Archive for July, 2013

The Star, you might have noticed, has embarked this week on something the paper has never done before, to the best of my knowledge — run a series of stories on the Web site before running the entire series in print.

The series is called “Becoming George Brett,” and it commemorates the 40th anniversary of Brett’s first game as a Royal.

I like the way The Star has done this, and the stories are terrific. Obviously, The Star is dispensing the series this way to entice people to sign up for digital subscriptions. That’s where the future appears to lie for major metropolitan dailies, and Star editors know that there’s no more enticing product than K.C.’s No. 1 sports figure. (Golfer Tom Watson would be No. 2, of course.)

The series is not an unequivocal home run, however, in my opinion. There are pluses and minuses.

Some of the pluses:

:: The first segment, which ran in print on Monday as well as online, was authored by sports columnist Sam Mellinger, who got a considerable amount of Brett’s time, including a walk with the former star and his dogs. (Along the way, a woman walker recognized Brett and gushed, “Love those Royals. Thank you, George!”)



Mellinger did an excellent job of blending the present with the past — how, when Brett was called up from Omaha, he thought a player with whom he was grilling hamburgers was being called up.

:: Lots of photographs and video pieces, including interviews with Brett, augment the stories.


:: To me, the flip-flopping between print and online is a bit confusing. The series promo box, which runs every day, has said from the outset that the series can be seen on kansascity.com. And yet Monday’s kick-off piece ran in print and online, but the Tuesday through Friday stories apparently are running online only.

:: The stories are not assembled coherently and in order on the Web site. Every entry, whether it’s photos or text, is under the “Becoming George Brett” banner, so you have to poke around to find the main stories. They should be assembled as Part I, Part II, Part III, etc…Surely The Star can fix that by tomorrow. Get on it, you computer nerds!

What with this being The Star’s first big series to be tailored so prominently for the Web, it’s not surprising that a few glitches crept in. Overall, though, it’s a thorough and well-packaged series. The readers should be eating it up.


While we’re talking baseball, here are a couple of other quick observations.

:: Royals’ TV broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre turned a crafty phrase near the end of Sunday’s game against the White Sox, which the Royals won 4-2. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Royals’ reliever Luke Hochevar struck out White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers to end the inning.



As Strike Three was called, Lefebvre said, “He (Hochevar) just carved up Flowers — one petal at a time.”

His poor partner, commentator Rex Hudler, didn’t chuckle or say a word. Heads up, Rex!

:: On their Web site, the Royals are promoting a new wrinkle — GordoNation.

The promo says that Royals All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon is looking for fans to join a new seating section in left field.

The promo sets the hook with a simple challenge: “Do you have what it takes to be a part of GordoNation?”

Of course, I do…Count me in!

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God dang there were some good stories in my two favorite papers the last couple of days.

Good stories get me excited…Can you tell?

First, The Star

:: Feature writer Don Bradley had an outstanding front-page story about America’s favorite road, Route 66, in Monday’s paper.

People from Europe, Australia and Asia — as well as the U.S. — are expected to converge on Joplin later this week for the “Route 66 International Festival.” It’s the first time the festival has been in Missouri.

I had no idea that the sense of adventure and nostalgia associated with the road had captured the imagination of people overseas, too.

routeThe story was accompanied by a graphic (compliments of Dave Eames) highlighted by images of old travel guides and two maps. One map showed the route from St. Louis down through the southwest part of the state — Rolla, Springfield, Carthage — to Joplin. The other traced the length of the road from Chicago to the Los Angeles area.

Bradley conveyed some excellent information, such as that 85 percent of the original highway, which has been decommissioned, is still in use as city streets and state and county roads.

“These days,” Bradley wrote, “you just have to work a little harder to get your kicks on Route 66.”

…One caveat about the story: The editors chose to run a couple of lame file photos on the “jump.” Too cheap to send a photographer out for a day or two to get some fresh, good photos.

P.S. A little background on Bradley…As a young man, he was a “runner” at The Star, delivering parcels from one department to another. One of the offices where he stopped regularly was that of the late Jim Hale, the first Star publisher after the paper was purchased by publicly traded Capital Cities (later Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.) in 1977. Bradley would chat regularly with Hale’s secretary, June Dacus, and told her of his dream of becoming a reporter. Dacus put in a good word for Bradley with Hale, and pretty soon Bradley found himself working in the second-floor newsroom.)

