B2 THURSDAY. OCTOBER 3, 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 Sallna, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SalJournal @aol.com Quote of the day "Continuing to sweep things under the rug just gets a lumpier rug." Linda Laird Hutchinson City Council member, calling for an outside review of that city's police department OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Big squeaky wheels THE ISSUE The Kansas Department of Revenue THE ARGUMBUT Sucking up to big business is no improvement N o, Kansas should not be known as a place where state authorities harass and nit-pick business owners over their taxes. Neither, however, should it get a reputation as a soft touch. Kansas Secretary of Revenue John LaFaver, wounded by an article in a magazine that is aimed at people who make more money in a month than most of us make in two years, has announced that his department wants to be seen as more attractive to business. The magazine is called CFO, for "chief financial officer." It rated the states for the aggressiveness of their tax auditors and the uniformity of their business policies. Kansas did poorly on both counts. The fallout from the article included Statehouse speculation that LaFaver might lose the favor of his boss, Gov. Bill Graves. But the governor says LaFaver will stay on and correct whatever problems there might be. The changes include the logical step of making it easier and much quicker for businesses to get a hearing on appeals of tax assessments and the innovative idea of keeping audits a cooperative, rather than a confrontational, process for as long as possible. All of this is fine and logical. Still. One wonders if the Halls of Power in Topeka would have responded with such energy and haste to a critical article in, say, a publication read by Hispanic slaughterhouse workers, or a newsletter for the parents of mentally retarded children. Or the Legislative Division of Post- Audit Report that says the state still is not doing nearly enough to protect children threatened by domestic abuse. Changing our image from a state that comes down too hard on business to one that can be hoodwinked into allowing the rich to escape legitimate taxation may look good to the editors of CFO, but it will hardly inspire the confidence of the average Kansas taxpayer. Of course, so far the response to even the high-finance magazine is only a lot of words. We have yet to see if promised changes in the way the state protects the interests of wealthy multinational corporations are realized any better than court-ordered changes in the way the state taxes military pensioners or protects abused children. From the governor on down, this administration is a model of common sense, moderation and a desire to make public service an honorable, if not a splashy, profession. But the perception that it only takes an article in a slick magazine to elicit promises of improvements in favor of the rich and powerful, while it usually takes federal court orders to move the state to protect the most vulnerable among us, does not reflect well on our leaders, or those who elect them. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL P.O. BOX 740, SALINA, KANSAS 67402 Young people want more than emptiness A few years ago, President Clinton held a town hall meeting on the MTV network. News stories that flowed from the event focused on whether Clinton wore boxers or briefs. But the most powerful moment came in the middle of that press conference when a 17- year-old girl named Dalya Schweitzer stood up and asked the following question: "It seems to me that singer Kurt Cobain's recent suicide exemplifies the emptiness that many in our generation feel. How do you propose to teach our youth how important life is?" Clinton encouraged the audience to get in touch with their feelings and feel good about themselves. His answer missed the question entirely. Kurt Cobain could feel good on drugs. Ms. Schweitzer wanted ultimate truth in a culture on a moral landslide. Is anyone surprised many of our youth are disillusioned about the value of life? Abortion and eu^ thanasia are sending a clear message. These procedures teach that life is expendable. Consider the experience of two singers. Jeff Fenholt, former singer of Black Sabbath, was outwardly successful, but inwardly he felt a "deep emptiness." Jeff embraced Jesus Christ and became a Christian. Today he is a singer and speaker for the Lord. Alice Cooper used to dress up like a reptilian demon. His bloody stage act used to promote rebellion, death, and gore. His songs in- cluded "Time to Kill," "Dead Babies," and "Welcome to My Nightmare." Today, Vince Furnier is a new person because he placed his faith in Christ. His latest album, The Last Temptation, communicates his relationship with the Lord. — LES CANTRELL Gypsum Highway signs carry a hidden message For more than two long months, local commuters, interstate truckers and tourists