The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 11, 1996 · Page 12
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 12

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Friday, October 11, 1996
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B2 FRIDAY. OCTOBER 11, 1996 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: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SalJournal ©aol.com Quote of the day "It's nice to be in Kiioxville riding Al Gore's coattails." Bill Clinton on the campaign trail in the vice president's home state of Tennessee OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Cast the first stone THE ISSUE Dole and the character issue THE ARGUMENT Dole has plenty of skeletons of his own F rom the pundits to the pavement- pounders, Republicans and other non-Democrats are puzzled by the unwillingness of Bob Dole to attack Bill Clinton on "the character issue." Not only have Dole and running mate Jack Kemp not raised the issue as much as might be expected, especially for a ticket so far. behind in the polls, they have even declined to wield the weapon when Official Debate Moderator Jim Lehrer has tried to hand it to them. "In my opinion, it is beneath Bob Dole to go after anyone personally," Kemp said in Wednesday's debate. Maybe. Maybe Dole's trusty political compass has told him it is a loser of an issue — in no small part because, in all areas but one, the Republican nominee is in no position to criticize. From sweetheart land deals to smelly government contracts to former associates sent to prison, the skeletons in Dole's closet can match Clinton's almost bone for bone. Elizabeth Dole's "blind trust" bought and sold real estate in Overland Park, and stock in a Topeka insurance company, making large and suspicious profits of a sort not usually available to someone without the connections of major politicians. One of Dole's friends made a lot of taxpayers money from a no-bid minority set-aside contract to feed soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Another did a stretch in the federal pokey for failing to report all his political income. There are apparently no failed savings and loans in Dole's wake. But the satellite dish company that was caught fun- nelling illegal contributions to the Dole campaign later went belly-up. While there is no indication that Dole ever cheated on the mother of his child, he did dump her. And when it comes to lying to the American people about tax cuts, even Clinton has never told as big a whopper as Dole's balance-the-budget-while-cutting-taxes fish story. Dole, at least, is new to that particular sin, and doesn't seem to be enjoying it. But the only ethical question on which Dole can attack Clinton without opening himself to the charge of calling the kettle is the matter of those mysterious FBI files, which no one remembers reading, while they were in the custody of someone no one remembers hiring. On that issue alone is the president really vulnerable to a charge of being more than a flawed human being but a government official who abused his power. On all the other matters, however, it seems Dole lacks the virtue that gives him the right to cast the first stone. To his credit, he seems to know it. TORY NOTIONS There is no driver, so enjoy the ride LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL P.O. BOX 74O, SALINA, KANSAS 67402 America must stand against hunger One out of four children under the age of 6 in the United States currently lives in poverty — double the ratio of other developed countries. Children living in poverty are hungry children. We know that children who have experienced severe hunger even for a short time may develop severe mental and physical deficiencies. Things may get worse very soon. In the next six years, welfare reform is expected to save $55 billion, $27.7 billion in the food- stamp program, where half of the recipients are children. Three billion dollars will come from other child nutrition programs and the rest from reducing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children rolls — also mostly children. These programs represent only 2.3 percent of the federal budget, but are life lines for hungry children. Because of the potential for increasing damaging hunger for our poorest children, Bread for the World has contacted candidates for Congress and requested that each sign the pledge "If elected to Congress in 1996,1 promise to vote for legislation and support federal programs that will help overcome hunger in the United States." As members of the national grass roots organization RESULTS, we are working to help create the political will to end hunger in our country. We urge each candidate for Congress to sign this pledge so we can reduce the ravages of hunger for our most vulnerable children. We appreciate very much your Aug. 1 opinion deploring the current welfare reform bill. We solicit your editorial support for candi- dates signing the hunger pledge so the negative impact of hunger can be lessened for the children of today who are the future of our nation tomorrow. — JoANNDIMMITT Salina Mortals must not take power away from God As I was kneeling alongside the road, my eye was transfixed on the robin that had just been hit by a car. As the bird gasped for breath, I pondered what to do. Should I put this creature out of its misery? Jack Kevorkian could do this, but I could not. To take away its life would have denied