Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Thanks to the generosity of our good friend Tom Russell, an assistant professor at the UMKC School of Dentistry, Patty and I attended a fund-raiser last Saturday for Historic Kansas City Foundation.

The event, at Union Station, was called “Moveable Feast: A night out with Hemingway.”

Among other things, guests got to go on trolley rides that toured some of the places Hemingway frequented when he was a cub reporter at The Star from October 1917 to April 1918. One of those places, of course, was the former Kansas City Star building that was sold last year and is now being redeveloped into commercial and retail space.

Before we left the event, someone stopped by our table and gave each of us a gift bag, which contained, among other things, Steve Paul’s book “Hemingway at Eighteen” and a book of Hemingway quotations.

I didn’t go through all the items in the bag, however, and yesterday Patty reached into mine and pulled out a wonderful piece of Kansas City Star history. It’s a Star “style sheet” from around Hemingway’s time. The 8 1/2-by-14 sheet sets out the dos and don’ts that Star reporters needed to adhere to when writing their stories.

Later, The Star updated and expanded the “style sheet” into a “style book,” which new reporters might still be given. I don’t have my style book any more, but I’m sure the current version includes some of the tenets contained in the style sheet that was in use when Hemingway was here.

I thought many of you would be interested in hearing about some of the points that were in that old style sheet, which looked like this…

(The red marks are mine.)

Only one paragraph — the first — is general; everything else is very specific. That first paragraph says…

Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.

If you’ve read any Hemingway, you know he took to heart at least the first three sentences. Consider, for example, the opening lines of one of Hemingway’s best short stories, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened.

“Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?” Macomber asked.

“I’ll have a gimlet,” Robert Wilson told him.

“I‟ll have a gimlet too. I need something,” Macomber‟s wife said.

“I suppose it‟s the thing to do,” Macomber agreed. “Tell him to make three gimlets.”

Within those concise sentences, we learn two important things that make us want to read more: First, something out of the ordinary happened earlier, and, second, whatever it was was disturbing enough to make Macomber’s wife “need something” to drink.


Now, here are some of the more specific rules of writing the style sheet lays out.

:: Watch your sequence of tenses. “He said he knew the truth,” not “He said he knows the truth.”

:: Eliminate every superfluous word as “Funeral services will be at 2 o’clock Tuesday,” not “The funeral services will be held at the hour of 2 o’clock on Tuesday.”

:: “The police tried to find her husband,” not tried to locate her husband. To locate, used as a transitive verb, means to establish.

:: “He was ill in February,” not “He was ill during February.” During February would mean every fraction of a second of the month’s time.

:: Say “She was born in Ireland and came to Jackson County in 1874,” not “but came to Jackson County.” She didn’t come here to make amends for being born in Ireland. This is common abuse of the conjunction.

:: Don’t say “He had his leg cut off in an accident.” He wouldn’t have had it done for anything.

:: “He suffered a broken leg in a fall,” not “He broke his leg in a fall.” He didn’t break the leg, the fall did. Say a leg, not his leg, because presumably the man has two legs.

:: Say Chinese, not Chinamen.

:: The man was sentenced to be hanged,” not to be hung.

:: “He was eager to go,” not “anxious to go.” You are anxious about a friend who is ill.

:: A long quotation without introducing the speaker makes a poor lead…and is bad at any time. Break into the quotation as soon as you can, thus: “I should prefer,” the speaker said, “to let the reader know who I am as soon as possible.”

:: “The voters will choose among the several candidates,” not “between the several.” “Choose between two candidates” is correct.

:: “He died of heart disease,” not “heart failure” — everybody dies of “heart failure.”

:: Don’t say: “Three men put in an appearance.” Just let them “appear.”

:: You expect a record, not anticipate it. But you can anticipate some legal action…

:: “Portion” in almost all cases refers to food. “Portion” of an estate is correct, however.

:: Say “crippled boy,” but not “a cripple.”

:: Resolutions are adopted, not passed. Bills are passed and laws are enacted. The house or senate passed a bill; congress or the legislature enacted a law.


Finally, here is one of my favorites because, when I arrived at The Star in 1969, the rule was still in place:

“Motor car is preferred but automobile is not incorrect.”

Before I waked through the doors at 1729 Grand, I had been talking about “cars” — not “motor cars” — all my life.


