Email Letters: September 27, 2016

Ignorance of athletes protesting flag and anthem is shameful

This past weekend was Gold Star Family Sunday across America. For those not familiar with Gold Star Family, it is for families who have lost a loved one serving in the military. My wife and I attended Colorado’s Annual Gold Family Retreat in Durango. Our youngest daughter, Air Force Sgt. Brooke Leigh Caffrey, died in January 2012 as a result of her service. Brooke served for 17 years and deployed to Kuwait, twice to Afghanistan and in 2011 to Iraq. Our Saturday morning in Durango included a custom video of all the Colorado sons and daughters who have died in service since 9/11. The video was beautiful, emotional and gut wrenching. Seeing the pictures of our kids in battle gear and big smiles was a proud yet tearful moment for all the families attending.

One aspect of the video that impacted me was that it included sons, daughters, whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans – all brothers and sisters serving equally in our armed forces. I contrast those images to the selfish and ignorant stance taken by Brandon Marshall, Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes that have shown complete disrespect to our flag and national anthem. If only they could have been in that hotel room last Saturday to watch the video or observe the surviving family members. Our kids who sacrificed their lives for all of us were not blessed with the physical abilities to become overpaid selfish professional athletes. They were and are blessed with an attitude of serving others and each other. They define courage, humility, and love of family and love of a nation, which has provided them with opportunities no matter what their ethnic background.

Colin Kaepernick has now carried his ignorant and selfish message to a high school football team in Oakland. A message that has no validity and no worth.

I am a Vietnam veteran; I know the price that is required to ensure that our nation remains free. My daughter was also aware of the cost and she paid the full price. Brandon Marshall and his pals have stated that their “protest” is not against our service members, yet their physical actions show total disrespect to our nation including our armed forces and our police. Educate yourself; show some respect. Your ignorance is shameful.


Grand Junction

To solve child abuse problem, we all need to get involved and reach out

Thank you to Erin McIntyre and Gabrielle Porter for their “Failure to Protect” series. As a social worker who has worked with children and families for over 30 years it is still hard to accept that right now a child in our community is being neglected or abused. This topic is so painful and such a stigma that it is easy to avoid.
Thank you to the foster and kin parents who have given their hearts and homes to these children. I know not everyone can be a foster/kin parent but everyone can do something to help these children.

Social problems like poverty, addiction, mental illness and domestic violence ripple through our community and these factors contribute to parents not having the skills they need to parent safely. Please reach out to parents you see struggling. Research shows that we can improve this situation by offering concrete help like food and child care; community connection with neighbors and institutions; providing knowledge about what normal child development and behavior is; and help with coping in hard times.

To solve this problem we all have to get involved. It’s time to stand up and reach out. Our children’s lives depend on it. Pearl S. Buck wrote, “If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.”


We are setting up experiment for failure with homeless situation

Monday’s above-the-fold headline about drastic cuts in services for the local homeless was certainly underplayed. According to the shelter, use is up. Heck, actually according to District 51 and various providers, homelessness is a currently crucial problem in the valley. Solution? Cut services in half.

Shame on all of you so called advocates. With the serious crackdown on camping, too, we are setting up an experiment for failure. Reality is comprised of those things that won’t go away simply because they are not convenient. Homelessness in Grand Junction is real and not going away.


Grand Junction

Trump’s statement about not paying taxes is appalling

Donald Trump’s statement during Monday’s presidential debate that he does not pay federal income taxes because “I’m smart” simply stuns me. Does that mean that the rest of us who pay taxes are stupid? Trump bragged, as I recall, that he made over $600 million last year! Just because he is wealthy enough to hire armies of lawyers and accountants to take advantage of the tax system does not impress me. Frankly, it’s appalling.

This is a man of great privilege who is running for president. He should at least pay something to a nation that has benefited him and his family so much – not boast about how he can avoid paying anything to Uncle Sam at all. I don’t see even an ounce of integrity in him, only a desire to use the system, which he openly decries, to his own, ego-driven, financial advantage. There is no sense of civic duty in this man, only blatant self-interest.



