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Steve McIntosh Report Blog

Posts from July 2013

The strange story of Anthony Weiner
New York City voters must decide if they want their next mayor to be pervert.
I know, that’s a “value judgment” on my part. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Anthony Weiner has admitted that he has traded sexy text message and even naked photos with at least 10 women … three of them, after he left Congress in disgrace in 2011. Weiner’s wife … a close friend of the Clintons … appeared with him in public recently, saying Weiner’s been a bad boy, but everything’s O-K now. She still loves him.
I wonder if this guy ever works? How has he found time for all this cyber activity?
And is there anything resembling a moral compass in the Weiner home?
Personally, I find Anthony Weiner creepy, and I’m reasonably sure I would never vote for him. But I’m in Wichita, not New York.
Recent polls indicate Weiner is now running behind city council member Christine Quinn.
Maybe Big Apple voters are beginning to draw the same conclusions I have.
Our thought for today is from Penn Jillette:
“My favorite thing about the Internet is that you get to go into the private world of real creeps without having to smell them.” 
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The President's speech tour
So, what exactly was the point of last week’s presidential speech-making tour? President Obama appealed to the middle class … saying government action now could stimulate the economy and get things rolling again. Obama said Washington has taken its eye off the ball.
His opponents say the speeches contained now new ideas, and the president should stay in Washington and work them to find solutions to the nation’s problems.
All this comes at a time when the president’s approval rating has hit 45% in a Wall Street Journal/N-B-C poll … the lowest level since late 2011. Congress’s disapproval rating hit its highest level ever in Wall Street Journal polling: 83%.
The surveys indicate people’s cynicism that Washington politicians actually know how to work together effectively to accomplish anything worthwhile. Presidential popularity has often plunged during a second term … and congressional popularity has been in the toilet for years.
The cynicism is well earned.
Our thought for today is from Aristophanes:
“You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.”
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Topics: PoliticsSocial Issues
Locations: Washington
People: Obama

Young people sour on politics
The American impulse to make a contribution to the community is strong, but the feeling that politics can be an avenue to do that seems to be souring. That’s the conclusion U-S-A Today arrived at, after a poll indicated that Americans by more than two-to-one say the best way to make positive changes in society is through volunteer organizations and charities, not by being active in politics.
Says U-S-A Today: “Those younger than 30 are particularly put off by politics”. They don’t see any value in becoming involved in politics.
I don’t think younger people have ever had much interest in local or state politics at all … unless some issue comes up that affects them personally.
And when they look at national politics, what do they see? Colorless, humorless, serious, angry, stubborn people … who seem to be constantly whining about the mean politicians in the other party, and complaining that they can’t get their way all the time.
I exaggerate. But not much.
Our thought for today is from Henry Kissinger:
“Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.”
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People: Henry Kissinger

