A4 THE HAYS DAILY NEWS OPINION TUESDAY, JUNE 27,2006 Editorial Congressional pay Salary increases in Congress should be based on merit, not automatic raises I f members of Congress think the federal government should be run more like a business, they could start with their own compensation. A pay-for-performance approach would get past all the usual arguments about whether the $168,500 they get paid is fair or not. Given recent performance, a pay raise is not justified. But merit is not an issue, because back in 1989 Congress put into place automatic annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) to their pay. That way, they did not have to go through the public agony of being on record for voting on the pay raise. Fortunately, some attempts have been made to bring the COLA to a vote. Unfortunately, those efforts have been futile. So it is that lawmakers seem destined to get a 2-percent bump in pay next year. An effort to force the House to take a separate vote on the pay raise failed earlier this month. Give credit, however, to our own Rep. Jerry Moran of Hays, who along with fellow Kansas Republican Rep. Jim Ryun and Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore, supported bringing the pay raise to a separate vote. The only member of the Kansas delegation with the majority who blocked the effort was Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt. Now the spotlight moves to the Senate, where more efforts are afoot at least to bring the matter to a vote. And where some intriguing ideas have surfaced. Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., for example, has authored a bill that would link congressional pay increases to the minimum wage. So, in other words, if congressional pay goes up 2 percent, so would the minimum wage, which Congress has not increased from its present $5.15 an hour, or $10,700 a year, since 1997. It is a good idea. An even better one comes from Tom Schatz, president of the watchdog organization Citizens Against Government Waste. He would link pay increases to the federal budget deficit. The specifics of that, as reported in Monday's USA Today, are not clear, but essentially unless Congress can get some fiscal discipline, lawmakers would not earn a pay increase. That is a merit-based approach, something that is common and works effectively in the private sector. That would be the corporate world that conservative politicians usually hold up as the model for running government. Some good arguments can be made that members of Congress are not over- , paid, given not only their responsibility but the cost of living in Washington, as well as maintaining a residence in their home states. But at least they ought to have the guts to vote on their raise. And whether or not that creates an awkward situation, the merit-based approach is good. A raise should be judged based on performance — preferably, by some quantitative and goal-based measure. Editorial by John D. Montgomery email@example.com The editorials represent the opinion and institutional voice of The Hays Daily News but are signed by the author for the reader's information. Guest editorials are from other newspapers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Hays Daily News. Other content on this page represents the views of the signed columnist, cartoonist or letter-writer. The Opinion Page is intended to be a community forum. Guest editorials and syndicated columnists are selected to present a variety of opinion. Reader Forum Opposition to war in Iraq might mean lack of patriotism I have had an urge to write this article for some time, but due to my annual trek from .Arizona to wonderful western Kansas, I pilt 'this b'ri the back burner — plus the fact that this topic might be more appropriate for a book (which I could write) than an article. There are a multitude of things happening in relation to the war in Iraq but I am concerned especially about "so-called" Americans supporting our enemy. Let me say right up front that, in my opinion, there is a huge segment of our political population that is anti-American. If, in this great country of ours, Americans can exercise their constitutional right and oppose the war to the extent of hurting our troops, than I also have the right to question their patriotism. Ironically, mainstream media and all the Bush haters from the left scream loss of our freedoms, yet they are the ones exercising their freedom to speak out against the war and side with the enemy What more freedom does one want? The rhetoric of mainstream media and political opposition party leadership, heard around the world, directly and dramatically hurts our war effort. Publicly telling the enemy what we do in the way of national security, as media has, is treason. Publicly stating that we are losing the war as Kerry, Dean, Murtha, Reid, Pelosi, etc. have borders on treason. I have the right to say that. It all boils down to politics and nothing else. Dissenters can scream about the death of our soldiers, collateral damage, losing the war, cost, privacy, freedoms, First Amendment rights, etc., but it all comes down to politics with the foregoing only excuses. It is politics at its worst, and mostly due to hatred of our president and the obsession to regain power. I don't want anybody "asserting" that I am against political debate or even opposing the war. Of course, expressing one's opinion is important. Political debate is important — but when it plays directly into the hands of the enemy and the driving force behind that opinion is to gain the upper hand politically I have every right to say it is unpatriotic, anti-American and even treasonous. A true democracy depends on responsible behavior. Anything and everything for the sole purpose of causing the demise of our president is reprehensible and irresponsible behavior. Why would anybody announce to the world that Bush lied us into the war when that is opinion and not fact? Our government as a general rule authorizes torture? That is opinion, not fact. Our surveillance, wiretapping, phone and bank data national security programs are unconstitutional? Many experts say they are. Morally, we have a responsibility to refrain from "opinions" that help those trying to kill us. Is there anybody in their right mind that thinks Iran and North Korea (and others) would be thumbing their noses at us if we, as a country, were united about Iraq and fighting terrorism? With so many Americans opposed to the war (thanks to biased media's reporting), the above countries know they can play games with us. They can hardly wait to I, see. vyho becpme^our, nex.