THE SALINA JOURNAL SUNDAY. APRIL 15, 2001 Kl Tom Bell Editor & Publisher Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "Yesterday on this spot, 24 men and women returned to America with honor—and to joyful families. Today, seven men return to America with honor—but to grieving families." Mm. Dennis C. Blair Friday at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, as the remains of seven Americans killed In a helicopter crash in Vietnam were returned. Another fine mess THE ISSUE Tax Day T THE ARGUMENT It's all too complicated •^he bad news is, today is April 15. The good news is, Tax Day falls on a Sunday this year, so everybody has another day to finish filling out their Form 1040, Schedule A, Schedule B, Schedule D, EITC and the taxman-only- knows what else you might need to do to both fulfill your obligations as a taxpayer and make sure you aren't being taken to the cleaners. If you've already been working on those or, better, if you are already finished, you won't be surprised by the conclusion of a pair of government reports: Income taxes are complicated. So complicated, in fact, that the General Accounting Office guesses that U.S. taxpayers paid at least $311 million more than they had to in 1998 because they chose simplicity over detail in one key part of their tax; returns. Simply by taking the standard deduction rather than itemizing perfectly legal deductions, the GAO estimates, a good half a million . taxpayers wound up paying more in taxes than they were obligated to pay In most cases, the deduction missed was the one for interest paid on home mortgages. That's the favorite tax break of the middle class, the one that everyone clings to whenever anyone suggests that the tax code has too many loopholes. But a tax break that a half- million taxpayers neglect to take because it's too complicated can hardly be thought an American birthright. Even some Internal Revenue Service officials have been heard to complain that the process they administer "continues to be the most serious and burdensome problem facing America's taxpayers." The IRS report brings up a point that deserves to be repeated this time of year. Whatever we may think of the IRS, its efficiency and its friendliness, the fact is that the cumbersome and burdensome nature of obeying tax law in this country is not the fault of the bureaucracy It is the fault of Congress, and of the last several presidents, who have loaded up the tax code with countless breaks, benefits, deductions, exceptions and limits. Every one of them must have made perfect sense to somebody once. But, all together, they make the tax code an indigestible mess that doesn't even deliver the benefits Congress intended because too many people can't find them. As Congress and the White House debate the amount of taxes we all have to pay, they might do us all a much greater service if they made the taxes we have to pay understandable. — George B. Pyle Journal Columnist • EDITORIAL NOTEBOOK Try a little healing kindness W e're all responsible for our own behavior, no matter what disadvantages we encounter. So when someone says that a school shooting might be justified because the shooter was bullied, we have to disagree. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be making an effort to reach out to those who feel alienated. Dana Scott's visit to Chanute this week was eloquent testimony for that approach to life. Dana has every reason to be bitter Her little sister was one of the young people murdered at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. A bright light in Dana's life, extinguished without warning or reason. The searing incident moved Dana to start traveling the country, sharing her feelings. But there isn't a trace of anger in her message. There's no bitterness at the senseless loss. Instead, Dana is devoting her energy to a simple message: Kindness — deliberate kindness ~ can change the world. In one sense, there's nothing new here. That theme is the backbone of every religion in the world. The message has been carried by spiritual leaders since recorded history But how easy it is to ignore! We've heard a lot from victims lately As the federal gov ernment gears up to kill Timothy McVeigh, survivors and victims' loved ones are scrambling for a chance to watch. Attorney General John Ashcroft, full of swagger and pomp, informs us how nauseated he is by McVeigh's hate- filled remorse-free mutterings. Well, yes, John. Aren't we all? But think of all that energy, all that emotion that has been expended reviling him. How much of that will help prevent another similar tragedy? None. In such an atmosphere, individuals who feel alienated, unloved, alone will continue to drift further from the healthy relationships they need to function as humans. By contrast, Dana believes it is her — our — responsibility to reach out to them. Our capitalist roots urge us to look out for ourselves; we ought to be looking out for one another, she says. It's not easy We'd rather nurse our pain, catalog our losses, dwell on the injustice handed us. But Dana's right — if we can summon the strength, the grace, the forgiveness to devote our lives to cultivating kindness, it will truly change the world. — Duane Schrag The Chanute Tribune Thirik Dff/erent T BELLWETHER A small island's big role in history Bloody battles on Okinawa led to the decision that began the atomic age Ti The Salina Journal [wo weeks ago, news wires started screaming with reports that a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter, creating the first real foreign policy test for the Bush administration. The U.S. aircraft * departed on its ill-fated flight from Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, a fact barely mentioned in initial stories. It is likely this tiny island goes unrecognized by most Americans, but Okinawa played a critical role in World War II. It was the site of the greatest land, sea and air battle of all time. It saw the first military action on Japanese # soil and the battle included the first widespread use of kamikaze pilots against U.S. ships. It is also theorized that the bloody three-month campaign convinced President Truman to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That is the argument laid out by George Feifer in his book, "Tennozan." He relates the gritty story of individual American and Japanese soldiers who fought on Okinawa, while detailing overall strategies and tactics. I took interest in the book because I spent three years on Okinawa as a youngster. Family excursions took us to museums and battlegrounds from the war, but it took Feifer's account to drive home the full story about Okinawa's role in history When asked about significant Pacific battles of the war, most Americans men- • SUNDAY FUNNIES When asked about significant Pacific battles of the war, most Americans mention the Battle of Midway or Iwo Jima. But casualties on Okinawa were far greater, and the outcome far more important than any other Pacific engagement. tion the Battle of Midway or Iwo Jima. But casualties on Okinawa were far greater, and the outcome far more important than any other Pacific engagement. Despite the ferocity and incredible loss of life, the battle of Okinawa did not punch through to the front of American public awareness during the summer of 1945. There were other distractions. U.S. troops landed on Okinawa April 1, meeting little initial resistance and generating few headlines. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died less than two weeks later, on April 12. The mourning was barely over when Germany surrendered on May 8, launching celebrations that overshadowed events across the Pacific. Meanwhile, the battle of Okinawa turned bloodier as it progressed. Japanese forces had completed an immense system of tunnels, linking huge caves equipped as living quarters, fighting bunkers, hospitals and military operations centers. These were excellent defensive positions and nearly impossible to clear without major loss of life. Additionally, Okinawan civilians and Japanese soldiers fought to the death or committed suicide rather than surrender. One Japanese headquarters was filled with hundreds of suicides when it was finally captured by Marines. The death toll mounted at ever higher rates as fighting progressed. After less than three months, the count was 23,000 Americans, 91,000 Japanese and 150,000 Okinawans killed on an island less than 50 miles long and only two miles wide at its narrowest point. And most of the fighting took place on the southern half The battle of Okinawa weighed heavily with American military planners who projected losses for an anticipated invasion of Japan. They estimated 100,000 American dead from the initial invasion alone. Gen. Douglas MacArthur put the expected death toll at more than 1 million for invading and securing the Japanese islands. It was expected that final American casualties would total more than had been lost in the entire war up to that point — including both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. Those estimates don't include civilian casualties. As witnessed on Okinawa, Japanese would fight to the death or commit suicide before surrendering. There is no telling how many hundreds of thousands would have died defending their homeland. Those projections likely led President Truman to drop the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which resulted in a combined estimated death toll of 200,000. Commanders in Chief face hard decisions. And the grisly scales of war weighed heavily in favor of atomic weapons, thanks to our experience on Okinawa, the unknown island that helped usher in the atomic age. • Journal Editor & Publisher Tom Bell can be reached at 823-6464, Ext. 753, or by email at email@example.com. New economy: Boo.com to boo-hoo Fortunately, we have professional witch doctors, who must know something L et's take a look at your investment portfolio. In the current market, you should have most of your money in something fairly conservative, such as a coffee can buried under your house. If you want to diversify, you might consider investing in two separate coffee cans. Whatever you do, do not put money in the stock market. The reason you should avoid the stock market is that — to put it in technical terms — nobody knows anything. This is abundantly obvious from the financial reporting on the TV news. No matter what the stock market does, the TV news always boUs down to this: TOM BROKAW: The stock market today went either down or up, and nobody on this earth knows why For more, here's our financial expert. FINANCIAL EXPERT: Tom, analysts attributed the movement of the market to a market movement, in which the market moves either upward or downward, depending on the direction of the market, although sometimes it holds still. BROKAW: And is this expected to continue? FINANCIAL EXPERT: Tom, it's too soon to tell. In terms of solid information, we're in the same situation as members of a primitive tribe seeing their first solar eclipse. We're sitting around, pounding roots, when suddenly ... the sun is going out! We don't understand! We're scared! DAVE BARRY The Miami Herald « Fortunately we have witch doctors. They explain that the sun is being swallowed by a giant worm, and that they can scare it away by performing certain dance steps while waving a magic feather and wearing a hat made from the skull of a weasel. We believe them, because, hey they must know something, right? How else could they become professional witch doctors? It's the same with the stock market, except that instead of a giant worm, we have a recession; and instead of witch doctors, we have expert financial analysts; and instead of a weasel skull, we have Alan Greenspan. What we don't have is any kind of clue as to what the stock market is going to do. That's why for quality entertainment, you can't beat TV commercials for large investment institutions. They all have the same message, which is: "These are scary times for investors, so give us your moneyl You can trust us, because we have a large building." Sure! We can trust these institutions! We know this because 18 months ago, they all ran commercials that said: "Sell your stocks right now! The market is about to go into the toilet!" Remember those commercials? Ha ha! Of course not. Eighteen months ago, the same institutions were running commercials that said: "Everybody is getting rich in the stock market, so give us your moneyl Then go shopping for your helicopter!" The thing is, they meant it. Eighteen months ago, the experts sincerely believed that we were in a New Economy, and the way to get rich was to invest in a new business model, a business model based on a revolutionary economic principle: stupidity This was the principle behind the dot com boom, a wonderful example of which was an Internet company called Boo.com. According to an article I read in The New York Times, Boo.com was conceived as an Internet site that would sell, at full price, "urban chic clothing ... that was so cool it wasn't even cool yet." In other words, Boo.com was going to sell, with no discount, clothes that most people were not wearing! This idea was so obviously stupid that it was irresistible to the financial experts. Big investors, including the prestigious financial firm J.P. Morgan, hurled millions of dollars at Boo.com; Fortune magazine named it one of the "Cool Companies of 1999." Using modern, New-Economy business practices, Boo.com managed to go through $185 million in 18 months. Among the vital things it spent money on was an official cartoon mascot named Miss Boo. Fashion and hair consultants were flown from New York to London and paid thousands of dollars per day to work on Miss Boo's "look," It really paid off, too! Miss Boo is a real looker, as you'll see if you visit the Boo.com site, which is less ambitious now, and under new management, since the original company went bankrupt, along with the rest of the New Economy But J.P. Morgan is still here, and so is Fortune magazine, and so are all the other. financial experts, dancing around, waving their magic feathers. They no longer believe in the New Economy I don't know what they believe in at the moment, but I'm sure they believe in it very deeply And despite the skepticism I've expressed in this column, I believe there are some good investment opportunities in today's market. I myself am heavily into Maxwell House. • Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.
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