A lot of coverage for one baby
The “Kate Wait” and the birth of the little prince in London this week illustrate a common characteristic of today’s journalism: distortion.
I’m sure some people couldn’t get enough information and analysis of this story, including my own wife. But does one birth really mean that much in a world where thousands are born daily … many of them with very little chance at much of a life at all? Why all the attention?
Let’s think about it. All the cable news networks covered heavily … along with the three older networks … and the local T-V stations. The cable nets have a lot of time to fill and they’re always looking for content, much of it – in my opinion – mediocre to awful. The pipe must be filled!
Add social media to the mix and you begin to realize that we have way too much information about the arrival of one British baby.
In-depth, investigative news coverage takes time and money … and for most people, it’s just not that exciting.
Our thought for today is from Marshall McLuhan:
“The medium is the message.”
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The Motor City stalls
Detroit is known for building cars and the popular music of the sixties known as “the Motown sound”. It’s also known for powerful unions, murders, and urban decay.
Many Americans were disturbed … but probably not surprised … when the city declared bankruptcy last week. The murder rate is at an all-time high and Detroit has 80,000 abandoned buildings.
It’s been a long, 60-year slide. In 1950, Detroit was the fifth-largest city in the country with 1.8 million residents. Today its population is just under 700,000. That’s what is known as a shrinking tax base.
Where did the people go? Detroit is in Wayne County, with a population of nearly two million. Next door is Oakland County, with about a million, three. Looks to me like everyone moved to the suburbs.
That has happened to nearly every large city in this country, though not on the scale it has in Detroit … where you have a decaying geographic area with huge governing problems … at the center of two thriving counties.
Our thought for today is from Henry David Thoreau:
“City life – millions of people being lonesome together.”
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Tough times for Detroit
It’s a town known for car-making, music, and the Tigers and Lions. Now Detroit is also known as the largest American city to ever file for bankruptcy.
I’ve never been to the Motor City. An uncle used to work for General Motors in Michigan.
Some will say the unions did it; their greed sapped all the money and ran off business. They’ll say the city over-promised its employees. I’m sure that’s part of it. But the city’s tax base has eroded by 50% over the past 40 years. When you have that many people leaving town … and you don’t cut services and/or raise taxes … something’s got to give.
On top of that, car-making is no longer exclusive to Detroit. In addition, we’ve had a nasty recession the past few years … and that has had a big impact on government at every level.
Detroit caused many of its own problems by promising too much. Still, I hate to see one of our nation’s biggest, proudest cities admit it can’t pay its bills.
Our thought for today is from Aristotle:
“A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.”
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Locations: DetroitMichigan

On the cover of the Rolling Stone
Remember Dr. Hook’s song from the seventies;  “Wanna see my smilin’ face on the cover of the Rolling Stone”?
For people involved in the music business, the cover of the Rolling Stone has always been the place to be. The magazine has used sometimes-controversial covers.  America’s best-known serial killer – Charles Manson – stared out from the cover with those creepy eyes of his. Janet Jackson appeared naked from the waist up … a man standing behind her, his hands cupping her breasts.
In spite of many stores’ banning of last week’s edition, Rolling Stone will sell lots of copies of the magazine featuring the photo of the accused Boston bomber. Maybe that’s why so many people are upset; not about the image as much as the magazine making a buck off the image.
But if you’re doing a big story on someone, doesn’t it make sense to use their photo on the cover? I suggest anyone offended by the cover should not buy the magazine.
Our thought for today is from Frank Miller, Jr.:
“The day you write to please everyone you no longer are in journalism. You are in show business.”
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Holding the line on taxes
Some people are obsessed with taxes … claiming they pay too much in taxes … that taxes are not good for anyone … that taxes kill incentives of all kind … and they don’t ever support increases in any taxes they have to pay.
I’m not that concerned about taxes, though I don’t gleefully write the checks when they are due.
The Wichita City Council is looking at a proposed budget for next year that contains no request for an increase in the property tax levy … for the 20th straight year. It’s also been several years since Sedgwick County or the local school district asked for property tax increases. We want our governments to live within their means, and that may mean citizens realize a drop in services.
Do these low local taxes translate into economic growth? I have some serious doubts about that. Frankly, over the past few years, I haven’t seen the local economy exactly booming.
I believe in responsible government spending … along with responsible taxation.
Our thought for today is from Benjamin Franklin:
“But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” 
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Locations: Sedgwick County

