Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wop, Kraut, and Mick

I actually listened to Tony Botello as he guested on a show on Kansas City public radio entitled "Isn't That a Tad Bit Racist?" the other day. It wasn't half bad--I thought about calling, but I would ruin the amen chorus of callers to some extend. Besides, I couldn't really distill what I was thinking into a nice sound bite. Thoughts were trampling each other on the way to attempts at expression. I thought this would be bad radio, so I didn't call. Callers who ramble on are boring in the end, and I didn't want to be boring.

The show was more or less about how we talk to each other--words, dialects, and manners of speech in different "races" or cultures or tribes. There was so much--code switching, retaining tribal and national identities but I got to thinking about those who had come to this country in the past and what their experience was compared to other groups.

The words in the title of this post are pejoratives that were lobbed at various immigrant groups over the years and are still occasionally heard. They are rather like the n-word--offensive to the person being called that. They are rarely heard these days. They were put away by the majority culture as the various groups became a part of life in the culture, and they were recognized by the tribes as too offensive even to use within the group--only occasionally will you find a German refer to themselves or other Germans as "krauts." In my opinion, the n-word needs to make this transition--too offensive to be used by anybody or applied to any person.

Blending works better if everyone communicates. I believe that immigrants need to learn and speak standard English in the public square. That was job one back in the day. Italian, German, Polish, Gaelic were OK for home, but in public, English was expected. I will offend someone here, but I believe Spanish speakers have been set back by all the accommodations made for them. English would do them much better in the long run, not just in America but in the world, as English is frequently the language of commerce. Being a good speaker of standard American English has not been as valued in ethnic communities of recent immigrants as in the past. The Black person who is looked down on because they sound "White" is an example of how the ability to be skilled in the language of the marketplace is not seen in a positive light. Attitudes towards learning English in Spanish speaking communities have not been as well highlighted--do families and peers look on with pride at the Mexican young person who has strong English?

Deciding to blend in a bit with the majority culture, while at the same time retaining some of the character and traditions of the old country is a tough balance to keep but it is the right one. There have not always been wise choices about the value given to the blending in, and it has proven to be at worse, a handicap that slows progress, and at most, a place where the majority can continue to hold hurtful opinions of a people group, considering them less intelligent or able to make progress in society as a whole.

Isolation, which happens when language presents a barrier, keeps individuals from interacting with each other and becoming comfortable in each others' worlds. We may never blend perfectly in America's melting pot--humans are just more comfortable with people who are similar to them, that they know--but the tool for breaking barriers is being able to talk to and understand each other. It also is our only really strong tool to deal with some of the issues of values and actions that are coming up more and more frequently.

Not to be too dire, but if we can't talk, we might end up fighting.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Retro: Christmas 1995 at Channel 4

Ah, cleaning up--you just never know what you might find! I found this advertising piece from channel 4 dating back to Christmas 1995. On the cover is the lead news team at that time.

What you found when you looked inside was channel 4 newsies in holiday sweaters and/or ties. Pretty much everyone got their own page. Most intriguing to me was this photo of the official weather geek of the South Kansas City Observer, Gary Lezak, who at that time was the morning weather dude at WDAF:
Here's Lezak's whole page (click to enlarge)--he was one of the few whose recipes were not for nasty fattening treats.
Gary's bald head looks better than this moussed mess--probably a consultant's idea, that hair.

If you want to see more of this, make a note in the comment section. Trust me, Phil Witt hasn't changed a bit...

Kansas City's Most Pressing Problems

Things that gotta get fixed to make our little Big Town a better place to live--not going to provide solutions here, but just list out some important issues:

1. We need to get our minds and hands around the crime problem. We have to do two things at once: Put community, police, intellectual and spiritual resources around the issue of murder, especially in the Black community and work on keeping small stuff, like burglary and theft, from becoming big stuff. We must protect all neighborhoods from the fear that crime generates.

2. We must improve education, and we must be open minded about how we go about improving education. If this means abandoning the known public ed model, blowing up the KCMO school district--whatever. It is obvious that our educational system is failing our kids, even given that the kids are coming in to school less prepared than in the past.

