The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 14, 1997 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

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Wednesday, May 14, 1997
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US! WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 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 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "We cannot simply arrest our way out of the drug problem. Law enforcement must be linked with drug treatment." Barry McCaffrey federal drug policy chief, on a Rand Corporation report concluding that intensive treatment is the most cost- effective way to deal with the drug problem. OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Scattershot THE ISSUE Guns on the street THE ARGUMENT More guns just beg for more tragedy S even shots, maybe more, were fired from a car into a crowd of rowdy people Saturday evening in Salina. Only one person was hit, apparently by a ricochet, and was not seriously injured. This is, relatively speaking, good news. It could have been a lot worse. And it is one more piece of evidence against the idea that we would all be safer if there were more guns around. Whoever fired those shots was hardly a skilled sharpshooter. Seven shots, from a car that was not moving, into a crowd of people who were, eyewitnesses indicated, literally daring the gunman to shoot, resulted in one minor injury. It is fortunate that no one — target or innocent by-stander — was killed. It is even more fortunate that nobody on the receiving end of that fusillade had the means, or the desire, to return fire. Chances are that any response would have missed the attacker and struck some innocent passer-by. From time to time, the idea is floated that gun-bearing criminals could be stopped in mid-crime if only more people were walking around packing heat. But that argument conies from people who have seen too many movies. The idea is that the average Joe or Jane, suddenly placed in one of the most stressful situations possible, will be able to spin, draw and fire, all in one smooth motion, and hit the target in one squeeze — like the signature opening to all those James Bond movies. Reality is not so precise. More people with guns means more shots fired, not more accurate shots. The only improv- ment may be more people shot by people who didn't mean it. Late last year, police in Kansas City, Kan., were called to the home of a 79- year-old man, an accused Nazi war criminal who had been threatening reporters with a gun. The old man fired three shots. Police shot back — nine times. They winged the old man in the leg. He came out of surgery in a coma and never woke up. Police officers, constantly required to prove their skill on the firing range, had nine shots at a 79-year-old man, and only hit him once. Handguns are not surgical instruments. In all but the rarest circumstances, they are hardly more accurate than your grandpa's old shotgun. Which, by the way, is legal to keep by your bed, or in your truck. It isn't that much less likely to hit its target, and it makes a lot better show. MRfelO Ywfto FOK \XM6TMIS T IN KANSAS Kansas Legislature celebrates its inertia LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL Legislative sessions begin with the romancing of hope and end in the atrophy of promise. L ate in the morning on May 6, less than 12 hours after the 1997 Kansas Legislature had adjourned, Senate President Dick Bond and House Speaker Tim Shallenberger sat at a table waiting for the first question at their post-session press conference. It came quickly. "You guys want to explain yourselves?" asked John Petterson of the Kansas City Star. There was some chuckling, and then the two leaders began to explain away — the stalemate over one plan, the failure of another, the collapse of hope, the perverse lures, the endless contingencies, the ceaseless inventions and excuses. All were strung out in a chain of politeness, poorly invented to conceal the fact that the Legislature can now manage little beyond inertia. This, oddly, has become something to celebrate. Bond said that he thought the Legislature had worked "responsibly" with the governor on every issue: "I thought it (the session) was extrepely successful." Shallenberger did not: "We spent too much money this year." Later there was this exchange after a question about the simmering issue of school finance reform: Shallenberger: "We don't have a big enough tool box to rewrite school finance." Bond: "I thought the House wanted to rewrite school finance." JOHN MARSHALL Harris News Service Shallenberger: "I'd love to, but it won't happen." It is now typical that legislative sessions begin with the romancing of hope and end in the atrophy of promise. Accomplished this year: More money for schools and some tinkering with state tax rates. Most items that smack of productive gain for the state, or for its various components, were left again to wither. The first example is the Legislature's consistent failure to put any teeth in state ethics laws. For two years, serious reforms have been passed by the House and sent to the Senate, only to be pigeon-holed or suffocated. Despite