THURSDAY, MAY 8, 1997 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: : SJLettersO : saljoumal.com Quote of the day "I would bet the farm that the incidence of pregnancies among teen-agers who practice lesbian sex, exclusively is quite low." Robert Scheer Los Angeles Times contributing editor, on the controversy over 'Ellen.' OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Let them eat tax cuts THE ISSUE Tfie 1997 Kansas Legislature THEARGUMBUT Full pockets encouraged empty minds S urvivors of the recently adjourned session of the Kansas Legislature may be too tired to grasp it right now, but the fact is that our lawmakers owe their constituents a debt of gratitude. Because Kansans, like most Americans, kept getting jobs, expanding businesses, making money — and paying taxes — the Legislature was able to cut tax rates and spend more money on schools and prisons without facing any truly difficult decisions. And that's sad, really, because these good times might have been the best time to chart some new courses in state government, rather than wait until hard times force some even harder decisions. Because of the increased revenue generated by a healthy economy, the state has enough money to boost per- pupil spending in every public school and to build prison space for 400 more inmates. And it not only did not have to raise taxes to do that, it had enough money to cut them by an overall total of some $119 million this year. If the same rate structure lasts another year, it will be another $171 million in tax cuts. Of course, all this moola has its down side. Because lawmakers were able to put more money into the school finance formula without raising taxes, too many of them will forget that the formula is in need of major repairs. Many school districts, Salina chief among them, are stuck in the hole of the lowest per-pupil budget authority. Putting new money into the existing system doesn't get Salina out of its hole. It just takes some of the dirt out of our eyes. And building space for 400 more prison inmates allows us all to ignore, for another year, the fact that we have yet to consider reasonable alternatives to dealing with crime other than tossing more and more of us into jail. At least the Legislature finally, after much fuss and bother, funded the new Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority. That is the closest thing to an innovation in our criminal justice system in a long time. Another major issue left for another day is the challenge of training and finding work, child care and health insurance for the many Kansans who are to be tossed off of welfare in the coming years in the name of "reform." This was a year Kansas could have put aside more money for a rainy day, or invested more now in better schools and a more sane corrections system. Instead, the Legislature decided to let us eat tax cuts, and leave the hard choices for another time. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters@saljoumal.com Crack down on deadbeat parents I am writing regarding the way the judicial system treats deadbeat parents. It amazes me that you can go years without supporting your children and in most cases find a way to slip through the cracks with a mere slap on the wrist, and told try to do better. When are we going to start making these parents take responsibility for their children? Other states have stricter laws against deadbeat parents. Maybe if we started taking some prized possessions or driver's licenses away, it would help stimulate some to pay their child support. You can get in more trouble for not paying a traffic ticket than you can for not paying child support. What kind of message are we sending when we put the welfare of our future generation at the end of the list? We need new laws and a system that will prosecute these mothers and fathers for abandoning these children. In the end it's the children who are the ones who suffer. — NANCY COLOSIMO Solomon Preserving trees: Someone has to pay I'm writing this letter in response to Derek Hahn's May 6 letter on the loss of a few trees on South Ninth Street to "progress." . Trees are nice. Trees are attractive. But trees are renewable. The beauty of what remnants of a free economic system we still have is that those who love trees had every right and opportunity P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 to buy the very land that contained those wonderful trees and preserve and protect and husband that resource for the benefit of future generations. And when it comes right down to it, what's the $300,000 per acre he'd had to have shelled out for those trees compared to all those nutrients and oxygen we could've had. I miss them already. And if one person doesn't have the $300,000 per acre, I'm sure that a group of like-minded individuals would gladly have foregone the materialistic consumption their pooled funds could have