The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 5, 1997 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Monday, May 5, 1997
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A4 MONDAY, MAY 5, 1997 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 Sallna, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 627-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "During my entire half-Japanese, half-white life, I can recall exactly one racist comment, from some cretinous stagehand who is probably now moving his lips over a Soldier of Fortune magazine in an amphetamine- filled trailer." Gary Kamiya in Salon, WWW. salonmagazine .com By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal The dance of death THE BIB Capital punishment in Kaiisas THE ARGUMENT It is more trouble than it is worth E xplain to us again why it was Kansas absolutely had to have the death penalty. We had done quite well without it for a generation, fully capable of putting killers away in prison for long sentences, sentences that later became the no-parole "hard 40." Since the threat of execution has returned, murder in our state has not been noticeably deterred. If anything, Salina has witnessed a series of violent deaths that surpass in impact, if not in number, any such occurrences in recent memory. And now the trial of the man accused in perhaps the most shocking of those crimes — the brutal murder of three generations of one innocent family — will be put off until next January, more than half a year, because the special legal guns required to handle a death penalty case are booked solid until then. Of course, fans of the noose will argue, the deterrent effect of capital punishment will not be seen until after Kansas actually snuffs somebody. But, as that will be done by the relatively civilized method of lethal injection, in a clean room with only a few select witnesses looking on, there is no reason to believe that actually killing killers, as opposed to threatening to kill them, will discourage future crimes. And experience in Texas and Florida, where executions are so common that they might be listed with the baseball box scores, indicates that states with more vigorous hangmen are no less vulnerable to violent crime than than their more squeamish neighbors. The only arguable benefit to having the ultimate punishment on the books is that it allows prosecutors to pressure defendants into accepting life prison sentences rather than risk the death penalty. That saves everyone the expense and pain of a trial, the endless appeals and the emotional roller coaster that comes with scheduling and rescheduling executions. That's a good deal for the taxpayers and the victims' loved ones — who often are, or were, also the defendant's loved ones — if the defendant is really guilty. If he isn't — and our most basic legal tradition demands that they be assumed innocent until it is proven otherwise — it is perversion of justice second only to wrongful execution. And, in time, that will come, too. The government and the people of Kansas hit on a wise balance of justice and vengeance when it passed the hard 40 sentence. It would put killers away for the rest of their lives, or at least for the most vital part of it. It would let killers be totally forgotten, as they deserve, instead of being the media stars found on death row. It would spare everyone the pain of recurring parole hearings and free politicians of the soft-on-crime label. And it would provide that, should it ever turn out we had convicted the wrong person, there would still be a chance to make amends. That's difficult to do for someone you've already buried. But while the hard 40 is good justice, it was bad politics. It just wasn't vengeful enough to satisfy our politicians. So they gave us the death penalty. They can have it back. CAN SHE SAY THAT? Cyberspace glories may be oversold LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters@saljournal.com McPherson Humane Society needs help If you are an animal lover, if you care about our community, you need to know these facts about the Humane Society of McPherson County. We are not government funded. The day-to-day operations are almost entirely funded by donations. The county only pays to pick up strays outside of the McPherson city limits. We need you to neuter your pets, male and female. We need you to donate money or supplies that we use daily. We need you to ask your city officials to help fund the Humane Society. An official source of funding along with donations would give us the resources needed to take care of the ever increasing numbers of animals. April showers bring May flowers, but springtime also brings a new generation of puppies and kittens, some wanted, but most unwanted. The Humane Society is there to take in the unwanted and the strays and to try to find homes for them. MOLLY IVINS Fort Worth Star-Telegram If computers are so all fired wonderful, how come they don't know what year it is? M y favorite running story these days is the Year 2000 Problem. This is the wonderful news that come midnight Dec. 31, 1999, all computers will tick over a notch and announce that it is Jan. 1,1900. If you believe the most dire analyses of the consequences of this slight misunderstanding, planes will then fall from the sky, ballistic missiles will run amok, global financial markets will crash, hospital