Read Full Post »

You could see this coming from 1,000 miles away: President Trump looking for any way to give Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

For six days after Khashoggi’s disappearance, Trump said nothing, not a word. On Day Seven he started in with the equivocating verbiage he always goes to when something looks bad but it’s in his interest to avert his gaze. Then came reports yesterday that the Saudis were working to come up with a “fall guy” theory that would attempt to distance bin Salman from the dirty deed.

And today, in a phone conversation with Trump, that’s exactly what bin Salman did. He again strongly denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and suggested people outside of his control were responsible. Trump, who is dead set on selling hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to the Saudis, engorged the cover story.

“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers — who knows?” Trump said.

Trump wants to believe despots like bin Salman and others because he would like to be one.

Never mind  the overwhelming evidence that Khashoggi’s murder was a carefully and clinically planned operation, including:

— That bin Salman had every reason to be pissed off at Khashoggi, who had dared to write persistently and critically about the Crown Prince before leaving his homeland and relocating to the Washington D.C. area last year.

— That American intelligence agencies had previously intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and then detain him.

— That two planes carrying 15 Saudi agents, including a forensics expert, flew to Istanbul on Oct. 2, went directly to the consulate and later that day flew back to Saudi Arabia.

— That the Turks had the consulate bugged and reportedly have audio, and maybe even video, of Khashoggi being beaten and killed in the consulate.

But the Crown Prince, who at 33 is inexperienced at high-level skullduggery outside his country’s boundaries, badly underestimated how most world leaders would react. Instead of shrugs, what he got was international outrage.

As for Trump, what he got today from several New York Times’ readers regarding his “rogue killers” theory was sardonic dismissal.

Here’s a sampling of reader comments on the story:

:: Roberta, from Virginia: “Rogue killers?? Well, there’s the cover he’ll hide under. Maybe it was that 400 lb guy in NJ…It has never been so humiliating to be an American.”

:: Mac, from Ruther Glen, VA: “Watch out!! Rogue killers have taken over Saudi diplomatic missions everywhere!!! No one is safe.”

:: Derek Martin, from Pittsburgh, PA: “I wonder what Trump would be saying if the victim had been one of his pals from Fox News?”


Reading The Times’ story, I soon thought about the distinctive hear-no-evil/see-no-evil-themed sculpture that stands outside the Kansas City Police Department’s communications building. The bronze sculpture, which has been at 12th and Locust about 25 years, depicts a businessman standing on a briefcase, with a big shoe in his mouth, his fingers tightly planted in his ears and a tie flapping across his eyes.

I’ve always loved the whimsy of that statue and admired city officials’ courage in displaying it so prominently.

The sculptor, Terry Allen, called the work “Modern Communication.” In a 2013 interview with KCUR’s Laura Spencer, Allen, who lives in Santa Fe, NM, said he wasn’t thinking along the lines of “hear no evil, see no evil” when he created the work. The idea that was motivating him, he said, was “how we block communication.”

Little did Terry Allen know back then that well into the 21st Century we’d have a president, symbolically at least, has his fingers firmly planted in his ears and his long red tie flapping across his eyes.

Read Full Post »

Having grown up in Louisville and getting my education there, I don’t have a strong connection to the University of Kansas. But over the years, I’ve grown to love going over for football and women’s basketball games and getting more familiar with the enchanting town of Lawrence.

As many times as I’ve been there, however, I’d never really spent significant time in the heart of the campus. It always seemed a bit intimidating — ascending what looks, below from the east, like a mountain and trying to sort out which numbered streets yield access to the guts of the campus.

The tallest building on campus, seven-story Fraser Hall, has always loomed alluringly for me as I’ve approached Lawrence on I-70. Once I spot that stone bulwark in the distance, flags flying from the top, I feel a rush…I’m almost there! The fun and exhilaration of being in a big-time college town is just minutes away!

Until yesterday, though, I’d never been inside Fraser Hall, nor, for that matter, any of the other buildings along Jayhawk Boulevard, i.e., “Main Street KU.”

What took me to Lawrence yesterday was a determination to buy a suit at Weaver’s, Ninth and Mass — the best damn department store in the world, as far as I’m concerned.

I was in no rush on this mission, however, having the luxury of the entire afternoon to do my business. So, when I spotted Fraser Hall, through a misting ran, looming on the horizon, I determined this would be the day I explored the campus.

