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Decline of moral behavior painful to watch

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:55 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 10, 2009

It seems with each passing year, we are subjected to reading, hearing and watching the two major political parties trash one another over which is the king of the hill when it comes to “family values,” or the practice of moral and ethical conduct. They are egged on, pilloried and vilified by the media, special interests, religious entities and those who pass as today's stand up comics.

Viewed from my perspective, I am disappointed — nay — appalled at the deterioration of and utter disdain for these values during the 70 years of my memory. You may view it old fashioned, out of touch or even “uncool,” but we learned our morals, ethics and integrity at home, at school and in church. While perhaps hoary to the more modern generations, the Boy Scout Oath, the Ten Commandments and Robert Fulgham’s “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” remain a strong foundation.

When and how did we reach the point in our society at which scofflaws, deadbeats and criminals are often absolved of personal responsibility and treated instead as victims? Most of my generation and the dwindling remainder of the previous one are neither prudish nor unforgiving, but we do recognize the difference between right and wrong and reject moral relativism as a substitute.

A highly visible example of the fading respect for personal obligations is seen in the TV, radio and other commercial advertisements aimed at those whose credit card debt or money owed to the IRS has accumulated beyond their ability to pay. A seemingly inexhaustible horde of attorneys and tax experts promise settlements to the tune of fractions of the amount owed.

Sympathy for someone in dire financial straits is normal but did the one in arrears not accumulate the debt and should the creditor be held responsible for an irresponsible borrower? Admittedly, it is difficult to feel for American Express, VISA, Master Card or the IRS, but fudging the difference between right and wrong is hardly the answer.

Another issue that begs serious discussion is that involving installation of red light cameras, one denounced by civil libertarians as well as by those who feel if the driver cannot be positively identified, the offense lacks standing in court. I find this attitude absurd — let us pose these questions to the red light camera opposition.

Is it not a traffic violation to run a red light? Is the operator of the vehicle not responsible to observe and obey the rules of the road? If the owner is not the operator, is he or she not responsible (except in the instance of automobile theft) for the individual he or she has authorized to drive, should the question arise? Any other conclusion violates common sense.

Finally, I will dwell, hopefully for the last time, on a subject upon which I have provided opinions in the past — the Columbia Police Department’s use of the Taser. This issue has grown, with all manner of citizens, news media, organizations and even legislators offering their two cents. The one area in which all, with the exception of Interim Chief Tom Dresner and his officers, share an utter lack of experience is in the situations those officers find in the streets of Columbia or any other city.

Grass Roots Organization, Coalition to Control Tasers, the task force of “experts” envisioned by the legislature’s HB931 and other groups' or individuals' opinions notwithstanding, the decision to act is in the hands of the on-scene officer. The very last thing a street cop needs is to be subjected to second-guessing or meddling by amateurs, regardless of how well-intentioned or solicitous it might be.

Of course, police will, at times, make mistakes of commission as well as of omission — they are human — but they are trained to make split-second judgments involving the use of deadly force in defense of their own lives as well as that of bystanders and/or the perpetrator. And yes, there is an inherent danger in employment of the Taser — but would anyone rather the officer fire a Glock rather than a non-lethal weapon?

Among the lessons I have learned is that when one in authority directs or requests an action, the only acceptable response is one of compliance. Accordingly, why is it difficult to comprehend that the individual who ignores the officer does so at his/her own peril? That small group of activists/alarmists among us who are quick to label the police as the bad guys and the lawbreakers as victims do us no favors.

Acting Chief Tom Dresner demonstrates a professional grasp of this issue and we should expect no less from his successor. We elect a mayor and City Council, hire a competent city manager and enjoy a watchdog press — sufficient oversight for any reasonable citizen.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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Comments

Ray Shapiro March 25, 2009 | 6:45 a.m.

Is it not a traffic violation to run a red light?
Yes it is.
Is the operator of the vehicle not responsible to observe and obey the rules of the road?
You are correct, sir.
If the owner is not the operator, is he or she not responsible (except in the instance of automobile theft) for the individual he or she has authorized to drive, should the question arise?
Not legally for running a red light.
..if the driver cannot be positively identified, the offense lacks standing in court. I find this attitude absurd...
The absurdity is all yours.
The camera system proposed is nothing more than a ploy to generate cash flow. Any other reasons are merely a cover up to justify their use. It's a business venture, Mr. Miller. That's what my "common sense" tells me. I apologize for violating your common sense, but mine makes more sense!

