Battle of the Bulge
Last summer we celebrated and remembered the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Earlier this month, we remembered the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On Monday, we will mark another anniversary from World War II: the start of the Battle of the Bulge.
While the Allied high command was sure the war in Europe would be over by Christmas, the Germans had other plans. Hitler sent thousands of troops and vehicles to the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and Luxembourg. At 05:30 on Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans attacked.
The object was to divide the Allied between the north and south and capture the port city of Antwerp. Hitler hoped to force the western Allies to accept conditional surrender terms so Germany could continue to fight the Russians.
After several days of German success, the U.S. Army stabilized its lines, sent in reinforcements and began attacking the Germans. The weather broke, allowing the Allied air forces to attack and begin re-supplying the encircled town of Bastogne, Belgium.
My father was a first lieutenant in the 99th Infantry Division. It changed his life forever.
Dad always said it wasn’t the generals or staff officers that won this battle for the United States, it was the junior line officers, the noncommissioned officers and, most of all, the everyday American GI who made decisions to slow the German advance until help could be sent.
So take a moment to remember those American service personnel who helped win the largest land battle that the U.S. Army was ever involved in.
Robert Benson, Gretna
Not the No. 1 ranking we want
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s January 2020 issue has rated Nebraska as the No. 1 least tax-friendly state for retirees.
It taxes Social Security benefits and most other retirement income, including IRA withdrawals, 401(k) funds, public and private pensions.
Nebraska also has the eighth-highest property tax rate in the nation. What is also interesting is that New York, which is a high-tax state for nonretirees, taxes retirees less than Nebraska.
This is a case where being No. 1 is a bad thing.
Wyoming, our neighbor, is the best tax state for retirees. Our family owns land in Wyoming, and our land’s property taxes are less than 30 cents per acre. There isn’t any state income tax, and the average sales tax rate is 5.32% compared to Nebraska’s 6.88%.
Bill Petersen, Omaha
Decorating the White House
I had the honor and privilege of being chosen as a volunteer to decorate the White House this year. There were 125 volunteers chosen from 7,000 applicants. We came together from all 50 states to make the White House ready for Christmas.
I had a fabulous time decorating and meeting so many wonderful people. We all came to make the People’s House very beautiful for the Christmas season.
It was truly inspirational to be walking in the halls and rooms where so many historical people had walked before me.
The rooms are all lovely, with such rich history, and all the portraits of the past presidents and first ladies were wonderful to see.
We did not discuss politics, as we were all there for one purpose: to decorate the White House for our first lady, Melania Trump.
In her speech to the volunteers, she said she was very happy we were there and thanked us for leaving our families for Thanksgiving to come and decorate.
It does not matter who the president is or what party he belongs to. The White House is such a beautiful building, which tells the story of the United States.
We were not Republicans or Democrats, but we were Americans working together and celebrating the spirit of Christmas.
Gail Lisowyj, Omaha
Religion and the Constitution
Merlyn Braunsroth, like many others, misinterprets the clause in the Constitution about “No law respecting the establishment of religion” (“Misinterpretations,” Nov. 21 Public Pulse).
The writers meant that we wouldn’t have only one religion supported by the government, unlike England with its Church of England, France with the Roman Catholic religion, Iran with the Muslim religion, etc.
The U.S. at the time had states with majorities of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Quakers, etc. and opted for “freedom of religion” in the First Amendment, which is not restricted to Christianity.
The concept of separation of church and state, although a great idea, is from a personal letter from Thomas Jefferson, not the Constitution.
History and current events are full of wars and terrors inflicted in the name of imposing one religion on others.
As for the president — he was for abortion before he was against it (when he decided to run as a Republican). His policies are like Nebraska weather: If you don’t like them, wait a while, they’ll change.
Jeff Johnston, Elmwood, Neb.
Passing of a role model
As chairman of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Journalism Department back in the 1960s and 1970s, I was startled and deeply saddened by the photo and story about Rudy Smith and his sudden passing on the front page of the Dec. 7 World-Herald.
Rudy was our first black journalism student back in the 1960s, who became a highly respected photojournalist and a good friend of many of us on the communication faculty.
He was indeed a role model who will be sorely missed.
Hugh P. Cowdin, Ph.D., Omaha
Leadership during prison crisis
Nebraska Department of Corrections Director Scott Frakes reported Nov. 8 to the Judiciary Committee that the state prison population had increased by 400 residents in the past two years. He also reported that the total capacity of the prison system will be reached after 150 more people are incarcerated.
Frakes presented no viable options for preventing this dangerous overcrowding event.
He reported that the current staffing emergency will continue for at least four to six months, creating intense stress for residents and staff.
Recently, when faced with a similar crisis, the Republican governors of Iowa and Oklahoma aggressively led the development of a broad collaborative public/private task force.
These efforts have resulted in creative teamwork to develop and implement effective reform ideas.
These governors obviously see the serious moral, safety and fiscal issues regarding the criminal justice reform needs in their states.
These efforts mirror the Federal 2015 Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Summit.
At this summit leaders from diverse backgrounds created criminal justice reform called the First Step Act, which was strongly supported by the current and previous presidents.
The use of a bipartisan public/private task force would provide Nebraskans a clear path out of the dangerous quagmire our criminal justice situation has become.
Gov. Pete Ricketts can follow these progressive efforts.
With term limits preventing his return to office, I have to question if our governor is a “lame duck” leader or a strong leader for all Nebraska. His continued silence regarding our escalating prison crisis leaves me great pause.
Paul Feilmann, Omaha
Getting to a solution
According to the New York Times, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said recently to his colleagues, “Being bipartisan doesn’t mean Democrats and Republicans talk to each other every once in a while. It means this: Two people come together who probably have differences — probably have a lot of differences — but they find a way to get to the end of the trail, where there is a possibility of a solution, then they do the things they have to do to get that solution. America today is built by people who find a way to get to the end of that solution.”
Isakson is a much respected Republican leader who has given us a vision we should all seek in elective office.
Brad Ashford, Omaha
Disgusted by Congress
The general public should be appalled at the impeachment process currently underway in Washington — not because the president is the innocent victim of a witch hunt, nor because he obviously violated rules of the Constitution.
We should be enraged because Congress has utterly failed in its duty to deliberate about this crucial matter.
Rather than a forum of reasoned argument, the hearings have been from the start nothing more than a televised showcase of bravado, a demonstration of unflinchability and an especially stark display of how much commitment to party has eroded principles of democracy.
It is disingenuous to claim, from either side, that one is acting out of duty and because of a “sacred oath” when we all have seen that no one is willing to fulfill their job description as members of a deliberative body.
Rather than hearings about the actions of the president, we need Congress to televise forthright discussions about its own failure, about the science of public opinion manipulation, about the techniques used to ensure party loyalty in and out of Washington and, of course, the money that pays for it.
We have plenty of advertisers and pollsters, so if there is anything at all left for Congress to do, they need to tell us what it is.
Chris McClellan, Omaha