The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 6, 1996 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Sunday, October 6, 1996
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A4 SUNDAY. OCTOBER 6, 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 'We thought it would be a good idea to sit down and get some firsthand guidance on the wiles of a very wify debater." Nelson Warfleld Bob Dole's spokesman, on Dole's Saturday lunch with former President George Bush, who debated Bill Clinton three times In 1992 By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Maximum security Kansas prison disturbances THE ARGUMENT Cracking down just increases danger T he bleeding hearts think prisons are a place for rehabilitation. The stone hearts think prisons are a place for punishment. But if prisons are to serve the people who pay for them, and not the rival theories of the left or the right, then the primary purpose of prisons is security. But that security is compromised when state bean-counters try to cram too many inmates into too few cells, then impose a lot of rules as likely to enrage the inmates as to make them behave. Recent disturbances at three of Kansas' major prisons — in Norton, Hutchinson and Lansing — show how there is a lot more to a penal system than passing sentence. The contempt we feel for those who break our laws does not excuse us from our responsibility to meet the basic needs of those in our custody. Even if we do not care about them, we must be aware of the poison that flows back to the rest of our culture when prison life is too harsh. To some degree, the unpleasantness of prison life is the whole point. But once that unpleasantness crosses a certain line, prisoners cease to be inmates and become time bombs. They are more likely commit violence on one another or on the underpaid and overworked people we hire to guard them. They are more likely to escape. They are more likely to resume a life of crime once they are released. The state of Kansas is now responsible for more than 7,500 prison inmates. Over the weekend, some 900 of them were locked down in response to outbreaks of relatively minor violence. Whining about the food provided by a new contractor seemed to be the spark for this round of unpleasantness, though it is clear some inmates are upset about the renewed practice of bunking two of them per cell or restrictions on privileges such as watching TV or making telephone calls. Prison should not be pleasant. Rules teaching that actions have consequences are a good idea. But the simple loss of freedom is enough punishment for all but the most violent criminals. Once they are made guests of our state facilities, prisoners must be treated like human beings — if we expect them to act like human beings. T CONTRIBUTING EDITOR A flight back to reality The closing of just one airport leads hours of chaos A ROY LIVENGOOD For The Satlna Journal s the 20th Century hurtles to a close, I've often thought Labout what the 21st will firing. Will it be as perilous and as jigly? A recent incident tells me it probably will. Recently my wife and I returned from a trip to New York, where we spent a week visiting old friends and taking in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple. Our flight east was nearly flawless and almost pleasurable; unfortunately, the return trip was another matter. : We left JFK airport at 7:30 in the morning for a two- flight to St. 3. Three-quar- Jjfers of the way * «there, the pilot got on the intercom to inform us that there had been a storm at that city and heavy fog had closed the airport. No planes flying out. No planes flying in. We would turn around and land at Indianapolis and wait for instructions. ; Thirty minutes later the captain ! again spoke to us. The traffic was ' too heavy for us to land at Indianapolis. We would go into a holding pattern for a while. Later the captain again got on the intercom. We were getting low on fuel and would fly to Memphis to refuel. We were an hour flying to that ! city where we spent three hours, ; That particular airport was not ! equipped to handle 747s and it took the pilot 30 minutes to taxi up ; to the landing ramp. When we finally landed at St. ; Louis my heart sank when I i walked into the terminal. Hun' dreds of people whose flights were ;' cancelled were frantically trying to board planes for home. TWA was not prepared for such a mess for there were only two agents trying to take care of the jumble of passengers. We were absolutely unable to learn anything from anyone and were ignored by all employees until a young lady TWA agent came to our rescue. It was as close to chaos, inside an airport, as I ever want to see. All this because a single airport closed for four hours. Luckily, we had boarding passes and we were able to hop the next flight west. On the plane back to Kansas City, I pondered over our problems, as one often does at 37,000 feet. I've always been a skeptic and close to a cynic and I can trace that to my years in the infantry. I don't write to promote happiness and tranquillity. Suppose terrorists simultaneously blew up all major airports in the USA? Suppose New York City's Penn Station was bombed, rendering useless all the trains and subways? Suppose the Internet goes completely berserk? What if we had another (a huge one) nuclear accident? Could we contain it? Look how the Russians have mucked up the works at Chernobyl. I realize the scenario I'm writing is a grim one, but my point is that the