my faith in someone more powerful and with more discernment. I cupped the bird gently in my hands and, with the heart of a child, I prayed for a miracle. After a time and a soft spoken word, the bird flew away. The bird did suffer for a time, but we all must suffer in some way or another. A mortal should not have the legal power to take what only God has given. We must leave that in the hands of the creator. All life, and especially human life, is more sacred than we have made it. After all, our greatest teacher said, "Ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:31) Perhaps we need more faith in miracles. To ensure human survival we must endure, meaning "to remain firm, as under suffering; to suffer patiently; to bear up." During our time of suffering we should concern ourselves with spiritual healing; it is of much greater value. — ANGELA BELL It is absurd for presidential candidates to say where they would 'take' America A recurring question is, "Where will the winner of the presidential election take the nation?" There is a ton of silliness packed into the verb "take." What is this nation, a brown paper parcel that presidents can pluck up by the twine wrapped around it and take where they wish? Talk about presidents "taking" the country hither and yon is part of the foam on a presidential election. Such talk is particularly pernicious when it concerns the economy, as in the common polling question about which candidate would be better at "handling" the economy. America's economy involves uncountable billions of daily decisions by hundreds of millions of Americans. America's economy is influenced by uncountable trillions of daily decisions by producers and consumers of goods and services around the world. America's economy is not in any meaningful sense "handled" by anyone. Such talk encourages what needs to be constantly discouraged — the hubris of government and its delusions of mastery. And such talk subverts something the nation needs, a sense of- the velocity and unpredictability of the autonomous forces that are shaping the future. Consider, for example, the mind-opening thoughts of Louise Yamada, research vice president at Smith Barney, in an interview with Barren's. She notes that in Manhattan there is a Levi's store where customers are scanned electronically for perfect-fitting jeans. At another store, customers' feet — both of them — are scanned for custom-made shoes. Perhaps in the future there will be much smaller retail inventories — samples may suffice, or even computerized images in "E-commerce" (marketing, billing and paying on the Internet). If so, there will be less need for commercial retail space, for trucking to haul inventories, for power to light and heat the retail space, for fuel for the trucks, for all the paper that goes into triplicate order forms — for today's mega malls, for that matter. So, hard times are ahead? For some, but boom times for others, such as the new companies driving such changes, companies built around digital and Web technologies — 4,200 such new companies in New York City alone. Time was, coal, iron and steel were the stuff of economic vigor. Now, says Yamada, the list may be sand, air and light. "Sand for silicon, lasers, crystals and fiber optics; gases, separated from air, for semiconductor washes, chemicals for plastics and catalytic processes; T NONE OF THE ABOVE LET ME PEEL VOU NO, STILL NOT FAT FOR ME TO TH6 OVEN. WAIT mi Stff OPEMS 7J/ECWN /»«. W£W VO(J KAJOUJ fc/W TO Co. The global demand for food may produce the full-circle return of the malls of America to farmland. and light for fiber optics." Many such raw materials are low cost and will help insulate the economy from inflation. Industrialization of developing nations may be speeded by the bypassing of traditional heavy infrastructures — going directly to cellular phones rather than laying miles of wire, and using solar power minimizes the need for fuel pipelines. Today's record U.S. agricultural exports reflect the surging demand of post-Third World countries for higher quality food. At a moment when new communication and manufacturing technologies are allowing a dispersal of American living patterns that amounts to a degree Of de-urbanization, the global demand for food may produce what Yamada calls "the full-circle return of the malls of America to farmland." American farmland is 25 percent of the world's productive capacity and America leads in biotech advancement of agriculture. The lumbering policy-making processes of government are increasingly mocked by the speed of private sector responses to economic information. Consider the train of events that began on a June morning two years ago, after . an overnight frost in Brazil, when a govern-; ment official there announced a substantial reduction in projected coffee production. The news instantly flashed to the Chicago Board Options Exchange, where the price of coffee futures immediately began rising. Traders of soybeans and other products did not understand why this was happening but began bidding up their prices, causing the index of commodity prices to rise. This was registered on the computer screens of commodities traders in almost 200 Wall' Street firms, who reported this shiver of inflation to their bond trading colleagues, who started a sell-off of bonds, which caused bond prices to fall, which caused bond yields to rise, which put upward pressure on interest rates,, which