Any other conclusion violates common sense.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote March 26, 2009 | 11:24 a.m.

Mr. Miller,
Is this column a parody? I find it laughable that you would pen a column complaining of the lack of suitable "morals, ethics and integrity..." by those around you.
If there is one constant in your missives it is the absence of integrity. To wit, in one column, you ridiculed those who supported card check (the EFCA bill), with your objection being that it would do away with secret ballots, the bed rock of our democracy. The one glaring problem with that argument, is that the proposed legislation does nothing of the sort. It simply codifies an additional means of forming a union, via card check. As a side note the Republican National Committee actually does forbid secret ballots (page 7 second paragraph http://www.gop.com//images/legal/2008_RU...). I presume one would have to wait a very long time before Mr. Miller deigns to criticize this policy by the RNC.
You also wrote a column extolling the virtues of nuclear energy and claimed it was recyclable and renewable. This too is a lie. Uranium 235 is the fuel that powers a pressurized water reactor (the type proposed in Calloway II). It is an ore mined from the Earth, it is not renewable. After a Uranium 235 atom undergoes fission, it ceases to exist, thus it is also not recyclable. The notion that one can reprocess the spent fuel rods in an economically feasible fashion is also untrue. This is why there are currently no reprocessing plants in the United States. Estimates suggest that only when Uranium ore reaches a price of $350/lb will it start to make sense to reprocess. Their predictions of when that will occur are some time after 2050.
Lastly, you have an irritating habit of citing questionable studies to support your views. As an example, you recently cited a study done by the consulting firm Charles River Associates arguing that cap and trade would be extremely expensive. The study was commissioned by the Edison Electric Institute, a trade association for big utilities. The study was so flawed that various members of the EEI (Avista Corporation, Constellation Energy Group, Entergy Corporation, Exelon Corporation, FPL Group, Inc., National Grid, PG&E Corporation, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc.) wrote to the President of EEI, Thomas R. Kuhn, and asked that the study be amended to address some of the reports erroneous assumptions. The EEI has subsequently said that it will "fine tune" the analysis. In the letter the signatories write that they want the EEI to be a "credible voice in the climate change debate" and than list the areas in which the study should be amended. The implication being that the released report is not credible, and those citing its results are likewise not credible.
So yes it is a pity that morals, ethics and integrity are so lacking in members of our society including business leaders, politicians, and unfortunately local newspaper columnists.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 26, 2009 | 11:55 a.m.

Christopher Foote wrote:

"You also wrote a column extolling the virtues of nuclear energy and claimed it was recyclable and renewable. This too is a lie. Uranium 235 is the fuel that powers a pressurized water reactor (the type proposed in Calloway II). It is an ore mined from the Earth, it is not renewable. After a Uranium 235 atom undergoes fission, it ceases to exist, thus it is also not recyclable. The notion that one can reprocess the spent fuel rods in an economically feasible fashion is also untrue. This is why there are currently no reprocessing plants in the United States."

When U-235 fissions, it generates neutrons, some of which can be captured by neighboring U-238 nuclei, transmuting them to Pu-239, which is also fissile. That is what you reprocess out of used fuel rods. France utilizes mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) made in part with the plutonium captured through reprocessing. It's economically feasible in France.

There are no reprocessing plants in the US because we are afraid of diversion of plutonium. We haven't needed to reprocess badly enough. If a large expansion is made in nuclear power (which we may not be able to afford in todays economy), then reprocessing will look better and better. Breeders may even look better, and those are nearly completely renewable (although very expensive).

DK

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote March 26, 2009 | 12:20 p.m.

Mr. Foeking,

I disagree with your assessment that there are no reprocessing plants in the US due to fears of Plutonium diversion. In 1976 President Ford issued a directive suspending commercial reprocessing for the reason you cite. In 1977 the Carter administration confirmed this ban, for the same reason. In 1981 Reagan lifted the ban. So the ban has been off for 28 years, and there are currently no commercial reprocessing plants in operation. The government as well as rate payers pay a substantial fee to dispose of the waste, it is not in the utility's fiduciary interests to reprocess. If it was they would do it.
You are correct that breeder reactors can produce their own fuel, however, they are prohibitively expensive and the article Mr. Miller wrote was in regards to Calloway II which is proposed to be a pressurized water reactor. For the NRC to approve a breeder reaction there would be significant regulations imposed, and the cost would be so great that there is no way private industry would be able to raise the capital to build it. Note that they can't even raise the capital for Calloway II which is estimated to cost between $6-9 billion.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 26, 2009 | 7:51 p.m.

