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Fall 1999, Volume 17.1


Reading The West

read-ing (from ME reden, to explain, hence to read) - vt. 1 to get the meaning of; 2 to understand the nature, significance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to, study.

 

Texas Pioneers

    To become president of the United States you must: 1) be a natural born citizen, 2) have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and 3) be capable of   raising $60+. The first two criteria are named in the U.S. Constitution, the last is an unhappy addition by today's media-based politics.

    George W. Bush, the poster boy for big dollar fund-raising, is finding much of his money in the West, particularly Texas. A news release from Common Cause notes:

    Under pressure from the media and public interest groups, the presidential campaign of Texas Governor George W. Bush released this list of so-called "Pioneers"--campaign fundraisers who are committed to raising $100,000 for the campaign.

    "These so-called 'Pioneers' are the new class of political power brokers whose status and access are determined by the big money they bring to the campaign," Common Cause Acting President Donald J. Simon said in a recent statement. "What George W. Bush and his money men are really 'pioneering' is the next generation of the political arms race, where the sky's the limit on spending and on special-interest money in our presidential primaries."

    Thanks in large part to the "Pioneers," the Bush campaign has raised a record $37 million (as of July 22), and has decided to opt out of the presidential public financing system and its attendant spending lmits.

SOURCE: Common Cause, July 22, 1999, http://commoncause.org

 

Conservation and Livability

    A recent report from the Brookings Institution summarizes major legislative and voter actions affecting urban sprawl, land conservation, and generally are showing a willingness to pay for close-to-home conservation measures, and support for such legislative action. The following three examples are taken from the report:

(1.) In Arizona, a constitutional amendment approved by 53 percent of voters, provides for the appropriation of $220 million for 11 years primarily to finance purchases of easements and full title  to environmentally sensitive state-trust lands. This funding, to be matched by local and private sources, is an important element in Governor Jane Hull's Growing Smarter legislative package of planning and zoning reforms. This growing interest in conservation has placed new tensions on the state's management of millions of acres of state trust lands, particularly those in the path of urban development. The state must now balance its responsibilities for managing its land legacy with maximizing trust earnings to support public education. The environmental community was divided in its support for the business-supported Growing Smarter program. A competing initiative backed by the Sierra Club would have authorized urban growth boundaries and developer impact fees, which are prohibited in the approved measure.

    Arizona voters also handily approved continuation of the state's lottery, which has, since 1990, contributed $20 million annually to a Heritage Fund that is equally divided between state parks and wildlife programs...

    (2.) Two-thirds of Oregon voters approved a citizens initiative to earmark an estimated $45 million annually from an existing lottery set-aside for 15 years for "Parks and Salmon." Specifically, the monies will be equally divided between creation and renovation of state parks, historic sites, and beaches, and a new fund to restore and enhance native salmon habitat, river corridors, watersheds, and wetlands. The fund will be managed under a single state agency, to be designated in teh next legislative session. The agency's mission will also include the implementation of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, which is being developed in concert with federal agencies and other stakeholders. The state's plan to protect habitat and rescue endangered species around Portland and Eugene enhances the Willamette Valley's much discussed growth management efforts.

    (3.) Voters in seven communities in California's rapidly growing   Bay Area and Ventura County stood almost solidly behind the adoption of urban growth boundaries to draw a firm line between development and outlying agricultural land. The Ventura County measure prohibits rezoning of agricultural land in unincorporated areas for the next 20 years, unless approved by another public vote. "For the first time," says Jim Sayer of Greenbelt Alliance, a leading advocate for the Bay Area's 15 growth boundaries, "more limit lines have been initiated by voters than by officials." In Sayer's view, this gives people more clout in difficult decisions ahead that will impact on the effectiveness of the boundaries. California...has no statewide law requiring consistency among levels of government with growth boundaries.

SOURCE: "Livability at the Ballot Box: State and Local Referenda on Parks, Conservation and Smarter Growth, Election Day 1998," by Phylis Myers, A Discussion Paper Prepared for the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, January 1999.

 

Where Do Grizzlies Go From Here?

