THE SALINA JOURNAL SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2001 A7 Tom BeU Editor & Publisher 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 "It's an open wound. When someone sn\ashes your finger ivith a hammer, you don't forget it." Lazaro Gonkalez uncle of-.EIian Gorlzalez, rememberlrig the government raid on his Miami home a year ago loday. Rate hike is not needed THE ISSUE Electric rates in Kansas THEARGUMBilT KCC should heed its stajf's advice N ot to overstate the obvious, but Kansas is not California. And there is no reason to believe that the major electric utility corporation serving most Kansans needs the kind of rate increase it is talking about in order for Kansas to continue not being California, the Land of Rolling Blackouts. That's because the great deregulation experiment in California, the mess that caused Silicon Valley to go dark, has not been visited on Kansas electric generators, distributors or customers. In Kansas, imlike California, one corporation is responsible for every electron, from generation to consumption. Its rates include everything, including a margin of profit the Kansas Corporation Commission deems appropriate for an outfit that is in business to make a profit but that exerts monopoly control over the supply of power to most Kansas homes and businesses. The humiliation of California was caused by the boneheaded decision there to separate generators from retailers, allowing wholesale prices to seek their own level while prohibiting retailers from passing increased costs along to consumers. Thus a situation where nobody was building new generating capacity because, unlike the old utility regulation scheme, they would have no guaranteed customers, and those that were already generating it could charge whatever th'ey wanted. The situation in Kansas sees Western Resources, which both creates power and sells it, overseeing its two major divisions, KPL and KGE. Western's costs to generate power, transmit it, deliver it, bill for it and have a little money left over for its stockholders are aU aUowed for by the KCC. And, according to the KCC staff, the $151 million rate increase Western Resources has requested for its two power companies is about $243 million too large. That is, the KCC staff has recommended that, instead of raising its rates by $151 a year, the parent company be required to cut them by nearly $91.7 million. That's a rate cut of $92 million for KGE, which serves Wichita and southern Kansas. The KCC staff says its proposal will deal with the fact that KGE customers pay more than other Kansans, whUe still leaving both KGE and Western with reasonable cash flow and return on its investment. KPL customers, the KCC staff recommends, should shoulder a .02 percent rate hike, a tiny fraction of what the company wants, which the staff said to be enough to pay for the for new natural gas-fired generating facilities that are being added to the system. KPL serves Salina, Topeka and most of northern Kansas. KGE's rates will still be higher than KPL's, still because KGE customers are bearing the burden of the Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station. The KCC staff says their recommendation in no way shifts any of the cost for Wolf Creek onto KPL customers. That all sounds about right. The KCC staff, which has access to all the numbers, and yet exists to serve the people of Kansas, not the power utilities, is the institution most likely to balance the books correctly The corporation commission shovild approve its staff's recommendation, and not allow tales from the Left Coast to influence their deliberations. — George B. Pyle Journal Columnist Let us know Letters to the Journalare welcome but, like everything else in the newspaper, are subject to being edited for space, clarity and taste. I No anonymous letters will be published. Ail letters must in|;lude a daytime telephione number for confirmation. i E-mail (8jletter8 @ealjournal.com) is encouraged, but plejMe do NOT send attachrrti^nts: NG^YS ON "JACKASS " A cHA(« Grvi&AGfD \^ THE MOST STUP(D, De <5RAD/M6 AND PoiK/TLGSS ACTi >//rV //MA^WA&LE . 3(p2POi -nve vJOFJ ^Ai-o KlcUJf • BELLWETHER Television changes people's behavior Should your children spend 20 hours a week with someone like this? L et's take a little quiz: Would you put children in a room for more than 20 hours each week with someone who was known to change young people's behavior, including increasing violent tendencies, decreasing social # skills, reducing creativity and contributing to childhood obesity? Would you want your spouse to attend nightly seminars that de-emphasize monogamous relationships, put a positive spin on adultery and reinforce negative stereotypes of married couples? Would you want your teen-ager to spend hours each day taking instruction that glorified violence, promoted teen sex and normalized births out of wedlock? Would you allow an outsider into your home every day for three or four hours, someone who monopolized conversations, debased the family's moral compass and positively reinforced children when they used vulgarity, insulted parents and fought with their siblings? Let's hope the answer to all these questions is "no." People want their homes to be healthy environments and conscientious parents certainly do not want their children repeatedly exposed to negative influences. That is, unless we are talking about tele- • SUNDAY FUNNIES The Salina Journal Television viewing habits are formed in very young children, who spend an average of 25 to 32 hours per week watching television. In many homes the television is on during every waking hour, making it the single greatest influence on American family life. vision. Then all the old standards get tossed out the window, leaving experts to debate why Americans continue to ignore thousands — thousands — of legitimate studies linking television watching to increases in unfavorable and destructive behavior in children, teens and adults. Television viewing habits are formed in very young children, who spend an average of 25 to 32 hours per week watching television. In many homes the television is on during every waking hour, making it the single greatest influence on American family life. As a result, adults leave a huge share of their children's upbringing to Hollywood screenwriters, music video producers and advertisers. But