Trump is a businessman, not a polished politician

After what we’ve had in the last eight years, I don’t understand why more than half of Americans would be fearful of Trump. Trump is not a polished politician; he is a businessman. After creating the biggest deficit the United States has ever had, it’s hard to believe that there’s something worse to worry about. I believe that having a businessman as president would be a great change for the best. We’ve had the politicians – how did you like them? The pollsters are here again. When you have a poll for 540 people on the front page of the biggest newspaper on the Western Slope, you’ve got to wonder who is kidding who.


Are Americans naïve or dumb when it comes to food sources?

There is a food resource that dwells in the American west that is grass fed, free range, low fat, antibiotic and growth hormone free. Harvesting it would provide local jobs. Some in the world (but not Americans) find it quite tasty and pay a premium price for it. While it would support numerous jobs if harvested in the U.S., you couldn’t give it away.

There is a food source that dwells in the ocean. It too is free range, antibiotic and growth hormone free, but high fat. It eats every putrid, fetid dead fish or animal that falls to the bottom of the ocean. In third world countries where human waste is dumped untreated into the ocean, it is farm raised in that same ocean. In the U.S. it is viewed as a succulent, gourmet dining experience, and people line up to pay premium prices for it.

The former is called horsemeat. The latter is called crab, shrimp, lobster, oysters, clams, etc. Go figure. Naïve or dumb?


Trump lacks competence to constructively confront our nation’s future

Ronald Braukhoff’s Tuesday letter (“Reasons for supporting Trump focused on what he will not do”) aptly demonstrates the desperation of those who support the least qualified candidate to ever seek our presidency – by imputing to him their own policy preferences in mindless disregard for the facts.

Thus, first, by embracing a “Drill, Baby, Drill” policy on federal lands, Trump himself would be “actively hostile to the coal industry” by exacerbating the free market forces that have produced a glut of low-priced natural gas and decimated that industry.

Moreover, the “endless lines of idle railroad locomotives” in Grand Junction portend improved air quality for the Grand Valley, while mile-long trains on the Front Range deliver wind turbine blades manufactured in Pueblo to wind farms in Wyoming.

Hopefully, a responsible Democratic government will end subsidies for fossil fuels and instead provide unemployment relief and job retraining to idled train crews and miners – policies that “conservative” Republicans (including Scott Tipton) reflexively oppose.

Second, contrary to this oft-discredited internet meme, no one “imports refugees and/or provides them with more benefits than to our veterans and seniors, in return for their vote.” Refugees can’t vote until they become naturalized citizens; “immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.;” and – per capita –“the children of immigrants . . . are among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the U.S. population, contributing more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population.”

Third, Trump will further degrade our military – because he offers no way to pay for a larger defense budget without exploding our national debt, but will likely expose our volunteer soldiers and sailors to needless dangers by overreacting to “taunting tactics by foreign units involving our aircraft or ships at sea.”

Fourth, by favoring businesses and the already wealthy (like himself), “Trump’s tax plan would raise federal income taxes on more than half of America’s single parents and one-fifth of families with children,” while increasing our national debt by $5.3 trillion over 10 years. See:

Therefore, as clearly demonstrated in Monday night’s debate, Trump appeals to Braukhoff’s nostalgic reverence for an irretrievable past – but obviously lacks the comprehension, temperament, experience, and competence to constructively confront our nation’s future.

Grand Junction

It’s discouraging that homeless shelter is cutting down number of days residents can remain

I was disappointed to read that the Homeward Bound Shelter will be cutting in half the number of days homeless people may use the shelter. The shelter is correct in maintaining that on average the majority of its residents do not use nearly 180 days of the time previously available. However, it neglects the obvious fact that a minority of those who experience homelessness in any given year are a majority of the problem.

While the figures I was able to pull up online from various sources differed somewhat, between 15 percent to 23 percent of the homeless are chronically homeless. That means that of the roughly 2 million people to experience homelessness for one or more days last year between 300,000 and 450,000 were either homeless all year, or were homeless repeatedly year after year. Put another way that means the overwhelming majority of the 564,708 people HUD found who were homeless on a given night in January of 2015 were chronically homeless people.

The picture on the local scene here in Grand Junction is not so different. In January of this year in all likelihood between two thirds and more than three quarters of those who will be put out of the shelter will be chronically homeless people who rely on the shelter to keep from freezing to death. Most will be men past 50, many will have serious mental and or physical disabilities, few will have meaningful skills or stable job histories. Unlike many of those already unsheltered few will have serious issues with alcohol and substance abuse as the shelter tests its residents nightly. That alone is unlikely to make many chronically homeless people attractive hires in a competitive job market.

