The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on June 1, 1998 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Monday, June 1, 1998
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A4 MONDAY, JUNE 1, 1998 THE SALINA 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 "Ninety percent of it is jiist plum gone." Rocky Kirby mayor of Spencer, S.D., which was struck Saturday by a tornado that killed six people and destroyed the town's post office, fire station, library, bank and all four churches. OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Born in a barn THE ISSUE Natural systems agriculture THE ARGUMENT Open the doors to new thinking H ey, you! Close that door! What were you? Born in a barn? Among those in polite society, it is considered bad form to leave the door open. That's one of the things wrong with polite society. Over the weekend, minds great and open gathered on a patch of prairie southeast of Salina for The Land Institute's annual Prairie Festival. This year's assemblage was dedicated to remembering the works of Aldo Leopold, whose 1949 book "Sand County Almanac" has been the inspiration for generations of conservationists, ecologists and farsighted farmers — all different words for the same thing. These days, they call what Leopold was about "natural systems agriculture," and Wes Jackson, president and chief guru of The Land Institute, is among its foremost thinkers. And, as is routine at Prairie Festivals, most of the big thinking was done in a barn — with open doors. The idea is simple. Instead of viewing nature as something that agriculture is supposed to overcome or, at best, ignore, we should use nature as the greatest teacher and example. After all, most of the Earth is flat lousy with life of all kinds. It grows, it multiplies, it thrives, in every environment, in every season. No matter what gets thrown at it — except, of course, for the works of humanity — the life of the jungle, the forest or the prairie goes on. Nobody has to fertilize it. Nobody has to weed it. Nobody has to kill the bugs or the fungus or the microbes. Nobody has to burn tons of nonrenewable fossil fuels. Life goes on. The basic question for The Land Institute, and for a handful of similar outfits around the world is, Why can't we do that? Can we feed ourselves in ways that do not require large amounts of fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides? Can we watch wheat or corn or oats grow in places we find, not only in places we have made as unrecognizable to nature as a shopping mall parking lot? The answer, so far, is that we don't know. But Jackson and other descendents of Aldo Leopold keep looking. Nature must know something. It has, after all, been around for a long time. Jackson Sunday dreamed aloud of a new natural systems agriculture foundation, one where the traditional doors that divide biologists, geneticists, ecologists and such would be thrown open so as to better, if never totally, understand how nature creates and makes bountiful such a wide variety of life. If that dream comes to pass, it will have been born in a barn, just outside Salina. V LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL Rural land already 'developed' T he articles about developer Darrell Hills' plans for Saline County lead to deep concerns for us. Developing the Oasis land with the historic well and honoring the pioneers who traveled through Oasis sounds noble. We would ask Saline County folks to consider another angle to Mr. Hills' plans and the direction developers and Realtors are heading in our county. Mr. Hill also intends to develop a half-section of grass in the Hal- Iville community 20 miles south of Salina, adjacent to our land. In 1879 my great-grandparents likely passed through the Oasis area on their way to eventually begin farming the land in this neighborhood. They sacrificed everything to leave Sweden to come here to establish a home and future for their descendants. The Hallville neighborhood has already been "developed" the past 130 years by farmers and ranchers, with thousands of hours of sweat and hard work, many of them the descendants of pioneers who passed through Oasis. Their investment in area land is phenomenal and deeply rooted. How ironic it is that Mr. Hills, sellers and Realtors demonstrate such drive to develop our neighborhood's land as relative newcomers. Their "development" of Saline County land now makes it impossible for pioneers' descendants to purchase the land at a fair value for agriculture use. The "development" of the half-section pasture eliminates 320 acres of precious rolling pasture, (native grass the Indians trod) for use by any area farm or ranch families. It dramat- ically alters the landscape of our community and entices more farmers to give up precious agriculture land for money. The annually shrinking land base available to the agriculture community shows alarmingly less pasture for family farmers and ranchers. Farmers and ranchers in earlier generations learned to conserve, appreciate and preserve the landscape of our community. We long to continue their legacy. We are willing to continue working hard as caretakers of the precious land with our generations of vested interest. However, we need the opportunity. Inflated land values rip the opportunity from the calloused hands of farmers and ranchers who have earned the privilege of caring for the land. We are not inhospitable people who don't want to share with new neighbors desiring small country acreages. Rather, we are folks who think it is morally fair for our children to have future access to a land base that allows them to choose to be our community's land caretakers. Does Saline County really want ever-increasing country homes in all areas of the county at the risk of eliminating family farms a generation from now? Does it matter to Saline County residents whether any local farmers are growing your steaks in 2025? Farmers and ranchers, do you really have the heart of your community's long-range best interests in mind by selling large acreages at high prices? The great payoff is temporary, the consequences far- reaching for future generations. — CHERYL SPARE Salina T ESSAY In Russia, too, it's the economy, stupid Russia is free due to Yeltsin's guts, and in trouble because of his economic ignorance W ASHINGTON — It can't happen here, but assume our Dow average were to drop substantially. Not just the 10 or 15 percent correction customary after big run-ups, but all the way down to 4,000. What would our reaction be? After the disbelieving shock would come the rage. Fingers would point at economists who failed to foresee, corporate merger maniacs, bankers and brokers, at surplus budgeteers and muckraking journalists. Most of all, we would fix our fury on the president. Having taken credit for the rain, Bill Clinton would be blamed for the drought. As his popularity plunged, impeachment for other than economic actions would be in the air. Now let's take a look at Russia. The Russian stock market is the worst-performing market anywhere, down more than 50 percent this year, a panic-stricken 10 percent this week. The young unknown whom Boris Yeltsin put in as prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, has had to raise interest rates to 150 percent to avoid a run on the ruble. Desperate for $2 billion to pay government workers, he put a huge government-owned oil company up for sale, T TORY NOTIONS WILLIAM SAFIRE The New York Times but nobody came to the auction. And yet the populace has not risen up to demand a change in government. Unlike Americans with pension funds or 401(K) accounts, most Russians are not personally affected by the stock market. And published economic figures on the above-ground economy are misleading because three-quarters of business done in Russia is barter or paid with i.o.u.'s. What would worry the average Russian most is inflation, which is now relatively low, about 1 percent a month. That's why Yeltsin's untried new team is desperate to avoid devaluation, pressure for which is building. Although it would restore some economic equilibrium, devaluing the currency would drive up the price of imports and hit Russians in their pocketbooks, causing political unrest. The only calls for impeachment of Yeltsin come from the Communists in the Duma they dominate, but that's just a trick: the Constitution forbids the president to dissolve the Duma if it is considering impeachment, and the Communists don't want to face the people yet. That's because the Communists are stuck at one-fourth of the electorate. Last week's unscientific telephone poll on the popular TV show "Itogi," with 30,000 respondents, showed the Communist Gennadi Zyuganov with only 18 percent; Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, and the newly elected Krasnoyarsk governor, Aleksandr Lebed, tied for 25 percent, and the Yabloko reform leader, Grigory Yavlinsky, at 32 percent. Yeltsin, whose latest shake-up evidently inspired no confidence, was nowhere. How does Russia's president restore investor confidence? To keep the wolf from the door, he will seek to borrow more from the International Monetary Fund, grimly promising to collect more taxes from deadbeats. That's just a palliative. If Yeltsin is to build the global market's confidence, he should tax the state-owned Gazprom, the railways and oil pipeline monopolies; bankrupt Soviet-era collectives and give the farmers their land; reduce and simplify taxes on individuals so he can collect them; close hundreds of tottering banks and make transparent the accounting of the remainder; break the system of official bribery and protect small business from the Mafiya. That's for starters. Confidence does not come from loans; it's the other way around. When Russia replaces its present crony capitalism with free enterprise under contract law, it will build business confidence. When it stops endangering the world by selling nuclear technology to Iran and allying itself with Iraq, Russia will gain the diplomatic confidence of the Western nation that can do it the most good. America's national interest is in advancing democracy and competitive capitalism. With the Soviet Union gone, we no longer have to support corrupt, autocratic regimes, as we did Suharto's Indonesia and the shah's Iran, only because they are non-Communist. Thanks partly to Yeltsin's courage, Russia is no longer Communist, but largely because of Yeltsin's economic ignorance, his resource- rich land with its literate people is stagnating and imploding. Confidence will overcome panic only when enterprise is freed. Hate crime laws create thought crimes Read Richard Dooling's 'Brain Storm,' a serious novel of ideas and hate W ASHINGTON — Meet federal Judge Whittaker J. Stang, who is old, dyspeptic and too good to be true: "I like my clerks smart, young and pretty. And if anybody doesn't like it, they can sue me for sexual harassment, age discrimination, and — I don't know — brains discrimination, how's that? Can they sue me for intelligence discrimination yet? ... Take note! I've hired black ones five or ten times at least. They were also smart, young and pretty." Stang is one of many tangy characters in Richard Dooling's "Brain Storm," a hilarious novel about hate. Set in the near future, it is a serious novel of ideas, including Dooling's idea that laws mandating en- * hanced penalties for "hate crimes" create, in effect, thought crimes. Joe Watson ("Like many lawyers, Watson originally went to law school because he had been unsettled by the prospect of graduation from college") has an expensive wife and a bland but remunerative job at an establishment law firm. Then Stang assigns him to defend a racist lowlife who killed a deaf black man he found in bed with his — the lowlife's — wife. Watson loses his wife, temporarily, and his job, permanently, because, rather than plead his client guilty, he throws himself into the task of overthrowing the idea of "hate GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post crimes." In real life, the first U.S. laws criminalizing hatred made it illegal to use hateful speech or commit symbolic acts expressing hatred. These were declared unconstitutional because they were not "content neutral": If you painted a peace symbol on a synagogue, you got a mild sentence for vandalism; if you painted a swastika, you got 10 years for a hate crime. So instead of directly banning hateful speech and acts, legislatures enhanced the penalties for acts that seemed motivated by hate or that seemed to have occurred because of the victim's status or the perpetrator's hatefulness. This distinction without a difference is, a Dooling character says, a bonanza for lawyers: "Hate could mean more business for them than crack cocaine. After all, hate is everywhere, and it's free!" But proving intent to do something is hard enough, without having to prove it was done with a bad attitude. Imagine the potential for abuse when the law invites prosecutors to prove to juries that a particular motive-a proscribed hatred of a group accorded special government protection-caused the killer to pull the trigger. "Brain Storm" is a crash course in neuroscience, and the possible behavioral implications of neurological disorders. One of Dooling's characters is a scientist who says that believing in free will is akin to believing in leprechauns. The mind, she says, is "a symphony orchestra with no conductor" — hundreds of billions of neurons cooperating to produce consciousness, and we have no idea how. But new brain-scanning technologies can produce, in effect, pictures of, say, rage or contentment — the glucose uptake, oxygen consumption, blood flow, and electrical or magnetic activities correlated with particular states of mind. DOONESBURY So, is it unreasonable to postulate genetic, biological, environmental or medical causes of violence — causes that can be removed? The trouble is, the law holds us responsible for controlling our minds which, presumably, control our bodies. Unfortunately, government increasingly wants to inventory and furnish our minds. Today government, although hard pressed to provide basic services, has ever more ambitious plans for fine-tuning citizens' minds. Joe Camel has been killed and Budweiser's frogs and lizards will soon find themselves in the government's gun sights as part of its metastasizing campaign against socially undesirable desires (and not only those of "kids"). Political hygienists bent on "campaign finance reform" are hot to gut the First Amendment to protect the (supposedly) gullible public from overdosing on "too much" political speech. To protect that fragile flower, womanhood (the law enshrines that stereotype), from "hostile work environments" (whatever annoys a particular woman on a particular day), a federal judge has held that use of gender-based terms such as "foreman" or "draftsman" could constitute sexual harassment. Government has found that classified ads for homes with an "ocean view" and with "family rooms" discriminate against the blind and singles, respectively. So pay attention when Dooling says, "The day is fast approaching when all speech will be regulated in the interest of civil rights and the prosecution of hate criminals who commit gender crimes through the hostile and abusive use of illegal words." And read "Brain Storm" for a subtle, entertaining depiction of the tangle that results when government undertakes to punish not only crimes but states of mind. By G.B. TRUDEAU SO THEHOUSeIS JUSTTHZ WAV IT WAS WHEN JOHNPEN- VEK WAS MAKING MUSICAL HIS- TDK/ ONLY YARDS AWAY? yuerrsINnsORIGINAL CONATION, INCLUDING ALL THf APPLIANCES ANPeQUtP- M£N7, RIGHT; HONZY? yes, SIR. PRACTICALLY, PRACTICALLY?

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