3. Live within a budget and face facts about pensions. Doing things the old way will not work indefinitely, and people will get hurt. Better to take a lump now, than a BIG lump later, where retirees will get nothing. We also must find true waste and cut it. Whether it is too many firefighters, or too many $90,000 city hall lackeys, the waste has got to go.

4. Stop giving so many tax breaks for development. Kansas City will lose most tax break fights. Concentrate instead on basic services. Stop the downtown hotel. If crime is out of control, no one will want to have a convention here anyway--that's a fact, jack. If there are any breaks from taxes, they should go to individuals and small businesses.

5. Study what fields and occupations are generating jobs and consider easing the way for new businesses in those areas to start up. Smooth the regulatory way--I hear KCMO is an awful place to start a small biz--this is a bad thing, and needs to stop.

I was thinking on this after looking at the newspaper stories in the papers I uncovered during a cleaning project I am in the middle of. I kept having this feeling of retro deja vu--we were there, we did that, we're doing it again.

Let's see if we can put something on the done list.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

EMS Report: Numbers Look Better

An ambulance will arrive at the scene of a life threatening EMS call in 9 minutes or less better than 80% of the time.

A fire truck will arrive at the scene of a life threatening EMS call in 9 minutes or less better than 90% of the time.

The most recent EMS response time numbers were discussed in committee meeting today down at city hall. I checked it out on the live stream "Channel 2" function. Compared to previous work, the fire department is improving.

My WiFi connection was having some trouble staying with the feed, but the figures appear as follows: for life threatening emergencies, where the expectation is that 85% of the time a paramedic ambulance will be there within 9 minutes, the city wide average was 86% for the paramedic response, and 95% for an EMT response. That compares with 82% and 87% respectively for February of this year. (Reports can be found on the city's web site [finally and hallelujah] but none more recent than February are displayed.) I kept losing the feed, but from what I could hear, no ambulance district area was under 80% for the 9 minute standard for a paramedic, and all were at least 91% for a EMT response within the 9 minutes. The number of ambulances on the street has been increased since the beginning of the year, with some changes in placement in the northland that are more cognizant of geography and traffic flow and this probably helped to improve times.

This sounded all fabulous and dandy, but I have questions: If we are putting more ambulances out on the static posts of the fire stations, all working 24 hour shifts (33 is the number now), are we saving the money we were promised to save when the merger idea was first conceived? How is the KCFD working with/around the labor law issue concerning 24 shifts for non-fire suppression personnel (technically non-suppression personnel can't work 24 hours without being paid overtime)? Finally are these numbers really pure or is someone tweaking them?

It's hard not to be overly critical of a system that never should have come to be as it is in the way that it did for the reasons that it did--more political than practical--and was horrendously understudied to boot. And there continue to be many other issues as well that have to work themselves out over time--pensions, which are probably going to result in some broken promises to the former MAST people; hiring and training, billing and membership for example. It is good however, to see that response times are coming down, and the system is more or less working as it was intended.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Civility and Problem Solving

I like to check in on the Drudge Report as Matt Drudge is one of the best news aggregators out there--he is particularly helpful with international news and economic news and views. On the domestic front, he can major on the sensational and the gloomy. He was the one that put together all the reports of criminal mob behavior, and lately he's been majoring on copper theft--our nation eating itself. I wasn't surprised then to find the depressing story of someone in California poisoning a neighbor's overly barky dogs on the listing today.

But it wasn't the story itself that got to me, it was the comments! There were a lot of people reading that news story who were more than willing to kill someone else's pet because they did not like what it was doing. The more I thought about it, the more disturbed I got. Many of the would-be dog killers felt that they had no alternative but to kill a barking dog to get resolution of the noise problem. Going to the owner--no, didn't work. Going to the city--no, didn't work. Only killing what basically is an innocent party would work. The anger--and helplessness--in the comments was scary to read. I began to wonder if we are being held prisoner by our anger and helplessness against our own uncivil behavior!

It just seems as if the social graces that used to lubricate daily life have become, at the very least, extremely rare. Furthermore, it seems as if the volume on rude and self centered behavior gets turned up every day, until it reaches the "10" of unruly mobs of people tearing stuff up and committing criminal acts in public spaces. Further, we seem helpless to stop this tide of rudeness and inconsideration that seems to signal changes for the worse in American culture and public life.

