The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on March 17, 1984 · Page 11
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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 11

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Des Moines, Iowa
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Saturday, March 17, 1984
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Page 11
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LETTERS SU Mar. 17, 1984 THE DES MOINES REGISTER 1U Making students. REGISTER ILLUSTRATION BY MJNDY MILLER r" '-WWrVf WPre? aP hate writing tal Kin' about anywayP" Regarding Cedar County Magistrate Roger Freese assigning a meaningless sentence to be copied 750 times by a girl as punishment for possessing alcohol: That punishment could certainly make the offender despise both him and the punishment. By association the crime may seem as silly as the writing task was. Now if he doesn't think such punishment will have a negative effect on a student's attitudes toward him, the law, school and writing, then he can keep it up. But he should humor us English teachers and switch to similar silly tasks from other academic areas for awhile. For example, assign the girl to work 750 long-division problems as punishment. See if mathematics teachers worry about "math anxiety." Or assign the girl to do 750 push-ups. Her body could undoubtedly benefit. Why not demand that the offender memorize the U.S. presidents and the dates of their terms? Or have her memorize the sections of the Iowa Code forbidding her to possess alcohol, along with statistical tables from the U.S.S. Iowa and April 28 is the date of the recommis-sioning of the U.S.S. Iowa (retired in 1958).... Our dependence on nuclear weapons stuns my mind. The U.S.S. Iowa and its six support ships will be armed with more than 500 Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles (each nuclear missile having 10 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb) plus numerous other shorter-range nuclear devices. ... The major criticism of redeploying the Iowa is the fact that cruise missiles seriously complicate arms-control efforts and may well be bargained away if meaningful negotiations should arise. ... Jean Robinson, 505 E. Washington, Iowa City. It is with mixed feelings that I read the two letters printed March 8 on the subject of the battleship U.S.S. Iowa. I feel a great deal of pride to be associated with the state that has such a powerful defensive weapon named after it. I commend the two writers of those letters for their openness in allowing their opinions to be published. . . . Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of American democracy a cornerstone being guaranteed by the officers and men of the armed forces of the United States of America, including the crew of the U.S.S. Iowa. . . . Having spent my time in the military, I can assure the two writers that no soldier, sailor, airman or marine wants to go into combat. But, if they have to. they would prefer to go in Six-girl game A recent article said six-girl basketball is dead. ... I say, as one who played six-girl basketball for a number of years, give the girls a break. Do you know how tired a girl gets running up and down those basketball floors? That little break from one court to the other gives you a chance to take a deep breath and collect a few thoughts for the next play. Also, let girls be girls. Why does everyone think a girl should play like a boy? The difference between the two games is a little variety, not the same old jazz Paula Schuessler, Waukee. Ette tu, Mary Glory be! After 20-some years of reading The Register, I have finally learned a startling truth from your front page. Thanks to your March 7 article, "Burning Tourney Question: To 'Ette' or Not to 'Ette'?" I now know why the ERA failed, why Roxanne Conlin lost her bid for governor and why some women don't enjoy men's opening doors for them. It's the lack of the suffix "ette." Language has long been recognized as a powerful tool for shaping history, this is a shining example. Think how different things might have been had we called the Equal Rights Amendment an "amendmentette," persuaded Roxanne to change her name to "Rockette," and dubbed members of the women's movement "feminettes" or "liberettes." Since "ette" is a diminutive indicating a small facsimile (as in novelnovelette), using the ending might have made women's accomplishments appear smaller, therefore less threatening. ... Mary (ette) C. Swanson, Rt. 2, Waukee. Trillion Our national debt is already past $1 trillion. Such a sum is beyond comprehension for most people. In case you're interested, however, if you started counting from one, day and night, never stopping, $1 per second, It would take you more than 30,000 years just to count $1 trillion. Ray Yarham, 602 E. Second St. South, Newton. past five years concerning drunken-driving accidents? At least those suggestions, while promoting a dislike of learning, would either have the kids practicing a skill, improving their physiques, or learning some facts. ... I'm truly sorry that my profession so conditioned him during his own schooling that he still believes writing is a punishment, and even sorrier that he uses it as such. We English teachers are trying to change that, and teach writing as a valuable thinking skill that is both worthwhile and satisfying. ... Dana Wall, coordinatorconsultant, language arts, Western Hills Area Education Agency, Sioux City. Does Magistrate Freese's idea of justifiable punishment show that