A tough call
When does a person become such a danger that a public official can order that person’s execution? “Execution” may be too harsh a word. Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams ended a 32-hour standoff when he gave the O-K to “take out” a young man in a south-side apartment. The guy had reportedly talked about trying for a so-called “cop suicide”, and he had fired shots at police officers.
Chief Williams said he consulted with the city’s legal department, the city manager, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, and Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson before making his decision.
I remember the Haysville hostage story in 1976, when Sedgwick County Undersheriff Sam Davidson ordered two snipers to shoot and kill a man who had held several hostages inside a house for many hours. Sam didn’t have the chance to confer with his boss. Sheriff Johnnie Darr was one of the hostages.
I’m glad I don’t have to make decisions like that.
Our thought for today is from G. M. Trevelyan:
“Action springs not from thought, but from readiness for responsibility.”
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The twins
Mary and Jocelyn turn seven today. I remember the day the twins were born, and how much joy our family felt. Jocelyn was the smallest and had a few problems at first, but she quickly recovered.
When she was a toddler, Mary broke her femur and was in a half-body cast for weeks. That was a tough time. Both girls are now healthy and strong … swimming and playing soccer and basketball and tee-ball. They love school … and parties.
Mary is very considerate of others and considers herself a “fashion girl”. Jocelyn is more interested in crafts and writing in her diary. She wants to begin a scrapbook.
They are tough to tell apart, but each is developing her own personality … and it’s fascinating to watch.
We have seven grandchildren … each one special. The twins get a bit more attention sometimes, simply because they are twins, and that’s unusual.
Being their “papa” is a joyful experience. Happy birthday, girls.
Our thought for today is from Gore Vidal:
“Never have children, only grandchildren.”
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People: JocelynMary

Zimmerman walks
There was plenty of public protesting after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. The common theme seemed to be: “a teenager is shot to death by a neighborhood watch guy and it’s not a crime? How can that be?”
Having covered a number of murder trials in courtrooms, I can tell you that verdicts may not be as obvious as they seem. Juries contend with a lot of information, plus the presentations of attorneys … some of them highly-skilled, some of them, not so good.
My impression is that a citizen out to make his neighborhood safer found himself in a dangerous and highly-volatile situation. It was a situation that would have been better handled by trained public servants … police officers.
I understand the motivation to arm ourselves for protection. But anyone who buys a gun for that purpose ought to think long and hard about the possible consequences of using that weapon on another human being.
Our thought for today is from Confucius:
“When anger rises, think of the consequences.” 
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Topics: Law_Crime
Locations: Florida
People: George ZimmermanTrayvon Martin

Judging Paula Deen
We’ve become a nation of judges. Somehow, Americans have concluded that all of our opinions have great value … even those that are misguided or mistaken … and those views deserve to be heard and taken seriously.
The case of southern cooking star Paula Deen illustrates my theory beautifully. In a legal deposition she answered honestly that in the past she had used racial words and tolerated racial jokes in the workplace. She apologized when news of the deposition came to light. Her corporate sponsors and her publisher quickly moved to distance themselves from this symbol of racial insensitivity.
I can easily understand the behavior of a woman raised in the south when it comes to racial stereotypes. I can also understand an honest admission and an apology. But many Americans seem perfectly willing to condemn this woman for doing things that they may have done themselves.
I will not cast a stone. I also predict a comeback for Paula Deen.
Our thought for today is from Cullen Hightower:
“Wisdom is what’s left after we’ve run out of personal opinions.”
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People: Cullen HightowerPaula Deen

43 years in broadcasting
It was 43 years ago today that I walked into the K-W-B-B radio studios at 27th and Salina in north Wichita to begin my broadcasting career. The building is long gone. The man who hired me – Chuck Schechner – is still working in radio, in Dallas.
I have no clue why Chuck hired me. I had some training but no experience. Chuck needed to fill a mid-morning news slot in a hurry; the guy I replaced was going in to the Navy. Chuck must have perceived something in me that made him take a chance.
Five months later I was out of a job. But I had a little experience and plenty of ambition, and quickly began a ten-year stint with K-E-Y-N Radio.
I don’t care much for the “business” of broadcasting, the day-to-day operation. I’m still here for the same reason I started 43 years ago; I love to be on the radio. I’ve been asked to do a lot of management work, but I’ve always been allowed my personal and professional favorite thing … turning on the microphone.
Our thought for today is from Henry J. Kaiser:
“When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” 
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Locations: Dallas
People: Chuck SchechnerHenry J. Kaiser