caused stock prices to fall. ' Elapsed time between the announcement in Brazil and the .tremor on Wall Street: less than 10 minutes. Bear in mind Yamada's informed speculations, and the frost-in-Brazil story of high-velocity connectedness, when next you hear chatter about a president "taking" the country where he pleases, and "handling" the economy. America is — always has been — on a high-speed ride. But there is no driver. Never has been. .That's the nature of a free society. Not with a ban, but indifference Those who want to ban books are not as much a threat as those who just don't read them V irtually every week of the calendar year bears some congressionally declared honor, but Sept. 28 through Oct. 5 was important. It was Banned Books Week. It asks us to reflect a moment on Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pat Conroy, Anne Frank, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, D.H. A Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Wright, and our childhood favorites, like Madeline L'Engle (whose books I consumed) and the now-anonymous author of "Little Red Riding Hood." Yes, even Little Red was yanked from school shelves as recently as 1990, in California, of all places. In the original tale Red takes grandma a bottle of wine — proof positive that the story condones drinking. * Book banning, even more than flag burning, hits home for me. I estimate my personal library contains over 3,000 volumes, and I am proud to say that many titles on the book banners hit parade sit safe upon my shelves. If censorship should ever win the day, please know there is a place to go to borrow these objectionable classics of literature. I will hoard them with all the furor of a National Rifle Association bumper sticker: They can have my books when they pry them from my cold, dead hands. The American Civil Liberties Association is understandably primed for Banned Books Week. Its sites on the Internet offer anti-censorship posters, a list of books that have been pulled and of the lame excuses various censors have invoked. JAMES TALLEY for the Salina Journal Far more disturbing than the news that some crusader in Highwater, Neb., had stripped the library shelves clean ofHuck Finn is the notice that only 18 percent of the generally well-read and liberal respondents to the ACLU poll had read Steinbeck. According to the ACLU, a 1983 attempt to ban Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" listed only "the book's contents" as the reason it was found offensive. But it occurs to me that many may not appreciate my ranking controversial books above the nation's emblem. Some readers — and I use the term loosely — will, at this point, be wondering what all the fuss is about. I took an ACLU poll, designed to gauge how many people have read several banned works. After my input, I got a peek at the overall results. Only 18 percent of respondents had read "The Grapes of Wrath," The same number of respondents had finished "Catcher" as had read "Little Red Riding Hood." "Brave New World" boasted less than 20 percent. This, I submit, is the greatest danger to the free exchange of ideas in our society — the decrease in well-read citizens. Far more disturbing than the news that some crusader in Highwater, Neb., had stripped library shelves clean of Huck Finn is the notice that only 18 percent of the generally well-read and liberal respondents to the ACLU poll had read Steinbeck. Let's face it, there are enough intelligent, sane people on this planet to lobby for freedom in artistic and literary expression. When a book is banned, it usually increases in value. An allure exists where none was present before. Kids then actively seek out the forbidden title, and this dynamic ironically suggests that banning might be an effective way to get young people to read. But what the banners can never hope to accomplish is being done by television and other media: Young people are losing interest in books. I deal on a regular basis with high school students, and it constantly surprises me that the only books they read regularly are cheesy romances and the latest from the pen of Stephen King. Of course, the b.ook-banners cannot be pleased with the substitutes: Hollywood and TV are hardly proper and upstanding replacements for Kurt Vonnegut. There are probably more dirty words tossed out in an hour of New . York Undercover than in the entire 277 pages of the 1951 Little, Brown hardcover edition of "Catcher in the Rye." ' Is it then a question of published smut versus televised porn, literary blue words versus big screen cursing? Not hardly. There is more to challenge a young — or old — mind within the pages of a Richard Wright book than could ever be portrayed in a Spike Lee film. What will be the demise of reading? Not the frothing crusaders bent on stamping out unpleasant influences. They are a small bunch of loons, thankfully stymied by a dedicated counter-minority advocating free expression and fighting in the courts. If great and controversial literature goes the way of the dodo, it will be because we have stopped appreciating books in general, ceased making time for them to work their transformations on us. This is the way books will end: not with a ban but indifference. ; • James Talley is a Salina writer and text-' book editor. III IESBURY By G.B. TRUDEAy WHAT? YOU MMNWPM& RA56IH6 WHOW&tf IWASAT- w/ptwrr YWSAYSO?

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