Right. There are no commercial reprocessing plants operating in the US because we haven't had the need for them - nuclear isn't a big part of our energy portfolio, and companies have been storing waste on site (which they can because of it's small volume) until political decisions are made on waste transport and disposal. But that does not mean reprocessing would not be important in the future.

Renewables are even more expensive than nuclear, if you add in the requirement for energy storage or backup that they require. (Virtually no one does when comparing the two). We need to be careful to plan for sufficient conventional capacity while we build a grid of renewables, or our children may enjoy Baghdad-style electrical service. It would be good if those plants not be fossil fuel plants (in case the IPCC scenarios on global warming are correct).

Efficiency and renewables can only help us so much. Spending the $7 billion for Callaway II on renewables and efficiency would leave Ameren with about a 400 MW shortfall (compared to building the plant - numbers on request). Hopefully we can plan to keep the lights on while we transition to renewables - if not, we may never.

DK

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller March 26, 2009 | 8:28 p.m.

Mr Foote:
Your continuing personal attacks on my morals and integrity merely because you dislike my positions on issues would be irritating if not so amusing for your inherent failure to comprehend that which was written. Moreover, your vaguely coherent current diatribe lacks relevance inasmuch as you utterly ignored the subject, instead venting your displeasure on previously published columns--a redundancy in which you excel.

Mr. Foote, I stand by the veracity of my columns and the accuracy of my research, the cherrypicking of opposing opinion notwithstanding. If ad hominem personal attacks to include calling me a liar somehow enhances your self esteem and stature among your peers--so be it. However, I was brought up to respect courtesy and common decency in dealing with others.

As for Mr Shapiro's coment that "the camera are proposed only to generate cash flow, "I must disagree. As one who has narrowly avoided being creamed by those who ignore stoplights, I welcome measures to change people's di=riving habits for the better. If Mr. Shapiro doesn't wish to contribute to the "cash flow" he should observe the traffic signals.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 26, 2009 | 9:04 p.m.

Colonel Miller:
Thank you for responding to my comment concerning an ulterior motive for these cameras. You may think that such cameras will make you less "creamable" and change driving habits for the better. I suggest you get a new pair of running shoes as you will need them as drivers speed up to get through these quick to change lights. For your consideration, I put before you a real plan which may make your street crossings more safe. (And by the way, I do observe the traffic signals. I've noticed that they are changing all the time.)
Is it about Mr. Miller's safety, vehicular safety or generating revenue?
With all these red light runners, wouldn't there be more accidents at our intersections? Wouldn't there be more creamed bodies in the street?
Wouldn't longer yellows solve the traffic flow problem?
Do drivers respect stop signs or yield signs more than badly timed, too quick red lights?
If the city can't time these lights better, or have longer yellows. (throughout town), than maybe these inefficient "traffic regulators" should be taken down and stop signs and yield signs should go up. Let the drivers figure out who has right of way. (And step up your pace, Mr. Miller.)
Otherwise, I see the city just setting people up for tickets, fines, harassment and rear ending.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 26, 2009 | 9:07 p.m.

Oh, and Mr. Miller, if it's too painful to watch, just stop being a voyeur...

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller March 27, 2009 | 9:03 a.m.

Mr. Shapiro:

It should be obvious to anyone reading your comments that you are among those to whom I referred as believing scofflaws, deadbeats and criminals to be victims. I have difficulty taking one who mounts such a vigorous defense of red light runners very seriously.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 27, 2009 | 9:21 a.m.

ray said:

"If the city can't time these lights better, or have longer yellows. (throughout town), than maybe these inefficient "traffic regulators" should be taken down and stop signs and yield signs should go up. Let the drivers figure out who has right of way."

I like that idea. That would have the effect of making driving more inconvenient and dangerous, and perhaps get people to think twice about unnecessary trips.

There is a city in Holland that took down all of it's traffic control signs. They're finding the accident rate is actually going down, because people have to pay attention when they come up on any intersection.

