Letters 12/29/10

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Appreciates stand

    In reference to the recent School Board vote on the name of the Winter Holiday, thank you Mickey Vanderwerker
    -for standing up for those principles on which our country was founded: religious tolerance and separation of church and state.
    -for acknowledging that there are those in Bedford of different faiths who count.
    -for valuing the ever more diverse nature of our precious community of Bedford.
    Shame on the other School Board members for putting their own personal religious convictions above the good of our multi-cultural community they were elected to represent.

Patsy Arnold Martin

Supporting the Wharton Garden/Bower Center patron

    Halfshot stumbled onto the stage and confided to the interlocutor, “You know, one thing that I like about Mr. Asphalt is that he’s a very safety-conscious person. But he’s such a worrywart. Like last month, he read that most automobile accidents happen within 5 miles of home. He got so shook up that he moved.”    
    Asphalt was, of course, the jokester in the Bedford Host Lions Club Variety show played by William W. Berry, III, Esq., noted Bedford attorney-at-law and Wharton Garden board member. As one of several “Endmen,” he dressed in a ragged tuxedo with his shirttail unceremoniously protruding from a not-completely closed zipper. Asphalt let it be known that he had just bought his outfit on the way home from seeing the doctor. Upon further questioning as to why he chose that moment to buy his clothes, Asphalt replied, “Well, the doctor said I was impotent and I have always maintained that when you is impotent, you must dress impotent.”
    The Lions Variety Show was held each year with three presentations over a spring weekend. It was innocent family fun with many “impotent” local citizens in attendance. As one of the end men, I can remember peeking out at the audience before the show to see who was there. Everyone was fair game to be the victim of an irreverent joke … politicians, shop keepers, doctors, and teachers … the more well known the better. The purpose of the show was fundraising. The cost of the show was minimal with local singers in the chorus, local musicians providing accompaniment, and local specialty acts.
    Why do I mention an old Bedford Lions tradition in a Wharton Garden/Bower Center letter? Because that show reflected an innocence, a sense of community, a recognition of friends, a self-deprecating humor that was born of humility and honesty … concepts that are more rarely seen in these difficult times. Were times so easy then? No, indeed not. But Bedford knew how to come together and laugh together and enjoy each other’s art for the benefit of the less fortunate.
    Can we recreate such an atmosphere now?
    The Wharton Garden/Bower Center thinks that we are … on an almost daily basis. Executive Director Sara Braaten is summoning forth an arsenal of techniques developed over a career of teaching to transform the Bower Center from a building that was in danger of being cast aside to one that is alive, warm, and welcoming. Sara realizes that we exist to inspire each person who walks through the front door with performance, display, education or just plain conversation. We can now attract the most talented pianists because of the gift of a 6’1” Kawai grand piano. The acoustics in our performance hall amaze even the keenest ear. We can now host spectacular art exhibition because of a network of artists and art supporters that she has knitted together.
    We are emphasizing both small and large group activities. The Garden and Bower Center are hosting a wide range of activities from weddings and festivals to group meetings, small classes, lectures and performance art. Smaller groups are enjoying our classes. For example, in pottery class, you can laugh and tell stories and produce those artifacts that will be discovered centuries from now and define our culture. Most importantly, your children can take an entire range of music and art classes in a studio atmosphere that will immerse them in a rich, subjective learning environment in which they will master the skills that will lead to life-long enjoyment, better grades, long-lasting friendships, and enhanced self confidence. And if you would like, you can spend time with our resident artists … Dotti Stone in her mosaic studio, Sally Carter in her potter studio, along with watercolorist Nancy Laurent … and see for yourself the high level of local talent that we have in our community.
    Larger groups can attend performances of local and regional artists that range from the bluesy, jazzy sounds of the incomparable Karen Nichols, the versatile and always entertaining Patty Dougherty, and the sophisticated Passacaglia Quintet or the Harkening Hill Chamber Players. Furthermore, you can enjoy our Second Friday’s entertainment which is free of charge and, as is the entire Wharton Garden, provided for the enjoyment of the community.
    And you can be a part of it all:
    • Volunteer ... in the Garden, in the Bower Center, on committees
    • Underwrite a performance … work with our programming committee as you select the genre and the cost level that you want
    • Sponsor a student at our Summer Music and Arts Camp at $180 … join our scholarship program and give this wonderful opportunity to a neighbor, a relative, or someone at your place of worship
    • Sponsor a student for art or music lessons at $240 … again, join our scholarship program and give this wonderful opportunity to a neighbor, a relative, or someone at your place of worship
    • Donate sculpture, benches, water features as honoraria or memorials … work with our landscape design committee to design the perfect project
    • Enroll in classes … check out our Web site to see the possibilities
    • Attend performances … check out our Web site to see the lineup
    • Purchase art … stop by and see what’s for sale
    • Give new lighting in the Performance Hall for art exhibitions … Sara has a budget    
    But what we need most is to see you in the Garden and at the Bower Center. Stop by unannounced, or if you would rather be announced, call ahead, announce yourself, and we will be waiting. Imagine all of this art, all of this music, all of this opportunity in the midst of such a magnificent garden.    
    It’s down home. We want it to become your home. Take care now.
    The Wharton Memorial Foundation/Bower Center for the Arts is a 501(c) non-profit organization. Your gifts are tax deductible.