The most important function the local shelter serves, in my opinion, is not to help those whose situation would soon rectify itself anyway, but to prevent significant numbers of functionally disabled adult residents of this community from freezing to death in the dead of winter. Why the shelter’s board has chosen to abrogate that obligation is beyond my comprehension. Yes it is true that nationally many shelters, especially in rural areas, offer insufficient services. In many areas in fact there are no services at all.

Nationally, 42 percent of those homeless on any given night will find the only shelter afforded them to be a cardboard box. Many will freeze to death every year in cities like Portland where 88 people froze to death last year alone.

Why Grand Junction should emulate such statistics mystifies me. The homeless won’t just disappear because the people we are talking about have nowhere else to go and no way to get there. At the very least the shelter, and the city (which wasted hundreds of thousands fighting the ACLU over panhandling), should address themselves to establishing hypothermia shelter to prevent homeless death. Is it asking too much that we accord our homeless residents the same consideration we routinely provide murders and rapists in our prisons?

Grand Junction

Vote no on the Columbine School bailout in Montrose

Yes, to the individual Montrose County commissioners and the Montrose City Council as private citizens signing the construction loan and subsequent mortgage for a new Columbine School.

Yes, to the thousands of private citizens who will no doubt join them to commit their resources to pay the bill, while they continue to pay property taxes. As responsible investors, they will insist that current and past school district employees and officials be investigated and prosecuted for their gross negligence and neglect of fiduciary duty in failing to provide for school building replacement from their already bloated and unstoppable tax revenue stream. This liability should also include several generations of school board members.

Vote no on the Columbine bailout.


We need to protect the government programs that protect our children

I grew up with a single mom who was often unemployed. Despite our circumstances, the public schools I attended fostered my love for learning and ignited my dreams of pursuing higher degrees. Available government programs made sure I didn’t go hungry. Although I could not afford private university tuition, I was able to attend my college of choice with the help of federal Pell grants, subsidized work-study programs, and low-cost student loans. I now have degrees from Johns Hopkins, Yale University, and Stanford Law School and am able to give back to the government and community that once supported me.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton this November because she understands we need programs like these to protect and support our young people so that my son and all children have the opportunity to become what they dream. After all, we don’t all have fathers able to write a million-dollar check.



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Mr. Downing,

Government is not a business. Expecting a businessman to run a government properly is like expecting a plumber to remove your appendix. There is a whole lot more to running a government that business experience does not apply to.

As a Viet Nam era Army veteran and the father of two children who did not serve in the U.S. military, I can only inadequately imagine the unquenchable grief experienced by Wayne Telford (“Ignorance of athletes protesting flag and anthem is shameful”) and the other Gold Star parents who convened in Durango to commemorate the sacrifice of their sons and daughters who gave the last full measure of devotion on behalf of a grateful Nation.

I also appreciate that Telford refused to allow his daughter’s death to be for nothing – by joining a panel commissioned by our own Senator Michael Bennet to identify how to tackle the issues that led to the tragic loss of AF Sergeant Brooke Leigh Caffrey.  See:

However, I would remind Wayne that the oath of service we, his father, his father-in-law, and Brooke all honorably took was to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same” – an oath that makes no mention of either the “Stars and Stripes” or the “Star Spangled Banner”.

Indeed, the poem that later became our National Anthem was written in 1814 – well before enactment of the 13th (1865), 14th (1868), and 15th (1870) Amendments to that Constitution, and it has been unconstitutional to compel recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance” to that flag since 1943 (in the middle of World War II).  Rather, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, our Supreme Court held that ideological dogma is antithetical to the principles of this Country, concluding that:

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Thus, it is particularly ironic that Telford cites the ethnicity of the Fallen, including those minorities for whom—relative to
we “whites” – the Constitutionally solemn promises of “equal protection of the laws” and unabridged voting rights remain too-often unfulfilled.

Therefore, it is hardly “selfish” or “ignorant” about the peaceful efforts of athletes at all levels to call attention to the obvious and continuing disconnect between the cherished words of our Constitution and the disparate treatment of minorities by our criminal justice system.  To the extent that our flag symbolizes structural racism, it perhaps deserves “total disrespect”.

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