competency testing should be reviewed for his profession also? . . . An appropriate punishment might have been to pick up 750 beer cans and to donate the proceeds ($37.50) to an alcohol-treatment program Sharon Brummer, Rt. 1, Carlisle. arms control with the capability of staying alive and winning. Ships like the U.S.S. Iowa enhance that capability Karl Grimmelmann, Larrabee. . . . The war machines we honor with names of states and people were built to maintain the survival of our nation's freedom America has been humiliated for far too long; now is the time to turn the tide to defeat terrorism and force the Soviet Union to see that world domination will cost too much and a real peaceful coexistence is the only way Matt G. Cunningham, 1937 Gay St., Cedar Falls. Testing I believe that any profession that does not presently have a test for licensing should do so. As a teacher I would welcome a test over basic skills as well as a test over my subject area. I am willing to take any competency test that all of the Iowa legislators can pass. Barbara A. Sipes, Rt. 2, Dexter. Favoritism The article by Ruth Grimes Turner on the state of our education system should be read by all educators throughout the country. Her comments brought back memories of our move to a small rural community In 1972, with our 11-year-old son. The teachers in the school system played politics, and it was soon apparent that our son was one of the unimportant students in the school, not because we were from "the other side of the tracks" but because we were not natives of the community. This move changed an excellent student to one who was barely average. The young are the future of our nation and the young should be treated with respect. Geraldine Reichlin-ger, Rt. 1, Laurel. Lackey fans What happened to the "Dearest Occupant" column? I miss it. Virginia Moore, 1724 E. Twenty-second St., Des Moines. ... If you think you can slip in Mike Royko for Pat Lackey without a protest, you're wrong! Keep Kathleen Richardson on Monday, and keep Royko if you must. But bring back Lackey! - Onita Mohr, 3919 Forty-third St., Dei Moines. . . . Nobody reads all of the newspaper all of the time. That's not news to you. Lackey lent a distinctive sparkle to The Register. ... - Leslie Steeves, 1804 G St., Iowa City. Trade center I want my taxes to go for schools, fix the streets, which are about the worst in the state, and help needy people, not for a world trade center. - Oris S. Gilbert, 2005 E. Twenty-third St., Des Moines. Good old days Remember the good old days when we thought Nixon was a crook? Remember when "B" movies were second-rate? Remember when it was relevant to discuss ethics? Remember a couple of years back when you ctald meet a real "average" person? Remember the time when money was a common word? Remember when the big lie coming from the top was a trickle rather than a torrential downpour? . . . J. Hicks, 537 Fifty-sixth St., Des Moines. Potent poteen legendary as illicit frisi By L. ERIK CALONIUS LIMERICK, IRELAND - On a starry night here, a dairy farmer stacks up the peat fire in his house, eager to tell his visitor about a magician who lives at the bottom of the lake outside. First he pulls down from the shelf a green bottle marked Celebration Cream Sherry. Leaning forward in his chair, he pours himself and his guest two tumblers from the bottle. " Tis a fine, clear stuff," he declares, examining the crystal liquid against the fire. Handing a tumbler to his guest, he adds, "You treat it kindly." Indeed, you must; for it isn't the cream sherry that has been offered, but poteen, the legendary illicit whiskey of Ireland. Rub poteen on a fiddle, the Irish say, and it will play all the sweeter, feed it to a sick calf, and by morning it will be well. Drink it, and you will quickly feel it coursing through your bloodstream like a torchlight parade, leaving you, quite possibly, with a hangover of epic proportions. "The classic test of good poteen," says an aficionado, "is that you can tell exactly where it is in your body at all times." Called "the hard stuff," "the cure," "mountain dew," "holy water" and "Katie Daly," poteen has been around for centuries but has lately been enjoying a new popularity. The police in the Connemara region, where poteen is made in hidden grottos and windswept offshore islands, estimate that production is three times what it was just a few years ago. " 'Tis a year-round process now, where before it was just prior to Christmas that it was made," says a local policeman. Poteen's vogue seems to be linked to the Irish government's steadily increasing taxation of legal liquors. Since 1970, liquor taxes have risen fivefold, pushing the price of a fifth of whiskey, for instance, to the equivalent of more than SI 5. The high price of liquor has had a sobering effect on pub life here, with legal drinking down considerably, particularly in rural areas. It has sent shoppers streaming to Northern Ireland by bus and train to buy liquor at half the price. It has provided a multimillion-dollar business for smugglers, who are sneaking truckloads of spirits across the borders from Northern Ireland into the Republic. It has also increased the consumption of homemade beer and wine. At the equivalent of less than $6 a bottle, the fiery poteen is quite a bargain, and it has become so prevalent in Connemara and other western regions that some there have suggested it be produced legally as a native brand of whiskey. The reasoning is that western Ireland has some 60 full-time and about 40 occasional moonshiners turning out about 6892,500 worth of poteen every year, legalized production could bring in revenues of about $14 million to $18 million a year. The proposal didn't get very far. After all, a commercially prepared whiskey sold under a brand named Poteen would still just be whiskey and, if the truth be known, probably pretty bad whiskey at that It is the illicit na-ture of poteen that makes it attrac-', tive: Poteen is the rebel yell of the re Reprinted with permission from The Wall Street Journal. 