How much attention are Americans giving to the I-R-S and Benghazi stories, which have been heating up the media airwaves recently?
According to a recent Gallup poll, 54% have been following the I-R-S story "very or somewhat closely" … 22% "not too closely" … and 24% "not following at all".
As for the Benghazi congressional hearings … 53% "closely" … 22% "not too closely" … and 24% "not at all".
So a bit more than half of Americans apparently are giving the scandals plenty of attention.
It may not surprise you that of those following the stories closely, 67% are Republicans on I-R-S and 66% on Benghazi … 55% and 52% are Independents … and 40% and 45% are Democrats.
But about three out of four of those questioned by Gallup say both scandals "involve serious matters that need to be investigated".
These scandals are excellent material for talk shows and a strong majority of Americans seem to realize their importance. But just about half of us don't seem overly concerned.
When I was a boy, I considered a career in radio, doing baseball play-by-play. I spent many happy hours listening to colorful descriptions of games hundreds of miles from my Kansas home. My imagination and the announcer's words took me to those beautiful, far away stadiums.
My eventual radio career took another direction.
Now flash ahead a few years. I'm a young father who has purchased a Sony Big Mouth radio so I can follow the up-and-coming Kansas City Royals of the early seventies. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent on my driveway, grilling, and listening to Denny Mathews and Fred White on the Big Mouth.
There was something about Fred's delivery that I truly enjoyed.
More years later … I got to meet Fred and talk with him. He was friendly and down-to-earth … just like he was on the air.
Fred died last week. So many listeners … and fellow broadcasters … already miss him.
Thanks for terrific memories, Fred.
Our thought for today is from George Santayana:
"There is no cure for birth and death, save to enjoy the interval."
I'm not sure the Kansas Legislature was aware of what it was getting into, when it passed a concealed-carry law. Their intent was to allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves for self-protection. Some believe concealed-carry could also diffuse a violent situation when the police are not around.
In fact, there are cases of citizens defending themselves with legally-issued firearms. But a look at Wichita's police blotter indicates this is definitely NOT a frequent occurrence.
One problem arising from concealed-carry is the number of Kansans applying for a license. Thousands have signed up across the state in just a few months. Here in Sedgwick County, Sheriff Jeff Easter tells me concealed-carry has created a "huge problem", as his deputies handle more than 600 applications a month. Background checks and training are involved … a lot of bureaucratic stuff that keeps a few deputies from actually fighting crime.
Easter says he may need more people to handle the case load.
Legally arming citizens is apparently expensive.
Our thought for today is from Willa Cather:
"No one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person."
I have never been a big critic of the Internal Revenue Service. I'm aware of their power, having dealt with the agency as a taxpayer for nearly 50 years. Our government long ago decided to levy an income tax, and we need a strong agency to collect what is due and punish cheaters.
I have always made an honest effort at tax time, but confess that a few years ago I paid a penalty for my accountant's mistake on a contract labor payment. He is no longer my accountant.
The I-R-S admission that it targeted certain conservative groups is certainly outrageous. Using its power to harass and bully any group for their political views is simply un-American. It's been tried before.
The F-B-I is investigating. And although President Obama has condemned the I-R-S abuses, his political opponents are giving him Hell.
This story has been out there for months. It boiled to national attention when the I-R-S admitted wrong-doing and apologized. For many Americans, that will not be enough.
"The role of the railroads in this nation's commerce, communication, and leisure travel has been essential for more than 150 years. The linking by rail of this country's east and west coasts boosted our national progress by many, many years.
I've only ridden a passenger train twice. When I was very small, our family traveled to southeast Kansas to visit my grandmother. As a sixth-grader, our class field trip was to the capitol in Topeka, by rail. Like most folks, I loved it … and cherish the experience.
Is passenger rail service coming back to Wichita, after several decades of absence? Wichita Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner's been pushing hard for several years. Last week he represented Wichita in an announcement that Mayor Carl Brewer and the mayors of Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Missouri support passenger rail service from Oklahoma City to Wichita, and on to Kansas City.
This would link San Antonio to Kansas City by rail.
The "people train" may actually run through Wichita again someday.
Our thought for today is from George Santayana:
"Before he sets out, the traveler must possess fixed interests and facilities to be served by travel."
The recent controversy over religious-themed cheerleaders' banners at a Texas high school points out the power of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Americans have occasional debates over freedom of speech and religion and the press … all guaranteed by the First Amendment.