life-support systems will shut down, your microwave won't work, your Pontiac won't start, and in general, a fine time will be had by all. Not being a computer expert, I can't explain why the computers can't figure out the year 2000, except that it seems to be a giant case of "Ooops!" The computer guys forgot to program it in. And for reasons only the experts understand, it is apparently impossible to invent a program to change it now. The only way to fix it is to open every single computer and reprogram every single calendar chip individually — the computer equivalent of going in there with a screwdriver, which is incredibly expensive. Estimates range from $300 billion to $600 billion worldwide to fix the problem. Ooops. I am watching this impending global catastrophe play out on the small stage of the Texas Legislature, and what a merry scene it is. Now, far be it from me to paint with a broad brush; we all know there are many people in West Texas who are cosmopolitan, sophisticated and advanced out the wazoo. But let's face it: There are also a bunch of West Texans who haven't approved of any technological change since the pickup truck and air conditioning. Obviously, we could include East Texas, North Texas and South Texas in that sweeping statement if we want to, but there is something particularly delicious in the sound of a West Texas legislator listening to some expert explain why the state has to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fix this do-hickey and reacting with a stupefied "Do whutf" This is heaven for every technopho"be in America and around the globe. It's the Luddites' revenge; it's the Grumpy Old Reactionaries' Ball. It's sweet satisfaction for every person who has ever been baffled by a computer. It's one in the eye for everyone who can't tell a bit from a byte. The number of "I told you so's" that are going to be flying around for the next few years is infinite. The number of serious thinkers who will be drawing painfully obvious morals from T TORY NOTIONS to the future viKile. rest of us are wired in the present Behold. TAe computer Genius. Master of the future His powerful imagination locked on | he future. Always tke future. Behold- UoW COULD I HWE FORESEEN THAT TME VE*R ZOOO VOOULD IkCTUM-LY ARRIVE ^ It is a little like listening to those visionaries in 1969 explain about peace and love and free drugs and rock 'n' roll this tale is stupefying. Personally, I think the whole thing can be neatly summed up by "Do whut?" Right now, the state's problem is trying to figure out (a) how serious the problem is and (b) who should fix it. As we might expect of our fellow citizens, many people have already seized upon this lemon and are making lemonade. Companies that are in the business of fixing your Year 2000 Problem for a modest arm- and-a-leg are among the hottest stocks on Wall Street. Without naming names, there is a widespread suspicion that some of these folks may be overcharging. Envision your basic West Texas legislator confronted with the gladsome tidings that the first thing we have to do is hire some consultant who charges $1,000 a day. Next, watch Rep. G.E. "Buddy" West of Odessa dealing with the concept of paying $1 million for a 30-day study of the problem, resulting in a five-page report. "How can you spend $1 million in 30 days?" inquired Buddy West, in a reasonable tone of voice given the circumstances. Actually, this is a problem many of us are familiar with: Something goes wrong with a major appliance in your home, and you call the guy who charges you $38.50 to come out and look at it and announce that it will cost you at least $300 to fix it. This is just on a slightly larger scale. OK, a much larger scale. Far be it from me to use the millennium monster as an excuse to bash the cyberworld. On the other hand, I recently heard a speech by Louis Rossotto, editor of Wired magazine, on C-SPAN. Rossotto held forth eloquently on the glories of cyberspace, which is fair enough, but he also denounced all the schnooks who don't get it. I like Wired magazine. I even like the concept of a parallel universe out there in cyberspace, untroubled by failed government and the failed media. A new forum, a new civitas, a world where ideas are money and there are no limits. Wow. So, Rossotto oversells a trifle. It was a little like listening to those visionaries in 1969 explain about peace and love and free drugs and rock 'n' roll. I'm sure it will be a better world, and anyone who doesn't get it probably is a schnook. But first, someone is going to have to explain it to Buddy West. Ooops. Boren remakes University of Oklahoma P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 Taking care of the animals, adopting them out, or putting them to sleep costs money. The expenses increase every year while our income does not. If you want to help, be a responsible pet owner, see us if you need a pet, bring us a donation of supplies or send a donation of money to The Humane Society of McPherson County, 605 W. Euclid, McPherson, KS 67460. Your help will be greatly appreciated. — BEVERLY BARBO Lindsborg • Beverly Barbo is a member of the board of directors of The Humane Society of McPherson County, along with Elizabeth Walker, Amy Fitzgerald, Jeanie Seeley and Kristi Carlson. W^fll^^ff™ ^^r "(PWr ^P^^S^^^^^W^P'^^ Former senator has more on his mind that making school worthy of its