Fred Duis
Development Committee Chair

Community Thank You

    The Forest Lions Club would like to thank the residents of Lynchburg, Forest and surrounding counties for their support of our recent Christmas tree sale. Thanks to their support we sold 300 trees over a record 14 day period. The proceeds of this sale will contribute greatly to our ability to give back to the community through charitable giving in the coming year.
    A special thank you goes to the Bedford Bulletin for your coverage of the sale, to the Forest Volunteer Fire Department for their assistance in unloading the trees, and to the members of the Forest Wrestling and Softball Clubs who helped man the lot. Thanks also to “Backyard Outfitters” for making the lot available and for providing a shed to shelter our workers.
    Again, we want to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to making this event a great success.

George Mohrmann
Publicity Committee
Forest Lions Club

the ‘rich’

    In Rick Howell’s 12/15/10 article entitled “GOP message: Get rich or starve?” he says that the Republicans would go to the mat to get tax relief for the wealthiest Americans.   He says that their real goal is to reward the true base of their movement and the Republican party: the fabulously wealthy. 
    Just how many votes does he think the fabulously wealthy would amount to?
    It was my understanding that they were for extending the tax cuts that have been in effect for the last decade for everyone.
    When God decreed that man should earn his keep and his food “by the sweat of your brow” was he wrong and should we try to isolate a large percentage of our population from having to do just that.    Mr. Howell obviously thinks the capitalist system has many faults and that it creates more poverty and low-to-middle income people than it ever does wealth.  When I see  BBC programs about “wealthy” people in the 19th century who lived in mansions and had many servants, I have observed that most of the “poor” people in this country live in greater comfort than those previously considered  “wealthy” when I see them with air-conditioning, cars, microwave ovens and a host of other conveniences that capitalism has given us. 
    The current recession was primarily caused by problems in the real estate market by government insisting that banks loan money to people who did not have the income to afford the monthly payments.  Banks were forced to do this by the government using adjustable rate mortgages and were accused of discrimination if they failed to comply.     Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae were under the supervision of Democrats when this took place and all warnings about the real estate bubble that was developing were ignored.
    If people were offered a choice not to participate in the social security system that the government has set up, how many would choose to opt out? Even if they were required to put the same amount of money into a Roth IRA or  similar retirement account in order to escape the social security system I suspect that the majority of people would rather have the money under their own control instead of giving it to the government to spend immediately on other things with just a promise that when you reach retirement age they will have the money there for you.  Witness the turmoil in Europe now with governments there realizing that they have promised too much and they are not now able to deliver on those promises.  I know that Mr. Howell considers us average people as too stupid to take care of ourselves and we must have the government force us to pay them to look out for us.
    Mr. Howell states that “Depressions and recessions occur because the profit-based system will often struggle and fail.  The remedy for this should quite naturally be a strong role for government.....”  What is natural about having an omnipresent oppressive government treating each of us as if we are all children and unable to make decisions for ourselves.  They want to take more and more of our money so they can dole it out to us in our time of need and if we die or we are never in need they will use that money to give to others whom they deem to be deserving.   Mr. Howell says we need some  class war in this country and that the working poor should wake up and see who’s keeping them down.  The rich people in this country are not keeping the poor down.  If the government would get off their backs there would be fewer poor people because they would be able to make better decisions about how their money was spent.  It wouldn’t be spent on earmarks in order to attempt to buy votes at the next election.
    I would also like to point out that the income tax is highly progressive and it is not a tax on the rich.  It is a tax which attempts to make it more difficult for you to become rich.  It is a tax based on your income for that particular year and not a tax based on how much money you currently have.  Why would rich people vote for Democrats if not to try and prevent other people from becoming rich like they are?   A highly progressive income tax does just that.  It is the government trying to keep all of us down.  Obviously Mr. Howell does not think the higher income people are paying enough because some of them are getting rich despite the government opposition.  God’s commandment that “Thou shall not covet” obviously does not apply to the government and the liberals when it comes to us taxpayers.