the impact goes beyond children. Studies also find that adult expectations are altered by what they see on television. Perceptions of normal sexual activity change after heavy television viewing, which is understandable, considering two- thirds of all prime-time television shows have sexual topics. Themes promote extramarital, unprotected sex at a far greater frequency than is found in society, enforcing stereotypes outside normal behavior. Making matters worse, studies also find that when watching television with adults, children are more likely to watch adult programming, exposing them to mature themes before they are emotionally ready to deal with them. Certainly, television can have a positive influence. It can educate, inform and challenge our thinking. But the good is outweighed by the bad. Want proof? That's easy Information about damages wrought by television can be found in any public library or on the Internet. And this week is a particularly good time to consider the topic because the national TV- Turnoff Week starts tomorrow. The goal of the effort is to encourage families and individuals to turn off their televisions and try other activities. One good source for information is "Glued to the Tube," a new book by Cheryl Pawlowski. It details how Americans have allowed television to assume several different roles in our families, from cultural narrator, to friend, sexual advisor and gender mentor. She summarizes studies that show just how television is changing behavior, and influencing how we view the world and treat our family and friends. It is an important and frightening book. Every parent should read it. More information on TV-Turnoff Week can be found on the Internet: http://www. tvturnoff.org • Journal Editor & Publisher Tom Bell can be reached at 823-6464, Ext. 753, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. X equals all that I know about math Today's young people really don't have time to figure out how many apples Ned has P resident Bush says our schools need to do a better job of teaching mathematics, and I agree with him 150 percent. Many high-school students today can't even calculate a square root! Granted, I can't calculate a square root, either, but 1 ^ used to be able to, for a period of approximately 15 minutes back in 1962. At least I think that was a square root. It might have been a "logarithm." But whatever it was, if I had to learn how to do it, these kids today should have to learn it, too. As President Bush so eloquently put it in his address to Congress: "Mathematics are one of the fun- damentaries of educationalizing youths." I could not have said it better with a 10- foot pole. We all need mathematics in order to solve problems that come up constantly in the "real world." For example, suppose four co-workers go to a restaurant, and at the end of the meal, the waiter brings a biU totaling $34.57. How much, including tip, does each person owe? If the co-workers do not know mathematics, they will just guess at the answer and put in random amounts of money ranging from $9 to $11, unless one of them is a guy I used to work with named Art, in which case he wiU make a big show of studying the bill, then put in exactly $4.25. But if the co-workers know their mathematics, they can easily come up with exactly the correct answer. They can do this DAVE BARRY Tlie Miami Herald ^ our "Mathematics are one of the fundamentaries of educationalizing our youths." using "algebra," which was invented by the ancient Persians. (They also invented the SATs, although they got very low scores because in those days there were no pencils.) The way algebra works is, if you don't know exactly what a number is, you just call it "X." The Persians found that this was a big mathematical help in solving problems: PERSIAN WIFE (suspiciously): How much have you had to drink? PERSIAN HUSBAND: I had "X" beers. PERSIAN WIFE: Well, how much is THAT? PERSIAN HUSBAND: It's a (burp) variable. PERSIAN WIFE (not wanting to look stupid): Well, OK then. Historical Footnote: Several years later, when the ancient Romans invented Roman numerals, and it turned out that "X" was actually equal to 10, there was big trouble in Persia. But getting back to the four co-workers at the restaurant: To figure out how much each person owes, they would simply use the algebraic equation AEPO l/4$34.57+T(((-SA?)(+NSOB!)(-SITE)(H), where "AEPO" is the amoimt each person owes, "T" is the tip, "SA" is whether the waiter has a snotty attitude, "NSOB" is whether the waiter has a nice set of buns, "SITE" is a variable used if you think somebody in the kitchen is spitting in the entrees, and H is hydrogen. Using this equation, our four co-workers can easily calculate that each one owes exactly, let's see... carry the 7... OK, it would probably be somewhere between $9 and $11. So we see that algebra is a vital tool for our young people to learn. The traditional method for teaching it, of course, is to require students to solve problems developed in 1928 by the American Association of Mathematics Teachers Obsessed With Fruit. For example: "If Billy has twice as many apples as Bobby, and Sally has seven more apples than Chester, who has one apple in each hand plus one concealed in his knickers, then how many apples does Ned have, assuming that his train leaves Chicago at noon?" The problem is that these traditional algebra problems are out of date. Today's young people are dealing with issues such as violence, drugs, sex, eating disorders, stress, low self-esteem, acne, global warming and the demise of Napster. They don't have time to figure out how many apples Ned has. If they need to know, they will simply ask Ned, and if he doesn't want to tell them, they will hold him upside down over the toilet until he does. And then Ned wiU sue them, plus the school, plus his parents for naming him "Ned" in the first place. Ultimately, the ACLU will get the Supreme Court to declare that the number of apples a student has is protected by his constitutional right to privacy So what is the solution? How do we balance our children's need to learn math against the many other demands placed on them by modern life? I believe there is a so- .lution, one that is both simple and practical. I call it: "X." • Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.
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