considerable public support for school finance reform, the public sees only jockeying with education, and the strong hint that the tax situation on the local scene will get even bleaker. Modest cuts in school taxes will no doubt be erased with a flick of the appraiser's eraser. The Legislature has all but ignored administrative reorganization, notably in education. It has refused to head off more trouble confronting our prison system. It has yet to do anything meaningful about the property tax lid or about property tax reform in general. It continues to tolerate a sprawling state bureaucracy, some of which hasn't served a purpose in years. With the governor's consent, lawmakers met the mounting specter of state river and stream pollution by weakening our water laws. Then they replaced a woefully weak environmental secretary with a political hack known mostly for his ability to brawl, when he is not carrying water for the farm lobby. The issue of reorganizing the Kansas University Medical Center was left to simmer, partly because conservatives refused to sanction the sluicing of some lucrative business to a well-heeled law firm in Johnson County. And from the left came objections to the right's anti-abortion demands. The big winner, again, was big business — continued forgiveness of a fortune in unemployment taxes, new breaks for the insurance industry, a weakening of usury laws for banks, more no-bid government contracts for private business in a trendy pursuit of "privatization" for public business. The sum of Shallenberger and Bond at their Tuesday press conference was contrast. These two Republicans are anything but soulmates. Bond is the liberal and urbane suburbanite, protector of the establishment, defender of big business, the triumph of wealth. Shallenberger is the conservatives' high priest of populism, wagonmaster for the ranks of blue collar Republicans, Reagan Democrats and social conservatives of both parties. Shallenberger seems to control the House and has increased his sympathizers in the Senate. But Bond controls the system, its channels of influence and money, and the governor is on his side. One represents sentiment and the other, power. Thus a mechanism at odds with itself. Like the federal establishment, state government has swollen, and its bigness now stands in the way of getting things done. The state is completely helpless in reforming the tax structure. When confronted with problems calling for boldness, such as schools or prisons or the environment, the state is content to do nothing, or get out a repair kit and try a little patchwork. It's hash, a muddle that requires many press conferences, especially to those who are weary and feel disenfranchised. Government seems so much like a club these days, with an increasing difference between the citizens who pay dues and the members who benefit. SJLetters@saljournal.com Insurance is not for income redistribution Reading the May 11 edition of the Salina Manifesto, I came across George Pyle's opinion on recent insurance legislation. His incessant whining about how government has failed to complete its hostile takeover of free markets and private enterprise was not surprising; he's given me many an excuse for cancelling my subscription over the years. In essence, Mr. Pyle believes the insurance industry is an instrument of state government. He thinks it abominable that privately owned, for-profit companies be "allowed" to charge a mathematically fair price for their products or to deny purchase when a customer couldn't begin to pay a price high enough to just cover the company's anticipated losses. Mr. Pyle thinks the solution to every social problem is for government to usurp the rights and freedoms and incentives that built and sustain this great nation and to use the power of the legislature to promote a socialist concept of proletariat equality. At the risk of sounding capitalistic (actually I'm proud of it!) I take serious issue with Pyle's complaint that "Kansans with health problems can still be turned down by (health) insurance companies". Eliminating the emotional element so well and so often exploited by Pyle, let's put that quote in rational English. Pyle is effectively complaining that consumers who, by any measure or estimation will cost the insurer more than the insurer can charge, can be rejected! What incredibly irrational behavior on the part of the insurance companies! I am shocked that they would (foolishly) expect to avoid losses — when there's a reform- minded editor devoting nearly 15,000 column inches per year to liberal social engineering. Take, for instance, paragraph 15 of Pyle's editorial. The first part is absurd and the second part is a lie. 1 guess consistency takes prece- P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 V SPEAKING ENGLISH dence over content. He states that Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius "knows it is wrong for the industry to seek healthy customers" (doesn't Pyle know what insurance is, why it is, and how it works?) "while refusing to cover people who actually have claims." Insurers pay claims. Often more is paid out in a given year than collected in premiums, already. Claims