The recent brouhaha over the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps overlooks the fact that kids are perfectly able to decide for themselves whether it is right for them. Both my son and my daughter have experimented with the JROTC in the St. Paul Public Schools.
My son came away stating that the JROTC was at times fun, especially the orienteering, but that the claims of leadership experience were overstated; for him it was a “followship” experience with everybody up and down the chain of command following somebody else’s orders. Not his cup of tea.
My daughter loves the JROTC — camaraderie and competitions, which include academics, athletics, drill squads and so forth. She plans to apply for the military academies and dreams of ultimately serving as a military physician.
It is great that so many people have expressed a public interest in the JROTC program. I hope this spurs more kids to check it out and for us to trust their judgments on their experiences with it.
Elizabeth Carlson, St. Paul
Another devolution for society, and a dangerous one at that
As if people are not already inadequately informed, now we have “fake news” (“Trump security nominee tied to fake news,” Dec. 6). When I was young, they called it “lying.” Your parents and teachers almost always knew when you were lying, and they usually punished you for it. Now people seem incapable of determining whether “news” is fake or real. Deliberately malicious news has been given the more innocuous name of “fake news,” and those who initiate and distribute fake news are sanctioned by those who benefit from it. I fear our society is in a downward spiral from “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time” to innuendo to half-truths to “It must be true because I read it on the internet.”
Wayne Dahlsten, Bloomington
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A pizza shop in Washington, D.C., frequented by top Clinton staff during the campaign was shot up during business hours over a fake news story circulating in social media — that “Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a child-sex-slave ring from the back of the store.”
Gen. Michael Flynn, while campaigning for Trump, tweeted out a hashtag link to a fake news site with a similar story — “The Clintons are targets of an FBI-led child porn investigation.” Flynn has been tapped as national security adviser by President-elect Donald Trump, despite losing his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency, in part for his dubious assertions that became known as “Flynn Facts.”
With a post-truth president-elect, Flynn, Steve “Breitbart” Bannon, a “Mad Dog,” and the other militarists and profiteers tapped for the cabinet, I expect to see a lot of fake news coming out of a Trump White House. It will be like the last time we had a president who won without the popular vote. Remember “yellowcake from Niger,” “aluminum tubes for centrifuges” and “chemical weapon strikes in 45 minutes?” All fake news.
The good news: The pizza clerk got out alive; the perpetrator with the assault rifle was caught, and damage to the store was minimal. The bad news: We are still paying for the unending death and destruction in South Asia and the Middle East, which Bush-Cheney started 15 years ago using fake news on real news channels. Fake news is bad news, and we are not safer.
Carl Lee, Minnetonka
Look who’s been treacherously empowered after the election
It was truly horrifying to read about the NRA’s proposed agenda for the next four years (“Firearms lobby sees ‘historic moment,’ ” Dec. 5). Far from loosening gun restrictions, we need to unite to do something about the alarming increase of gun violence in this country. The NRA would have us believe that the many groups that demand reasonable restrictions (licenses, background checks and training in gun safety) aim to take everyone’s guns away.
This is ludicrous. Would you hand over the keys to a car to someone without a driver’s license or basic driver’s training? Being adequately trained, licensed and free of violent criminal history in order to buy or own a gun is simply common sense. The NRA seems to operate amid a climate of fear and paranoia. Let’s make it our goal to get sensible gun laws passed.
Kay Kemper, Crystal
BUSINESS AND POLITICS
It all starts with good decisions, and here are some that — oh, my
I read with interest the Dec. 5 Business lead article about Kellogg and other companies navigating today’s climate of politically inspired boycotts (“Political climate paralyzes companies”). I was both astounded by Kellogg’s decision process and stunned by the Star Tribune photo accompanying the article.
As for the Kellogg decision process, what marketing director thought for a second that it could be a good idea to advertise with a racist white nationalist organization? I have to believe that person is now updating his or her profile on LinkedIn.
As for the photo, I was literally stunned. It can’t be just me, but all I saw in front of the Kellogg worker were exactly three boxes of cereal lined up, each featuring a prominent “K” for Kellogg.
My friends and co-workers have a small wager, so please tell us if the “KKK” was accidental, subliminal, blatantly purposeful or dog-whistling?
Nick Dolphin, Minneapolis
EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT
Letter talked it up; here’s the other side as I’ve witnessed it
The lead letter on Dec. 5 promoted the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. I hate to be overly blunt, but the EITC needs to be eliminated, not expanded. The original concept was a form of a negative income tax. It was supposed to provide funds to people at the lower end of the wage spectrum. The theory was to help those working to make ends meet.
The EITC sounds nice in theory, but in practice, it is an absolute disaster. A few years back, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimated that $15 billion of the $63 billion total of EITC paid out during one year was due to fraud.
I think that figure is low. I have a little experience to support my conclusions. I spent 30 years as a criminal investigator with the IRS. The EITC was the most-abused program by low-income individuals. There were phony self-employed businesses showing income or fake W2s that just happened to perfectly match the amount of income to maximize the EITC. You also had people selling Social Security numbers for children so others could claim them as a “nephew or niece,” even though there was no family relationship.
I know there are people who actually use the EITC money to help support their family. However, when investigating these cases, one saw that a majority of the EITC refunds were used as party money and not to take care of their families. Obviously, this was not the original intent of the EITC. It also means that retrieving fraudulently claimed EITC is virtually impossible; the money is gone even if you discover the fraudsters. There have been many unwise tax laws, but the EITC is at the top of the list. If you want the government to help low-income people, there has to be a better way than wasting billions of dollars every year with the EITC. You might as well drive a dump truck down the street dropping cash out the back.
Dan Nye, Edina