When Lewis and Clark explored the West 200 years ago, as many as 100,000 grizzlies roamed free between the Mississippi and the Pacific. Today there are fewer than 1,000, mostly in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana. The decline in grizzlies has been slowed, but the pressure on their habitat continues from logging, mining, oil and gas drilling, rural sprawl, and off-road vehicles.

Recently announce revisions in the grizzlies’ recovery plan have sparked controversy. The complexity of the issues can be seen in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service statement:

The overall objective of the grizzly bear recovery program is to assure the long term existence of a grizzly population in all areas where a viable population in all areas where a viable population can be sustained south of Canada. The available habitat for bears is largely determined by human activities. The issue of how many grizzlies can live in any specific area is a function of overall habitat productivity, annual production and availability of important foods, and the levels and type of human activities. As food availability fluctuates, there are corresponding changes in bear density in important use areas and changes in social tolerance within the bear population. Bear-bear and human-bear relationships are complex and act in relation to densities of bears, densities of humans, and availability of foods. A viable and recovered population is one that has high long-term prospects for survival within acceptable levels of risk.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release, Lakewood Colorado, July 16, 1999.

 

Busy Signals

Observing the activity of state legislatures can be worrisome, but it is always instructive. During the last year, 15 bills were introduced across the country to prohibit or limit the use of cell phones in automobiles. None passed, but law-maker interest in the subject is evident. Some examples of the failed bills: Nevada AB 328 and Texas HB 994 would have simply prohibited persons from using portable telephones while operating moving motor vehicles (both bills died in committee). Oregon legislators were more determined to change people’s habits—HB 2616 would have prohibited the use of any hand-held devices, HB 3262 would have required information about cell phone use on accident reports, and SB 478 would have made it an offense to drive while using mobile telephones (all three died in committee). The status of current law?

In California, rental cars with cellular telephone equipment must include written operating instructions for safe use. In Florida, cellular phone use is permitted in an automobile as long as it provides sound through one ear and allows surrounding sound to be heard with the other ear. In Massachusetts, car phones are permitted as long as they do not interfere with vehicle operation, and drivers keep one hand on the steering wheel at all times. Oklahoma and Minnesota require police to include information about cellular telephones in accident reports. No state bans wireless phones in automobiles.

SOURCE: National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.nccl.org, August 1999

 

The Gravity Model

For years, geographers have used a "gravity model" to explain and predict the movement of people, goods and communication between various population groups. One of the key factors in the model is distance (which can be measured in kilometers or in terms of cost or time). Steven Spear, writing in The California Geographer, points out how the internet has dramatically affected factors in the model.

In broad geographic terms, the implications of the development (of the internet) are enormous. In the past, spatial interaction was directly affected by affluence, cultural inclusion or exclusion, actual physical location and the total infrastructural transport/communications network. This is no longer true. Except for access fees and basic equipment, the internet is totally blind to time, distance, cost, race, religion, nationality and most especially economic status. Access to communication and information is no longer a function of personal wealth. However, access is still limited by language. As much as other societies may object, the dominant language on the internet is English. So the spatial interaction model will have to be rewritten with a factor ‘E’.

SOURCE: The California Geographer, Volume XXXVIII, 1998

 

Hey, Can I Borrow Your Notes?

Who owns the notes a student takes in class? It is common practice, encouraged by most instructors, for students who are absent to borrow notes from a classmate in order to catch up on what they missed. Several new world wide web sites have been set up to encourage note sharing. One site, "StudentU.com," even hires students to gather notes from a wide range of classes at multiple institutions. These notes are then distributed free of charge (but accompanied by advertising) to anyone who wishes to read them.

While course coverage is somewhat spotty, notes from western universities can be found from: Arizona State, Berkeley, BYU, Cal State Fullerton, Colorado State, Oklahoma State, San Jose State, Texas A & M, Arizona, Colorado, Houston, Kansas, Nebraska, USC, Texas, Utah, Washington, UCLA, Utah Valley State College, Washington State and others.