:: In the first of several stories The Star will run this week commemorating the 40th anniversary of George Brett’s first game with as a Kansas City Royal, columnist Sam Mellinger wrote about Brett’s call-up from Omaha and his first game as a Royal in 1973. (The Royals beat the White Sox in Chicago, and Brett got one hit in four times at bat.)

This story was 62 column inches long, enough to cover about 3/4 of a page. But it read like it was 30 inches. When I reached the end, I couldn’t believe I had read the whole thing, and I looked back to see if maybe I had skipped a column along the way…When a reporter can write a story that reads that fast, he’s really done a great job.


On to The Sunday New York Times

carolineI almost never read the SundayStyles section, although I should, but the cover story about Caroline Kennedy caught my eye and I dove in. In addition to 39 inches of rich, interesting information about Kennedy, whom President Obama has appointed to be the new ambassador to Japan, the story included compelling photos of Kennedy at various stages of her life, including when she was a teenager.

Two of the most interesting glimpses Kennedy that reporter Jacob Bernstein gave the readers were that Kennedy rides the subway in New York and socializes with people all across the political spectrum, including conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch.


Having been hooked by the Styles section, I proceeded to read two other excellent stories in the section…

:: Matteson Perry, a Los Angeles-based screen writer wrote about his romance with a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” One of her distinguishing and most alluring features was that she had a tattoo of a phoenix covering the left side of her torso…(Yes, Perry got to explore the tattoo and more.) The story was the latest in a series titled “Modern Love.”

Here’s how Perry summarized the make-up of an MPDG:

pixieThough often perky, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl will be troubled as well. She straddles the narrow line between quirky and crazy, mysterious and strange, sexy and slutty; she is perfectly imperfect. And that imperfection is the key, because a Manic Pixie Dream Girl must be messed up enough to need saving, so the powerless guy can do something heroic in the third act.

(Can we identify with that, fellas?)

The story of the romance, Perry said, was “one I stole from the movies.” Of course, the affair turned sour.

So our story ended, not with credits rolling to freeze our relationship in eternal bliss, but with crying and the division of possessions. (I kept the dining room chairs; she kept the old-timey typewriters.)

P.S. Perry is working on his first book, a collection of dating stories…I’ll be pre-ordering that book.

:: I finish with another fascinating “love” story — about a 59-year-old novelist, Joyce Maynard, and a 61-year-old lawyer, Jim Barringer, who teamed up on Match.com. Each was divorced with three grown children.


Barringer and Maynard…New York Times photo

The story — part of The Times’ “Vows” series — explored their contrasting personalities: He, patient, wry and brilliant; she, a person who lives “with lots of speed and soul.”

They were married on July 6 in a meadow in Harrisville, N.H. The bride and groom wrote their own vows. Part of Ms. Maynard’s vows went like this:

I love it that in your eyes, I am the babe of the universe, although that calls your eyesight into question…So long as I can walk, I will dance with you. I will bake you apple pies and never wear flannel nightgowns.

Let’s hope that this union fulfills the hope and promise we so often see at the end of a movie.

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If you read the obits in The Kansas City Star, you know that family members, in preparing obituaries for the deceased, usually strive to capture the essence of the person. That is, what he or she excelled out, where he or she made his or her mark.

Frequently, it comes down to something like this…”Above all, he (she) loved his (her) family and was a devoted father (mother) and spouse. He (she) took his (her) greatest joy in spending time with family members.”

That is well and good. But I think that most of us want to be remembered for something other than being loving, loyal family members. Don’t the vast majority of us strive to make some kind of mark outside the home? Something that people will remember us by?


Marti Dolinar
Photos courtesy of Sherri Parker

Marti Dolinar, who died last Wednesday from an infection run amok, was such a person. He was seeking to do something that would allow him to sit back and say, “I’ve done something special here.” And he managed to do just that, in his role as The Smartman, a regular commenter on this and other blogs. He was consistently witty, outrageous, insightful and combative. He gave me and other commenters a target to shoot at. And he liked that.

One of his best catches was on a post I put up on Thursday, July 18, just six days before he died. Always a cheerleader for the Power & Light District, I giddily cited a KC Star story quoting a Downtown Council survey reporting that 13.4 million people had visited downtown last year — compared with 2.5 million in 2012.

The Smartman weighed in early the next morning, saying:  “If you take 13.4 million visitors per year divided by 365 days in a year, that averages out to 36,712 visitors per day. Explain that? Are we counting everyone that works downtown as a daily ‘visitor’? ”

That stopped me cold. I e-mailed the fellow at the Downtown Council who was in charge of the so-called “self-reported” survey but didn’t hear back. Then I e-mailed the writer of the story, Kevin Collison, and asked him about it, especially what the term “self-reported” meant. Collison said that the individual venues, such as Sprint Center, Gordon Biersch, the Bristol, Johnny’s Tavern, etc., submitted their numbers to the Downtown Council, and the council simply compiled and reported them.