1984, Dow Jones & Co. i spirit-raiser gion, made by individuals wily enough to outfox the authorities. The first tax on poteen was levied in 1661; but more restrictive than that was a law enacted in 1760, which made private distillation, except by a state license, a crime. In order to get a license the state decreed that the distillation operations be of substantial size - hence cutting out the little man and hence starting the illegal little operations. (The word "poteen," in fact, means "little pot.") Since then, the police and the moonshiners have competed at outwitting each other, sometimes on the level of the Keystone Kops. In Limerick, a local businessman tells this story: The local moonshiner, walking home from a creamery one day, spies a police car going over the hillside, right toward the hiding place of his still. Leaping into a ditch by the roadside, he watches as the police find the works and return to the car with the copper coil and all. They put the hardware in the trunk but can't close the lid. Just as they are leaving, the moonshiner leaps out of the ditch and lifts the stuff out of the trunk. When the police arrive at the station, they lift the lid; to their great surprise, there is nothing there. I I Even the best poteen has to be taken with care. Much ofit is 85-percent ethyl alcohol. Not that the police have an unmitigated dislike for the stuff. A policeman up in the lake country near Ennis-killen in Northern Ireland recalls that after one successful raid on a still, each officer was required to taste a wee bit of the product "you know, to be able to give evidence that it was poteen," he says. "Well, they knew the next day the county supervisor would pour the stuff down the drain; and when that day came, the drain had been scrubbed, cleaned with bleach and washed out again and a milk churn had been put at the other end. That poteen was duly poured down the drain and duly taken up again," he says, laughing. The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has tried also to cut the flow of poteen, and at times has almost succeeded. In the 19th century, the church made poteen-making a reserved sin, meaning that the maker couldn't go to his parish priest for absolution but had to stand before the bishop himself. But moonshiners tend to be an incorrigible lot There is a story, for instance, of a moonshiner who decides to repent and goes to the bishop for absolution. The bishop tells the moonshiner that he must cast his still over a nearby cliff, where the ruins of others lie in a rusting heap below. The man agrees and pulls his little still to the edge of the precipice; but looking down, his eye falls on a still much finer and bigger than bis own. He tosses his own still over the edge, complying with the bishop's demand and then pulls the better one from the pile. Even the best poteen has to be taken with care. Much of It la 85-percent ethyl alcohoL "You cannot just drink poteen the way you drink whiskey," warns one policeman. "A bottle of whiskey will put the alcohol content in the body at 300 milligrams per hundred milliliters of blood, and if someone is at that state, he's in bad shape. Poteen can put you over 400. You should be dead." Indeed, civilized folk reserve poteen for use in traditional Christmas cakes or dilute it in a punch or hot sugared water. What worries authorities now is that poteen operations are getting bigger. Bottled gas has replaced turf as a heat source; and so, without having to worry about a telltale plume of smoke, some operators are bringing their stills right into the cities. The local maker, who traditionally supplied his neighbors, is being replaced by pros who use speedboats and trucks to move their goods. There is little local pride in the quality of such stuff; and in many cases barley, potatoes and other traditional ingredients are replaced with fast-fermenting beet pulp, fruit and other materials. Worrisome, too, is that a new generation has become involved in the illicit trade. "It's an attractive occupation in this time of unemployment," says one policeman. "The money's big-time." In Oughterard, a town in the west, the police say that five people a year die from drinking bad poteen. Sometimes the stuff hasn't been distilled enough; rather than being run through the copper coil the required three times, it is only run once. Caramel coloring is put in the brew and it is sent out to kill or cripple. In one case, the moonshiner used lead piping instead of copper and made a lethal brew. A group of teen-agers made a poisonous batch, having used an oil drum with traces of diesel fuel still in it. In another case, the drum used contained weedkiller; the police warned in notices, "Be extremely careful of everything you drink. Only water is safe." George O'Malley of the Wine and Spirits Association of Ireland says the drinking of any poteen isn't without risk. "It's made by people behind the law who don't have the scientific skills to make it properly. They claim they know by the taste and the smell of it, and they know because their great grandfather told