All this activity has raised the question of who owns the notes that are being posted. Goldie Blumenstyk, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, September 10, 1999, describes how some faculty at Kansas State University have responded:

At least one institution, Kansas Sate University, says the companies’ practice infringes on the copyright that professors hold on their course materials. "Regardless of whether a fee is charged for the notes, the publication of class notes by someone other than the professor or the University constitutes copyright infringement," said the provost, James R. Coffman, in an e-mail message to faculty and staff members (at KSU) this month…

(One professor) said she feared students might use the site rather than attend class. She is also concerned that the "chat rooms" the site provides for each course might become spots where "erroneous information can be discussed and reinforced," because those venues do not involve the professors.

SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education, September 10, 1999, http://chronicle.com

 

Museums as Dialogu

Museums may once have been quiet places where occasional scholars or quiet school children might go to peer reverently or curiously at collections of cultural artifacts. No more. The Mayor of New York is threatening to withhold funding for a museum in Brooklyn because of the controversial nature of its exhibit. Native Americans protest the display and retention by museums of objects they hold sacred. The Smithsonian has been picketed for its World War II "revisionist" displays.

This lively interaction between museums and their public is highly desirable says Kathleen McLean, the director of public programs at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

The act of showing brings with it an inherent dialectic between the intentions of the presenter and the experiences of the spectator. Even in the earliest temples of the muses, someone set forth some object for others to experience, and who selected what for whom is the question at the heart of all conversation about exhibitions. The objects may be trophies of conquest, curious things from the natural world, masterpieces, or constructed environments, but embedded in their presentation is material evidence of the presenter’s intentions and values. Teasing out and uncovering this evidence has been an increasingly attractive activity for some museum professionals, critics, and social theorists, particularly since the intentions of exhibit creators are often opaque or hidden from public view, and sometimes even unconscious.

The belief in a universal truth made apparent through the research and scholarship of curators has given way in some circles to the notion that display is no more that the act of promoting some truths at the expense of others. As museums give more credence to the diversity of ideas, cultures, and values in our society, museum professionals are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to diversity of ideas, cultures, and values in our society, museum professionals are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to diversify the pool of curators, exhibit developers, and designers who have control of exhibition content and style of presentation. And those who traditionally have been doing the "talking" in exhibitions—with the often anonymous voices of curatorial authority—are increasingly expected to state their motivations and authorship up front.

SOURCE: Kathleen McLean, "Museum Exhibitions and the Dynamics of Dialogue," in Daedalus, Summer 1999.

 

Church and State

Sometimes the appropriate relationship between church and state in America is absolutely muddy. The federal congress may open its sessions with prayer, our coins declare "In God We Trust," but high school football teams in Texas may not pray before their games and choirs may not sing "religious" songs at graduation. Students may receive government-funded scholarships to pay fro the cost of attending religious colleges, but the college cannot receive the money directly. Placement of even small religious icons in public buildings invites the wrath of the ACLU.

Perhaps the relationship has never been clear. Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, speaking at an International Church and State Symposium held at Brigham Young University, offered his view on how the first amendment to the Constitution came to be:

The religious character of the American colonization had profound impact upon the establishment of guarantees of religious liberty in the Constitution, The adoption of the First Amendment required that Congress would "make no law respecting an establishment of religion" or "prohibit the free exercise thereof." These two phrases which have come to be known as the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause are closely connected in genesis and find their roots in competing branches of free exercise thought present during the American colonization…

The ideas of Thomas Jefferson represent an Enlightenment rationalist branch of free exercise thought. Jefferson sought to build "a wall of separation" between church and state and thereby free both institutions from the corrupting influence of the other. For Jefferson, the establishment of freedom of conscience was essential to free the human mind from all forms of outside bondage…As a result, "Jefferson’s ideas concerning religious liberty were unmistakably flavored with more concern for freedom from religion than freedom of the individual to be religious, or freedom for religion."

The views of James Madison, Roger Williams, and evangelicals represent a more religious branch of free exercise thought. "The religious freedom envisioned by Madison was, like William’s, a freedom at least in significant part for religion…"Accordingly, Madison, Williams, and evangelicals emphasized a brand of free exercise thinking that sought to protect religious belief and action from State interference…These two competing branches of free exercise thought converged to support the idea of the separation of church and state in the United States Constitution.

SOURCE: Brigham Young University Law Review, Volume 1999, No. 2.