That changed the whole complexion of the “survey” and essentially discredited it.

The exchange between me and The Smartman prompted “Chuck,” who has been the second most prolific commenter on this blog, to say, “Hell of a nice catch, Smarty.”

And now, to send Marti along on his eternal journey, I want to give him the floor, once again…Here are some classic comments that The One and Only Smartman penned on this blog the last few years.


:: July 11, 2013, in response to a facetious rant in which I said I was “sick and tired of playing second fiddle to this guy The Smartman.”

Fitz, at best I am Ed McMahon to your Johnny Carson, Keith to your Mick, (Lewis) Diuguid to your Hemingway……that may be a bit extreme……but I remain your humble commenter.

:: July 10, 2013, on whether Kansas City should build a new single terminal at KCI:

I’d get more on board with a new airport if it served any real purpose other than stroking the Slyborg’s ego. (Slyborg is Mayor Sly James.) It will not improve tourism, convention business, or anything for that matter…At this point, with all the other social, operational and mechanical problems we have, $1.2 billion is just insane. The majority of that burden will fall on the local business traveler, not so much (on) inbound and departing tourists or business travelers. As time goes on more and more people will use Skype or Go To Meeting as option one for business meetings versus business travel. In the big scheme of things we are porcine in KC. We don’t need a new pig pen, just some fresh mud.

 :: July 9, 2013, on a series of photos I posted from a recent trip to Los Angeles:

Ah, Fitz, welcome back, your pictures brought a warm smile to my face. Glad you enjoyed your trip. Hope you enjoyed the Reagan Library. Every time I think of my visit there, sitting in the final exhibit that shows the video from the funeral I well up with tears. Got to get back their soon.

:: Also July 9, 2013, on my account of going to an upscale Los Angeles restaurant filled with beautiful people:

I discovered a long time ago that when dining in LA, there are no ugly people.

:: July 1, 2013, on a post about the last words of convicts being executed in Texas:

I think upon my death I’ll have a website launched with my last lecture. It will start with, “To all of you idiots that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.”

:: March 10, 2012, on a post that included a photo of our 25-year-old daughter, Brooks:

I’m assuming that your daughter got her good looks from her mother.

:: Jan. 18, 2012, on a response I had made to one of his comments:

One more thing. I’m not sure whether you complimented or insulted me, Fitz. I’m calling it a draw. Remind me not to send you a Christmas card again next year.

:: Dec. 1, 2011, on a post highlighting some of Chicago’s landmarks:

Fitz, Portillo’s is to Chicago what Gates and Bryant’s are to KC. Not the healthiest place to eat, but the dogs, ribs and Italian beef are BIBLICALLY good. The downtown location is as good of a place to people watch as Central Park or Venice Beach.

:: Oct. 30, 2011, recounting a chance meeting with former KCTV-5 anchorwoman Anne Peterson:

I was 18 at the time. She was covering the funeral of KCK Commissioner Tom Lally. As I approached her she smiled sweetly at me. For one of the few times in my life I was positively speechless. She moved on. I was frozen in time like a pillar of salt at the intersection of Sodom and Gomorrah. To have that moment over again. What might have been? I do think I’ve aged better than her so perhaps it’s all for the best.

:: Aug. 27, 2011, on my equivocation about using the F-word to describe my frustration at John Covington having resigned unexpectedly as Kansas City school superintendent:

With all due respect to your wife (who had succeeded in urging me to remove the word), put the F BOMB back. There are times, even in polite and civilized journalistic discourse that it is required to drive home a point. This is one of those times.


Today, Marti’s funeral is being held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kan.  He was 52 and, for most of his life, made his living selling plastic packaging. He lived in the Brookside area with his girlfriend, Sherri Parker.

As his obit (published in Saturday’s Kansas City Star) said: “He had an overwhelming enthusiasm for life and a clever sense of humor.”



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Yes, readers, this is terrible news…and, unfortunately, no joke.

The most entertaining and prolific commenter to this blog and at least one other — KC Confidential — died on Wednesday, apparently from an infection that spread from a leg to his brain.

I did not know The Smartman, but Hearne Christopher, who governs the KC Confidential blog, identified him as Marti N. Dolinar, 52. He was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and lived in the KC area his whole life. He was a resident of the Brookside area, I believe.

