A4 THE HAYS DAILY NEWS OPINION THURSDAY, JUNE 29,2006 No smoking Education, small-town talk and thanks State-imposed restrictions not the solution to combat secondhand smoke's effect O n Tuesday, the U.S. surgeon general reported that secondhand smoke is indeed harmful — as harmful as smoking itself. Within hours, Kansas health officials announced their consideration of a statewide ban on smoking in public places. We say: Slow down. Measures that would affect many businesses 1 bottom line and that would restrict the personal liberties of smokers need to be weighed carefully and prudently. Public policy decisions, even with the best of intentions, should not be knee-jerk reactions to any report— even Surgeon General Richard Carmona's 670-page report, which states: "The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard." Carmona detailed grim statistics, including the fact that more than 35,000 nonsmokers a year die from heart disease caused by secondhand smoke. It can increase the risk of a nonsmoker getting heart disease or lung cancer. It also puts children at risk of sudden infant death syndrome and other illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Such findings are not surprising. Nor are they disputable. But even though 17 states and hundreds of towns, cities and counties — including 11 cities in Kansas — have passed strong no-smoking laws, that is not necessarily the best approach. Consider the city of Hays. No ordinance prohibits smoking in public places, yet the number of restaurants and bars where one can smoke has dwindled considerably in recent years. Why? The marketplace has demanded it. Diners are voting with their dollars. There is nothing vague about such results; that's how an open market works. If a segment of the consumer base decides it shall not frequent establishments that allow smoking, businesses either must respond or suffer their decision. If a government-forced decree says the business cannot cater to those consumers, capitalism suffers. Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby stopped short of demanding a state-imposed ban. But he did leave the door open when he said: "We will continue to monitor that as a policy alternative." - Legislators should not consider it as a viable alternative. Let the free market run its course. Editorial by Patrick Lowry plowry&dallynews.net The editorials represent the opinion and institutional voice of The Hays Daily News but are signed by the author (or 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. Government by N, Y, Times Who made Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, the nation's classification czar? By running the nation's foremost newspaper, Keller gets to decide which secrets of the U.S. government are maintained and which aren't — and his default position is to expose them all. This amounts to an extraordinary accretion of public power in.the hands of an-individuaii j and a 1 'self-interested indi- COMMENTARY vidual a| $iat, Whence bjpws secrets,; Keller'gets 'more attention^ and pre-' sumably more business — for his newspaper. It's a little similar to letting Bill Gates effectively set the nation's regulatory and antitrust policy, or the head of the ethanol-dependent agri-business Archer Daniels Midland determine our farm and energy policy (which actually happens — but that's another story). In any other instance but its own, the Times would excoriate this seepage of guardianship of the public trust from elected officials and civil servants to a private interest. The Times published a long story the other day exposing a secret government program to track the international bank transfers of terrorist suspects. The story reported that the program is legal, effective and, as far as any Bush anti-terror initiative can be hi the current poisonous environment, uncontroversial. Nonetheless, Keller defended its publication as "a matter of public interest." If the program had violated laws or allowed the government to riffle through the routine banking transactions of Americans (it doesn't on either count), Keller might have had a case. But there is nothing about the program that countervails the clear public interest in limiting terrorist financing. Every tune the press exposes a secret anti-terror program, the media's apologists shrug it off as no big deal, since terrorists already know that they are being tracked and monitored. But clearly not all terrorists knew that the U.S. was tracking cross-border transactions, say, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. Otherwise, the program wouldn't have helped net a couple of significant terrorist figures in Southeast Asia, or figured in terrorist prosecutions. Now they know. On the one hand, the implicit contention of the Times is that the public almost never has an interest in secrecy, in having classified matters kept that way. j Qn the other, |tjeajtous|y s guards th£ ! jdenj ;iity of its secret'soWces'and wants its >*abJUty to do so Jnjfofianqe of governmental investigations' written into law. Here is the ultimate arrogation of public power — the Times demanding legal protection for its own secrets so it can better expose the government's. This attitude reflects what is, in the minds of the members of the press, an ongoing crisis of legitimacy of the U.S. government, going back to Watergate and the FBI and CIA scandals of the 1970s. It was these abuses that created the decaying, but still regnant Imperial Press, which now reflexively adopts an adversarial stance toward our government even when it is acting in an effective way, fully within its power and abusing no one. The closest the Times could come to