Columns Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

Blue Star

By Scott Sullivan
Editor
All the Facts
Cats concern me. My wife and daughter surround me with three of them, plus two dogs, two bunnies, four birds and a fish the kitten tries to catch from outside its aquarium. What possible use could these creatures have?
I have read here that local newspapers are the lifeblood of their communities from a publisher who owns 13 of them. Readers rely on such objectivity. So do I for a living, but cats make it hard.
One great thing about America is officials care about our votes and money. I attended a public-input session recently seeking resolution to my confusion.
There, consultants weighed priorities recommended by task forces to prioritize options to implement conceptualizing strategies to defer action till more facts are in.
“Facts about cats?” I asked.
“About anything,” they explained.
Since more facts (with attendant fictions) are always coming in, I felt assured findings would never be complete. Elected leaders could focus in on their long-range planning while doing nothing that might inspire voters to dis-elect them. But what about cats?
I pored through newspapers seeking answers. Front and center were stories about the Lions, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, “Your Money,” “Your Life” (as if I had either) and there, in a space-filling feature, cats!
A peer-reviewed study, wrote Leo Sands of The Washington Post, dispels any lingering myths that cats do not know how to retrieve objects for their owners. One by one, all beliefs are shattered.
Study authors led by University of Sussex pet psychology doctoral candidate Jemma Forman based findings on a survey of 1,154 cat owners who played fetch on all continents except Antarctica. Some cats do, others don’t, they discovered.
Why? What percent? After months in the lab lobbing toys, crumpled paper, hair ties, cosmetics and bottle parts, Forman concluded researchers don’t have all the facts yet. We will have to pay them for further studies.
It is also not clear yet, she went on, if cats fetch for the same reason as dogs, who enjoy the bonding rewards from owners. It appears cats prefer to initiate fetching sessions, asserting they’re in control.
“Some humans,” said study co-author Elizabeth Renner, a postdoctoral lecturer at Northumbria University, “might prefer to play football and some like to play golf. Some cats just prefer to play catch.”
“Give it a try,” advised Forman, “but don’t be disheartened if your cat doesn’t do it.”
It was time to act. As soon as the Lions game and election were over; after I’d read the Obits — one thing is certain: Joe Schlump (pictured wearing a Lions cap, holding a perch he’d caught) has gone to be with his Lord in Pullman after a well-spent life doing crosswords and to going to casinos — and doing taxes, I’d toss a ball to the kitten.
Nothing. He batted at the fish, safe inside the glass. Then I tossed a crouton, which he chased and ate, but did not bring back.
We were on the edge of a scientific breakthrough. “When cats are in control,” said Forman, “they play more enthusiastically.
“If you wanted to train your cat,” she went on, “you could give them lots of social praise, lots of food, lots of treats when they bring the toy back to you. But ultimate success can’t be guaranteed.”
What is ultimate success? I wondered, probing further into the newspaper.
“This,” wrote the president of the media group (an updated name for newspaper chains; we must stay atop changing euphemisms) of the Lions winning, “is transcendent — a mass catharsis, yes, but something even deeper.
“This feels like mass transformation,” the media mogul said.
Veils fell from my eyes. No longer did I fear death without seeing the Lions win a playoff game. The kitten, too, might at last realize he had to jump in the aquarium to catch the fish.
Thus inspired, I attended the next public input session. I’d been asked to fill out a survey — as cat owners had, screening out responses like “Cats fetch? Are you crazy?” or ones that originated in Antarctica — about whether local papers really were lifeblood of their communities.
“Our findings,” the consultant said, “indicate different people think different things. Some prefer golf, football, dogs, cats, casinos, fake or real news, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, chasing balls, chasing food, obits, writing columns about the Lions and mass transcendence … what possible use could these creatures have?”
“People?” I asked. “Cats? Pet psychologists?”
“Prescreened data,” said the consultant, “suggests local newspapers are the lifeblood of those who publish them.”But more evidence is needed before we conclude …”
Nothing ever concludes, even obits. You don’t even need to end with a period. My cats want to control me? What a revelation. Now the Lions have lost, will the paper head say we can untransform ourselves?
Can we die in peace, even without a picture of ourselves with a perch in a Lions cap, not knowing how the fish put on the cap? Stay tuned.

To the editor,
In praise of unsung heroes, I put forward Orice Williams Brown, the Chief Operating Officer at the Government Accountability Office. and 2023 recipient of the Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership. 
The GAO, as you may know, works to improve the performance of the federal government and to ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency examines the use of public funds, evaluates federal programs and policies, and provides analysis, recommendations and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy and funding decisions. 
In presenting the leadership award, U.S. Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro said, “Through more than 30 years of distinguished and exceptional service to Congress and the nation, Orice has overseen the publication of thousands of fact-based, nonpartisan reports and testimonies aimed at saving taxpayer dollars and improving how the government operates for the American people.”
Ms. Brown, in accepting her award, said, “I’m constantly motivated by GAO’s mission to help ensure taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively, and by the passion and dedication of our more than 3,500 highly skilled employees.”
Congratulations, Orice Brown! How refreshing to reflect on the integrity and competence of one of the countless civil servants in our government working every day in the best interest of our nation and we the people. 
Dianne De Young
Laketown Township
2-1 LET DeYoung-cr

Public servants do serve

To the editor,
In praise of unsung heroes, I put forward Orice Williams Brown, the Chief Operating Officer at the Government Accountability Office. and 2023 recipient of the Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership. 
The GAO, as you may know, works to improve the performance of the federal government and to ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency examines the use of public funds, evaluates federal programs and policies, and provides analysis, recommendations and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy and funding decisions. 
In presenting the leadership award, U.S. Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro said, “Through more than 30 years of distinguished and exceptional service to Congress and the nation, Orice has overseen the publication of thousands of fact-based, nonpartisan reports and testimonies aimed at saving taxpayer dollars and improving how the government operates for the American people.”
Ms. Brown, in accepting her award, said, “I’m constantly motivated by GAO’s mission to help ensure taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively, and by the passion and dedication of our more than 3,500 highly skilled employees.”
Congratulations, Orice Brown! How refreshing to reflect on the integrity and competence of one of the countless civil servants in our government working every day in the best interest of our nation and we the people. 
Dianne De Young
Laketown Township
before all the facts are in?

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