Here is Hearne’s account, which he posted on Thursday.

…I first got an inkling of trouble this morning, after reading a comment from our second most frequent commenter, “Chuck.”

At 9:59 p.m. last night, Chuck wrote this, “So long, Smarty.”

Naturally, that sounded an alarm, and a little reporting then led to the awful news.

Coincidentally, Dolinar’s obit ran in this morning’s KC Star. Here it is…

Marti N. Dolinar, 52, died unexpectedly Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at St. Luke’s Hospital, KCMO. The Funeral Mass will be 10 a.m. Monday, July 29, at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Strawberry Hill in KCK, where visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Marti’s wishes were to be cremated. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations in Marti’s memory to Wayside Waifs, 3901 Martha Truman Rd., KCMO 64137 or to the St. John’s Church Restoration Fund.

Marti was born June 27, 1961, to George M. and JoAnn (Goodack) Dolinar in Kansas City, Kan. He was a graduate of St. John the Baptist Grade School and Bishop Ward High School Class of 1979. Some of Marti’s favorite childhood memories involve his years as a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout of Troop 19. Early in his career, Marti worked as a music-promotion entrepreneur. He devoted the remainder of his career to working in the plastic packaging industry in sales. Marti loved music, animals, reading and spending time with his family. He had an overwhelming enthusiasm for life and a clever sense of humor.

He has now joined his devoted mother, JoAnn in heaven; leaving behind his dear father, George and beloved sweetheart, Sherri Parker; uncle, Ed (Fran) Dolinar; aunts, Josephine Uniak and Rose Gerkovich; many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

“…a clever sense of humor.” A-men!

God, I’m going to miss you, Smartman, and so will our readers…May you be with God in heaven.

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One thing you can never be surprised by is the number of rednecks running around in society…and not just ours.

They’re worse than cicadas, and often times as loud.

Since they are so prevalent, I thought we should start highlighting some of them, some of the very best…or worst, I guess that should be.

At The Star, whenever we started a new feature, the problem was keeping it fresh and interesting, because once started, the feature had to run for usually a year, at a minimum, before we could let it drift away.

That’s not a problem in blogging, though: I have no idea how often this feature will run. Maybe periodically, maybe just this once. Anyway, away we go!

Case No. 1…Last week, some Lake Waukomis residents were subjected to “an awful image they’ll never forget,” as KMBC-TV reported on its website.

A Lake Waukomis resident took his cat down to the lake in a cage or carrier and proceeded to drown the cat by submerging the carrier for several minutes.

His cat…not somebody else’s cat. His cat. The KMBC story said that a mother and her children called 911 as, or after, “they watched in horror.” Other people apparently were watching, too.

According the a police report, Thomas Newhouse said he decided to drown the cat after returning home from church — church –and finding that the cat had bitten and scratched his fiance and his daughter-in-law.

Newhouse told police he didn’t see anyone around before he did the dirty deed, so he thought he was doing it in private.

Newhouse got a ticket for a city ordinance violation, animal abuse, and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 20.

Thomas Newhouse…Now there’s a redneck! 

Case No. 2…On Sunday, The Star carried a front-page story by Eric Adler about cattle rustlers in Missouri. In rural areas, it’s a crime that never goes out of style.

The victim in this particular story was Bob Darrow of the Springfield area. Thirteen of his cows, with an estimated value of about $17,000, disappeared.

Apparently, it was not a very difficult case to solve. Police arrested 63-year-old Howard L. Perryman of Monett, MO.



It seems as though Perryman is well known in Greene County. Here’s what Adler said about him:

“He’s previously been charged with nearly as many felonies, 60, as he is years old. He’s been branded with more than 20 felony convictions since 1967, including robbery, burglary and receiving stolen property. He has spent time in state and federal prisons.”

…I can’t help but interject something here: Do you think that a black resident of Greene County would still be walking the streets — and galloping around the hills — if he had been convicted of 20 felonies?

Anyway, let’s hear it for Howard Perryman: Now there’s a redneck!

Case No. 3…This is far, far away from the Kansas City area, but, as you know, we don’t have a monopoly on rednecks.

Last October, seven artworks valued at hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen from a museum in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.  The New York Times said that the painters of the pieces included Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Gauguin. The thief (who later confessed) was 29-year-old Radu Dogaru of Romania, which is about 1,200 miles from Rotterdam.