I am not sure if the rule of law is being used properly to come against this tide of uncivil behavior in our nation. If neighbors cannot work out the noisy dog issue, city ordinances should be enforced. But then they are not and there is frustration on the violated person's part. This causes escalation and anger. The mobs of kids are handled, not with firm application of laws against assault, vandalism, disorderly conduct, curfew violations etc. but with kid gloves, not holding either minor or parent responsible. One of these days, one of these mobs will bother the wrong person, and there will be dead kids.

Can we stem the tide of uncivil behavior? We all hate it, and many of us recognize it for the corrosive nasty thing that it is. However, stopping it is hard work. If you chose not to retaliate, you are seen as weak. You got to start somewhere to stop this chain of escalating helplessness and anger. Before long we will be fighting and killing each other even more over meaningless crap.

Friday, June 17, 2011

HPAC Auto Show Highlights

I mean over 300 pictures! And once the batteries in the camera died, I started in on the cell phone. So any one group of photos from last week's fabulous HPAC auto show is going to be woefully incomplete. Just to give myself a frame work, I've picked a car or two from each decade from the 1930s to the 2010s.

1960s era Plymouth features big engine and plenty of speed.

1970s, part one: Winged car, one of at least five at the show.

1970s, part two: Dodge station wagon featured the classic rear seat.

Not a first generation Viper, but the sense of adventure personified by the 10 banger was definitely part of Chrysler in the 1990s.

1940s era Plymouth with plenty of bright work and looong hood.

Interior of the 1955 Chrysler 300. Do the seatbelts belong?

The Dodge Charger is a good representative of the 2000s--this is a fire chief's car.

Pair of 1930s era Plymouths.

1983 Jeep CJ--pre merger days, but the Jeep brand and vehicles would prove vital to Chrysler in the 1980s and early 1990s after the 1987 merger/takeover with AMC.

Hot pink metallic Dodge Challenger provides some of the muscle in the Chrysler lineup of today.

No doubt there will be more photos posted in other places--stay tuned.

Adopt-A-Thon on NOW; Over 100 Adopted Already!

Adopt me, but only if you really are ready for all it entails...

First, before we go any further, let me tell you what reasons should stop you from adopting a companion animal:

You should not adopt a pet if you cannot afford it. (It costs roughly $2/day for me to feed my four cats.)

You should not adopt a pet if you are not allowed to have animals where you live.

You should not adopt a pet if you or anyone in your household has a problem with impulsive, explosive anger such that the animal might be in danger.

You should not adopt a pet if you cannot make the pet a true part of your family--this means that the animal spends the majority of its time indoors with you.

You should not adopt a pet if you really don't like animals. (!)

You should not adopt a pet if all members of the household do not agree on the adoption going forward.

You should not adopt a pet if you are not sure you can process the fact that companion animals do not live as long as humans, and eventually, you will have to part ways with your beloved pet due to old age and/or illness.

You should not adopt a pet because the shelter is having a special on adoption fees!!!

With those words of caution, we move forward to talk up the Adoptathon at Wayside Waifs, one of my favorite events evah. Wayside Waifs goes all out to make the adoption experience positive and easy--with lots of people helping out, and fees cut in half.

106.5 The Wolf has been at least a three year sponsor for the adoptathon, coming up and broadcasting from Wayside Waifs. It was pretty busy when I went up to check things out this early afternoon. By 3 p.m., over 100 animals had been adopted out!

There were still some really cute kittens around--but I wouldn't bet on any of these pictured cuties being available the way adoptions were going when I left. You should check the website if you want to see the latest animals ready for adoption.

Don't you just love it when dogs sit this way? This attractive dog has blue eyes!

Handsome orange tabby cat--big grown boy--easy going and sweet.

Wayside Waifs special adoption event will be going on all weekend with special hours and adoption rates. On the web at www.waysidewaifs.org. Wayside Waifs is located at 3901 Martha Truman Road in south Kansas City. Phone 816-761-8151.


