Letters to the editor

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Wondering if getting his money’s worth
Editor:
I’ll just point out one of the many logical fallacies in Mr. Mehaffey’s latest publication; not so much to put Mr. Mehaffey on the right track, but to keep others off the wrong one, especially when it comes to the absolute truth of God as revealed in the Bible and the joy that can be found within.
Your statement regarding death taxes; “I also understand why such a tax is important to any democracy and why such a tax is the closest thing possible or allowable to the biblical concept of Year of the Jubilee” is such an example.
Mr. Mehaffey’s intent here is to use a biblical reference to disgrace the integrity of a conservative Christian, who is willing to stand up and say “I have had enough” of people twisting God’s truth to fit their world view; a practice also common among the morally bankrupt  — those who would rather rule with Satan than be a bondservant of Christ.
Mr. Mehaffey defends death taxes, implying that he holds no objection to paying the government two or three times for the blessings they bestow upon us.
Lately, we can see the effect of those entrusted with our tax money — sure makes me want to pay my taxes more than once! I have trouble lately believing that I’m getting my money’s worth by paying them only once.
But, pay I must, so pay I do. But I think most people would agree that if the government can’t function with the revenue it’s collecting from the living, the solution to the situation is not to tax the dead. Once is enough.
But back to the “Year of Jubilee” and Mr. Mehaffey’s misuse of the word of God: Not at all similar to a tax important to any democracy, I’m afraid, whether it be paid once, twice or thrice.
The “Year of Jubilee,” celebrated every 50th year (Lev 25) was, I would argue, a year of celebration, with three main foci: First, liberty was proclaimed to all Israelites who were in bondage (slavery then wasn’t like slavery now).
Second, similarly, anyone who bought another’s ancestral possessions because of poverty returned them.
Third and finally, Israelites were compelled to use this year to give the land a year of rest and live on what they had reaped the previous year plus what the land produced spontaneously.
So, Mr. Mehaffey, leaving all the other points of your letter, the validity of which are again, as usual and as always brought into question, please observe the lack of continuity between the “Year of Jubilee,” a cause for celebration and rejoicing, and death taxes, a cause for, well, something less.
“The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning” Proverbs 14:6 (NIV).

J. Reid Mowrer
Los Lunas

The country needs high-speed rail
Editor:
Fortune Magazine asked if it’s a boondoggle, by asking the following questions: 1. It’s too big; 2. Who is going to pay for it?; 3. It is intended to fight the recession (as opposed to providing genuinely needed transportation); 4. It will expand federal power; and 5. It won’t work as a stimulus scheme.
No, this article was not about the proposal to join the U.S. together with a high-speed rail system such as China, France, Germany, Spain, etc., are presently doing.
The questions in this 1958 Fortune Magazine article was asking if we were headed down the road into a huge boondoggle was questioning the early planning stages of the interstate highway system.
In 1958, the U.S. population was 150 million. It is more than 300 million today.
By 2050, the United States will again, due to its open-door immigration policy, add another 100 plus million people to our population.
I have no doubt, if we can find the water, that Albuquerque will have grown to a city of five million. We can’t pave our way out of this projected growth.
Remember on Oct. 30, the world population hit seven billion. Just 12, short years ago, it was six billion.
Building California’s proposed high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco could cost $100 billion, adjusted for inflation over the next 20 years.
We are talking real money here as California’s growing population would otherwise incur about $170 billion spending on airport runways and freeways.
It’s clearly time to cut through the political rhetoric and get on with the job of building a nationwide high-speed rail system.
We also need to have an honest discussion of how many people do we want or need in the U.S. of A.

Ward B. McCartney III
Belen

Some comments were incorrect
Editor:
I sincerely want to thank Shaun Gibson for his reply and his acknowledgment of the need for using accurate and honest quotes when writing public letters.
That said, Shaun, there is a bit more to doing so than reading and repeating popular quotes — a person needs to do considerable reading for accurate context and to prevent cropping.
First, Washington constantly used a basic value other than Christianity, etc., when considering an individual’s moral character and worth, and that was Washington’s  demand for the virtue, “the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong,” that he so cherished.
Shaun, you also informed the readers thusly: “George Washington can also be credited with establishing the unbroken Christian tradition of inaugurating U.S. presidents with their left hand resting upon a Bible opened to a scripture of personal significance to them and repeating the words, ‘So help me God.’”
Whereas, I would have informed the readers (and/or students): George Washington, for his first inaugural oath used his left hand on an opened Bible, setting a precedent for a future tradition with some notable exceptions: 1825, John Quincy Adams used a law book in the ceremony; 1901, Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible; 1963, Lyndon Johnson, aboard Air Force One, used a Catholic Missal — plus a large number of other inaugurations — unrecorded and unknown.
As well, the phrase, “So help me God,” attributed to Washington for the oath, is/was highly disputed by serious historians as no contemporary records make the claim, and the first time it was suggested was in a biography 60 years after the fact, written by Washington Irving, a famous Romantic era storyteller.
And no, the second hand/first hand storytelling of Daniel Webster is not the same or equal to the actual hand writings of Jefferson. Second hand, and more — storytelling is storytelling.
Shaun, the Jefferson letter to Benjamin Rush you mentioned, was only one letter in a continuing conversation between the two men (common for the time and distance).
There is more to the contents than you realize, starting with your words, “… I would propose that the memory of Jefferson is dishonored by those who postulate his opposition to Christianity or the Bible.”
I noted your Jefferson quote utilized some of the same words you used, “those who,” left unidentified. Actually, several times, Jefferson did identify the “those who” that were accusing him of being “anti-Christian;” and it might surprise you to know that they were not atheists, agnostics or even period liberals, but members of what today would be some spokesmen of the conservative religious right, whom Jefferson identified as “those who” were involved in “the corruptions of Christianity.”
To offer some further reading into Jefferson’s mind about religion, you might enjoy first hand readings here: www.lonestar.texas.net/~mseifert/rush.htm
Further, Jefferson’s letters of advice to his young nephew, Peter Carr, are fascinating and brilliant (an opinion by definition) and show Jefferson’s commitment to “The Age of Enlightenment” and the exercise of intellectual skepticism.
For instance, could you imagine yourself advising your congregants, especially the young, to “Question with boldness even the existence of a God….” or, to be so interested in the Bible and realism that you would personally edit the textual body of the Bible into a Gibson’s Bible?
The interesting letters of advice are here: www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/jefferson_carr.html, and here: www.avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/let31.asp.
Finally, two points: when I ridded myself so long ago of inherited world views, I entered into an existence much like “The Age of Enlightenment.” I basically traded literalism for realism, superstition for science and replaced faith (as you might define the word) with rational expectation (for some good examples, see Jefferson’s letters to Peter Carr).
So, I check and deconstruct statements (requires time and commitment) for that which is real on planet Earth.
And second, if once again you reach out past your present position and explore Jefferson, I hope you still maintain the same “greatest respect” for Jefferson, and continue to offer the messenger the same, “Thank you again Mr. Mehaffey.”

Terry Mehaffey
Los Lunas