Some of our favorite letters of 2014
A man sees through the eyes of a woman and shares what he learned. -- Colleen Thomas
Empathy for victims of sexual assault
I was robbed by three large young men. They approached me after I was leaving a wake. They demanded that I give them my wallet. They did not hurt me, but they threatened to hurt me, and considering their size I was not going to call their bluff. They took my cash, left the credit cards and fled.
When I reported the crime to the police they victim-blamed me. They said the expensive suit I was wearing made me a target for a mugging.
When the police eventually captured the muggers, they claimed that I voluntarily gave them my money and denied robbing me. The cops asked me if I had a history of giving money to strangers. I admitted that I did. Occasionally I would give a few dollars to a homeless person on the street, or a guy selling "StreetWise." I had also been known to give money to guys offering to clean my windshield at offramps.
The cops told me they would not press charges against the muggers because they could not prove I was robbed. I had a history of giving money away strangers and I had no injuries consistent with a robbery. The three guys who robbed me had no criminal records.
Later I found out they were stars of the local football team and came from affluent families. No charges were filed.
This sounds like a ridiculous scenario, but this is what most young women experience when they report sexual assault.
Arlington Heights (July 16)
A voter does her own informal research and provides some insights about political accountability. -- Jim Slusher
Hiding behind lack of campaign promises
The election is over and we have a new congressman, Bob Dold; a new member of the state House, Sheri Jesiel; and a new governor, Bruce Rauner. We received 51 pieces of campaign mail for those three races. In postelection cleanup mode, I toyed with tossing them. But I decided, instead, to look through them, ferret out the campaign promises, then keep track of how the three keep their promises.
To my horror, I found not a single campaign promise.
In fact, of the 51 pieces, only one actually came from a candidate committee -- from Brad Schneider, who lost in the 10th Congressional District. That lone brochure carried not a single campaign promise.
The remaining 50 pieces came from the Illinois Republican Party, the Democratic Party of Illinois, the House Majority PAC, Personal PAC and one odd piece from the women in the life of the losing candidate for state House.
Most of the mailings bashed the opponent, touted endorsements, stated shallow and meaningless platitudes about the candidate of choice and/or carried horrible photos of the opponents.
Now I'm feeling ticked off. If there are no campaign promises, candidates can't break promises. How can I hold them accountable when they're not telling me anything about how they will govern?
But what a great gig for the candidates! Promise nothing. Demonize the opponent. And be able to say "I never broke a campaign promise."
This may be the brave, new world of politics, but I think it stinks.
Gurnee (Nov. 10)
We couldn't have said it better ourselves. -- Colleen Thomas
Editors shouldn't decide who's right, wrong
The July 1 letter from Jeff Slepak was very interesting. His statement at the end in which he urges everyone to use logical arguments, verifiable facts and state opinions as opinions is nice in theory, but impractical. I disagree with everything else.
• The newspaper is not complicit in lying to its readers because it publishes things the writers state as fact. After all, the letter is on an Opinion page for good reason. And if it unlawfully censored the lies, half truths and exaggerations made by politicians and advertisers, there wouldn't be much of a newspaper left to print.
• The newspaper is not responsible for verifying writer statements as facts and editing out anything that can't be verified. Apparently, Mr. Slepak wants the newspaper to exercise censorship in its most egregious form and, in the process, stomp all over the First Amendment. Had his ideas prevailed, much of his recent letter would have probably not seen the light of day.
• Some people believe that humans walked with dinosaurs and the earth is only 6,000 years old, despite scientific facts (not theories) to the contrary. Or that President Obama is a Muslim born in Africa, despite incontrovertible proof to the contrary. Four instances in which their beliefs are also their "facts." The newspaper has no obligation or right to decide who is right and who is wrong.
• During the course of a year, I'm sure the Opinion page receives opinions on virtually hundreds of subjects ranging from the absurd to the sublime. Asking the newspaper to categorize each subject (sometimes there are several in one letter) and separate by opposing positions and ratios of each would take a staff of hundreds.
"Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it" (Thomas Jefferson).
Palatine (July 22)
A blind Addison Trail grad gives a different measurement of a school's worth. -- Jim Davis
Addison Trail 'cares about whole person'
I am writing in regard to the article, "27.0 average leads ACT performance in DuPage," published Oct. 31.
While Addison Trail High School's ACT scores may not be as high as the 27.0 reported from Hinsdale Central, A.T. shines in another area which is just as important: school culture.
I am totally blind, and I attended Addison Trail for my final two years of high school, 2009-2011. The faculty and students at A.T. are some of the most caring, compassionate and dedicated people around.