But here’s the kicker…His 50-year-old mother, Olga Dogaru, told police that shortly after her son was arrested, she placed all seven works in a wood-burning stove and incinerated them, with the intention of destroying the evidence.

Forensic scientists at Romania’a National History Museum collected ash and other material found in Mrs. Dogaru’s oven. The Times story quoted the museum director as saying that material that classical French, Dutch, Spanish and other European artists typically used to prepare canvases for oil painting were discovered in the debris.

“In addition,” the story said, “copper nails and tacks made by blacksmiths before the Industrial Revolution and used to tack canvas down were found in the debris.”


Olga Dogaru

On Monday, the Dogarus appeared in court in Bucharest, and Mrs. Dogaru told a panel of three judges that she did not burn the artworks. When asked what had become of the paintings, Mrs. Dogaru gave no answer.

Of course, Mrs. Dogaru’s new circumstances might have influenced her revised story: She is now charged with destruction-of-property crimes that could land her in prison for three to 10 years. Even more indicative that she, indeed, burned the paintings is the evidence from the ashes.

So, where the paintings might be and whether they still exist are not known. But one thing we do know is that there’s at least one redneck in Romania. Olga…Now THERE’s a redneck.

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Thanksgiving is still four months away, but today I’m in an appreciative mood.

Let me cite just three “blessings” that recent news stories have impressed upon me.

:: I am grateful that…Kansas City is not in Detroit’s shoes.

Once the nation’s fourth largest city, Detroit filed for bankruptcy this afternoon. In an online story, The New York Times said the city’s debt was likely to be $18 to $20 BILLION.

In 1950, Detroit’s population was 1.8 million; today it is 700,000. In addition, The Times said, tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, vacant lots and unlit streets plague the urban area.

The story went on to say that one aspect of the bankruptcy that some other cities (including Kansas City, in all likelihood) will be watching is whether Detroit will be permitted to slash pension benefits. That will be decided in bankruptcy court and perhaps beyond. In order to cut pension benefits, the court would have to override a provision in the Michigan constitution that prohibits such action.

Here in Kansas City, Mayor Sly James and the City Council have shown that they don’t have the stomach for taking on the firefighters’ union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers. The mayor and council haven’t dared to take up a citizens committee’s proposal to reduce pension benefits for current and future city employees.

So, while I’m thankful that we’re not Detroit, someday — on some mayor and council’s watch — the pension situation is going to become a crisis in Kansas City, and the citizens are going to wring their hands and shake their fists at several mayors and councils that didn’t have the guts to deal with the issue before it became a crisis.

:: I am grateful that…Vladimir Putin is not my president. 

A Russian judge has sentenced Russia’s most prominent opposition leader to five years in prison on a charge of embezzlement.


Mr. Congeniality

In another online story today, The New York Times said that “the Kremlin had made little effort to mask the political motivation of the prosecution” of Aleksei Navalny, a harsh Putin critic who aspired to political office.

Well, in Russia your dreams can get you in trouble.

Although the case against Navalny was thin and had been thrown out after an initial investigation, it was “resurrected by federal officials in Moscow,” The Times story said.

Then, when the case went to trial, it was strictly a kangaroo court. Not only did the main witness give contradictory evidence, The Times said, defense lawyers were not allowed to cross-examine him.

!!!!! No cross-examination !!!!! 

Just to make sure Navalny didn’t get a fair hearing, the judge also prohibited the defense from calling 13 witnesses.

!!!!! No defense witnesses !!!!!

About all you can do is shake your head and take comfort in the fact that we’ve got enough nuclear weapons to keep Potentate Putin in check.

Editor’s note:  Shortly after 3 a.m. today, The Times reported that Navalny had been released while his case is under appeal.  

Here’s the lead sentence from that story:

“Russia’s most prominent opposition leader was released from police custody on Friday, a day after his conviction on embezzlement charges, as the Russian authorities edged back from a decision that set off angry protests in several of Russia’s largest cities.”

Maybe the potentate has overstepped his bounds this time…

:: Bringing it closer to home, I am grateful for…the Sprint Center and the Power & Light District.

In a story last week, The Star’s Kevin Collison wrote about an astounding (as far as I’m concerned) report done by the Downtown Council, an association of downtown businesses.

Ten years ago, in 2002, the report said, 2.5 million people visited downtown.

Last year, 13.4 million people visited downtown.

Think about it: Two point five million versus thirteen point four million over a decade.

The number soared, Collison said, “thanks to the huge investment that’s occurred the past half-dozen years in such entertainment venues as the Power & Light District, Sprint Center and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.”