more sophisticated and complex our world becomes, the less control we have over our lives, and we've done dangerously little to face up to those perils. However, to take a walk these gorgeous autumn mornings, under an astonishingly blue sky, to stroll through Jerry Ivey Park, to skirt South High while listening to the band practice and watching the cheerleaders strut their stuff, it's easy to understand man's complacency, and catastrophes, large or small, seem far, far away. Yet, it takes only an eight-hour flight delay to yank one back to reality. • Roy Livengood, Salina, is editor of the Powder River Journal, a review for World War II veterans, and a member of the Salina Journal Board of Contributing Editors. SOMe77//A/6. ^•ib«|*'M| «*CX "" ' V^MV*M ~ 00MY KNOW MAT, 8or H£$ tf'0/A/G you know iTAND I KNCKO in ~ /••S TOLD /*!£ NOT TO SAY AMVBJ/N)(? UN/TIL AFTER TUE ELECTION. V TORY NOTIONS TR: Founder of the heroic presidency Roosevelt's grief drove him to build the presidency into something grand H e was "a steam engine in trousers," this Harvard-educated patrician cowboy from Manhattan who galloped into the Dakota Badlands wearing spurs and a pearl- handled revolver from Tiffany, & and charged up San Juan HU1 in a uniform from Brooks Brothers. He was the first president born in a big city, and the first known to the nation as an intimate — by his initials. The toothy grin that crinkled his entire face masked an uhas- suageable grief that he kept at bay only by action, by living life as "one long campaign." Author of 36 books and 100,000 letters, the first intellectual president since John Quincy Adams, he sometimes read two books a day — some in Italian, Portuguese, Latin, Greek or other languages he knew — and could recite the "Song of Roland." And just as he transformed himself from a frail asthmatic child too starved for breath to blow out his bedside candle, he transformed the presidency. Tune into public television tonight and Monday for a four-hour profile of Theodore Roosevelt that is — to use words he favored — splendid, delightful, bully. It will leave you both inspirited and melancholy — inspirited by the possibilities of human grandeur illuminated by this blast-furnace personality; melancholy about the fact that the modern presidency he pioneered — he set out to improve everything from freight rates to college football — T SUNDAY FUNNIES GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post presupposes big people but usually is occupied, certainly not filled, by little ones. He worshiped his father, a noble reformer in whose arms the infant Theodore was cradled during long nocturnal carriage rides that eased Theodore's asthmatic suffocation, akin to drowning on dry land. His father died suddenly of stomach cancer at 46. Rushing from the state legislature at Albany to his home where his wife Alice, 22, had given birth to a daughter, Theodore was greeted at the door by a sister who said, "Mother is dying and your wife is, too." His mother died of typhoid fever at 48, and his wife died of kidney failure, hours apart. He wrote, "Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." A theme of the television biography, elegantly written by David Grubin and Geoffrey Ward, is that grief was the spur to TR's hyperkinetic life that gave the nation a decidedly mixed blessing — a hankering for heroic presidencies. This century began for America with the bang of the assassin's bullet that put the boisterous TR, just 42, in the chair that had been occupied by a notably sedentary president, McKinley, who had campaigned seated on his front porch in Canton, Ohio. The century has been what John Milton Cooper, University of Wisconsin historian, calls "an era of great presidential expectations." And therefore also of chronic disappointment. Such expectations have resisted banishment. Harding's promise of "normalcy," and the rhetorical minimalism of his successor, Coolidge, ran counter to the drift toward the omnipresent presidency, which was intensified first by newsreel cameras, then radio, then television. After Coolidge came Hoover, an engineer cultivating the aura of dynamic modernity. Next came TR's distant cousin, master of national media at a moment when the Depression nationalized a sense of dependence on the national government's actions. Cooper, writing in The Virginia Quarterly Review, notes that the emergence of FDR's full-blown heroic leadership under wartime conditions was presaged by the prewar revival of interest in the Civil War, exemplified by the book and movie "Gone with the Wind," and interest in Lincoln, as exemplified by Carl Sandburg's immensely popular biography-qum- fairy tale, and the Broadway play "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" by Robert E. Sherwood, who in 1940 became an FDR speech writer. '.., What began under TR as a serious attempt to make the presidency as large as the problems posed by industrialism and urbanism, reached both an apotheosis and a distinct silliness in the national swooning about President Kennedy's manufactured glamour and patina of high culture. Richard Reeves, a Kennedy biographer, says "watching the Kennedys was self-improvement" for Americans, teaching them "how to act and spend all the new money coming their way, giving the newly prosperous some polish." Cooper correctly believes that, overreliance on the presidency, and longings for heroism, denote "political immaturity among Americans." Furthermore, by inflating the public's sense of