otherwise purchased. Or I'm sure the new owner would have, for the right price, rented the trees. Like most people, I too prefer to see trees saved to enhance the beauty and "value" of commercial development. But if the public is not compassionate enough to economically reward developers and investors for salvaging a few trees, then the public's environmentalist passions are not as emphatic as their demands that someone else pay the bill. — KEVIN BOYD Salina A cloak for Hinduism Salina Regional Health Center's stress reduction seminar is a cloak for Hinduism. I think it is fine for the health center to offer an introductory course on Hinduism and Yoga. Dr. Shashi Sharma is certainly qualified to facilitate such a class. But it would be more honest to call the seminar An Introduction to Hinduism and Eastern Meditation. — LES CANTRELL Gypsum T JOURNAL Media power, not gay power, is the issue You could be happy about Ellen's coming out and still be put off by the media blitz I f a politician trashes lesbians in Washington and no one hears him, did he really do it? So must wonder Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican Party, after being crushed last week by the Disney juggernaut that is "Ellen." The day the sitcom finally aired, Nicholson desperately reached for a Dan Quayle moment of headline glory. He huffed to a Gannett reporter about how Ellen De- Generes was a poor model for "a family kind of life," congratulated the GOP for occupying the nation's "moral high ground" and took a dig at BID Clinton for his "affinity" with DeGeneres and her nuzzling lover, the actress Anne Heche, « at the White House Correspondents Dinner. (Why should a minor matter like sexual orientation deter the Ogler-in-Chief?) But for all Nicholson's prominence as the leader of one of our two major political parties, his off-Disney-message remarks were ignored by most of the press. In post-media-merger America, a handful of entertainment conglomerates have more clout than any Washington blowhard, and last week the Mouse ruled. It shaped and drove the culture's agenda with an T NONE OF THE ABOVE FRANK RICH Tlie New York Times awesome force that drowned out even the gaggle of presidents pushing volunteerism in Philadelphia — though one star of Disney's "Ellen" promotion, Oprah, performed a cameo in that show, too. You may feel, as I do, that DeGeneres's coming out is a good thing — a small but real advance for gay integration into American life — and still be alarmed by how Disney promoted it. By the time "Ellen" aired, I felt so bludgeoned by the hard sell that I found myself in rare sympathy with conservative whiners who constantly bemoan their oppression by the liberal media. Disney has always been a master at selling its products — as it should be — but "Ellen" was the first time we've seen the post-merger, newly ABC-enhanced Disney flex its full synergistic muscle. What this means is not only an "Ellen" Disney theme-park attraction — "Ellen's Energy Adventure," at Epcot — but also the enlistment of ABC's network news division into pushing the parent company's entertainment product. The "Ellen" episode's promotion as news began the week before with an interview with DeGeneres on "20/20" that was mainly newsworthy for Diane Sawyer's peculiar insistence on dressing just like her subject. By E-Day, "World News Tonight" was doing its bit with two lesbian tie-in stories. After the episode itself (replete with gags cross-plugging Disneyland and "Nightline") came another ABC news magazine, "Prime Time Live," with more Sawyer/DeGeneres; the "news" of this second installment, it was clear, was carefully orches- trated to promote the next "Ellen" episode. Much as we might mourn the demeaning of ABC's once-No. 1 news operation, there are bigger issues at stake. For all the talk of the "Ellen" breakthrough, real questions the story raised about the status of gay Americans were ignored, lest they detract from the celebratory, self-congratulatory sales pitch. In 41 states, a woman like Ellen who comes out at work can be legally fired for her homosexuality — a fact highlighted in a Human Rights Campaign public-service spot that the ABC network, with stunning hypocrisy, refused to air. And the fascinating question of why an openly gay couple like DeGeneres and Heche earn the smiles of everyone from President Clinton to Nielsen households with an ease unlikely to be duplicated for a pair of publicly cuddling male Hollywood celebrities was swept under the rug (or into the closet) in almost all the "Ellen" coverage. That many straight Americans, especially men, find lesbians titillating even as they deplore or are threatened by male homosexuality was the big unspoken, unexamined subtext of the entire "Ellen" circus, including the coming-out episode, which caricatured its gay male character as it did not its gay women. But media power, not gay power or its limits, is