First, though, I parked on Vermont, a block west of Massachusetts, and had lunch at the widely known — and justifiably so — WheatFields bakery. It was a short walk to Weaver’s, where I spent $500 on a navy, Revelino suit and a pair of Peter Millar pants. (That’s more than I would have paid in Kansas City, but, what the hell — I was caught up in the exuberance of a fall day in Lawrence.)

Once back in the car, I headed south on Vermont, looking for a street to take me west, up the big hill to campus center. I turned on a numbered street that had a significant amount of traffic — I think it was 12th — and began the ascent. Pretty soon I was at the dead-end intersection of Jayhawk Boulevard, amid a sea of foot traffic and a nonstop flow of belching, crimson and blue buses carrying students from one place to another.

A friendly lady at a traffic-control booth adjacent to Fraser Hall directed me to a nearby parking lot, cheerily announcing,
“It’s free today!”

Once liberated from the car, I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d been magically deposited on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. The street was boiling with energy. Some students were scurrying about, others were just hanging out. And all the while, the buses rolled along in what seemed like a continuous, mobilized  procession…I couldn’t imagine Michigan Avenue carrying any more buses than what I was seeing.

As I walked, I took in the buildings — most of them stone and some with deep-red terra cotta trim.

From there…well, it’s time to let the pictures tell the story…

One of the many “Crimson and Blue” buses transporting students and others

In front of the Kansas Union building

From outside, the student union is not very imposing. But it is actually massive. The main entrance (here) is on the fourth level. Because the campus sits on a big hill, there are three levels below, in addition to the two above the entry level.

Just the kind of scene you would expect in a student union building

The vast bookstore is on the second level of the student union building.

This is Smith Hall, which houses the religious studies school.

The Oread hotel, at the north end of Jayhawk Blvd.

Dyche Hall, which houses the university’s Natural History Museum

A serene setting along otherwise busy Jayhawk Boulevard — Danforth Chapel

Lippincott Hall was the first home of the university’s first law school. Now it houses the study abroad program, the Applied English Center and the Wilcox Classical Museum of antiquities.

Imposing Fraser Hall towers above Jayhawk Boulevard and the nearby building. It houses the schools of psychology, sociology and anthropology.

Consisting mostly of classrooms, Fraser was named in honor of John Fraser, KU’s second chancellor, who served from 1867 to 1874.

From its seventh-floor top, Fraser affords spectacular views of the campus and the surrounding area. At left is the Campanile — bell tower. (Its bells chime every fifteen minutes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.) At right, of course, is Memorial Stadium.

Lookin north on Jayhawk Boulevard, toward The Oread. That’s Dyche Hall on the left; the Kansas Union just north of it; Danforth Chapel at near right and Spooner Hall, right middle.

And so ended a memorable day on a bustling little street brimming with life. If you haven’t been there, I urge you to go. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Read Full Post »

What reportedly has happened to journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi is shocking beyond measure.

Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian who had been living in the Washington D.C. area after leaving his homeland in September 2017, is believed to have been killed by a team of Saudi agents who flew in from Saudi Arabia and lay in wait for Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Jamal Khashoggi

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi was murdered at the consulate and that his body was dismembered and then taken elsewhere. One of the members of the Saudi team that carried out the apparent execution was a forensics expert.

If Khashoggi is dead, his murder was carefully planned and meticulously carried out.

Khashoggi, 59, had earned the wrath of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman by writing articles critical of bin Salman’s repression of activists and dissidents.

Video obtained by the Turkish government shows Khashoggi entering the consulate at 1:14 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 — he went there to obtain papers that would clear the way for him to marry his Turkish fiancee —  but it does not show him leaving.

Khashoggi entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

He has not been seen since. Saudi officials contend Khashoggi exited, not long after he entered, through another door. They have offered no surveillance footage or evidence to corroborate that claim, however. In addition, where Saudi officials initially said they would invite Turkish investigators to search the consulate, but they are now delaying.

Fred Hiatt, the Post’s editorial page editor, told The Associated Press, “If the story the Saudis are telling, that he just walked out…they ought to have facts and documents and evidence and tapes to back that up.”

Hiatt added that the “idea of a government luring one of its own citizens onto its own diplomatic property in a foreign country to murder him for the peaceful expression of his views would be unimaginable.”

Although, the murder, if that’s what it was, is shocking, the political circumstances that enabled it are perfectly understandable.