DK

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 27, 2009 | 9:32 a.m.

J Karl Miller whether you realize or not alot find it quite difficult to swallow some of the things you contribute to this paper.

True story.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 27, 2009 | 11:27 a.m.

Now that's ironic.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 27, 2009 | 12:54 p.m.

One assumes, Karl Miller, that you understood what you were getting into when you took the assignment of writing a weekly column for the Missourian. While Columbia hosts a diversity of political views, it's likely there are a significant number of its citizens who would need to look TO THEIR POLITICAL RIGHT in order to view the late Karl Marx (not to be confused with Karl Miller).

If you would like to enjoy serious praise and appreciation for your efforts, I suggest you initiate a weekly column concerning your views in the Rolla Daily News. That may be entirely possible. That University of Missouri System campus will more likely appreciate your views and remarks.

However, given your military background we assume you are no stranger to handling tough situations. Write on!

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 27, 2009 | 11:25 p.m.

For cryin' out loud guys -- quit busting the Colonel's chops!

I don't happen to agree with him on this particular issue either. Reports I hear say red light cameras are yet another newly-abused way to boost revenues by local governments, particularly in Chicago, where the cameras -- now everywhere -- love to ticket rental cars and out-of-state tags, given the difficulty the ticketed would have in fighting the tickets.

That said, Colonel Miller stands for a much needed law and order perspective that Columbia would do well to heed. We have scumbags by the dozens doing their dirty deeds here; a court system that generally coddles them; and an overworked, beleaguered police force that we expect to shoulder 100% of the burden while dodging a growing chorus of critics.

The Missourian also pays Colonel Miller nothing for his columns. Nada. Zippo. As a professional writer, I think that stinks. But he's doing it as a service to the community, so keep that in mind.

To say this to a retired Marine Corps Colonel trying to serve the community is a real low shot:

"So yes it is a pity that morals, ethics and integrity are so lacking in members of our society including business leaders, politicians, and unfortunately local newspaper columnists."

Criticizing his ideas is fine; but attacking his person is not fine. I may, in fact, be the only writer here who's even met Colonel Miller, had him over for dinner even. And I can say that his morals, ethics, and integrity are first rate, even though I don't always agree with his ideas.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 28, 2009 | 1:06 a.m.

I find A LOT of agreement with Colonel Miller! He seems like a very solid, level headed, and reasonable person.

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 28, 2009 | 5:14 p.m.

Mike:
Oh all right. He might be old, but at least he's an ex-marine. I'll cut him some slack. But the first red light ticket I get in the mail, if it was due to me making a safety/timing call instead of thrusting on my brakes, I'm forwarding it on to you.
(And after you pay it, I'll buy you dinner at Grand Cru.)
Then we can call it even.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 29, 2009 | 4:00 a.m.

Well if you are a regular columnist here or anywhere on a new paper type of company whether you are paid or not you better be able to accept honest criticism about your articles you post anywhere at any time or you are obviously in the wrong field.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 29, 2009 | 10:02 a.m.

Does that go for posters that want to post their opinions all of the time too, Chuck?

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 29, 2009 | 12:33 p.m.

Opinions added to Columnist's articles are not covered by any of the above.

The Columnist should have all of their facts and ducks in a line.

That is why they are privileged and allowed to post their respective Columns on news media sites such as this.

If you let Columnists have free rein over your media content you view with out pointing out obvious discrepancies then what does that say for you the reader and the quality you expect to receive whether it be for free or not or the Columnist is paid or not.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 30, 2009 | 1:12 a.m.

Al of this can be said of "forum dominating posters" too, Chuck.

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 30, 2009 | 1:12 a.m.

All of this can be said of "forum dominating posters" too, Chuck.

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 30, 2009 | 1:42 a.m.

Rick:
I can agree with your second comment above.
I do not agree with your first one. (Who's Al?)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 30, 2009 | 3:38 a.m.

Ricky Gurley when it is a matter of "forum dominating posters" when you yourself have done this same thing in the past unless you deny having done this yourself?

If you go to the new Trib lay out lots of people post their views daily on all subjects. Are they "forum dominating posters" too?

What about those who blog daily all over the world are they "blog dominating posters" too or are all of these above people just wanting to share their opinions out of frustrations and wrongs they see in our society and that is the absolute best way to get a "mass message" out to the largest amount of people at one time.