James Meredith

Questioning our economic system
    The current financial mess brought on largely by the greed of capitalism, brings in to question the effectiveness of our economic system.  We can learn from the experience of others and combine those views with ours as we seek change.
    Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a BBC World Service global poll found that dissatisfaction with free market capitalism is widespread, with an average of only 11 percent across 27 countries saying that it works well and that greater regulation is not a good idea.  In only two countries do more than 20 percent believe that capitalism works well—the US (25 percent) and Pakistan (21 percent).  The most common view is that free market capitalism has problems that can be addressed through regulation and reform—a view held by an average of 51 percent of the more than 29,000 people polled.
    An average of 23 percent feel that capitalism is fatally flawed, and a new economic system is needed—including 43 percent in France, 38 percent in Mexico, 35 percent in Brazil and 31 percent in Ukraine.  Furthermore, majorities would like their government to be more active in owning or directly controlling their country’s major industries in 15 of the 27 countries.  This view is particularly widespread in Russia (77 percent), and Ukraine (75 percent), and also in Brazil (64 percent).  In 22 of 27 countries majorities support government efforts to distribute wealth more evenly.  In 17 of the 27 countries an average of 56 percent want to see government doing more to regulate business.
    Polling for the same reason, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found similar results in their poll of 14,760 in eight Eastern European countries.  The poll revealed what Eastern Europeans really think about life under capitalism.   It is a far cry from the picture painted by US and British journalists, who presented the Berlin Wall events of 1989 to 1991 through the eyes of dissidents and business owners rather than ordinary people.
    Taken together, the two polls reflect serious questions about capitalism.  It is recognized that capitalism benefits business owners and politician’s more than ordinary people.  A majority of the world’s population favors a more socialist policy of government ownership and control of the economy and calls for governments to play a stronger role in distributing wealth evenly-- an expression of a commitment to egalitarian values.  And while half of the world’s population believes that capitalism’s flaws are fixable, 70 percent believe that capitalism is a flawed system.
    The polls suggest that most people in the world are social democrats, whether they recognize themselves as such, or would use the words to describe their core political values.  They also show that history’s lone top-to-bottom alternative to capitalism, the socialist states of Eastern Europe, were not rejected by the people who lived in them. The popular reaction to the successor capitalist regimes does not warrant the celebratory retrospectives on the “fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism” favored by the Western media. While some European countries have fallen on hard times like the US, it is not true of all.
    While I support capitalism as probably the best of the economic systems that view is not without its limitations and the above world views bring many of its attributes in to question. I believe capitalism’s modification as practiced by the social democracies have a lot to teach us about economic systems. Certainly our recent financial crisis of the Great Recession with its roots in the Bush era demonstrates that capitalistic greed must be controlled.  Hopefully this might cause some to think more clearly about capitalism’s strengths and weaknesses and find ways to improve its practices.  For example, do the recent tax cuts for the rich really cause the wealthy to spend more or benefit the pool of investment capital when corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash and banks have money they won’t lend? It is clear from politifact.com that the Bush tax cuts for the rich didn’t increase economic growth.
    The Republican hypocrisy on the Federal deficit is astounding.  They hijacked the legislative process until $140 billion was added to the deficit just for their rich buddies while resisting an $18 billion unemployment extension for the jobless-- most of whom are poor. But that wasn’t enough. They had to add more tax cuts through revisions to the estate tax.  That is not only unconscionable but outright deceitful!   Since we do get what we vote for, I wonder how many of the conservative voters in this area are now satisfied. I doubt much could satisfy many of them.

David McLoughlin