are paid to individuals who purchased insurance to cover an uncertain economic loss — and maintained premium payments until incurring those losses. It is a fair product generally sold at a fair price but there's nothing "fair" about legislating that insurers underwrite losses-with-certainty, making the rest of us pay higher-than-fair rates. Insurance, Mr. Pyle, is not an income redistribution program, despite your best efforts. Let's apply the Pyle standard to another business. Consistent with the editor's philosophy, I suppose the Salina Journal is more interested in equal access to advertising space than in the advertiser's ability to pay a monopolist's rate? Ha! If I remember correctly, even a non-profit organization trying to save lives and families and, of course, children, doesn't get a break on display advertising rates from the Journal — unlike the fabulous cooperation provided by local radio stations. What gives? Where's the compassion? Why does the Journal charge business so darn much for advertising if not for subsidizing non-profits? Could it be, might it be, maybe, just possibly, capitalism? — KEVIN BO YD Salina boyd@midusa.net • Editor's note: Beyond covering the activities of non-profit organizations in its news columns, the Salina Journal allows non-profits to place two advertisements for the price of one, and donates ad space to projects of which it is an official sponsor, such as Project Salina. The Case of the Stepford Workers Management can only handle 'casual days' if all their workers dress alike F irst the fever hit the City-County Building. Then all the banks and car repair shops in town were infected. Now the virus has spread, and we're the sick. It's the Case of the Stepford Workers. The Salina Journal has gone polo. Last week we were given blue polo shirts, complete with company name stitched in white over the left breast, to wear on designated "casual dress" days. Friday was the second such designated day that we were supposed to wear our shirts, and everyone who works for the Journal wore them. We might as well have been in the military. It was hard to tell female from male, news $> reporter from advertising executive, boss from grunt. It was as if Publisher Harris Rayl decided to clone everyone, thereby saving the expenses of interviewing new job candidates. Now, actually, the shirts are pretty nice, and I'm not just saying that so I don't get fired. I'd DAN ENGLAND The Salinu Journal probably wear the shirts by my own free will, and I'm not just saying that to get myself in a "Dilbert" cartoon as the young goody-goody employee that the veteran employees hate. I'd buy one for Dad for Father's Day if that new book on Mount Everest, "Into Thin Air," had not just come out. The problem here is we have to wear the shirts if we want the privilege of dressing down, and that illustrates a much larger problem: Society still focuses way too much on the way everyone dresses. I know I could just not dress casual but, as I said, the shirt is pretty nice, and I can't pass up the chance to wear jeans and tennis shoes to work. The most painful part of having a job is not being able to wear whatever I want. It's a small freedom, yes, but take that freedom away, and you'll realize how much you miss it. Why do you think prisoners are given uniforms? We were issued the shirts for two reasons: To boost morale and to make sure that we still dress nice on "dress casual" days. Well, I suppose everyone looking the same boosts the morale of the advertising department, but reporters are fiercely independent people. So the second reason probably was more for us than the advertising department, where most of its members dress like models in the latest fashion catalogs anyway. All of us spend hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars on our clothes to make a good impression, and we usually aren't very comfortable in those clothes, and we don't like to wear those clothes when we go out for an evening. So we start to collect two wardrobes. The starched shirts with buttons on them go into the work wardrobe. The black Metallica T-shirts go into the fun wardrobe. And, if you really care about society's dress codes, which I don't, you might even have a third wardrobe, something that people call "business causal" for the theater, banquets and Tom Jones concerts. I would love it if we wouldn't worry so much about what people are wearing and judge them more for their character. I'm not suggesting that we should be allowed to work in flea-bitten, paint-splattered T-Shirts and grass-stained sweats. But I am suggesting that we get over our fashion hang-ups. The first place to start would be those polo shirts. Maybe if the banks, city and county employees and car mechanics all bonded together with us, we could start to wear what we want on "dress causal" days. After all, some schools already have caught the uniform sickness. And that's bad enough. • Dan England is — or was — a reporter for the Salina Journal. You can write to him in care of P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67401, or via e-mail at sjnews@saljournal.com. IESBURY By G.B. TRUDEAU

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