Partly responsible for setting an enabling atmosphere has been Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who has steadily moved Turkey toward authoritarianism the last eight years (Patty and I were there in 2010) and has jailed tens of thousands of dissidents and many reporters.

Also responsible for the “anything goes” atmosphere on the world stage is U.S. President Donald Trump, who has exhibited a keen disinterest in world affairs that do not help him advance his goals as president.

Mohammed bin Salman

He has also slathered praise on bin Salman, calling him “a great guy,” and after scores of Saudi businessmen and royal family members were detained and relieved of their assets in late 2017, Trump tweeted: “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. They know exactly what they are doing.”

Beyond that, Trump has called the free press “the enemy of the people” and has shown little concern about Khashoggi’s disappearance. He said nothing about it at all until Monday. Then, on Tuesday, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, he said,“I know nothing right now. I know what everybody else knows – nothing.”

The Post’s Dana Milbank noted that with his tepid response, Trump sounded like “just another passive consumer of Fox News,” despite having at his fingertips “a vast intelligence apparatus.”

Today, finally, Trump called Khashoggi’s disappearance “a very bad situation.”


This case is a terrible development for journalism and democracy. “If Jamal was murdered,” contributing columnist Asli Aydintasbas wrote in the Post, “it sends chills down the spine of every activist, journalist and dissident around the world.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in New York, reports that already this year 43 journalists have been murdered world-wide, compared to 46 during all of 2017.

At a higher level, the Khashoggi case is another step toward the disintegration of global order.

In his column, Aydintasbas said world order is “not about running the world according to Amnesty International” but about preserving “norms and rules established after two costly world wars.”

When global order ebbs, he said, lawlessness and disrespect for sovereignty set in.

Read Full Post »

It’s always cause for celebration when someone from the conservative ranks sees the light and joins “the angry mob” snapping at President Trump’s heels.

And so today we raise a glass to Max Boot, a noted author, columnist and military historian who has not only bailed on the Republican Party but says that as currently constituted the party needs to be “burned to the ground.”

Max Boot

Boot, 49, announced his defection in a Washington Post column bearing Monday’s date and titled “The dark side of American conservatism has taken over.”

The column was adapted from Boot’s new book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right,” so I presume he made his decision before the Kavanaugh debacle.

Boot explained his decision to bolt in particularly searing language that laid out the case against the goofy, hateful brand of conservatism that seems to hold sway outside urban areas, college towns and the states of California and Massachusetts. (And, yes, I realize that means most residents of the vast majority of the American landscape have lost perspective, but, unfortunately, is the state of the nation.)

Boot says:

Upon closer examination, it’s obvious that the history of modern conservative is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, isolationism and know-nothingism. I disagree with progressives who argue that these disfigurations define the totality of conservatism; conservatives have also espoused high-minded principles that I still believe in, and the bigotry on the right appeared to be ameliorating in recent decades. But there has always been a dark underside to conservatism that I chose for most of my life to ignore.

Clearly, the dark underside has subsumed the good parts. Boot traces the rise of Republican extremism partly to Barry Goldwater, who won only only six states in the 1964 presidential race against Lyndon Johnson. Despite the trouncing, Goldwater’s extremism took root with many people and is now “embedded in the DNA of the modern conservative movement,” according to Boot, who goes on to say…

In 1964, the GOP ceased to be the party of Lincoln and became the party of Southern whites. As I now look back with the clarity of hindsight, I am convinced that coded racial appeals had at least as much, if not more, to do with the electoral success of the modern Republican Party than all of the domestic and foreign policy proposals crafted by well-intentioned analysts like me. This is what liberals have been saying for decades. I never believed them. Now I do, because Trump won by making the racist appeal, hitherto relatively subtle, obvious even to someone such as me who used to be in denial.

Extremism was ushered forward, Boot says, by Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and the tea party movement. The whipped cream on this perverse dessert, of course, is Donald Trump, who, Boot says, defines the Republican Party, “with his depiction of Democrats as America-hating, criminal-coddling traitors, his vilification of the press as the ‘enemy of the people,’ and his ugly invective against Mexicans and Muslims.”

In sum, according to Boot, “the extremism that many Republicans of goodwill had been trying to push to the fringe of their party is now its governing ideology.”