them, but what they're making is highly dangerous." But seasoned poteen drinkers, who know their poteen maker as a neighbor, say good poteen is easy to discern. It should be clear to the eye, says the Limerick dairy farmer, adding that another test is sometimes used: Put a bit of poteen in a bottle cap, ignite it and look for a clean blue flame; a yellow flame indicates impurities. As the fire grows warmer and so do the effects of the hard stuff, the dairyman turns the conversation back to the local magiciin, who, having been punished by his mother for turning himself into a black raven, now must live beneath the lake. "He's allowed one concession," says the storyteller, "to come up once every seven years and ride his white steed upon the lake. The steed is shod in silver shoes, and when the silver shoes are worn thin, he'll be allowed back to take his place as he formerly was. I think he was up two years ago. "So we'll be keeping a watch for him, riding around the lake, on his white steed with silver shoes." He puts down his empty tumbler and returns his gaze to the fire. Any time elections at the ward level are held in Chicago, there are complaints of dirty tricks. Sometimes they're the most entertaining part of the season. Unfortunately, the quality of dirty tricks has declined to the point that probably more imaginative acts of malice are performed in the suburbs. There were livelier times in the city's political history when a dirty trick was really a dirty trick. Bombs were common. They usually went off in the doorway of a candidate's campaign office and broke a window or two. The candidate would immediately call a press conference and denounce his opponent, saying that anyone who used bombs was unworthy of the public trust . His opponent would respond that anybody who would put a bomb in his own doorway just to gain sympathy was unworthy of the public trust. That night hoping to pick up a little of the sympathy vote himself he'd set off a bomb in his own doorway. In more serious contests, an uninvited candidate might receive a message that he really shouldn't run because the strain of the campaign might cause him to age quickly. Sometimes the message was ignored. Then came the dirty trick. It might take the form of stubby men with stubby shotguns steppin g out of the candidate's gangway or jumping out of a car. The next motniiig, a Page 1 picture of homicide cops pointing at a corpse on the sidewalk would serve as the formal announcement that the fellow's campaign had officially ended. Today, candidates scream like they're being tortured if their opponents' campaign workers merely rip their posters off light poles. The only imaginative dirty trick in this primary campaign has occurred in, of all places, the lakefront's 43d Ward, where there is more political cheese-nipping and wine-sipping than anywhere in Chicago. It was passed on to us by indignant campaign workers for Ann Stepan, a reformer of sorts, who is running for Democratic ward committeeman against Daniel O'Brien, who isn't a reformer of any sort. Recently, Stepan decided to send out 43,000 postcards letting everybody in the ward in on the thrilling news that she had been endorsed by liberal State Senator Dawn Clark Netch. A couple of days later, the Stepan office called the printer and asked if the cards were ready. "Sure, they're ready," the printer said. "In fact, somebody just paid for them and picked them up." "But we didn't pick them up," said the Stepan workers. It turned out that some guy had called the printer that morning and asked if the Stepan cards were ready. A little later, two guys showed up in a car, paid the $760 printing bill in cash, and walked off with the cards. Naturally, the Stepan people immediately and indignantly declared that somebody probably O'Brien was engaging In dirty tricks. When he was asked if he would do such a thing, O'Brien followed ancient tradition and accused the Stepan people of playing dirty tricks on themselves to have an opportunity to accuse him of playing dirty tricks. "Why she and her people are tearing down her own signs then calling the TV stations and screaming. She has been campaigning for five months and has never been on TV. So she has fabricated these things to create interest. I am shocked and mystified." The Stepan workers pooh-poohed O'Brien's denial and accusation. They followed with an announcement that their campaign office had been burglarized. They didn't flatly say that O'Brien's workers did that, too, but they didn't deny that they wouldn't mind if people thought so. Out of curiosity, we called the campaign office of a third candidate in this race Jerry Meites, who is backed by Mayor Harold Washington - and' asked if his workers might have pulled the trick of picking up the postcards. "Gosh, no," one of them said. "We don't have $700 to waste that way. We don't have money for our own cards. Why would we spend money just to get her cards?" That made sense. So we asked If they had been the victims of any dirty tricks. Sounding wistful, he said, "No, there hasn't been anything like that done to us. Nothing unusual." But within an hour, somebody from the Meites office called and, sounding triumphant, said: "We have just re ceived a bomb threat. A woman phoned one of our workers and said that our campaign office was going to, be blown up." Well, has it been? "Been what?" Blown up. "No, but we've been threatened.H Threats don't count. Call back when you explode. I mean, somebody has to maintain standards.

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