Editor's Note: The latest number I have on pets adopted is 122 as of about 5:45 pm. Wow! That's a record! Woof woof!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Checking In

No, the Observer hasn't gone on hiatus, or forgotten how to post, or been eaten by Blogger. The Observer has just been a bit informationally overloaded. For example, I took over 300 photos on Saturday at the car show. I haven't published a one and I am not even sure I have edited them all. BTW, we had an excellent show, with over 160 cars registered on Saturday, and since the weather held up, I bet we had more on Sunday. I hope you had a chance to come out. Don't worry the pictures will show up in drips here and there on the net. Maybe on FB or on my photo blog or a combo of places...

The news? OMG, the news. Yesterday, we blew up two houses in the Kansas City area, one in the southland, in the 7000 block of 105th Street and one in Independence. The one in Independence, sorry to say, took a life, and may have been related to illegal explosives. Levees breached near the Missouri-Iowa border threaten whole towns with inundation--it's so odd to talk about flooding when the rain persists in missing us here in Kansas City. Meantime, the controversy about the law office building on the Plaza continues, with "Save the Plaza" folks gathering signatures for a ballot item and the city council considering ordinances that might make such an effort irrelevant. I am kicking around thoughts about preservation and development and keeping a balance between the two--to grow a city while preserving what is unique, historical and interesting in the environment.

Nationally, there has been discussion about the various "flash mobs" of young people with bad intent. The Chicago media got into it about naming the race of suspects in various mob crimes that had occurred in that city. Very interesting discussion, some of which we have covered locally with regard to the incidents in the Plaza area. Weinergate continues. So does the crappy economic news--the current government is admitting the recovery has stalled/slowed. Perhaps never started?

So that's all the musings fit to muse for now. Thanks for reading along.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How Did She Know?

What to say about the five year old who found her 18 month old relative too noisy and allegedly held the 18 month old under water in a bath tube until he was "quiet"? Here's the full story as related by the Kansas City Star. There is much not to like here, including the fact that small children were up so late, they were not being minded by a fully competent adult and other issues of circumstance.

The discussion has come up: Is a five year old capable of "murder" in the legal sense?

The answer is no. A five year old does not have the cognitive capacity to understand the permanence of death. That is a true fact.

Although I just now had a thought that completely creeps me out: How did this young girl know that if you hold someone under water it will make them quiet? Did she see someone in her circle of influence do this to another human being, or to a dog/puppy/kitten/cat/hamster/etc? I am not sure that at five I would have known that if you hold someone underwater they would be quiet. Wow, I just made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Another thought: The an alternative story: Something else really happened, the girl saw it and her five year old mind has put her five year old spin on it. In fact I have wondered: can the average five year old girl get the average 18 month old boy into the average bathtub of a non-modern house? Hmmm, makes you wonder.

Either way, I hope someone evaluates this family. There's something desperately wrong here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Times Gets Burned

I am not a media critic or pundit. I am no expert on the trends of media. However, I have to think that the folks at the New York Times are trying to figure out what hit them yesterday evening.

I get email news alerts from the Times; I see these on my Blackberry. Thankfully, it is still a free feature and the little stubs of information do not count as articles against the twenty free ones per month. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on in the nation and the world, especially when you are on the go and can't get to radio, television or the computer. So last night I get one at 5:47 pm CDT. Titled "Up to 30 Dismembered Bodies Found Near Houston, Reuters Reports," it is startling to me. In fact, my very first thought is that it is an uncharacteristic story for the Times to give much play. It seems out of character. Well, my puzzlement increased when about an hour later I get another news alert. The title of this one reads, "Sheriff's Office Has Not Found Bodies at Site of Reported Graves, Houston Chronicle Says." This morning the story is more fleshed out. A person identifying themselves as a "psychic" told authorities that there were bodies at a certain house near Houston. She called back after the first search yielded nothing, and gave a second location. At the second location, a family's home where the people were out of town, authorities found blood--blood left from an apparent suicide attempt at the location in the recent past but no bodies. Now a new hunt is on, for the tipster.

It cannot be good for a news organization to have to put out a retraction an hour after it "breaks" a story. While it is good to be the first if you can to break a story, it is bad to break something that turns out to be absolutely nothing. In fact, this story so disappeared for the Times that it did not appear in the top three U.S. news items in the headline summary delivered to my email box this morning. It's very obvious that the New York Times is stumbling as it tries to find footing in the digital age, to retain its prestige as one of the nation's top news sources, yet be fresh enough to garner new readers and try to work the newspaper model, and make enough money to stay in business. In its efforts to do this, the Times tripped up last night. It will be interesting to see if there is any fall out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You Are Invited...