The story said that the Power & Light District, which opened in 2007 and 2008, was “far and away” the biggest attraction last year, drawing 9.1 million visitors.

“The Power & Light District has become the central gathering point for the city,” Collison quoted Mike Hurd, the Downtown Council’s marketing director, as saying.

We should all be grateful that Kay Barnes and her council had the guts to put their legacy on the line when they opted to take a chance on a deal with the Cordish Companies to develop the Power & Light District. (That was in Barnes’ second term, from 2003 to 2007.)

Yes, Cordish, of Baltimore, is making a bundle of money off the deal, and Kansas City residents are subsidizing the district to the tune of $10 million to $15 million a year. But any day I’ll take the 13.4 million visitors a year in exchange for the public subsidy.

The subsidy will end some day, but the visitors, I expect, will keep on coming, and Kansas City, thanks to some courageous political leadership, should continue to have a thriving downtown.

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It’s been intriguing to me to watch how House Republicans are stewing in their own juices on the immigration bill.

Speaker John Boehner says no proposal will come to the House floor unless a majority of Republican reps approve it.

Well, that makes it pretty difficult because a majority have their heads in the sand and either don’t want illegal immigrants already here to have a path to citizenship or they’re not satisfied with the Senate bill’s steps to reduce illegal immigration. That, in spite of the fact that 66 percent of respondents in a newly released Quinnipac poll said they believed illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay. Plus, 54 percent of respondents said illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship.

David Brooks, the most reasonable and thoughtful of the conservative columnists, in my opinion, had a great column Friday about the foolish opposition of a majority of House Republicans.

Among other things, he said that the Senate bill fulfills the main conservative objectives, including that it would:

— Spur economic growth.

— Reduce the federal deficit.

— Significantly reduce illegal immigration.

(If you want more about Brooks’ reasoning on those points, see his column.)

reformBrooks said that a chief complaint of conservatives is that “Republicans should not try to win back lower-middle-class voters with immigration; they should do it with a working-class agenda.”

Working-class, of course, is political speak for the white lower-middle-class people. In other words, conservative Republicans are inclined to cast their lot with the traditional, white voting bloc instead of the rapidly expanding ethnic melting pot.

Then, Brooks brought down the cudgel:

“Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I’ve tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white American that is never coming back.”

As another New York Times columnist, Charles Blow, said in an op-ed piece before the 2012 general election, conservatives “are on the wrong side of demographics.”

The immigration bill offers a golden opportunity for conservatives to take a step toward the right side of demographics. If they want to remain competitive politically, they should heed Brooks’ advice: “Pass the bill.”


Here’s something I wanted to let you know about. Three of my former colleagues at The Star have established a scholarship fund at the University of Missouri in memory of the late Jerry Heaster, longtime Kansas City Star business columnist, who died last year.



The Jerry Heaster Business Journalism Scholarship Fund will be administered by the Missouri School of Journalism’s Office of Development.  Each year, a special committee established by the journalism school will award a scholarship to a deserving student who plans to study business journalism.

The founders of the scholarship fund are former Kansas City Star Editor Mike Waller; former assistant managing editor Randy Smith; and current managing editor Steve Shirk.

Waller, who is now retired and living in South Carolina, went on from The Star to become publisher of the Hartford Courant and the Baltimore Sun. Smith teaches business journalism at Mizzou, his alma mater, and he is the first person to hold the position of Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism at MU.

If you are interested in contributing to the fund or learning more about it, please send e-mail to Waller (mikeewaller@aol.com), Smith (smithrandall@missouri.edu) or Shirk (sshirk@kcstar.com). Or you could send me an e-mail, jim.fitzpatrick06@gmail.com, and I will send it along to one of them.

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Well, now we’re talking…

The Star came out yesterday with an editorial endorsing a single-terminal airport.

Mincing no words, the editorial began:

“Building a modern, fully functional airport is a high priority for the Kansas City area, residents and many local companies.

“Here’s one clear vision of what a new Kansas City International Airport would feature: a single terminal with convenient passenger drop-off zones, efficient security lines, quick walks to gates, and a wider variety of desirable restaurants and shops.”

The editorial is great news for backers of a new terminal, which is estimated to cost upwards of $1 billion.

Voters will be asked to approve revenue bonds to finance construction, and, despite the waning power of print, The Star still leads the way on community issues. I worked for The Star, as many of you know, for nearly 37 years, and it has always looked out for what is in the best interests of the public. It’s a non-vested-interest institution that the vast majority of area residents trust, even if they don’t like the paper’s left-tilting political endorsements.