a hint of scandal in the financial-tracking program was that "one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate." This is hardly wiretapping Martin Luther King Jr. As the pendulum swung toward media power in the 1970s, it should swing away from it now. Yes, the press has a role in exposing government abuses, which will sometimes involve reporting on secrets. Yes, the press deserves deference in keeping with the First Amendment. But it cannot be a government unto itself. The U.S. government should reassert itself by vigorously pursuing the leakers who broke the law to describe the tracking program to the Times. The reporters who wrote about it, Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, should be subpoenaed, and if they refuse to reveal their sources, they should go to jail. There, they can reflect on why their secrets are so much more sacred than those of the people of the United States, as represented by their duly constituted government. Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. comments.lowry&natlonalreview.com Reader Forum More patience needed for bicyclists, along with more trails My friend Weedon Nichols thinks that there is a cultural divide between motorists (including motorcyclists) and bicyclists (including motorscooterists). He feels that this divide centers on the conflict between labor and leisure. (I hope I am not misrepresenting your views, Weedon). Weedon, who is an avid and Inveterate bicyclist lo these many years, and I, who has ridden a bicycle (and for a few years a motorcycle) since I was 14, primarily as transportation, both think better accommodations for bicyclists in Hays would be a boon. I think that Hays is a good place to bike around, but it would be safer with bike lanes on the wider main streets, especially when traffic is in a rush. I ride on the sidewalks when traffic is thick, trying to avoid being inagressive. My son enjoys biking, which is his only athletic activity. So I don't see biking having generational gaps. Weedon thinks it's because of the perceived leisure time that bicyclists have that working people take offense at the forced slowdown they experience when they encounter a cyclist. I think in some part it's just that cyclists look so exposed to possible injury that it makes motorists nervous. There are a few obnoxious people who do intend insult though. I have become a man of leisure since I retired from medical practice, and I have no apology for that. Bicycling for me is both a leisure time activity and a means of transportation still. But I am neither idle nor rich, so the cultural divide must exclude me. Deep in my heart, I'm somewhere between the working class in which I was raised and the middle class into which I worked myself. (Who knows my status in retirement?) My bicycle remains class neutral. GaryJ. Whitesell 213 W. 21st Some notes and quotes while wondering how in the world I have ever had enough to say to fill over 100 columns for The Hays Daily News over the last four years. • • • When I began writing this biweekly column, I had no idea that it would take as much time and energy as it has. I guess I always figured that I had a lot to say about topics such as politics, education, community development or economic development, and that coming up with something to say every two weeks would not be an insurmountable task. It has turned out not to be an insurmountable task, but much more challenging than I imagined. I can echo Glenn Staab's feeling that it has been the comments of readers that have kept me going. While I have considered relinquishing my biweekly space to someone with better writing skills and fresher thoughts, the townsfolk just keep encouraging me, and I hate to let them down. I guess when the brain goes dead, I will know it is time. • • • One issue that has garnered more space in my column than anything else has been education. You don't teach for as many years as I did without developing some definite opinions and biases about the state of education in Kansas, and I am not afraid to express those. Unfortunately, I am not that passionate about too many other topics. One thought that I will express about education this week is that I hope that after the Kansas Supreme Court rules on the proper funding of education hi Kansas, the state Legislature will begin looking at a long-term visionary ap- LOCAL VOICES proach to where they want our educational system to go. Instead of this yearly battle over "how much this year," how about looking at where we want to be 2030 years down the road and putting a plan in place to get there? • • • 1 was looking back at some of the old columns that I have written and found a favorite that I had not submitted to The Hays Daily News, but instead had submitted to my local papers. I had included in the article a story about communities adopting a can-do attitude. I thought the letter was both humorous and informative. It is indicative of what we are facing in each of our rural communities. Larry Watkins, general manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, writes: Grant Teaff, the legendary football coach of Baylor University in Texas, told the story of a west Texas oil well that had caught fire. The resulting inferno threatened surrounding wells and a small rural community. The owner of the well had flown world- famous oil-field firefighters in from Houston. However, all their expertise and technology failed to put out the fire. About that time, the local volunteer fire department came roaring up the dirt road trailed by a huge dust cloud. The fire engine was an old hay truck with some makeshift wooden sideboards. They had brush-painted