Please consider yourself invited to the HPAC Car Show this weekend! Chrysler family products new and old on display--completely free for spectators. I've been going to this show since it was at Truman Corners a million years ago--it is always a fun show.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kansas City Shelter Animals

So, as I mentioned in the post below, I went to the KCMO Animal Shelter. And, of course, there were lots of nice animals to see and visit--did you really think you'd only get two animal photos? Here are some more--and this is just a portion of the available pets there.

Interestingly marked black and white bicolor finds herself in the shelter after her owner passed away--one of two cats with that story--and both are very sweet.

Yes, it's raining kittens in Kansas City, Missouri! Here's a group of dilute tortie sisters.

Dogs--one of two Huskie/Huskie crosses in the shelter this day. Beautiful dogs.

One of my personal favorite crosses--the "Puggle"(Pug/Beagle)--I had never seen one in white before. Editor's note: Description on Petfinder says this pup is Chihuahua/Pug. Either way.

I love this pair--I don't think either are purebred but they are enchanting combo of chihuahua/min pin. So cute.

If you are thinking of adopting a pet, please consider a visit to the KCMO shelter. Animals there are in danger of being killed due to crowding issues--adoption and the assurance of a home will save lives. Information on the shelter, located near the stadiums at 4400 Raytown Road, is linked right here.

Kansas City Needs a New Animal Shelter

I decided it was time to visit the Kansas City Missouri Animal Shelter/Control facility. There have been several issues that have arisen recently with the city's animal shelter and the contractor that ran it for two years. The city ended that contract, and at present is running the shelter as they seek out a private partner. Meantime, talk has been advanced of placing an item on the ballot this November to get a new shelter built. I wanted to see the situation for myself, and, oh, pet a few dogs and cats along the way.

The shelter is easily accessed from I-435, a pretty easy drive from any where in the metro, although a bit far for northlanders and JoCo Kansas. The buildings look dated when you come to them although not ramshackle and the grounds looked good.

The "old" name of Animal Control is still visible on the building. There may be another way in, but I didn't see it, and so it appears that the building is difficult for the handicapped to access as there are stairs to climb to get to the office.

The 4000 block of Raytown Road area is not very developed at all--very "country" feel--lots of old growth trees and space around the shelter, as well as this open area in front.

Offices and the one room right now that is used for cats and kittens are in one building--the one on the right in the above view. The cat area is off a hallway in an office type area. Apparently, for a while cats were in the basement of the facility Presently it's a pretty small area that is in use for cats/kittens, and has no running water in the room. The animals are in cages. There isn't a room for cats of age and health to go play or exercise in. They can come out one at a time if a volunteer can watch them.

The dogs are housed in the building on the left in the above photos. You walk right into the kennel area from outdoors--it is quickly apparent that ventilation is poor in the kennels as oder is quite strong, even thought the area appeared very clean today, with cleaning ongoing as I was there checking out the canines. The kennels are the old fashioned wired kind, presenting a less inviting atmosphere and also increasing risk for infection between animals. It didn't seem overly crowded with dogs, but it was pretty loud when they started barking. Pretty stressful environment for the animals, all told, and maybe distracting to potential adopters too.

The set up seemed awkward and cobbled together with bailing wire to me. There was no area inside where a person could just sit with a dog on a lead and not get all the other dogs barking. There was no immediate area of information or welcoming when you arrived at the shelter. It was obvious that it was not designed with animal adoption in mind. According to the history I've read, the facility was built in the 1970s and was meant to be used as a very short term holding facility, with limited adoption opportunities, before an animal was euthanized.