^ commander in, chief knowing full well that many on one side of the aisle would not use military force under any circumstances. If I have offended anybody with my comments by exercising my constitutional right (as does the left), that probably pales in comparison to the soldier on the firing line in Iraq committed to protecting our freedoms — especially when he reads or hears that he shouldn't even be there. Les Knoll Victoria Philosophy offers different views, different worlds This morning during a walk with my friend, Jean Salien, he explained to me in brief, but lucidly, the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau. There is hardly an idea any of us have that isn't derived from a philosopher or religious leader/innovator. What we call common sense, other than it having to do with very practical matters, is a distillation of other's ideas (for some, maybe boiled down to a residue). The year before last at Fort Hays State University's springtime graduation, only one student graduated with a degree in philosophy Whether this shows the present disregard for formal philosophical studies, or whether it suggests that philosophy, in the age of science and technology, is out of touch, I don't know. Has it fallen into disrepute? I never took a formal philosophy course (readers of my letters might have already guessed that), but little has interested me more in my reading than philosophy. I've borrowed most of my knowledge of philosophy from those who could translate and interpret for me what I might not have gotten in other than predigested fashion. Some philosophers are quite readable, but most are arcane. Someone like John Stuart Mill or William James, who hardly write in the vernacular, is still quite understandable for the careful reader. So is Plato, if you are willing to dwell a bit longer with him to get what he is saying. Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant and many others are very difficult to understand. A good introduction to philosophy can be had through reading the books of Will Durant. Bertrand Russell's History of Philosophy facilitates getting some "background" in the area. The good thing about philosophy is that it's not "designed" with the college grad in mind (few of them have any more background in it than does the usual high school graduate). We are all into philosophical meanderings unavoidably. You could do worse than to get into it more. Try it. You might like it. GaryJ. Whitesell 213 W. 21st Where to write Taking charge of environmental issues AUSTIN, Texas — Yea, Bush! Way to go! I realize this is old news, but I'm a great believer in giving credit where credit is due. By designating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a national monument, Bush has put one more level of federal protection around a vast spread of islands and irreplaceable marine life. As he rather touchingly insisted, this is a big deal —140,000 square miles of water that contains more than 7,000 rare species. Word is the president decided to declare the area a marine sanctuary after watching a documentary by Jean-Michel Cousteau. The thought that it might be possible to move George W Bush to action by something as simple as watching a movie came as a new thought to many who are dying to try it on other issues. But the environment is an area in which a simple plea often moves Bush. For example, Ol' Ernie Angelo, who used to be mayor of Midland and represent Texas on the Republican National Committee, sent a note to Karl Rove in 2002 complaining about an Environmental Protection Agency rule designed to keep groundwater around oil drilling sites clean. Well, you can imagine Angelo, an oilman, was not happy about this sucker. In fact, he informed Rove, the rule was causing many in the oil industry "to openly express doubt as to the merit of electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity." Rove forwarded the note to the White House environmental advisers, demand- COMMENTARY ing a "response ASAP." So the rule finally took effect this month, but after intense industry pressure, court battles and behind-the-scenes lobbying at the agency and in Congress, it's more hole than rule. And guess what? It has no teeth in it. Yep, Ernie and oil industry got what they wanted: the end of the Clinton-era proposal to require special EPA permits for construction sites smaller than 5 acres as a way to keep groundwater clean. Imagine the immense burden that would put on the oil companies. Really, unless the Bush administration took this kind of special care, Exxon migl)t suffer a drop in profits. Next, we find the EPA has decided not to release information on 140 Superfund sites — these are toxic waste sites that present risk of exposure to those nearby, as the exposure remains uncontrolled. You might, if you hadn't been paying attention, assume information collected by the government and paid for by the citizens would be, uh, public. "This isn't a question of left or right," said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. "This is a question of right and wrong." According to the Los Angeles Times, "The EPA said that it had blocked only information related to law enforcement and that the public had access to all relevant health-risk data for the sites." That's the kind of sentence reporters write with a straight face. Actually, what the EPA is keeping secret is how much money and time it will take to clean up the Superfund sites. Why? "Republicans said Democrats want to manufacture a political issue, and noted that Senate tradition had long prevented the release of sensitive information," said