If and when the current Republican Party is “burned to the ground,” Boot says, moderates can start to rebuild a new center-right party from the ashes. But that, he says, “will require undoing the work of decades, not just of the past two years.”

…Thanks Max, I needed that.

Read Full Post »

OK, let’s review…

The mayor’s race turned upside down in late June when Jason Kander announced he was running for mayor.

The mayor’s race turned upside down Tuesday when Jason Kander announced he was getting out of the mayor’s race.

So, here we are, six months before the April 2019 primary election, and eight of the nine candidates who were in the race before Kander got in are still in.

The ninth candidate back then was Councilwoman Jolie Justus, who is now reassessing her options.

But not everything else — besides Justus being on the sidelines — is the same as it was shortly after Kander announced he was in.

With the Brett Kavanaugh debacle, the national political climate has changed a lot, and I don’t have any reason to believe it’s any different here. What many people seem to be tilting toward now (and we’ll find out more about the validity of this theory the first Tuesday in November) are female candidates (gay or straight), minority candidates and non-white, non-regally-bred-and-educated male candidates.

With that in mind, let’s revisit the existing field of eight candidates and also presume Jolie Justus gets back in the race.


Gay, smart and experienced (an unusual juxtaposition of adjectives, I realize), Justus has the right profile at the right time. I believe she will get back in the race. Even though she initially supported Burns & McDonnell’s airport power play, she bailed when she saw it was doomed, and she was out front, beside Mayor Sly James, in the hugely successful airport election. She’s got a winning personality and is very approachable. The first time I met her — years ago when she was running for her first office, state senate — I pulled out my checkbook after a brief conversation and wrote her a $50 check. Working against her is the fact that she has alienated a significant number of 4th District residents who say she has become unresponsive to them and to 4th District issues. Nevertheless, I think she could end up reclaiming her earlier role as the favorite in the race.


Councilman Scott Taylor

He’s a good man and has responded several times to projects and issues of concern to my neighborhood association, Romanelli West (along Ward Parkway south of Meyer Circle Fountain). Like Justus, he is friendly and likable, and, more important, he gets things done. He’s also raised a lot of money…But that’s because he’s in tight with developers and the law firms behind the developers. Being joined at the hip with developers is great for the campaign war chest but doesn’t sit well with neighborhood activists, and it will be interesting to see how the development-neighborhood factors balance out for him. One thing working against him in the current political environment is that he’s a white, middle-aged lawyer. In addition, he would never be described as someone who fires voters up, although he’s certainly got a strong constituency.


Councilman Quinton Lucas

Lucas is probably the most eloquent and charismatic candidate. Plus, he’s a good-looking black man and seems to be the kind of candidate who could make big strides in a short time. His personal story is appealing: He lives in the 18th and Vine area with his single mother and two older sisters; he teaches at the KU law school; and he volunteers in schools and non-profits. Fund raising is going to be a challenge for him, but he could gain a lot of traction if he were to get the support of a couple of mainline political organizations, like Freedom Inc. and the Citizens Association. He is a candidate to watch closely.

Councilman Scott Wagner

He’s a hard worker, doesn’t have a big head and knows City Hall from the inside out. The strongest card in his deck, however, may be that he’s the only candidate with roots in the Northland, although he now lives in northeast Kansas City. If Northland voters turn out for him, they could propel him into the June general election. He’s got these things working against him, though: He’s another middle-aged white guy; he’s not dynamic; he’s not very well known; he’s spent at least $11,000 of taxpayer money on travel the last two years; and, when The Star did a big story on affordable housing recently, he was the only mayoral candidate who did not respond to the reporter’s request for comment.

Phil Glynn

Along with his wife, Elizabeth, Glynn owns a business (Travois) that finances and supports housing and development projects in American Indian communities. He’s smart, good-looking and a good speaker. If he had previously served in just about any elective office, including school board, he might be considered a strong candidate. Part of his motivation for running, I believe, is that Sly James bounced him from the Tax Increment Financing Commission after he went against the mayor’s wishes on a proposed Crossroads redevelopment project. He simply seems to be reaching too far too soon. He should be running for City Council and serving at least one term there before raising his sights to the top city post.

Steve Miller

A Plaza-based lawyer, Miller is in the same boat as Glynn. In fact, they’re both from the same Catholic parish — Visitation — and tapping some of the same people for contributions. Miller is a former chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, but that’s not much of a name-identity springboard, to say the least. He’s another middle-aged white guy who had a dream about becoming mayor and let the dream supersede reality.