football team N ORMAN, Okla. — Class, today's quiz question is: Explain the relationship between the University of Oklahoma's first football coach and Vernon Parrington (1871-1929), professor of English and author of the classic "Main Currents in American Thought." Parrington was the first coach. That was before Oklahomans took football as seriously as they now do, before they discovered the connection between football and $ self-esteem, before they — great kidders, Oklahomans — took to talking about building a university worthy of its football team. Make that its football "program." Parrington taught here from 1897 to 1908, the year after Oklahoma became a state and the politicians, feeling their oats, fired a slew of faculty members. Those fired were accused of playing cards, dancing and smoking cigarettes, but their real sin was being Republicans — then, as now, a hanging offense in academia. Today the university is in the hyperactive hands of its president, David Boren, 56. Born in Washington — his father was a congressman — and educated at Yale, Oxford and the University of Oklahoma law school, Boren climbed the political ladder as a state legislator, then governor, then U.S. senator. After 16 years in the Senate, he decided it was not too late to make amends. If an institution is the lengthening shadow of a leader, this university is increasingly the shadow cast by Boren. He is implementing scads of micro and macro measures for turning a sprawling campus into a community, and GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post Begin with the benches — 160 $1,000 benches donated by alumni to make campus spaces enticing so some of the 25,000 students will pause and talk. pushing the institution into the top tier of research universities. Begin with the benches. A large university is not naturally what its name implies, a unity. Hence the neologism "multiversity," coined to describe educational conglomerates. Hence 160 $1,000 benches donated by alumni to make campus spaces enticing so some of the 25,000 students will pause and talk. And will read another Boren innovation, the historical plaques, such as the one telling the story of Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, the African American whose successful three-year campaign to gain admittance to the law school in 1949 was an important milestone on the road to Brown v. Board of Education. Constructing historical memory is, Boren says, part of community-building for young people, many of whom come from fractured families and communities. Space in dorms has been remodeled for faculty to live in with their families, including small children. And every fraternity, sorority and dorm floor "adopts" a professor who spends one evening there a month. One way to attract a fine faculty is to have fine students, so the university uses generous scholarships to recruit National Merit and National Achievement scholars. It has more Merit scholars per capita than any other public university and is fifth among all universities in absolute numbers of Merit and Achievement scholars. Boren has brought back 50 retired full professors to teach freshmen and sophomores. In addition, he has started an honors college that teaches outstanding students in small classes of 20 or less. That program is partially funded by a $5 million anonymous gift, part of the surge of alumni giving that had 39,000 participants last year, up from 23,000 two years ago. Such giving is the lifeblood of public universities, which are not as much publicly funded as they once were. Seventy percent of this university's income comes from nongovernmental sources, including an endowment that now ranks 94th among all universities. To combat the tendency of research universities to scant teaching, Boren is instituting merit pay in the form of stipends of up to $10,000 a year for four years for up to 80 "presidential professors" — about 10 percent of the faculty — selected for their classroom excellence. Furthermore, in his two years Boren also has created 36 endowed chairs and professorships. The largest private gift to any public university this academic year was the $18 million given to the business school by Michael Price, a native New Yorker who, against his father's strenuous wishes, came to Oklahoma as an undergraduate because he was smitten with Sooner football. He even thought he could play, until he stood next to a real player. Recently Dan Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, who was raised in Tulsa, spoke at a dinner celebrating the university library's acquisition of its 2,500,000th volume. The occasion was marked by a gift (from Julian Blackwell, the Oxford publisher and bookseller) of a 1693 first edition of Locke's "Some Thoughts Concerning Education." This university increasingly resembles what it should be, a recognizable, if suitably Americanized, descendant of the medieval communities of scholars. Like a medieval city clustered in the shadow of a cathedral's spire, the university rings an imposing structure expressing community piety — the stadium, home of a football program striving (it was 3-8 last year) to be worthy of the university's academic programs. IESBURY SOUHATW mrNAM? MICHA&,.WH> ONSAKTHtWV WSPBVW* HONSVMOON/N UM... KIM MAS BORN &e,MW.GHe AMARORPHAN. PING? A MAN By G.B. TRUDEAU SO,'f&SH-

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