Summer time in Kansas
Autumn is my favorite time of the year. In Kansas, the weather is terrific in the fall … and the colorful leaves are a joy to the eye.
I guess summer comes in second with me. I prefer heat over cold. I have great memories of growing up in Kansas … several years of my childhood spent in small towns.
My brothers and I led a kind of Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn life … fishing and swimming in the Ninnescah when we weren’t in the pool. And there was baseball. My first coach was my father. We had a neighborhood game going every day … from morning to night if we didn’t have a little league game that day.
Every summer we’d load up the station wagon and take off for Missouri or Colorado for a few days. That meant more swimming, fishing, and sometimes fireworks.
Sure, it can get terribly hot during a Kansas summer, but there are so many other fun things to do … and remember … that make it great time of year.
Our thought for today is from Henry James:
“Summer afternoon … Summer afternoon … the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
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Topics: Sports
Locations: ColoradoKansasMissouri
People: Henry James

The wind storm
Here on the Kansas plains we are familiar with tornadoes, even though most of us have never seen one. We know they are relatively small, violent storms with short lives on the ground. Hurricanes … on the other hand … feature sustained winds, sometimes a hundred miles an hour or more … for many hours.
We got a taste of hurricane conditions the other day in Wichita … as a squall line hit the city’s west side, made a sharp right turn, and hammered the south side.
I sat near 45th and Maize Road as the storm hit. I did updates on the radio as my small S-U-V rocked … and rocked … and rocked …
The wind just kept blowing … for 15 or 20 minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The tree and limb damage was extensive. Thousands of Wichitans … including my mother … lost power for two or three days. City officials say it will take three weeks to clean up the debris.
What a storm!
Our thought for today is from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Nature is reckless of the individual. When she has points to carry, she carries them.”
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Topics: Disaster_AccidentWeather
Locations: Kansas
People: Ralph Waldo Emerson

The death of firefighters
In terms of numbers, it was one of the biggest firefighting tragedies in U-S history. 19 firefighters died in Arizona in one spot … overcome by a rapid change in the wildfire they were battling.
It hits close to home. My brother Mike retired from the Forestry Service. He lived in New Mexico and worked on wildfires all over the southwest. Mike provided security, he didn’t actually fight those blazes.
My younger brother Jerry is retired from the Wichita Fire Department. I suspect Jerry found himself in a few dangerous situations over many years of answering those emergency calls. He was never seriously injured. We’ve never talked about Jerry’s close calls, if he had any. The subject has never come up. But it’s reasonable to assume that all firefighters face danger. Think about searching a burning building or house for possible occupants.
Firefighting is a tough business. I’m proud of my brothers.
Our thought for today is from Cicero:
“Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts.” 
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Topics: Disaster_Accident
Locations: ArizonaNew Mexico
People: JerryMike

The Carr brothers appeal
December 17th the Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the appeal process for convicted killers Reginald and Jonathan Carr of Wichita. They were convicted for the murders of five people in 2002 and sentenced to death. Those killings occurred in 2000, and included the execution-style shootings of five people in a soccer field. One of the shooting victims survived. I believe her testimony put the Carr brothers on death row.
Those who oppose capital punishment sometimes point out the expense of the long, mandated appeal process. The Carrs have been on death row for more than ten years now.
I consider these murders the ugliest, most brutal that I’ve ever reported. I’ll always remember that freezing winter morning when dispatchers sent police and ambulances to that soccer field, and a dispatcher confirmed to me that we had four known dead … and one, blood-covered survivor.
I can’t imagine anyone more deserving of the death penalty than the Carr brothers.
Our thought for today is from Lois McMaster Bujold:
“The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is the duty of the living to do so for them.”
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Wichita makes Kansas look bad
A recent media report indicated jobs have been coming back to Kansas since the Great Recession started in 2008 … but a good many of those jobs have been in rural areas, driven in part by more oil drilling. In the Sunflower State’s cities, a different story.
The state is up 7,000 jobs from May of 2008 … if you don’t count Wichita. In fact, the Air Capitol is one of the hardest-hit metro areas in the country … still down 16,000 jobs from five years ago. Not much of a comeback here!
Figure in Wichita’s job loss and the state is down 9,000 jobs from May of 2008.
Of course, the job picture has confounded the Wichita economy.
People without work don’t spend as much money or pay as much in taxes. They also strain government and private services. Government budgets are severely challenged.
There’s not much we can do about it. The wait for recovery continues…
Our thought for today is from Cato the Elder:
“Patience is the greatest of all virtues.” 
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Topics: Labor
Locations: Kansas

