communications” (as protected by the First Amendment) and privacy (as protected by the 4th Amendment).

Thus, Scalia (writing for the 5-4 majority) was spuriously insisting that the “18th century” drafters of the Second Amendment wouldn’t have changed one word or comma in it had they presciently foreseen the lethality and proliferation of modern personal weaponry.

The inconsistency of Scalia’s dubiously selective “originalism” is exposed later in Heller, wherein he concedes that the Second Amendment was never intended to permit “unusual or dangerous weapons . . . not in common use at the time”.  Thus, even if the drafters had anticipated multi-shot pistols and double-barreled shotguns, the “self defense” rationale applied to handguns in Heller need not apply to semi- or fully automatic assault weapons. 

Sadly, meanwhile, the tragic events in Las Vegas prove once again that Republican recipients of the NRA’s $3.5 million in campaign contributions to current members of Congress – e.g., Scott Tipton ($18,950) and Corey Gardner ($5,950) – have blood on their hands.

Republicans refuse to close the so-called “gun show loophole” (thereby allowing felons, the deranged, and even terrorists to purchase assault weapons with no background check)—so, there are well-advertised gun shows almost every weekend in Las Vegas.  Republicans offer “prayers and sympathy” to victims of gun violence, but voted against renewal of the assault weapons ban in 2004 and 2013, limits on magazine capacity, the sale of armor piercing ammunition, and/or the sale of fully-automatic modification kits.  See:  http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/breakingnews/las-vegas-gunman-used-bump-stock-device-to-speed-fire/ar-AAsQ32O?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartanntp.

To paraphrase the Sentinel’s editors, “if the horror of Las Vegas teaches us nothing else”, it’s that doing nothing while letting blood money trump common sense has more serious consequences than the baseball playoffs.

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