So, the “Save KCI” crowd just caught a bad break: They are now in for a likely losing battle against the Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Council, the Aviation Department, the airlines, the political consultants (who stand to make big bucks off the campaign), KC Star jackhammer editorial writer Yael Abhoulkah…and, of course, the very influential JimmyCsays.

A 24-member panel appointed by Mayor Sly James is holding hearings and meetings on the issue, and you can expect this to be a slow process. That’s partly because a lot of people are wedded to the hopelessly archaic and sentimental idea that the three-terminal set-up — with its dark, vapid, curving concourses — is the best airport layout ever invented. “By God, it’s ours, and you can’t take it from is,” might as well be their schoolyard campaign slogan.

So, the powers that be — no dummies at shaping public opinion — will wait out the brunt of the opposition and will chip away at educating the electorate. going education.

The Star’s editorial now has this project poised to lift off, eventually.


LAX…A single terminal KCI could have concourses that look something like this…”Hey, Mom, it’s bright in here, and there are plenty of places to buy souvenirs and eat!”

Wisely, The Star isn’t swallowing whole the $1.2 billion plan proposed by the Aviation Department. In the editorial, the paper encouraged the study panel to “investigate other ideas that have been proposed to ‘save’ the current KCI and especially its convenient passenger drop-off feature.”

The Star also said the cost estimate needs to be trimmed. Many opponents are shrieking about the price tag and saying that it’s a big waste of money and would detract from, and perhaps supersede, other high-dollar projects, such as repairing streets and bridges and upgrading the antiquated water and sewer system.

The Star parried that groundless objection by explaining:

“In reality, Kansas City already has a solid list of projects aimed at improving public services, and all are being done with dollars that would never be spent to build a better KCI.”

In other words, not all the project are being financed from a single fund, with various projects competing against one another for financing.


— The water and sewer upgrades are being financed in large part by the water and sewer rates that the city high-handedly jacked up a year or so ago, when it went to monthly bills instead of bi-monthly…with the monthly bills being about the same as the bi-monthly bills had been.  (Those bills are headed ever higher, by the way.)

— Street and bridge repairs come out of general operating funds and the city’s capital improvements sales tax.

— Two other voter-approved sales taxes are paying for fire and police department improvements, including new facilities.

Don’t let the whiners intimidate you with their squawking refrain, “We can’t afford it!”

Yes, we can. This is a big city and it takes big bucks to keep a big city humming.

I feel a lot more confident today than I did yesterday. I can almost hear the humming of the power tools at work on a new, single terminal in Platte County, MO.

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James Atlas, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, had an excellent article in the Times’ Sunday Review section.

The gist of it is that the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots is reflected in airline travel, just as it is in daily life.

“This stark class division should come as no surprise,” Atlas wrote. “What’s happening in the clouds mirrors what’s happening on the ground. Statusization — to coin a useful term — is ubiquitous, no matter what your altitude.”

Despite the fact that the airlines logged about a billion passenger trips last year, Atlas continued, “We’re all going everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”



Atlas quotes from historian Niall Ferguson’s new book, ‘The Great Degeneration,” in which Ferguson noted that the United States once “was famed as a land of opportunity, where a family could leap from ‘rags to riches’ in a generation.”

“Now,” Atlas said, extending the thought, “it can’t even leap from economy to business. You can make some progress in small ways: the gold club members get to board before the silver club members. The passenger who earns a certain number of miles is rewarded with a complimentary drink. But those in the back of the plane can fight all they want over their status. They’re still not getting any more leg room.”

I’m sure Atlas is correct, but in my travels I really haven’t noticed the gap widening as much as he describes. I was on one flight recently — Frontier, to Denver, I think — where the leg room was extremely tight. But on Southwest, which I try to use almost exclusively, it still seems OK. And I don’t see anyone getting preferential treatment once on their planes.


Also in The Times’ Sunday Review, our friend Robert Finn, bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, got a mention from op-ed writer Frank Bruni.



Bruni’s main topic was New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who as archbishop of Milwaukee several years ago, got permission from the Vatican to transfer $57 million into a trust for Catholic cemetery maintenance, where it might be better protected “from any legal claim and liability,” in his words. He was trying to shield the funds, of course, from awards in priest sexual-abuse cases.

Bruni wrote:

”…Over the last few decades we’ve watched an organization that claims a special moral authority in the world pursue many of the same legal and public-relations strategies — shuttling around money, looking for loopholes, tarring accusers, massaging the truth — that are employed by organizations devoted to nothing more than the bottom line.