the real story here. Much as I may applaud "Ellen," I keep wondering how I'd feel if it had been Rupert Murdoch's news-and- entertainment empire, not Disney's, pushing the synergistic levers so relentlessly last week and if it had been a Newt, not an Ellen, who had been so successfully sold. Chrysler covers its corporate backside Automaker's typical corporate double-talk forces yet another commentary on 'Ellen' I had hoped to avoid devoting a column to the Ellen DeGeneres/Ellen Morgan is/are gay hype. But converging inputs on the topic have made it impossible to resist. First, I got e-mail from a high school friend recommending some "Ellen" web sites. Then from a college pal asking me to take her "Ellen" poll. Then a business friend who gave me a toll-free number for lodging my opinion about Chrysler yanking its ads from the infamous coming-out episode. I can take a hint. I dialed the number. Busy. Busy. Ring, ring, ring. "Press 2 for our response to the April 30th episode of 'Ellen'." Beep _____ "Chrysler has aired com- * mercials on the 'Ellen' show this season, but we have decided not to advertise during the April 30th episode. "Chrysler is not making a social statement, but feels that it's not sound business to be involved with an episode that is in such a highly polarized and emotional environment. "We have not made any decisions on sponsorship beyond the April 30th episode. You may express your opinion by pressing 1 if you agree with our decision to withhold sponsorship of the April 30th episode, or pressing 2 if you disagree." JAMES TALLEY for the Salina Journal I pressed 2. Why? Because Chrysler may not have generated the "baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet" ads of my youth, but Lee lacocca may have still been with GM when they did. Because nothing is more American than freedom and honesty. Because I get a little rankled when confronted with Big Business balderdash. What balderdash is that? The whole routine about Chrysler "not making a social statement." Give me a break. There are two options for the mega-corporation here: run your usual ads as if nothing has changed, as if being gay and admitting it are no different than being black or white or Hispanic and admitting it, as if you have the integrity to let consumers make their own decisions about cars and trucks independent of their feelings about gay rights. . That, or chicken out, yank your ads and try to tell the public that this is not a social statement. I wish I could submit language to this column more strenuous and precise than "balderdash." Let's call it what it is. The message should have been: "Chrysler is too skittish to step away from the profit-making mentality for an instant and ask some hard questions about basic decency and human rights. Accordingly, we are offering you, the viewer and potential consumer, the chance to participant in a debased version of teledemocracy in hopes of learning whether the New Right or the Gay Lobby is more powerful with regard to our market share. Press 1 if you're intolerant, 2 if you're not." In layman's terms, Chrysler is buying into laissez-faire guru Milton Friedman's belief III that the only entities that can bear any kind of responsibility in a democracy are individuals, never the "artificial persons" we know today as corporations. This, in stark contrast to legal scholar James Boyd White, who argues that corporations are "collective citizens" and that the idea of corporate responsibility beginning and ending with maximizing profit paints the corporation "as a kind of shark that lives off the community rather than as an important agency in ... our shared lives." Chrysler thinks gays being truthful and courageous in a society that condemns and vilifies them is not good for business. Pardon the blasphemy, but John Wayne-style guts couldn't hold a candle to the homosexual who comes out for the first time. The Duke was a man's man; his very identity didn't go against the grain. It doesn't take much courage to be Rooster Cogburn in a society that emulates that image. If indeed Chrysler and other mega-corpora- tions are — or should be considered — "collective citizens," then let them face the heat of real, nitty-gritty citizenship. The burdens of moral choices, living up to our sense of personal integrity, right and wrong, weigh heavy on me and thee. Why should a big-dollar business enterprise be exempt from these hard choices? There's no either-or when it comes to doing what's right. If Chrysler had the courage of, say, an Ellen Morgan or an Ellen DeGeneres, then the company would have taken a position and stood by it, letting the chips fall where they may. If the automated message had let me spew my two cents, I would have told it: Either "do your business" of get off the pot. By G.B. TRUDEAU 90 war TTMfARP WUFUKS FWIH& TOS&MY POM6R. IN6US AROUNP.
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