speculated as to why the right lane of 1-70 was torn up and then abandoned. No work, no activity, no anything towards restoration during the height of tourist season. Only miles of orange barrels standing mute sentry to bumper to bumper, one lane traffic. Rumors abounded, from the typical bumbling, bureaucratic buffoons to certain corporate kickback chicanery. On a recent drive into Topeka, the real answer to everyone's frustration became obvious. Merge Left. Every few miles, Merge Left, Merge Left. The signs had been there all the time. This was clearly a subtle message, from Kansas' popular governor to all Republicans living west of Shawnee County. Merge left. Merge left before you come to my capitol. I'm not sure that those Republicans didn't send their own message back to the governor Aug. 5. — STEPHEN ANDERSON Alma T FOREIGN AFFAIRS What he should say when Bill meets Bibi Netanyahu is squandering his mandate for a 'secure peace' with the Arabs The date is Nov. 10,1996. Bill Clinton has just been re-elected president in a landslide. His first foreign visitor is Prime Minister Benjamin Ne- tanyahu of Israel. Here's what the president says to him: B ibi, welcome back. .The first time you came in July your strategy was to. say that you were going to ^ come up with a new strategy of implementing the peace accords and that we should give you time. The second time you came in September, you had no strategy, but you played for time by exploiting the Iraq crisis and whispering to us that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons. The third time you came in October was so that we could deal with the violence that resulted from you having TheNewYorkTimes no strategy. At that time, your » supporters here got Dole to crudely warn me against squeezing you, and so I couldn't, for fear of losing Jewish votes. Nice move. But now you're here for a fourth time, after yet another blowup. But now I'm a free man, and so this tune, Bibi, I'm going to give it to you straight from the shoulder. "Bibi, you're an intelligent, serious person, with aspirations to be a great leader. Because T JOURNAL THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN of your communications skills and credentials as a hard-liner, you have the potential to build a consensus within Israel on peace that no other Israeli leader at this time can do. But so far all you have done is polarize Israeli society anew and lead it into a dead end. I know, Bibi, that the U.S. cannot impose peace. But there is one thing I can do, and that is impose a sense of reality on all the parties, including you. ' "You may no longer have a mandate or strategy, but I have both. And now it's my move. I want Israel and the Palestinians to complete implementation, by a fixed date, of aill the Oslo accords already signed for Hebron and for the further redeployments in the West Bank — with the understanding that there will be no unilateral changes by either side on issues to be negotiated in the final talks. "We still insist that Palestinian police, whatever the provocation, have absolutely no right to use violence to press their cause. But let me be clear: Since there have been no reasonable ideas coming from you on how to implement all that has been agreed, I will be putting out my own ideas to keep Oslo moving and to get us to the final-status negotiations.. Remember, my signature is also on the Oslo accords. "In the meantime, some free advice. First, surprise everyone: Close the tunnel door. Announce that while Israel is fully within its rights as the sovereign power in Jerusalem to open the new tunnel door, this issue has become so inflamed, and become such a distraction from your real objective of building a secure peace, that you have decided to review the tunnel-door issue and will close it meanwhile. Yes, some of your hard-line colleagues will criticize you, and the press will say you flip-flopped. But the majority will see it as a real act of statesmanship. It will deprive your critics of the argument that you're out to scuttle peace and it will force everyone to give you a second look. "Second, Bibi, you are a very forceful debater. But I don't think you realize how you. sound to Arab ears. There is a real tone of condescension ana disdain that creeps into your voice. It started with your address before the U.S. Congress, when you lectured the Arabs about not being democracies; it came out in your disparaging remarks about Egypt, and it's always there when you talk about the Palestinians. "Listen to your ministers David Levy or Dan Meridor. They make the same arguments as you, but without your morally superior style, which is really going to get in the way of your substantive diplomacy. "Finally, Bibi, please understand one thing. If this Israeli-Palestinian peace process unravels, the entire structure of Arab-Israeli peace since Camp David will be eroded. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, let alone Syria, will never be able to proceed along a road of real normalization with Israel if they do not have the cover of a real Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. You were elected on a mandate for 'secure peace.' You are squandering that mandate, and in doing so you are calling into question what we always believed was the shared priority of America and Israel — to bring about peaceful relations between Israel and all her Arab neighbors. That is still our priority. Is it yours?" The mouse that swallowed America Someday, Walt Disney World's overkill may look like the last of good taste H aving given us a theme-park America, it only follows that Disney is throwing itself a theme-park version of the Bicentennial— a 15-month celebration of the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World in Orlando. Don't harbor any illusions that you can escape the fun. AS Michael Ovitz, Disney's president, boasted on "Larry King Live" on Sept. 30, the company is now a model of synergy, with even its "news division" on board. Disney World's birthday will be hawked by Disney videos, stores, TV shows and other parks, not to mention tie-ins at 12,500 McDonald's restaurants. Thousands of journalists — some of them on Disney's cuff — have gathered in Florida to give the show free publicity as well. They'll be hard pressed to match the thoroughness of Disney-ABC's own "Good Morning America," whose two-hour encomium Oct. 1 included an in-depth appraisal of a ride by its "science editor." Disney is the mouse that swallowed American culture — with culture being defined not just by the media of movies, TV and journalism but by the esthetics of our national life. FRANK RICH The New York Times Disney World, which encompasses the simulated Europe of Epcot and the simulated Hollywood of Disney-MGM Studios, has so reshaped the ecology of tourism that it is by far America's most visited vacation spot, with more hotel rooms than New York or Los Angeles. A new Disney resort, the educational Disney Institute, is trying to increase its adult market, much as the next Disney park, Animal Kingdom, will lure kids away from American zoos. Celebration, Fla., Disney's built-from- scratch town for 20,000 residents, is, as Harper's magazine puts it this month, a possible "harbinger of America's future" — "a community built by a business" in which a picturesque town hall and a company-edited newspaper will provide the illusion but not the reality of self-government. There is much to admire about Disney as a company, including its refusal to knuckle under to the religious right's assaults on its racier entertainments and nondiscriminatory employment practices. Disney's nearly complete renovation of New York's New Amsterdam Theater, which I toured this summer, is an extraordinary resurrection of a landmark; it justified its public subsidies by singlehanded- ly speeding the long-delayed rehabilitation of 42d Street. But right next to the New Amsterdam is the cultural price of the venture: a new Disney store that, for all its Broadway-ish signs, brings a mall sensibility to what was once a quintessential urban block. That's the essence of Disneyfication — the substitution of what the writer James Howard Kunstler calls "the tragic falsehood of Holly- DOONESBURY wood" for an indigenous American reality. As our cities and communities disintegrate, Americans seem less inclined to repair them than to invest their time and money in Disney's Main Street, U.S.A., where a romanticized vision of our lost towns, clean and crime- free and always jolly, is preserved in aspic and acted out by performers. "I don't think it can get too big," said Michael Eisner, Disney's chairman, of Disney World, arguing that even the one Disney venture that ran asunder, a history theme park near Virginia's Civil War battlefields, was popular with everyone except The Washington Post. Eisner's bullishness is well founded. The only serious impediment to Disney's tireless expansion, both in synergistic businesses and geographic annexation, is its one powerful rival for Americans' leisure dollars — the rapidly growing, increasingly theme-park-inspired gambling industry. As Disney sells its customers a roseate replica of small-town U.S.A., so the new Las Vegas, Atlantic City and their clones will cater to the market that would rather vacation in an equally sanitized and ersatz Sodom. The competition between theme-park heavens and theme-park hells for Americans' disposable income is a high-stakes battle that promises to transform the cultural landscape at an even faster pace than Disney already has. The magic kingdom that Mickey built, today an international symbol of merchandising overkill, may in another 25 years look like the last refuge of good taste. By G.B. TRUDEAU U5U.lCOUt.PTK/ Wl$, YGAHW U&PROPZI5 \ ITW&NTV SOWBQUR. BUTH5HA9 &CCM&A MIU10NAIR&. I OVTOFHIGH&HOQU. \ AN eMB*6W>Y SHIPMENT?
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