“…In Kansas City, Mo., Rebecca Randles, a lawyer who has represented abuse victims, says that the church floods the courtroom with attorneys who in turn drown her in paperwork. In one case, she recently told me, ‘the motion-to-dismiss pile is higher than my head — I’m 5-foot-4.’

“Also in Kansas City, Bishop Robert Finn still inhabits his post as the head of the diocese despite his conviction last September for failing to report a priest suspected of child sexual abuse to the police. This is how the church is in fact unlike a corporation. It coddles its own at the expense of its image.”

Come on, Bishop Finn, the gig is up: Get outta here!


A recent Gallup poll had some interesting statistics regarding what Americans consider their main source of news. Fifty-five percent said TV; 21 percent said the Internet; nine percent said print; six percent said radio; and two percent said word of mouth. The survey was conducted June 20 to 24, and 2,048 adults were surveyed.

Poor print…It just keeps on a fadin’. I could cry a river.


In the barber shop yesterday, I was reading the paper while waiting my turn, and a guy in one chair said something like, “Is it my imagination or has the paper gotten narrower?”

The barber and I said, yes, we thought the width of The Star had been shrunk, once again, relatively recently.

To which, the guy in the chair immediately responded:

“First, they cut the news out of the paper, then they cut the comics out of the paper, and now they’re cutting the paper out of the paper!”

It was hyperbole, of course, but wickedly funny…


P1000331Last, we come to Charlie Wheeler, the former mayor who is getting kicked out of his house west of Loose Park because he is far behind on his mortgage payments to James B. Nutter & Co. A couple of months ago, after the The Star reported on the situation, Jim Nutter Sr. gave Wheeler a one-month reprieve, with an evacuation deadline of July 1. I’ve been going by Wheeler’s house periodically, and yesterday the front window coverings were open and it looked like the house might be fairly clear on the inside. But a car that I believe belongs to Wheeler’s son Graham was in the driveway, so I was pretty sure that Wheeler, his wife Marjorie and Graham were still living there.

Later in the day, I saw Charlie’s and Marjorie’s daughter, Marian, at Cosentino’s Market in Brookside, and I asked her what the story was. She said her parents had received another extension, this time until Aug. 1.

I swear, it won’t surprise me if Charlie doesn’t leave until the sheriff’s deputies show up with an eviction notice and accompanied by heavy lifters hired by Jim Nutter.

Come on, Charlie, think about your good name…Get outta there!

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Los Angeles, Part II

It’s hard to get enough of California, isn’t it? So, by popular demand (well, I’m sure Smartman wants to see photos from the Reagan Library), here are more photos from our recent trip to LA and vicinity.

(By the way, if some of you could not open yesterday’s post, with the first round of photos, I apologize. I don’t know what was wrong; I just hope this one poses no problems…If you’d like me to send you a link to yesterday’s post, send me an e-mail at jim.fitzpatrick06@gmail.com. Maybe that will work.)

In light of the “new airport” controversy in Kansas City, I want to start off with four photos from LAX. Then, we’ll move on to recreation.


This is how a modern terminal building should look — open, welcoming and featuring plenty of natural light.


This is how a modern-airport food court should look.


This is the kind of airy, natural-looking bar area that a modern airport should have.


This is how an entrance to a major terminal — with one, large security area — should look.


Ceremonies before the Angels-Cardinals game in Anaheim on July 2. Don’t be misled by the number of empty seats. Attendance exceeded 39,000. (The Angels won 5-1.)


Our gracious hosts during our trip, Roger and Suzanne Johnson of Arcadia, and a friend from St. Louis, Mary Buttice. (Arcadia is in north central Los Angeles County.)


The group behind us…Movie stars, I’m sure.


A street in Arcadia.


Independence Day, Arcadia.


At the entrance to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. (Simi Valley is northwest of Los Angeles.)


Reagan’s 1984 presidential parade limo.


A jet engine on Reagan’s Air Force I plane. The plane takes up an entire section of the library facility.


While recovering in the hospital from John Hinckley’s assassination attempt, Reagan was on a breathing tube for a few days and couldn’t talk. So, he communicated by writing notes. This one says, “What does the future hold. Will I be able to do ranch work, ride etc.”


On a plaza, just behind the library building, a section of the Berlin Wall.


A view of the surroundings from behind the library. As Smartman said in a recent comment regarding the library, “The exterior panaromic views are spectacular.”


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