Friday, October 24, 2008

Today's News

Some items in today's Wichita Eagle caught my eye. My reactions follow.

1. The main headline involved a joint appearance yesterday of the two candidates for Sedgwick County District Attorney. They traded negative barbs with each other. On the editorial page is an endorsement for Nola Foulston, the longtime incumbent. This is unfortunate. Nola is a grandstander and has a huge ego problem. Although I supported her when she first ran, that has proven to be a mistake as she has shown distressing power-hungry attributes over the years.

2. There is also a front-page story about the Congressional race, pitting Betts against Tiahrt. Although I didn't see it in the article, Betts has stressed Tiahrt's reneging on the promise he made when he was first elected, defeating longtime incumbent Dan Glickman with the promise that if elected he would only serve 12 years. Betts is also stressing Tiahrt's vote for the 1999 Act deregulating the financial industry, which has led to our current crisis.

3. There is a really bizarre story on page 3. A woman in Japan was arrested and taken 620 miles from her home for detention. And her "crime"? She killed her fantasy ex-husband's avatar in an online virtual reality game!!

4. The Eagle prides itself on being "relentlessly state and local" in its emphasis, but on page 3 there is a small story indicating an awareness that a Presidential campaign is going on. There is no analysis of the campaign, just a rehash of statements made yesterday. However, from other sources I see today that Obama is now ahead in the electoral vote by 375-157. The biggest news today is that Indiana has finally gone blue, with Obama having a 50-43% lead there now.

5. On page 4 appears an article about Alan Greenspan being "called on the carpet" yesterday by a congressional committee. I saw some of this on C-SPAN yesterday. Greenspan, formerly viewed as almost a god for his economic widsom, was pilloried for his longtime advocacy of no regulation for finaincial markets. The article says Greenspan "seemed genuinely perplexed" by what has happened, showing what an inexact "science" economics is, if it is even a science at all. And if it is not, then why in the world is there a Nobel Prize for Economics??

6. A small item on page 4 reported that the New York City Council amended its term limits law by a 29-22 vote, to allow Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third term next year. While I respect the advocates of term limit laws, I disagree with the concept because you are throwing away expertise. In the context of Congress, what you are doing is giving the power to the staff and professional lobbyists, who remain in Washington year in and year out,l while members of Congress come and go.

7. There is a small item about a 16-year-old who walked into a Nebraska hospital in an attempt to take advantage of that state's "safe haven" law. I have heard that the intent of thsi new law was to provide for the abandoning of infants without fear of retribution, so that mothers will not throw their new-borns into trash cans as is sometimes done. However, it was written to allow abandonment of any child under 18. If this is true, it shows the folly of inexperienced legislators trying to write laws. We have seen this often in Kansas, where the "citizen-legislators", i.e., famers and insurance agents who have no idea how to write a decent law, get to make the laws. My friend Rob complained to me recently about twoo many lawyers in office. In fact the exact opposite is true. In Kansas there has been a steady decline in lawyers in the legislature, and the result has been a deterioration in the qualiy of our laws. If you want something done right, do you hire an expert or an amateur? Do you want our laws written by people who know what they are doing, or by people who do not?

8. Turning to the Local & State section (a redundancy in itself since the first section is mostly state and local in its own right) there is an article on 3 of the Judge's races. As my barber told me yesterday, it is hard for the average voter to know anything about the local candidates for Judge. In light of this, it is really silly to have them elected instead of appointed, but that is the system we have in this county. Anyway, an article spotlights 3 of the contested races. I would say at the outset that a good rule of thumb for a Sedgwick County voter is that if an incumbent Judge has opposition, it is a good idea to vote for the opponent. The reason is the *good* Judges never have any opposition. Anyway, 2 of the 3 Judges (Pilshaw and Wilbert) spotlighted have had public ethics problems, and have been disciplined by the state disciplinary people. The 3rd, Dan Brooks, has low marks from the bar and by all accounts should be voted out, as should the other 2 with public ethics issues.

9. In sports we see that the Tampa Bay Rays have tied the World Series at a game apiece. The odd thing about the Series so far is that the analysis before the first game was that game 1 was a must-win for the Phillies. This is because their star pitcher, Cole Hamels, was on the mound. If Hamels couldn't win, nobody can, because the Phillies were going to be underdogs when the teams' 2nd, 3rd, & 4th starters were facing each other. Yet, when the Phillies barely won 3-2 (thanks to a blown balk call by the umps), all of a sudden the oddsmakers were saying the Rays were no longer Series favorites. I immediately recognized this for the bs it was. All that had happened was that the Phillies had won a game, as they were supposed to. I understand that the team which wins game 1 wins the series some 60% or more of the time, but there is more to the analysis than the math and history of it. In this situaion, given the American League dominance in recent years, as reflected by the Red Sox' terrible thumping of the Rockies last year, my money would still be on the Rays even after the game 1 loss. And this proved right when the Rays came back last night with their 4-2 win. I say, Rays in 6, maybe even 5.

10. Finally, in the Entertainment Section we have the schedule for the annual Tallgrass Film Festival, which offers a variety of independend films from all over the world. This runs through Sunday night, and hopefully I will be able to get out to see at least one this year. I also note in this section that Clint Eastwood's new film, "The Changeling", does not open today n Wichita. It was reviewed on NPR this morning and sounds quite fascinating. It is based on a true story which happened in 1920's-era Los Angeles. A boy went missing and the police returned the wrong boy to the mother. When she insisted it was the wrong boy, she was incarcerated as insane. Angelina Jolie plays the mother, and John Cusack also is in it, I believe playing a minister who publicizes the police incompetence/corruption.

11. And finally, an unusual source of interest and comment is a review of a film newly out on DVD, though it is 26 years old. It is "Missing", and the DVD contains extra information describing how declassified documents since the film came out confirm the involvement of the US military and CIA in the overthrow of Allende in Chile, and describe also how the filmmakers successfully defended themselves against a libel suit filed by 3 of the US embassy officials depicted in the film, giving further credence to the film's truthfulness. An interesting sidelight to this is a story which came out yesterday, that in 1985 McCain traveled to Chile to meet with the dictator Pinochet, the same guy who was the villain in the coup which overthrew the democratically-elected Allende. This despite McCain's blasting Obama over and over about his willingness to meet with bad guys from other countries. Incidentally, this was something Colin Powell mentioned in his recent endorsement of Obama, that meeting with other leaders is something the new president *should* do.

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