During my two years at Addison Trail, I met so many wonderful people who touched my life in just as many different ways; everyone wanted to see me succeed -- not just academically, but in everything I did. The "we care about the whole person" attitude isn't anything test scores can quantify, but it is just as, if not more so, important.
Class of 2011 (Nov. 10)
Short, not too sweet -- and straight to the point. -- Jim Davis
Weight loss advice? Go directly to jail.
How is it that Richard Daley's nephew gets a few months of jail time and probation for killing someone, Ty Warner gets two years probation for not paying millions of dollars in taxes but Kevin Trudeau is going to jail for 10 years for selling a weight loss book that may not be effective?
If that is the case, most people giving weight loss advice should go to jail.
Roselle (March 21)
Writer eloquently points out sports character is measured by much more than wins and losses. -- Jim Davis
Larkin shows true character in playoffs
I was excited about how well the Larkin High School basketball team might do in the postseason this year. Those hopes were dashed in the first game of the regionals, after Coach Deryn Carter suspended his conference MVP, Kendale McCullum, for violating team rules.
Coach Carter could have easily turned a blind eye; however, he proved his own character by making a tough decision. In doing so, he built the character of all his players by teaching his young MVP that no one is above the law.
Contrast that with what happened recently at the IHSA basketball finals in Peoria. Stevenson High School's talented Jalen Brunson scored 56 points in a losing effort during the semifinals of the state championship.
Frustrated, Brunson made an obscene gesture to the crowd with both hands. He was initially suspended by the IHSA from the consolation game. He tweeted out an apology, then quickly retracted it and claimed, "I didn't do what was portrayed," but photos clearly showed differently.
IHSA officials reviewed the suspension under the threat that Stevenson High School would boycott the consolation game. The IHSA reversed the suspension shortly before the game. In contrast to Larkin, the lesson taught by Stevenson and the IHSA to players and students statewide is: If you are big, lie and threaten to take your ball and go home, you can get your way.
Stevenson is held up as a pillar of education and Larkin is many times maligned. However, I'll take a coach and administration that puts character first and winning a distant second any day, compared to a coach and administration that thinks the definition of character is how many games are in the win column, no matter how the wins get there.
Elgin (April 3)
Applying real-life solutions to wasteful government practices can work. Are you listening, bureaucrats? -- Colleen Thomas
A way to 'find' state's lost computers
Read with interest an article in your Feb. 22 edition, "Missing state computers total close to 500, auditor reports." No wonder our taxes keep going up! When I was in high school, we were issued text books for use during the school year. At the end of the semester (or school year) we were required to return the books. If we lost the book(s), we were required to pay for same. I will wager if compensation were required for any lost computer, the computer would somehow be "found."
Mount Prospect (March 6)
We all love to hate the IRS, and this year the agency felt the wrath of taxpayers for good reason. -- Colleen Thomas
Everyone should get a pass like the IRS
Dear IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, I noted in your recent testimony provided during congressional hearings that you were questioned about missing emails involving Lois Lerner who is currently under suspicion for having directed the targeting of political groups opposed to the Obama administration.
Among the answers that you provided were as follows: (1) the hard drive crashed; (2) IRS technology support is incapable of locating and/or retrieving the missing emails from other hard drives or servers; (3) IRS technology requires updating that would require the expenditure of millions of dollars.
Finally, I believe that you defended your integrity by taking pride in noting that all emails dated from the beginning date of the investigation were provided in full.
I want to thank you for your testimony that provided a useful template that can be used by taxpayers who come under the scrutiny of the IRS. Based upon your testimony, I have drafted and filed a letter of response that will be submitted in the event I am audited by the IRS in the future.
When requested to provide documentation, I believe that the following responses will suffice in terminating any further investigation: (1) my hard drive crashed; (2) I lack the ability to locate and/or retrieve data from other sources; (3) My computer is woefully outdated but I can't afford a new one.
Finally, in the spirit of cooperation demonstrated in your testimony, I will be happy to provide any documentation dating from the receipt of your notice of investigation going forward.
Since I am certain that you do not wish to give credence to the existence of any double standard between what is required of taxpayers and what is required of the IRS, I have full faith and confidence that, based upon my reasons for noncompliance, your agency will give me a "pass" in the same manner that you received one while testifying under oath.
Northbrook (July 17)
Well-expressed health care option I hear NO ONE talking about. -- Jim Davis
Government-run health care. Taboo?
There is an 800-pound gorilla in the room in the form of a lack of debate by Congress for a totally government-run health care system. Politicians are afraid to discuss it for fear of being labeled Communists or Socialists. Too bad. The current health system is costing too much. It needs to be dealt with.
Our current health care system accounts for about 18 percent of our GDP, about twice what all industrialized nations who have government-run systems spend.