the Times. What political issue? The reinstatement of a "controversial tax" — i.e., the Superfund tax on chemical, oil and other polluting companies. In case you haven't been following this, the Superfund is broke and has been largely inactive for four years. The fund was allowed to run dry when Congress failed to renew the tax on polluters. You might not believe this, but the oil and chemical companies complained mightily about being asked to pay for the cleanup of messes they had created. What a concept. Other environmental controversies continue to simmer all the time — out of sight, out of mind. Just one more regulation chopped herejust one more law changed there, just a little information hidden. But do be sure to give Bush credit for declaring the already protected Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument. That's a good thing. Is there an election any time soon? Molly Ivins is a columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. HERE THA ERTH'S IS AT A 400-VE/lR caglecaptoons .com North Korea and the new world E-mail addresses for the Hays City Commission: Mayor Wayne Billlnger — firstname.lastname@example.org Troy Hickman — email@example.com Henry Schwaller IV — firstname.lastname@example.org Kent Steward — email@example.com Barbara Waslnger firstname.lastname@example.org The possible North Korean long- range missile test heralds the advent of a newly dangerous era in international relations, when rogue states half a world away can reach out and touch us. The North Korean missile has the range to reach at least Hawaii or Alaska, an extremely uncomfortable fact given that Pyongyang is famously erratic and probably nuclear-armed. If launched, the missile would be unlikely to hit U.S. territory and unlikelier still to have something nasty on top. But the test itself — a step toward an even better-developed North Korean capacity to hit us — is alarming enough that two top Clinton-administration defense officials advocate a pre-emptive U.S. strike against the launch site, in what would be an act of war against a sovereign state. This is the advent of the world that missile defense was designed to address. Reportedly, the Bush administration has switched the U.S. system, which includes 11 ground-based interceptors at sites in Alaska and California, from test to operational mode. If a North Korean test launch were to stray within its performance envelope, the system could be . used to attempt to knock it out. All of this should put to rest the canard about missile defense being "destabilizing." That was the charge made against the system when Bush first pursued It a few years ago, a charge based on outdated, abstruse Cold War arms- control theories that didn't even make sense at the time. Missile defense is A community is best served when residents are willing to discuss issues publicly. You can be part of the discussion by participating in the Reader Forum. Please limit your submissions to 600 words. They will be edited for length and clarity. They must be signed and in- COMMENTARY clearly a stabilizing force, insofar as it gives an option to respond to North Korea short of a pre-emptive attack that could prompt a conflagration on the Korean peninsula. Why do we need missile defense, critics ask, when we can use deterrence against threats like North Korea's? It is passing strange that liberals should want our only option in the event of a nuclear missile attack from North Korea or another rogue state to be absorbing the blow, then annihilating the offending country. And they complain about civilian casualties in Iraq? The possibility of a missile-defense intercept itself plays an important role in deterrence. If a Kim Jong-il knows that a launch against the U.S. might not even succeed but risks calling down a devastating response, he would be that much less likely to try in the first place. Just as importantly, by rendering his nuclear arsenal less reliable, missile defense limits Kim's ability to deter and/or coerce the U.S. (from attacking him in the first instance and into giving him aid in the second). In any case, deterrence is not the magically foolproof force in international relations that its supporters as- RtadorFonm policy elude a name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. We reserve the right not to print a submission. We do not accept for publication on the editorial page poems, consumer complaints, business testimonials or sume. It depends on understanding and correctly signaling an adversary, and on that adversary behaving reasonably — none of which is guaranteed. We warned Saddam Hussein against invading Kuwait before the first Gulf War, but he misunderstood us. Back in 1941, Dean Acheson declared, "No rational Japanese could believe an attack on us could result in anything but disaster for his country." He was right, but from the (not entirely reasonable) Japanese perspective, the enormous risk seemed worth it. Even in the Cold War, deterrence nearly failed during the Cuban missile crisis. Missilu defense isn't a guaranteed success either, of course, but the system should be steadily upgraded so that its odds improve. The Republican House just cut the Bush administration's request for interceptors from 50 to 41 and axed funding for a third interceptor site to be based in Europe and geared toward the emerging Iranian threat. Instead, Republicans should be getting as many interceptors into the ground as soon as possible and also pursuing the promising airborne laser technology designed to zap enemy missiles when they are in their vulnerable boost phase (and far away from U.S. or allied territory). The new world is upon us. fueled up and ready to go at a launch site in northeast North Korea. It only §ets more frightening from here. Rich Lowry Is editor of the National Review. comments.lowry@natlQnalrevlew.com group letters. Mail them to Reader Forum, The Hays Daily News, 507 Main, Hay? KS 67601 .You also can send them by e-mail at readerforum9dallyn»wi,n»t Please include an address and daytime telephone number.
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