Councilman Jermaine Reed

Why Reed is in the race I do not know. He’s a low-profile council member who stood out recently only because he resisted sacking the failed executive director of the American Jazz Museum. (Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed.)

Councilwoman Alissia Canady

Why this first-term council member is in the race I do not know. The Star said in one story that she is running on an initiative to promote equitable economic development in all parts of Kansas city and on a push to increase funding for mental health programs. Those are noble ambitions, and — assuming she stays in the mayor’s race — I wish her the best as she continues to promote them as a private citizen.

Rita Berry

Like Glynn and Miller, Berry has never run for elective office. The Star says she helps out with her family’s funeral home business and has labeled her a community activist. She admits she is not interested in politics, so, like I said about Reed and Canady, her presence in the race is a mystery.

Read Full Post »

:: My heart is heavy for the family of Charlie Gillis, a KU student who was killed last week in yet another crash involving a big rig.

Gillis, 20, was returning to KU from his hometown of St. Louis on Monday when a 2015 Freightliner truck (don’t know if a trailer was attached) pulled out in front of his 2001 Chevy SUV at 166th Street and State Avenue (U.S. 24) in Leavenworth County.

Charlie Gillis

Gillis’ vehicle struck the middle axle of the truck, spun and then careened into a 2016 Ford van. Gillis was taken to KU Medical, where he was pronounced dead on Tuesday.

Neither the 63-year-old truck driver nor the 22-year-old van driver was injured.

Gillis had been in St. Louis for homecoming weekend at his high school, the Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS).

His obituary, which appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said in part…

Charlie was a talented artist and an accomplished athlete with a bright and curious mind. He played football, captained the track and field team and was an All-State pole vaulter in high school…His heart was enormous, and he loved his friends and family far and wide. Whether scaling a tree, strumming his ukulele, vaulting over a pole or careening down a ski slope, he lived in the moment with an unwavering sense of freedom, fearlessness, passion and joy.

Survivors include his parents Jack and Jenn Gillis, brothers Matt and Henry and sister Sara.

What a horrible, thoroughly avoidable loss…The ubiquitousness of these big rigs has me avoiding the interstates and other major roads as much as possible. Those truckers fly along like they’re kings of the road, and sometimes, if you’re not going fast enough to please them, they’ll bear down on your bumper to intimidate you and push you to go faster. A trucker did that to me one night this summer on an interstate in Des Moines — loomed within feet of my bumper. I gripped the steering wheel and accelerated to a speed I was uncomfortable with before he veered off at the junction of another highway. Then, I exhaled deeply.

Charlie Gillis, 20 years old. Didn’t make it to official adulthood. Didn’t live to graduate from college. Won’t get to ski down one more hill. Taken from his family and friends because of the careless action of a big-rig driver.

The crash is “under investigation.”

:: I saw City Councilman Lee Barnes Jr. at a Friends of the Library event last night at the main library. We got to talking about the new airport, and he told me he thought the price tag would ultimately rise to $2 billion. The initial estimate was $1 billion, but Edgemoor, the selected contractor, recently upped it to $1.4 billion after more gates were added.

Barnes, who supported the proposal of AECOM, the world’s largest airport contractor, also said he thought we’d end up with an unremarkable terminal. “Cookie cutter?” I asked. He nodded.

Lee Barnes Jr.

I sure hope he’s wrong, but, as I’ve said all along, once the mayor and council decided to accept open-ended proposals from four contractors, instead of commissioning a design and then advertising for construction bids to execute the design, the city effectively ceded control of the project to the contractor. We’re basically at Edgemoor’s mercy.

:: At the Brookside Price Chopper this evening, I saw a woman with several plastic bags of groceries at the service counter, going through the bags and picking out certain items to return. It appeared she had bought more than she could pay for and was trying to get the bill within her available cash. While the lady selected items, three small children — apparently hers — clambered around the grocery cart and chattered happily.

It was not pleasant, watching the woman scale back her purchases. But at the very end, something struck me as incongruous. On the bottom level of the cart was a 24-pack of bottled water. She looked at it, pulled it off the cart and put it on the counter. That put her under her cash limit.

I sympathize with the woman’s financial situation, but bottled water? Presumably, she has running water at home. No, it’s not free, but she doesn’t have to pay extra for it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »