B2 THURSDAY. SEPTEMBER 26, 1996 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: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SalJournal @ aol.com Quote of the day "Government has suddenly become the scapegoat for all that has gone wrong with society." Susan J. Tolchin In the new book 'The Angry American" By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal The quality of mercy IDE ISSUE Mercy for a petty crook THE ARGUMENT We all would have been blessed by a pardon M ercy, Shakespeare said, blesses those who receive it and those who give it. Aaron Hawes received no mercy, and Kansas had none to give. Hawes, 38, was a long-time petty crook serving time for drug possession. He died Friday in the infirmary of the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. His death was a long and painful one, caused by cancer in his brain and his lung. He was due to be released on Christmas Day. He would have been able to go home earlier this year to the small southeast Kansas town of Edna, to die among family and friends, except the Labette County judge who sentenced Hawes tacked 11 months on to the standard stretch for possession of speed and pot. The judge said he assumed that Hawes must have stolen something in order to buy the drugs he was caught with. An appeals court later ruled the judge had no facts to back up that conclusion and ordered the sentence reconsidered at the local level. But it was too late. The state parole board recommended that Gov. Bill Graves commute the sentence, but the governor declined. Graves argued — reasonably, but wrongly — that executive clemency is a tool to be used rarely, and not while the regular judicial process is still grinding on. Governors should not routinely meddle in the business of the courts. In most cases, the system should be allowed to run its course without interference from the political branches. But when the courts are so clearly wrong, so wedded to procedure that they ignore basic human decency, a little executive power is not such a bad thing to throw around. Hawes was a criminal, but small one. Small enough, it would seem, that the state could afford to throw him back rather than insist he die in our custody. It is mercy we all seek, Shakespeare said, because if all received justice, all would be lost. T UNCOMMON SENSE Seeing the light CAL THOMAS Los Angeles Times Syndicate Representative cuts through partial-birth abortion propaganda O ccasionally one finds a political figure with enough integrity to refuse to toe the special-interest line and instead look into an issue and do what's right in light of the evidence. Rep. Marge Roukema, a pro- choice moderate Republican from New Jersey, decided that instead of voting in lock-step with the rest of her pro-choice colleagues, she would go beyond the sloganeering and the sound bites. Though Rouke- ma voted against the original bill banning partial- birth abortion — a procedure in w which a fully formed baby is delivered feet first and a shunt inserted in its head sucks out the brains — she switched sides and voted to override President Clinton's veto of the measure. The reasons Roukema gave for her change were as honest as they were profound. She said that her concerns about protecting the mother's life had been answered, putting the lie to pro-choicers' charges that the bill would jeopardize women's lives. She was satisfied that doctors would not be prosecuted if the procedure was performed in dire circumstances. Explaining her veto override vote, Roukema said something that should hearten pro-lifers who might be getting discouraged. (No wonder — on the horizon is the abortion pill (RU 486) that takes us not to the 21st century but back-tracks to the 1930s when other categories of human life were deemed unworthy of official protection and technology was used to speed up the killing process, making it more efficient.) Roukema said: "Over time, I've been reading about this and informing myself. It's a decision that was very difficult to make, but I decided (partial-birth abortion) comes too close to infanticide." If Congress will not say no to a grisly procedure that results in the death of a fully formed and viable baby, what will it say no to? What a refreshingly new approach to this fractious issue! She took the time to inform herself. As we rush to legalize almost every questionable behavior, it is heartening to see at least one public figure take the time to penetrate the hype and discover the facts. If Congress will not say no to a grisly procedure that results in the death of a fully formed and viable baby, what will it say no to? Most importantly, the debate over partial-birth abortion shows that the real extremists are on the pro-choice side. So radical and committed are they to the notion that a woman has the right to do anything she wishes to another human life that they view any attempt to regulate abortion as akin to depriving women of the vote or equal pay for the same work. Having right to kill their babies — according to their jaundiced and twisted rationale — somehow empowers women in a positive way. Quite the opposite. A nation that tolerates the wholesale slaughter of 30 million babies cannot be said to be helping women. Today there is assistance — financial and emotional — for every woman with an unplanned pregnancy, so "freedom" is no longer the issue (if it ever was). The question is whether a pregnant woman will put her short- term self-interest on hold to take the long view and bless her child. A woman bestows no greater gift than life. Roukema finds partial-birth abortion too close to infanticide. Now if other members of Congress not fully informed on abortion, its history and its horror, would demonstrate similar integrity, perhaps they might see things differently. Abortion — partial birth and otherwise — not only damages the women who have them but the nation that allows them. Left - Right Left - Right Must be a Military Man! T ESSAY Things that no politician will tell you Clinton's hopping from left to right does little to really help American workers O nly a couple of months ago, it seemed to be such a political masterstroke. First, move left to repay heavy-spending union labor by raising the minimum wage. Make the Republicans look like skinflints with their murmuring about job losses at the entry level. Simultaneously, move rightward to embrace welfare reform, which, like the minimum wage, had been ignored when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House. That stole the OOP's big issue. The one-two of raising entry- level wages and requiring the welfare recipient to go to work ne New York Times was a combo of political $ genius, everybody said. Clinton's popularity soared. But nobody stopped to think what would happen in the real world when you pushed people into the labor force and — at the 'same time — made it more expensive for employers to hire them. Taken together, the two guarantee big trouble. Last month, the consequence of the left-right combination to the welfare-laden District of Columbia dawned on the Clinton White House. Political strategists panicked, swung left, and granted D.C. a "waiver." But by assuring T CONTRIBUTING EDITOR WILLIAM SAFIRE 20,000 welfare mothers that the work requirement would not apply to them, Clinton in effect repealed welfare reform in the nation's capital. One trouble with that maneuver was that it was against the new law. Worse, repealing welfare reform by fiat as soon as it took effect would make Clinton look like the old, liberal Democrat. Worst of all, it would signal that if re-elected, Clinton would promptly bring back the era of big government. That prospect sent Clinton scurrying back again to the right. Last week, he rescinded most of his unlawful waiver and now those 20,000 mothers will have to start looking for jobs. But not half of these people have high school diplomas, and most can hardly read. What's one big advantage these potential workers offer prospective employers? To gain entry, they could lower costs by working cheap. And what is the wrongest-headed thing that government can do? To make it more expensive for an employer to give them a chance to work, especially in a city that is losing 10,000 jobs a year. But raising the cost of entry-level workers, of course, is precisely what the minimum-wage increase does. When combined with welfare reform's work requirement, making cheap labor more expensive is public-policy stupidity. Nobody — certainly not the bludgeoned Republican House leadership — points this out because political strategists turned the minimum wage into the equivalent of motherhood. 'Twas a famous victory. This came on top of another liberal victory: the Family Leave Act. Beyond abortion rights, the new law mandating time off work for familial behavior at home is the centerpiece of the Clinton appeal to women. He boasts of it every day to widen the gender gap. Bob Dole makes no attempt to argue, because polls show that mandated time off to meet family problems is a big winner with women. Occasionally you hear a peep from some business type that such government intrusion into the workplace makes a company less competitive in global markets, but that's a lot of abstruse economic talk. That battle is over. Few stop to think of the unintended consequences to workers, female and male, in real life. The popular notion is to force employers to grant leave for family crises, then extend that to taking the family dog to the vet, then to paying for that time off. But reality is sure to intrude on this politically rosy social engineering. If one worker takes full advantage of his entitlement of family leave time, and another shows up for work every day, which one is likelier to get ahead? The worker who is on the job regularly will do better (and be a better provider) than the one who takes full advantage of the new entitlement to stay home. The unintended consequence of "family leave" will be to force many breadwinners into more frequent work-family conflicts. No politician will tell you that. But ultimate decisions about hours and wages will be made between workers and managers, by the law of supply and demand, not by the meddling of politically sensitive politicians. Flood-control levees work both ways People often learn the hard way that nature is difficult to control S alina's floods and attempts to deal with the resulting problems have been interesting this year. The reactions of the people affected are predictable. It's human nature to try to find someone to blame. Flooding is not a real problem where I now live, mainly because it doesn't rain much, but I didn't always live here. I was rather young during the Flood of 1951, but riding in a car, hubcap deep in water, through a town called "Deep Water" made a lasting impression. Since then I've been in flood- prone areas more than I care to think about. Some years ago in Jefferson City, Mo., a flood-control plan was demanded. A small stream called Wear's Creek meandered through the city. Whenever a hard rain hit the area, it rose rapidly and caused inconvenient flooding problems. The theory behind the plan ran something like this: "Flood problems occur along a certain part of the creek. If that part of the channel is straightened and enclosed in a concrete box with a top, then the water will go in that boxed-in channel and flooding will be eliminated." DAVID A. WILSON for The Salina Journal In theory, it seemed to make sense. Not only was the "box" built along part of the creek, it seemed wise to run part of the new four-lane expressway through the city on top of the now neatly packaged creek. In practice, too many things went unconsidered. The project planners neglected to consider that when the Missouri River is high, it backs up Wear's Creek into the city area. Also not considered was the huge amount of concrete and asphalt laid in a growing city — areas which now cause run-off rather than providing drainage. A third consideration should have been the low-lying areas where water used to spread out. They've been filled for building purposes, increasing the volume and velocity of water flowing in the channel. An example of the results of this experiment in controlling the forces of nature occurred in 1992. It comes immediately to mind because I came within a few minutes of losing my car. A couple of hundred other people weren't so lucky. The Missouri River was a little high when a heavy rainstorm hit. The storm was only a narrow band, reported to be only three blocks wide, but it went about 20 miles — right along the channel of Wear's Creek. The exact amount of rain that fell isn't important, and it's hard for people to believe anyway. All of that water gushed down Wear's Creek into the city, and to make matters worse, there was a small dam where construction work was being done. The deluge reached the dam and swept it away. Then it reached the flood-proofed, boxed-in part of the creek. Ill Once the roofed-over concrete channel filled, the massive amount of water took a shortcut over the highway and several city streets. It then spread out over parking lots and streets, and flooded several buildings. One of the buildings was a brand-new multimillion- dollar hotel convention center complex — with a three-level underground parking garage. I managed to get my car out of one of the flooded government parking lots in time, but when the water went down, two dozen other cars, one end of each perched on a guard rail, were jammed together in a neat row. Another hundred or so were scattered around in parking lots and on lawns. And then there were the cars in the underground garage at the doctors' convention. Thankfully, no one was killed, but it took several days to pump out more than a million gallons of water, and drag out the Mercedes, Porches and BMWs. In dealing with floods over the years, I've learned a few things. In 1969,1 learned that oncoming trucks can wash a car off the road. In 1978,1 learned not to drive through water over the road. In 1993,1 learned you don't have to be in an official flood zone to have a flood, that levees can hold water in as well as out, that any roof will leak if it rains hard enough, and that no one can be blamed for what happens as a result of the forces of nature. I also learned that after a flood, people want houses on high ground. Mine sold in a week. • David A. Wilson, Smith Center, is a retired microbiologist and a member of the Salina Journal Board of Contributing Editors, By G.B. TRUDEAU OUR UOR51 '&I&MY AT 7HI5 PO/NTI5 COMPIAC5NCWI LAM'S 60IN6 NtWHAMP- INTHI5CAMIW6N... n. 5HI&FOR.
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