The picture of why people post across the internet is so much bigger than I feel people actually know or even think about.

Wasn't there a article written here about "Why people blog/post" some time ago? I have had two reporters contact me about this same article and the same two reporters fail to follow up on their requests. Investigative reporting seems a thing of the past these days.

Maybe that is another reason people blog/post. To let others know of the stories they find that might be missed by the mainline media.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 30, 2009 | 4:37 a.m.

Al is the guy that made my "L Key" stick on my keyboard, Ray......

That is the thing that I do not like about the new forum, that I did like about the old forum, you could always go back and correct spelling mistakes and such on the old forum, but you can't here...

Chuck, I am not really disagreeing with you. What I am saying is that "Bloggers" and people that like to participate here a lot (or "dominate the forum" for lack of a better phrase), are subject to the same line of reasoning that you say columnists are.

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 30, 2009 | 6:40 a.m.

>>> What I am saying is that "Bloggers" and people that like to participate here a lot (or "dominate the forum" for lack of a better phrase), are subject to the same line of reasoning that you say columnists are. <<<

I must disagree as bloggers and casual or consistent posters to this or any online reply commentary are not contributing the mainline stories presented by these or other columnists whether they are paid or not.

They are however posting obvious corrections and points of view that often times are not presented by the columnists themselves due to political correctness,fears of being controversial or other like issues.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 30, 2009 | 2:05 p.m.

Chuck says: I must disagree as bloggers and casual or consistent posters to this or any online reply commentary are not contributing the mainline stories presented by these or other columnists whether they are paid or not.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

But they are contributing TO them. And thus making these mainline stories evolve past what the original author had intended. Anytime you tack on your personal opinions to a story on the same page as the story, you are effectively altering that story, perhaps not in the way of altering the story's original content, but you are expanding the story and giving the reader more to consider than what the original author had intended. In doing so, you too should be willing to accept honest criticism.

I might also mention that if you are adding something to the story in your post for a LACK of fear of being controversial, then the fact that you ARE being controversial begs that you also be willing to accept criticism, since by the nature of not being afraid to be controversial, you are creating controversy....

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 30, 2009 | 2:30 p.m.

Good points one and all but isn't it the original columnist's responsibility to present the "rest of the story" or has modern day journalism become a "do not kiss and tell" type of industry only catering to a "select group of people" and view points?

If any common citizen has to come along and continuously correct Columnists on their accuracy what does that say about the caliber of the Columnist?

After all don't we or you as a citizen deserve the entire story including all sides presented?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 30, 2009 | 2:36 p.m.

I hate to pour cold water on such a spirited debate - actually, I don't hate it at all! - but we need to keep in mind that those persons who only read the printed newspaper are blissfully unaware that all these "deathless opinions" are being offered. All they read - IF they read it at all - is Karl's column. Also, do we really believe that all persons who read the cyber version of the newspaper pay attention to all, or even some, of the comments that have been appended to news and opinion articles?

Let's not over estimate our collective importance.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 30, 2009 | 2:52 p.m.

Ellis Smith: "Also, do we really believe that all persons who read the cyber version of the newspaper pay attention to all, or even some, of the comments that have been appended to news and opinion articles?"
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well maybe not ALL. But, from reading the various opinions here by the various people posting them, I'd say a significant amount of people post their opinions to these articles to extend the length of the article (posts included), greatly...

Rick.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 30, 2009 | 4:30 p.m.

The good Colonel is not a columnist presenting news, but an op-ed writer essentially - "op" being his opinion of course. David Rosman's pieces are in a similar vein. It's not their responsibility to present all sides of the story as their pieces are not hard news, but this does not preclude us online types from having our say about their missives.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 30, 2009 | 6:49 p.m.

I'm very concerned to see John Schultz once again DOMINATING the forums. It is very clear to me that Mr. Charles Dudley, Jr. is simply trying to get a "word in edge wise." But Mr. Schultz and to a FAR lesser extent, Mr. Ricky Gurley, simply won't let him.

This goes on day in and day out and represents a real blow to freedom of the blog. (And John Schultz calls himself a Libertarian. Tisk tisk).

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 30, 2009 | 8:03 p.m.

John:
What about the missives of a malcontent?
(You don't really need to answer my question. I just wanted to type the word, "missives!"

(Report Comment)

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