Day: January 17, 2015

A stitch and time saves flags

By CRAIG MURPHY Of the Keizertimes Debbie Lockhart has a great view of her handiwork. For the last few years, the deputy city recorder for Keizer has been volunteering her time to mend flags as needed at the Keizer Civic Center. Three flags fly over the main entrance at 930 Chemawa Road North: United States, the state and the city. Since there are lights underneath, the flags can stay up 24 hours a day. Lockhart can see the flags out her window. Given the variation in Oregon weather, that means the flags can be subject to a fair amount of rain and wind throughout the year. When Dan Collingham started as the city’s facility maintenance worker about three years ago, Lockhart ran her idea to repair flags as needed by him. Collingham agreed; in the time since Lockhart estimates she has done 10 repair jobs. With flags costing an estimated $60 each, that means the longtime city employee has saved taxpayers approximately $600 so far. “I like making things last,” said Lockhart, who started working for the city in 2002. Related to that, Lockhart does the repairs on her 1962 sewing machine she was given in the seventh grade. Needed repairs are brought to Lockhart’s attention by Collingham. “I check the flags on a regular basis, especially after a hard rain,” he said. “I’ll take them down if it’s...

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Design of the divine?

By MICHAEL GERSON The biographer Eric Metaxas recently made waves by arguing that modern science increasingly “makes the case for God.” Writing in The Wall Street Journal, he framed some rather weak arguments about planetary science, claiming that the parameters for the emergence of life are so precise and unlikely that they point to divine design. We don’t really know what physical processes drive the development and remarkable resilience of life — which somehow includes moss on Mount Everest and tube worms in deep-sea hydrothermal vents — but it strikes me as likely that science will eventually find an explanation. Further research may reveal how the deck is stacked in favor of life by impersonal, natural forces. God is probably not needed to fill this particular gap. But Metaxas goes on to make a broader, sounder point about the “fine-tuning” of physical constants that allow an observable universe to exist in the first place. After centuries of inquiry, we have found that everything that is — the whole shebang — balances precariously on the head of a pin. If electrons were a little lighter, there could be no stable stars. If protons were slightly heavier, no atoms could form. If the weak nuclear force were weaker, there would be no hydrogen. If the electromagnetic force were stronger, carbon would decay away. If a variety of physical constants were off...

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How government helps the 1 percent

By E.J. DIONNE JR. You may think that government takes a lot of money from the wealthy and gives it to poor people. You might also assume that the rich pay a lot to support government while the poor pay a pittance. There is nothing wrong with you if you believe this. Our public discourse is dominated by these ideas, and you’d probably feel foolish challenging them. After Mitt Romney’s comments on the 47 percent blew up on him, conservatives have largely given up talking publicly about their “makers versus takers” distinction. But much of the right’s rhetoric and many of its policies are still based on such notions. It is thus a public service that the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has issued a report showing that at the state and local level, government is, indeed, engaged in redistribution — but it’s redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy. It’s entirely true that better-off people pay more in federal income taxes than the less well-to-do. But this leaves out not only Social Security taxes, but also what’s going on elsewhere. The institute found that in 2015, the poorest fifth of Americans will pay, on average, 10.9 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes and the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent. But the top 1 percent will pay states and...

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