 

Keeping Up With The Future

In 1969, the internet was limited network that allowed a few scientists at four universities to exchange information. Today it reaches 100 million users world wide, with 300 million predicted by the year 2002. So where do we go from here? Jan Deur, Vice President of GTE speaking to a group of Texas business leaders this past summer, offered a view of the future which is both impressive and trivial:

Let me give you a sneak preview of some of the gee-whiz technology—much of it Internet related—that may be headed your way in the next few years. Qualcomm is adding "microbrowsers" to its cell phones so they can read online data. Consider the possibility of receiving a message from your car that it’s time for a tune-up…or sending an e-mail to your microwave oven to have your dinner hot when you get home.

Frigidaire is experimenting with a refrigerator equipped with a bar-code scanner. When you run out of ketchup, you just scan the label and the refrigerator orders a new bottle for you. We may soon see the day when home Web access is more often from the stovetop than the desktop. In fact, Bill Gates said he believes non-PC devices will dominate entry to the Internet within 10 years.

Think about Personal Area Networks that use the natural conductivity of the human body to transmit electronic data, or optical computers that process images in billions of bits of information at a time instead of today’s electronic processing of single bits at a time. No wonder that three out of five executives responding to the Deloitte & Touche "New Millennium Survey" say they think keeping up with technology will be one of their main concerns.

SOURCE: Vital Speeches of the Day, September 15, 1999.

 

Evolution Of Science In Kansas

After months of study and debate, the Kansas Board of Education on August 11, 1999, rejected the recommendations of its science standard that allows creationism into the curriculum. Dr. Loven Lutes, co-chair of the committee, related to the board how the science standards.

…had the support of the Knasas Association of Teachers of Science, Kansas Association of School Superintendents, Unified School Administrators, KNEA, the Governor and the Regents presidents and had been reviewed and supported by outside evaluators and national science organizations. He indicated the high level of support was due to the fact the standards and the 1992 and 1995 Kansas standards. He indicated they had been scrutinized in every school building across the state and by citizens in a series of public hearings and that every oral or written comment had been considered. He further indicated that the standards had 100 percent support of the science standards writing committee and that no minority report had been proposed.

The substitute standard allows local Kansas boards to teach "alternative scientific hypotheses or theories." This, in the words of a state board member, will allow individual districts "to communicate with their community and find out what was best to meet the needs of their local schools."

The struggle is not over. Two months later (October 3), anyone trying to read the Approved Curricular Standards for Science Education (Online Version) on the Kansas School Board’s web site found only the following cryptic statement:

The statewide science standards adopted by the Kansas Board of Education on Aug. 11, 1999, contained copyrighted material from several science organizations. Those organizations have since denied permission for that material to be used in the Kansas standards. Therefore, the state board is in the process of determining how to reword the Kansas science standards. Once that process is complete the standards will be posted on this web site.

SOURCE: Kansas State Board of Education Minutes, August 11, 1999 http://www.ksbe.state.ks.us

 

Cartooning the West

Charles Pugsley Fincher’s cartoon strip "Thadeus & Weez" (a lawyer and weasel respectively) began in 1985 in The Texas Lawyer. It currently appears in 11 major daily newspapers, in such cities as Houston, Austin, and Fort Worth. Fincher’s caricatures have also appeared in The Arizona Daily Star, the Boise Statesman, the Boston Herald, the Saturday Evening Post, etc.

[Click on cartoon to enlarge.]

Three cartoon strips of Thadeus and Weez, by Charles Pugsley Fincher.  The first has Al Gore and George W. Bush comparing themselves, each trying to prove that he is just a common man, when the reality is that neither is.  In the second, Al Gore tries unsuccessfully to ignore Bill Bradley to focus on Bush.  In the third,  George W. Bush has political contributions raining down on him, no matter what happens.

By day, Fincher is a successful practicing attorney in Brownsville, Texas. By night, after jogging in the marshes of South Padre Island, he dons the mask of a dynamic political cartoonist to survey the world of power and folly (they are the same) with a practiced eye and sharpened pen. More of his work can be seen at: http://www.chron.com/content/interactive/people/charlie_fincher/.

 

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