What would have happened at that Texas football game, if the cheerleaders had displayed a banner with a passage from the Koran? I would like to believe the issue would have been resolved with the same calm reserve we saw in the actual incident. Some folks would have been highly irritated, in my hypothetical example.
A display of a Christian-themed banner in many nations could result in immediate violence. Chances seem good that someone might be beaten, jailed, or even murdered in some countries.
That's why I love the First Amendment; it is nearly unique in government on this planet.
We may not agree with the other guy's speech or religious views, but the First Amendment protects his right to think and say what he believes … with certain rare exceptions.
Our thought for today is from George Bernard Shaw:
"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
State district Judge Steven Thomas ruled that no law prohibits Texas high school cheerleaders from displaying religious-themed banners at sporting events. Judge Thomas ruled that the First Amendment Clause … barring government from establishing or endorsing religion … does not prohibit the use of the banners.
Judge Thomas also ruled that the school district can permit banners under the establishment clause, but is not required to do so. The judge approved a school district motion that the banners are the speech of the school … not private speech … so the school has a right to editorial control of the banners.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, the press, and religion. It became federal law 222 years ago. For years, I had a framed copy on my office wall. I make use of the First Amendment every day, sometimes annoying listeners who disagree with my free speech.
Occasional controversy reinforces the wisdom and power of the First Amendment.
Our thought for today is from Robert Jackson:
"The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with a good deal of rubbish."
I've become a fan of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. I like the way he handles himself, I like his independence. He appears to be a man of integrity. I'd like to see him stick around for a while.
Having hit his 50th birthday a few weeks ago, Christie decided that he needed to do something about his weight, if he intends to enjoy his family for the next few years. So he underwent Lap-band surgery to decrease the size of his stomach. People who have the surgery sometimes lose up to a third of their total body weight. About 10% lose nothing at all.
I can tell you that losing weight after the age of 50 can be challenging indeed. I have maintained a weight of around 200 pounds over the past 15 years through regular exercise and watching my diet.
I would encourage Governor Christie to remember the exercise part of the equation, if he is truly motivated to succeed.
I don't believe there are any easy, magic methods to lose weight.
Our thought for today is from Thomas Jefferson:
"Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far."
Two news stories on the same day this week illustrate separate aspects of the school security issue.
The Wichita Board of Education approved spending three million dollars to upgrade its security system for all schools in the district. Basically, the board wants to make sure that all entry ways are secure … that no one can wander in off the streets, unannounced and unwelcome. This is smart and effective.
The other story involved an 18-year-old student at Wichita West High, arrested for allegedly making threats to shoot other students. He was reportedly spotted searching school shooting stories on a computer. Someone alerted the school resource officer and police acted quickly. This is a story that could have ended tragically, if not for alert students who did the right thing and a police department acting without hesitation.
Modern technology has a very important role in keeping our young people and their educators safe in class.
Attentive, motivated human beings are also a huge part of the school security picture.
Our thought for today is from Ramsey Clark:
"There is no conflict between liberty and safety. We will have both or neither."
"Americans' financial worry has eased to the lowest level since before the recession" … says a news release from Gallup. The recent survey indicates 53% of Americans "highly or moderately worried about their finances" … down from a peak of 61% a year ago, and the lowest since 45% in 2007.
Here are some findings from the poll: 61% are "very or moderately worried" that they won't have enough money for retirement. 58% are worried that they won't be able to pay medical costs of a serious illness or accident. 51% worried that they won't be able to maintain the standard of living they enjoy.
I was a bit surprised that only 44% reported being worried about not being able to pay medical costs for normal healthcare. 52% said they are "not too or not at all worried" about that.
It's nice to see the Gallup financial worry number falling. A little consumer confidence is always good for the economy.
Our thought for today is from Peter Drucker:
"In all recorded history there has not been one economist who has had to worry about where the next meal would come from."
It's interesting to note how the people of Kansas have reacted to the most recent gun violence incidents. Some states have moved for stricter rules about guns and who can own them. Kansas is a state that has moved toward putting more guns in the hands of its citizens.
The Kansas Attorney General's office received nearly 3,500 applications for concealed-carry permits last month. More than 14,000 applications have been turned in this year.
The Kansas Legislature has moved to allow licensed gun owners in schools and other public facilities in which security is deemed inadequate. They've also passed a law that declares the federal government has no authority to regulate guns and ammunition sold and kept only in Kansas … and federal agents can't enforce any federal laws challenging this state law.