Celebrating our independence
It might be well to remind ourselves that Independence Day means more than a day off work, fireworks, picnics, and other assorted fun stuff.
This holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, separating the 13 colonies from the Kingdom of Great Britain. It is certainly something worth celebrating.
I’ll bet many Americans don’t realize that our revolution was not entirely popular with a large segment of the population at that time. Not everyone agreed that separation from the greatest nation in the world and challenging their huge, experienced army and navy was a great idea. The people in some colonies were more supportive than others.
The members of the Continental Congress were deeply divided on many issues.
You might be surprised to learn that the founding of this nation required a great deal of … dare I say it? … political compromise. Those original patriots were men and women of unusual vision and courage … and they found a way to get the job done.
I think we need more of that spirit in today’s U-S-A.
Our thought for today is from F. Scott Fitzgerald:
“America is a willingness of the heart”
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Topics: Social Issues
People: F. Scott Fitzgerald

In support of small business
Last week was National Small Business Week. The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce defines “small business” as a company with 100 or fewer employees. The Chamber’s Phyllis Robertson tells me small businesses make up more than 97% of the employers in the Wichita area. She believes national rates are close to that figure.
Media coverage tends to focus on what’s happening with the largest employers simply because they are larger and better known. General media coverage of small businesses is rare because what happens in the daily workplace doesn’t generate much excitement.
There is no doubt that small businesses keep people working and drive our consumer/service economy. The risks and responsibilities of small business owners and their employees’ performance are well known to anyone who’s ever picked up a paycheck. They are all quiet champions of capitalism.
If you work in a small business … or you own a small business … I salute you.
Keep up the good work … as I’m sure you will!
Our thought for today is from Elbert Hubbard:
“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” 
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More reasons for the Southeast decision
There were more strong reasons for the Wichita school board’s decision to build a new Southeast High School … beyond the argument that the district simply cannot afford a renovated Southeast and a new one.
School board president Lynn Rogers told me the property owner near the current school was not prepared to sell the district the land needed to expand. That could have meant a long imminent domain hassle, with an uncertain outcome.
What about the argument that the current school is six miles from the new location, and the impact that will have on students’ commute? Rogers tells me that segment of the district is 12 miles across, and that 65% of Southeast students already drive or take the bus to class every day. He says that’s true for all the high schools in Wichita.
Rogers also says the interest of the Wichita Area Technical College in the current Southeast dovetails with school district plans to offer more vocational and technical training.
Our thought for today is from Elbert Hubbard:
“Never explain … your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”
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Topics: Education
People: Elbert HubbardLynn Rogers

Democracy at its best
Last week’s Wichita school board vote on a new Southeast High School was an example of democracy at the local level. After citizens approved a tax increase to improve Wichita schools in 2008, the state legislature began chipping away at funding for local school districts across Kansas. Wichita’s original plan to renovate Southeast plus build a new school in a faster-growing part of town had to be altered.
The district simply could not afford to renovate, build, and operate two schools. More funding was not going to flow south from Topeka, and local taxpayers probably would not support another property tax increase.
The school district did a great job of studying the issue and gathering as much input as possible from the citizens. They did their homework.
Board members had to be fiscally responsible … something we don’t often see at the state and federal levels. Board members knew their decision would anger many of their fellow citizens. They took a deep breath and did what they thought was best for all Wichitans.
I support their decision as the only sensible call to make.
Our thought for today is from Galileo:
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” 
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Topics: Education
Locations: Kansas

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