The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 17, 1998 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Sunday, May 17, 1998
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A4 SUNDAY. MAY 17. 1998 THE SAUNA JOURNAL George B. Pyle {editorial page ' editor • Opinions 'expressed on *this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "When Microsoft rolled out Windows 95, it did so to the tune of the Rolling Stones' 'Start Me Up.'When it comes to Windows 98, it better not introduce it to another Stones hit:'Under My Thumb'." Sen. Orrin Hatch R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and frequent critic of computer giant Microsoft. By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Clean-up on aisle 98 THE ISSUE Graves vetoes Open Meetings change THEARGUMBVT Governor should have kept his broom S ome years ago, before he found his way into politics, Bill Graves supported himself for a stretch as a janitor. It is not anything he has ever been ashamed of. If anything, talking about it helps him maintain his connection with the average Kansan. But all those years ago, when he was pushing that broom around, Graves probably never thought that he would be cleaning up the messes left by the Kansas Legislature. These days, Graves must feel like the guy at Wal-Mart who is called to clean up when somebody GRAVES drops a bottle of glue or some kid throws up in the toy aisle. Friday, the state's top clean-up man rolled up his sleeves and vetoed another of the Legislature's leavings, a bill that would carve a big hole in the state's Open Meetings Law. The Open Meetings Law is something that is fiddled with frequently. No matter what the law says, or what people think it says, there is always someone who thinks up a way for elected officials to communicate out of the public view, and someone else who tries to call them on it. The latest attempt to clarify the law came after the board of a community college was questioned for the way it went about filling a vacancy. One member called another, who called a third, who called a fourth, until all had worked out what they wanted to do. Attorney General Carla Stovall ruled that kind of communication an illegal evasion of the law. But some officials disagreed, and asked the Legislature to change the law to specifically allow what Stovall said was not allowed. The Legislature did just that, in a hurry, with no hearings, no real debate, no opportunity for anyone to stop, think, and hear from people on both sides of the issue. , Graves, under pressure from us media types, vetoed the bill. And wisely so. The issue here is not really what the Open Meetings Law says, or should say, but the way lawmakers went about changing such an important part of our law. They bungled it. Certainly there was no need for the Legislature to rush its answer to the attorney general. There is no suggestion that any local government will grind to a halt between now and the next session, when the question can be considered properly. The same thing happened with the abortion bill. It was hastily cobbled together in hallways and corners, just begging Graves to veto it once it was clear that nobody could agree on what it meant. The governor signed that bill anyway, secure in the knowledge that it is so fuzzy that it won't really change the way anyone lives. Constitutionally, the governor's veto power is supposed to serve as a safety valve for ill-considered actions of the Legislature — which is, after all, only human. The fact that that power is used occasionally should reassure us that the system works. Still, the last legislative session will be noted for the huge messes it left behind, and the lack of faith we will all have in lawmakers' ability to do the public's work. T LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL Graves shows his leadership I ,am writing to express my Strong support for Gov. Bill Graves. Even before he signed the'controversial abortion bill, it was my opinion that he had done a superb job of leading the state for the,;past four years and should be given an opportunity to serve four more years. It has been a pleasure working with him. T. know the abortion bill re- ceiyed a great deal of his time and thoughtful study utilizing many involved parties, including proponents and opponents. This bill was developed by many legislators, representing both pro-life and pro- choice viewpoints in attempting to reach a very delicate compromise. This process, typical of sensitive negotiations, involved many legislators over an extended period of time. The work product did not satisfy any group completely. However, as a pro-life senator, I am pleased that we have moved the process forward. We have helped remove the stigma of Kansas being known as the "Abortion State." Gov. Graves is to be complimented for his courageous act. This issue continues to divide people of good will who are trying to do the right thing. He sought the views of independent medical experts — obstetricians, specialists in neonatal care and psychiatrists to determine the "real life" impact of this legislation. By the time he had completed his careful analysis, the governor understood the impact this legislation will have on our state's medical community and on Kansas women facing this very emotional and traumatic experience. Bill Graves' actions speak volumes about the kind of governor he is — thoughtful, logical and courageous. To me, his action demonstrates statesmanlike leadership. — State Sen. DON STEFFES R-McPherson T CAN SHE SAY THAT? The world is closer than it appears The rich nations will suffer if the poor nations do not start getting their share A MARILLO, Texas — "You can't get Americans to pay attention to what is happening in other countries," said one of the smartest people in North Texas recently. But in the perverse way that life has of making even the obvious untrue, lo, there appeared over Texas an immense cloud of gray gunk, blotting out the * sun, making children sick, grounding medical helicopters and otherwise making life unpleasant and shorter. It does rather draw the attention to what is happening in Guatemala, Honduras and Southern Mexico. It also has the happy side- effect of making David Landes, author of the new book "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations," look like a genius. I warn you, this book is a whopper (500 pages, W.W. Norton & Co.) but well worth the wrist strain to hold it up. Read and take heed: "The old division of the world into two power blocs, West and East, has subsided. Now, the big challenge and threat is the gap in wealth and health that separates rich and poor. ... Here is the greatest single problem and danger facing the world of the Third Millennium. The only other worry that comes close is environmental deterioration, and the two are intimately connected, indeed are one. They are ber cause wealth entails not only consumption but also waste, not only production but also destruction. It is this waste and destruction, which has increased enormously with output and income, that threatens the space we live in and move in.... "Some countries are not only not gaining; they are growing poorer, relatively and sometimes absolutely. Others are barely holding their own. Others are catching up. Our task T SUNDAY FUNNIES MOLLY IVINS Fort Worth Star-Telegram (the rich countries), in our own interest as well as theirs, is to help the poor become healthier and wealthier. If we do not, they will seek to take what they cannot make; and if they cannot earn by exporting commodities, they will export people. In short, wealth is an irresistible magnet; and poverty is a potentially raging contaminant; it cannot be segregated, and our peace and prosperity depend in the long run on the well-being of others." Nothing like a vast cloud of gray gunk to make one notice that very truth. Another encouraging nudge, as it were, in the same direction comes from India and almost certainly Pakistan, merrily testing nuclear weapons as though a nuclear war on the Indian subcontinent would have no effect on the rest of the world. Oops, time to pay attention to a few things more important than the last episode of "Seinfeld." As it says on the side mirror of my pickup, "Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear." Landes, in his summary chapter, arrives at some tentative conclusions and recommendations with which no thoughtful person can argue (mostly because they are so broad and simple as to be cliches). In response to the always timely question, "What is to be done?" I cannot rival Landes' depth of research or his sweep of knowledge, but I do have one modest suggestion. As you probably know, the United States subsidizes the weapons industry, heavily. Although in theory we do not promote or export nuclear weapons, in fact, we have been so careless and so greedy that we have effectively let nuclear technology, either ours or that of the hard-pressed Russians, get into all kinds of national hands. In a truly colossal act of folly, we have even repealed our own ban on sending jet fighters to Latin America, a ban that has stood since Jimmy Carter's presidency. After unusually heavy lobbying by American arms manufacturers, the Clinton administration decided that modern jet fighters were just what Latin America needs. And, of course, we have generous loan programs in order to subsidize our Latin American allies' purchase of our jet fighters. According to a new study by the National-•' Commission for Economic Conversion and-' Disarmament and the Institute for Policy Studies, we are spending 12 times as much pro- r moting U.S. arms exports as we do promoting'' our exports of environmental technology. Yet, 1 -' there is a $400 billion-plus market for environ 1 -' mental technologies, double the size of the' • world market for all types of military hard-"' ware. The report "A Tale of Two Markets' 1 ' notes that among other stupidities, this file's «* directly in the face of the first rule of market' • competition: Concentrate resources on growth" opportunities. i The report (which has only been covered by NPR and Inter Press Service, the rest of the media being too busy with Monica Lewinsky)"' contains a detailed study of the decline in the arms market and the following ominous note: "Buyers are becoming bolder as the market shrinks. Third World customers now insist oh co-production deals aimed at transferring military technology to them." Now, what makes more sense: continuing to subsidize the export of arms and military technology, or promoting the export of environmental, pollution-reducing technologies? We have defense aid programs, export credits, loan write-offs and free leases for military hardware, amounting to almost $7 billion in 1995. Why not put that money into environmental exports? As Landes points out, our most valuable resources are the gains in the application of knowledge and science to technology. After the gray gunk appeared, Texas Gov. Shrub Bush popped up and offered to send experts in fighting forest fires down to Chiapas (offer waiting on State Department protocol). Since the area was known to be especially vulnerable to forest fires this years, a little foresight would have been a lot more helpful than much hindsight. As who-knows-ho^* many thousands of acres of irreplaceable ra|n forest burn, and Texas breathes in the resujj: ing gunk, you might consider taking peniiji hand to write your elected representative &ti this matter. Sj!: Anybody seen my missile launcher? New government audit reveals that 'Lewis' and 'Clark' were actually the same person I think I might know where the missile launcher is. I'm referring here to the $1 million missile launcher that our armed forces have apparently misplaced, according to the recent audit of the U.S. government (motto: "We Do Have A Motto, But We Don't Know Where It Is"). You might have missed the news stories about this audit, which didn't get a whole lot of media attention because — as difficult as this is to believe — it had nothing to do with Paula Jones. The background is, back in 1994 Congress decided that there should be a complete audit of the entire federal government. This seemed like a good idea, since the U.S. government — which is the fourth-largest financial entity in the world behind Bill Gates, the Spice Girls and your electrician — had not been audited for (this is the truth) more than 200 years. The reason Congress did not get around to ordering an audit any sooner is that it has been extremely busy with its primary functions, which are (1) spending money; (2) declaring National Cottage Cheese Appreciation Week, and (3) authorizing the IRS to hammer taxpayers for inadequate record-keeping. As you can imagine, the federal audit was a huge job. The auditors spent thousands and thousands of hours at the U.S. Government Records Facility, which is a 1,400-foot-long shoe box containing an estimated 139 billion receipts and what are believed to be George Washington's original teeth. When the auditors were finally finished, they released a re- DAVE BARRY Tlie Miami Herald port that contained a number of alarming findings, including these: • It turns out that both "Lewis" and "Clark" were actually the same person, and he never got farther west than New Jersey. • Although according to the U.S. Constitution there are supposed to be nine members of the Supreme Court, a detailed search of the premises, including under all the desks, turned up only five. • In one three-month period, the Task Force on Reinventing the Government, headed by Vice President Gore, spent, without any formal authorization or supporting documentation, $141 million on party hats. • North Dakota is missing. "We think Canada took it," stated the auditors, "but every time we called up there to ask about it, they just laughed and hung up the phone." Now I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, I made up the preceding audit findings. The bad news is, the real audit findings are worse. I am not referring to the finding that the government has no idea what happened to billions and billions of dollars. That is totally understandable. When you are sucking in and spewing out money as fast as the federal government, you have to expect that here and there a billion dollars is going to fall between the cracks. I bet if federal employees took just a few minutes out of their work schedules to look around, they'd quickly find a lot of this so-called "lost" money. FIRST FEDERAL EMPLOYEE: OK, I'll just check behind the cushions of this federal employee's lounge sofa here and ... Hey, here's some! Looks like a total of, let me see, two ... three ... four ... Wow! It's $17 million! SECOND FEDERAL EMPLOYEE: So that's what happened to it! So I'm confident that the money is around somewhere. What has me concerned is the auditors' finding that the federal government has also apparently lost track of some fairly large items, including — and I am not making these missing items up — a $l-million Army missifi-i launcher, two $4-million Navy engines ftje fighter aircraft, two large Navy tugboats co4j£ ing $875,000 each and a $460,000 floating crafte. Now, in any organization you're going$cj have people stealing pens, paper clips, etc. Bui security has to be pretty darned lax for somebody to walk off with a "tugboat." GUARD: Hey, what's that gigantic bulge under your overcoat with a smokestack sticking out? THIEF: This? Nothing. GUARD: OK, then. : What concerns me is, what if we havei a defense emergency, and we need these missing items? Are we going to scare Saddam Hussein if our fighter pilots have to sit on the runway in engine-less planes and make fighter-plane noises with their mouths? Also, if the government doesn't know where its crane is, what else doesn't it know? For example, I was Jn Washington, D.C., recently, and I walked past a huge building that said "Department of the Interior"; then a short while later I walked past another huge building that said "Department of the Interior." This has to be a mistake. Why would we need two departments of tjie Interior? We only have one Interior! Unless we've lost that, too. I So I think the government should stop whatever else it's doing until it finds all this missing property. I think a good place to start looking would be my garage. There's a lot of stuff in there, and I have no idea what most of it is; it would not surprise me one bit if there was a missile launcher in there somewhere. ; So I say to the government: Come and get jt! And while you're here, please take these Supreme Court justices, because they're starting to smell. ] ' Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o Tropic Magazine, The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132.

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