the whole thing a bright red and hung shovels, rakes, ladders and wet burlap bags all over it. Much to everyone's surprise, that bunch of country boys never slowed down but whizzed wide-eyed and screaming like banshees right on through the crowd into the heart of the inferno. Seconds later, amidst a whirlwind of furious shoveling and flying wet burlap sacks, the fire was out. The valiant firefighters came high- stepping through the smoke with bib overalls smoldering and boot soles smoking. The grateful owner immediately presented them with a $20,000 contribution to the volunteer fire department. After appropriate back slapping and praising of their courage, the owner asked them what they were going to do with all that money. The fire chief responded, "We're going to get the brakes fixed on that dadgum truck!" Our rural communities continue to bo threatened, not by fire but by lack of economic opportunity along with a declining job base and population. Instead of expecting some distant hero to fly in and fix what's broke, we ought to use the tools we have available to us and fix it ourselves. The responsibility for all economic development begins and ends at home. If our communities are worth saving, it's up to each of us to do it. • • • And finally, thanks to all the people who have taken the time to praise or criticize my writing. I have never claimed to be a professional writer, but your comments have certainly helped me improve. Roger Hrabe, a lifelong resident of Plainville, is director of Rooks County Economic Development. L* caglecartoons.com 'ACTUALLY, CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO BAN FLAG-BURNING WIEDASMNSTWIS/" Justice, fairness and flipping AUSTIN, Texas — And then along comes Cut 'n' Run Casey. We spend all last week listening to cut 'n' run Democrats talking about their cut 'n' run strategy for Iraq, and the only issue is whether they want to cut 'n' run by the end of this year or to cut 'n' run by the end of next year, and oh, by the way, did I mention that Republicans had been choreographed to refer to the Democrats' plans as cut 'n' run? As Vice President Dick ("Last Throes") Cheney said June 22, redeployment of our troops would be "the worst possible thing we could do.... No matter how you carve it — you can call it anything you want — but basically it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight." Then right in the middle of Cut 'n' Run Week, the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., had a classified briefing at the Pentagon and revealed his plan to reduce the 14 combat brigades now in Iraq to five or six. And here's the best part: Rather than wait until the end of this year or, heaven forefend, next year, Casey wants to start moving those troops out in September, just before whatever it is that happens in early November. They don't call him George W. Jr. for nothing. One has to admit, the party never ends with the Bush administration. The 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 only question about Cut 'n' Run Week is whether they meant to punctuate a week-long festival of referring to Democrats as the party of "retreat" and "the white flag" with this rather abrupt announcement of their own cut 'n' run program. Was it an error of timing? I say no. I say Karl Rove doesn't make-timing mistakes. This administration thoroughly believes the media and the people have a collective recollection of no more than one day. Five days of cut 'n' run, one day off and bam, you get your own cut 'n' run plan out there. Republicans have, in fact, a well-developed sense of aesthetics. Regard the superb pairing of the decision not to raise the minimum wage with the continued push to repeal the estate tax. House Republicans almost had opened their marble hearts and raised the minimum, now at $5,15 an hour, to a whopping $7.25 an hour by 2009. (Since 1997, when they last raised it, members of Congress have hiked their own pay by $31,000 a year.) This might have gone well with their . decision to reduce the estate tax yet 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 again, so that only the top half a percent of estates will pay it, while it will cost the treasury $602 billion over the first 10 years — but even better, no increase in the minimum wage to match the vote to decrease taxes on the very, very, very richest. Is that suave or what? Also, very slick move on the Voting Rights Act extension. No amendments, no exemptions; the South rose again and blocked the whole deal. Which Southern state do you think will be the first to pass laws to hold down the black vote? My money is on 'Bama — for sentimental reasons. And now, on to flag burning. What flag burning, you might well ask. Just because something doesn't happen is no reason not to outlaw it. Or, for that matter, not to amend the Constitution of the United States. 1 am considering introducing an amendment to require everyone in the audience at "Peter Pan" to clap for Tin- kerbell. I believe 99.8 percent of them do, but that's no reason not to amend the Constitution. 1 don't believe we should allow people to be different. If someone wants to burn a flag as symbolic political protest, I believe they should be beheaded. Also, flipping the bird at George W. should merit the same — but not flipping off Clinton, Bill or Hillary. Molly Ivlna Is a columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. group letters. Mail them to Reader Forum, The Hays Dally News, 507 Main, Hays KS 67601 .You also can send them by e-mail at r«aderforum@dallynew».nft. Please include an address and daytime telephone number.
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