political possibilities, and encouraging childish faith that complex problems will yield to charismatic executive "leadership," the heroic presidency encourages passivity in the citizenry at local levels, and has the anti- constitutional effect of subverting limited government. Today's president, unrestrained by any sense of the ridiculous, and promising to> feel our pain and raise our children, may make one lasting contribution to the nation's health by rendering the idea of the heroic presidency laughable. Living smart the Dave Barry way Living Smart Rule No. 1: Don't get poked in the eye while playing laser tag T oday's topic is: Living Smart. What do I mean by "living smart"? Let's look at a simple example: Suppose that two people — call them Person A and Person B — are late for appointments in New York City and need to « cross the street. Person A rushes into the street without looking; he is instantly struck by a taxi going 146 miles per hour (this taxi has engine trouble; otherwise it would be going much faster). But Person B — even though he's in an equally big hurry — pauses on the sidewalk and looks both ways. While doing this, he is severely beaten by muggers. So we see that the choices we make affect the quality of our lives, and we must always try to make the smartest choice, which in this case would be the one made by Person C, who decided to skip his appointment and remain in his hotel room watching the movie "Laundromat Lust." I'll give you another example of ''living smart," from my own personal life. On a recent Friday night, my son, Rob, and I were in the Coconut Grove section of Miami, playing laser tag, a game wherein you skulk around in a darkened maze, wearing a special electronic vest attached to a laser gun. The object is to shoot your opponent in his vest or gun, thereby scoring valuable points. I was standing in the dark, with my back pressed against a wall, a few feet from a corner. I knew Rob was around that corner. DAVE BARRY The Miami Herald * Quickly, I ran through my options: Option One: Run around the corner with my gun held out in front, thereby exposing it to Rob's laser fire. Option Two: Protect my gun by holding it back and running around the corner with my face out in front. Looking back on what happened, I realize that I should have gone with Option Three, "Find«some activity more appropriate for a 49- year-old, such as backgammon." Instead I went with Option Two, running around the corner face-first, which turned out to not be such a great idea, because Rob had gone with Option One, running around the corner gun-first. The result was that my face, specifically my right eye socket, collided violently with Rob's gun. But at least he didn't score any valuable points! After the collision, I lay on the floore, moaning and writhing, but eventually I was able to get back on my feet, and in just a matter of seconds — the recuperative powers of the human body are amazing — I was back down moaning and writhing on the floor again. "You need to go to the hospital," said Rob. "Gnhnong," I said, "Gnhime gnhowaagh." That was me attempting to say, "No, I'm OK." Ip fact, I didn't feel so hot, but in my ex- perienqe, if you go to a hpspital for any reason whatsoever, including to read the gas meter, they give you a tetanus shot. So my plan was to tough it out. Leaning on Rob, I staggered out of the laser-tag place onto the sidewalk, where I had an excellent idea: Why not get down on all fours and throw up for a while? So I did. Nobody paid much attention; in Coconut Grove on a Friday night, it's unusual to see somebody not throwing up. By this point Rob had gotten somebody to call a cab, and he insisted that we go to a hospital. When we got there I attempted to explain to a nurse what had happened; this was difficult because (a) I wasn't totally coherent, and (b) the nurse had never played laser tag. ; "He shot you in the eye with a laserl'\:.$he said. *5 "Gnhnong," I said. )£ "Have you had a tetanus shot recently?'l$he said. !.;«• "yes!" I said, demonstrating the brain's amazing recuperative power to lie in an emergency. £* They stuck some kind of needle in me jpSiy- way (hey, rules are rules). Then various Actors had a look at me, and, after a fair amJjjint of peeking and probing, they determined tifoit I had been hit in the face. They also told me-I'd be OK. £ ' And I'm sure I will, although at the moment part of my face is numb, and my right eyeball could pose for the cover of a Stephen King novel. Also I feel sleepy all the time. This made me a little nervous, so I did what medical experts recommend that you do whenever you have a question concerning your health: I called my friend Gene Weingarten, who is a professional newspaper editor and probably the world's leading hypochondriac. Gene spent a day researching my symptoms and called back to tell me that, in his opinion, I have a condition known as "somnolence." "Somnolence" means, in layperson's terms, that you feel sleepy. Gene recommended that I get a CT scan, but of course Gene would also recommend a CT scan for earwax, so I went back to bed. '„; But forget about my personal medical pjjpb- lems. The point I'm trying to make is thal-by considering your options and making the rjght decisions —"living smart" — you can leafi a happy, healthy and financially successfui^fe. And if you do, please buy a bunch of grooves and have them delivered to me, because I (gaily don't feel like going out. '%

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