For decades the cost of health care has been increasing faster than any other item in the Consumer Price Index. The U.S. government, via Medicare, is already responsible for all the older Americans. Statistics consistently show that the last six months of life consumes more health care costs than people incur throughout their lifetimes. Most young healthy citizens pay huge insurance premiums to private for-profit insurance companies and end up not needing high-cost services. When it comes time for the real health care costs to kick in, our government takes over.
Some will say look at what happened at the government-run Veterans Affairs recently. What did happen? A problem was identified and it was swiftly dealt with. Heads rolled and changes were made. In the private sector, for-profit corporations are controlled by the stockholders. They are backed by armies of lobbyists and lawyers ready to shape results to maximize profits. At least with government-run programs, we can hold politicians accountable through the ballot box. Government-run health care systems seem to be working in all other democratic industrialized countries in the world and for half the cost.
Obamacare is a poor transition to universal health care. Come on, politicians, show some courage, confront the gorilla and at least debate the issue.
Gilberts (Nov. 7)
Punchy, witty, short. That's an effective way to make your point, especially if it's a point that's been made 10 million times before. -- Colleen Thomas
The reason the young bear is bare
A friend of mine told me that Clark, the Cubs mascot, has no pants because they were beat off of him.
Arlington Heights (Jan. 20)
here's so much in this letter about the universality of common decency, regardless of one's generation. And it's just a lovely story, wonderfully told. -- Jim Slusher
Young people came to couple's rescue
On Aug. 2, we had an unusual and heartwarming experience. We had attended a dinner/theater function in Antioch. As we left the parking lot about 11 p.m., we found we had a flat tire.
We pulled into a lighted gas station about a block ahead, and we could hear some young people across the street yelling to us that we had a flat tire. Before we turned off the ignition, the young people were by our car. Immediately, they took over the situation.
With efficiency, they changed the tire, put everything back in place, then instructed my husband to drive to the air pump so they could fill the tire.
We offered to pay them for helping us, but they absolutely refused to take any money. The girl in the group came to me and said they only thing she wanted from us was a hug, which she gave to both of us.
The young men instructed my husband not to drive over 45/50 on the "doughnut" tire and not to turn too sharp on it. One of the young men, Steve, insisted that we take his name and cellphone number. He said that we were to call him if we experienced any problems as we drove home and he would come to help us.
We are just overwhelmed with their kindness. It could have been a rather unpleasant experience for us. Knowing that we were elderly, they could have taken full advantage of the situation. It is so wonderful to know that there are good young people out there.
I hope that at least one of these young people will see this letter and know how very grateful we are. This experience will be kept in our hearts and with our memories.
Chuck and Shirley Sachs
Gurnee (Aug. 17)
-- Jim Slusher
It's the owners the Bears should replace
Over the years the Bears have replaced GMs, head coaches, QBs, various players on the field, everywhere except one place -- the owners.
Have you ever heard of the owners' concern about the team's performance? Not once. All they seem to care about is income from tickets, TV revenue and concessions.
We need someone to own the team, like for instance Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, whom I can't stand, but you have to admit he has a burning desire to win.
There must be someone out there who would want to buy the team and win games. Until then, I have one suggestion: Forfeit the two games against the Packers next year to save the humiliation the fans go through. So, please, McCaskeys, sell the team.
Gurnee (Nov. 26)
A tongue-in-cheek, but important point about waging war on an enemy -- Jim Davis
Go on the offense against Asian carp
I was pleased to read the article, "Asian carp as quality cuisine: Illinois River fisherman see markets." Up to now, natural resource officials have bemoaned the Asian carp threat and hunkered down defensively spending lots of taxpayer money on electric fences, which may not even work.
Economic markets are one of the most powerful forces on Earth and by them humans have already put some species to extinction and have nearly wiped out a number of other species if not for government enforced protected status. Unleashing the economic markets on the Asian carp puts us on the offensive.
Officials in charge of Illinois' natural resources should seek to procure substantial cash prizes and announce a contest to attract universities, entrepreneurs, and corporations. They should set criteria for the selection of winners in a few categories, for example: 1. Most efficient commercial fishing method, 2. Most efficient meat processing method, 3. Best process for long-term storage for export to other countries, 4. Best restaurant menu for Asian carp, and 5. Most economical alternative uses for Asian carp.
Already, for category one, I can foresee a boat with a large net-scoop on its bow and a sonar generator that causes the carp to leap, as they are known to do, right into the scoop. For category five, I see no reason why Asian carp could not be used as a pet food additive or a fertilizer ingredient.
Nothing can spur human creativity and inventiveness better than an economic incentive. Once we accomplish that, instead of Asian carp being a threat, we might come to see them as a valuable natural resource.
Brian Van Dine
Carol Stream (April 15)