Attorney General Eric Holder tells Governor Brownback the Kansas law is unconstitutional, and the United States is ready to go to court on the matter.
Are all Kansans willing to foot the legal bills for protecting laws that many Kansans believe are completely unneeded?
It's taken a few years, but the downtown Hyatt Regency hotel is finally paying off for its owners … the people of Wichita. The City of Wichita bought the facility 12 years ago. Last week Mayor Carl Brewer received a check for $150,000 … profit from the hotel's operation. In the past, profits have been put back into renovation and upkeep of the facility. The City now expects profit checks for the next decade.
Meanwhile, on the county side … repeat offenders are clogging the criminal justice system. Sedgwick County Commissioners were told last week the county's repeat offender rate is higher than the rest of the state's … and that state money to deal with the problem has been cut. There is concern that public safety is suffering.
And the Maize school board has decided to stop random drug tests for students who participate in extracurricular activities. The school district on Wichita's northwest side has spent more than $31,000 since 2007. In that time, four students tested positive for drug use.
Our thought for today is from Laurence J. Peter:
"There is no stigma attached to recognizing a bad decision in time to install a better one."
Recently on The Report I shared long-time civic activist Rod Stewart's doubts that cronyism is running amuck at Wichita City Hall. I also shared Stewart's op-ed opinion that some citizens and groups were constantly "carping" at Mayor Brewer and some council members.
A listener e-mailed that he disagreed with my assessment that Wichita is a "big small town", and that people in government are constantly dealing with issues that involve friends and acquaintances. The e-mailer wrote that Mayor Brewer "hasn't got the hide or stomach for politics" and "it's also clear he doesn't have the instincts and possibly the integrity for the job" because he has a friend and political contributor involved in a local issue the mayor is dealing with.
The listener wrote that the mayor's critics don't deserve a "public attack" as the mayor answers his critics.
Still … no proof that the mayor's vote is for sale.
Apparently, the mayor is expected to shut up and take it when people question his integrity.
Our thought for today is from Samuel Johnson:
"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful."
National Bullying Awareness Month is actually October, but our corporate people have encouraged the Entercom radio stations to focus on this issue recently. I've done "Issues" public affairs programs on bullying in the past, including one this week.
I was fortunate that I was never bullied as a child. If someone intended to dominate or control me by force, I simply don't remember it. But I'm certain it happened to others. And although they've never mentioned it, my children may have been the victims of bullying. I would be angry if I thought either would ever bully another person.
I admit that I have always been a terrible tease. Did I take it too far on occasion? Did I hurt someone's feelings?
Now, that is entirely possible. But I have never tried to dominate or control another person through intimidation, so my conscience is clear; I am not a bully.
The schools and social services are dealing with this every day. In spite of the media attention, the problem is by no means solved.
Our thought for today is from Marie De France:
"A bully is not reasonable – he is persuaded only by threats."
You never know who's going to show up at the scene of a big news story. It could be someone you know.
Take the Boston Marathon bombing. A friend of my daughter's – Jennifer Schmidt – finished the race long before the bombs went off and was sitting in a Boston restaurant when she heard about it.
My life-long friend Steve Boyd, his wife Teresa, their daughter and son-in-law were seated across the street from the explosions, near the finish line. They were not hurt.
There were some tense moments as they waited to make contact with their other daughter – Regan – who was about a mile from the finish line when the bombs exploded.
The Boston story dominated national news coverage for several days and will continue to be in the news as the investigation and eventual prosecution of the suspect begin.
The good news is, these two men were stopped before they could do any more damage.
Our thought for today is from Horace:
"Cease to ask what the morrow will bring forth. And set down as gain each day that Fortune grants."
Last week friends and co-workers … and my granddaughter Jocelyn …asked me about the band aids on my face. I explained that Dr. Moeller had "frozen" five pre-cancerous spots on my temples and cheeks. I see Dr. Moller every six months, and the "freezing" is part of my on-going treatment.
Dr. Moeller has removed three cancers from my skin over the past few years. It's the price I'm paying for too many sun burns 30 years ago. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime … 13 million Americans are living with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer … and nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
The majority of skin cancers are caused by over exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
So be careful about your exposure to U-V rays and use that sun screen.
This is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Every month is Skin Cancer Awareness Month for me.