Right now, a lot is in flux. The city is looking for someone to operate the shelter on a daily basis, and is considering some public/private options as well as contracts. Once that is settled, an evaluation of physical facilities is in order. The current structure is dated, not built to accommodate the goals of animal adoption, and is uncomfortable for both humans and animals. Some sort of plan for a new facility is in order. As I was considering this, I thought of the completed new Metro Patrol building. Metro Patrol's building was dated, small, and structurally unsound. It needed to be replaced so that the community could be served well. The same can be said of the current KCMO Animal Shelter. It needs to be replaced so that the citizens and animals of Kansas City can be better served. Options are being considered now about how to do this.

Visit for yourself at 4400 Raytown Road in Kansas City, MO. They are open every day but Sunday--12-6 Monday-Thursday; 12-4 Friday-Saturday. Raytown Road is one of the sports complex exits--just follow the sign to Raytown Road instead of the stadiums--the shelter is east of 435. Listing of adoptable animals linked right here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Roman Catholic Church and Wayward Priests: Why Don't They Get It?

I do not understand it, really. Why they don't get it.

Why is the Roman Catholic Church still dealing with sexually sinning priests by trying to cover it all up? Why don't they just act like normal citizens and go straight to law enforcement authorities with the first hint of trouble like anyone else? I suppose that part of it is bound up in their theology of Church--the belief in the Roman Catholic Church being the only certified and real expression of Church. It's a little harder to admit you have problems if you think your church's leader is infallible.

To make sure it's clear I have no axes to grind, let me just say that I am not Roman Catholic. I was baptized as a baby into the RC Church, but never confirmed. In fact, I didn't even know I was baptized as an infant until I was 28. I am a Protestant Christian, generally conservative to evangelical in theology and attend and have membership at a United Methodist Church.

That being said, let me wade into the case of Father Shawn Ratigan, the north Kansas City priest in custody with child pornography charges pending. His clerical supervisor, Bishop Robert Finn of KC-St. Joseph Diocese, is guilty of "the cover up"--big time. First, Bishop Finn, when learning that Father Ratigan's laptop was infested with images of under aged girls, some of which were "up skirt" shots, instead of reporting it to the law and letting the prosecutor decide what to do, elected to keep it in house, trying to decided if it was "bad enough" to worry about? (Evidently, it was bad enough to move the priest into a position where he would be less likely to be around children.) In addition, it seems the good bishop never looked at the offending photos himself. Then after the in house investigation, the offending laptop was turned over to Fr. Ratigan's family who "destroyed it." (A good strong magnet would remove all traces of memory from the machine--they would not have had to destroy it mechanically if they didn't want to.) As if that wasn't enough covering up, a letter from the principal of the school affiliated with Fr. Ratigan's church, written in May 2010, related many concerns about the priest's actions around minor girls. Again, the bishop chose not to read this letter himself, nor talk personally with Fr. Ratigan.
So we have the letter from May 2010, the pictures from December 2010, a placement away from the church and school as Fr. Ratigan received counseling--tantamount to me to be an admission by the church that the priest was in trouble--and finally, with Ratigan continuing to seek contact with children--law enforcement intervention was sought by a police officer affiliated with the bishop's office. It took one full year to get this pedophile away from the minor children of the St. Patrick's church parish and into the firm hands of law enforcement. Why? Why did it take so long?

Is it because Fr. Ratigan is "conservative" like the pope and the bishop and was leading in a way that they approved of? (Please note, I have no clue what it means to be a conservative RC or a liberal RC.) Is it because of some distorted idea that clergy are somehow special and not constrained to follow the same laws and morals as laity? Is it fear of the public relations problems that admitting a pedophile cleric is among the priesthood?

None of that should matter. Protecting the people who come to the church looking to be spiritually fed, and in particular, protecting the children from harm has to be the first priority. When the Roman Catholic Church covers up, moving sexually sick priests from one parish to another, or not allowing enforcement of the law to occur in a timely manner, the harm done is far greater than if the crime was taken care of in a timely manner to start. When priestly misconduct is not disciplined by the hierarchy of the church, victims feel worthless and angry, outsiders view the institution as untrustworthy and stupid and those with issues about God have more fuel for their fire.

Absolute 100% transparency and ruthless work to extirpate sexually deviant clergy is the only course of action for any organization that calls itself a Christian church. Anything else is not acceptable, and furthermore, is not like the Savior the church proclaims.

Like I said, I do not understand why the Roman Catholic Church does not get this and incidents like this one keep happening.