publisher's note
January 4, 2008



Spinning a New Year’s quarter
by Bruce Rodgers

I’m spinning a quarter on the bar, sipping my beer, a pack of Winston’s Lights within reach. It’s that arbitrary time of the year generally referred to as a “new year,” causing me to ponder some things and people that surround me…pure speculation, mind you.

A couple of times a month I drive to Lawrence. Coming up on the big hill before the first Lawrence exit, I often see a miles-long high, dark cloud stretching across the horizon. The view doesn’t quite mesh with agricultural setting, sorta like an old tire sticking up from the sand on a South Padre Island beach. The source of the smoke, steam, or whatever that’s despoiling the air and view, is some sort of utility plant or other factory. Specifics aren’t important — it’s just nasty.

Most every day I drive north down I-35, make the west loop by the Intercity Viaduct and close in on a plenary view of brown pall descending upon the metro. Kinda like a layer cake — bluish white on top, brown on the bottom. Ditto when I cross the Heart of America Bridge, only there I can sometimes smell it, too.

But hey, the news says, “Kansas City will soon follow some suburban cities and likely outlaw smoking in restaurants and bars.” Should I feel good about that? Only if you embrace hypocrisy.

One thing governments do well — all governments, be it so-called democracy or a dictatorship — is control people’s personal behavior. Don’t really want to outlaw cigarettes — tried that on other drugs and it still doesn’t work — so let’s just tell people where they can’t do their thing with something they bought that’s legal.

Meanwhile, those plants polluting the everyone’s air, those factories dumping into everyone’s waterways, those developers sprawling their concrete onto land, those millions and millions of cars dumping carbon into our one atmosphere…oh, that’s too hard to stop. Corporations have rights, stockholders, jobs to protect. People, now they should get a clue on what’s harmful to them.

Yeah, smoking kills, and we hear about it constantly, and have heard about it for decades. But the asthma epidemic doesn’t get much press, the exploding mercury contamination is mostly ignored and having a world knee-deep in indestructible plastic doesn’t roll through the newsroom as something the public has got to know about.

But dammit, don’t smoke in my space!

Rumors are around that some Hollywood screenwriters are closely following the KCMO City Council’s progress in deciding when to put light rail, or streetcars (or Mayor Mark Funkhouser’s recall election) before the public for a vote and how and what level to tax people. “The material is priceless comedy,” said one writer who helped develop the Lost series.

Officially, Mayor Funkhouser is the only person left in metro Kansas City who believes a regional light rail system can be built — not counting his wife Gloria.

Comments comparing the proposed Bannister Mall redevelopment with Legends in western Wyandotte County in how a tax-free, developer friendly combined retail/sports center sinkhole can revitalizes an area have all but disappeared in light of the closing of restaurants and retail outlets at Legends. But still some south Kansas City residents persist in noting, “Hey, we went through that 20 years ago.”

Kansas City Manager Wayne Cauthen, having experienced an outpouring of support from neighborhood folks and the business community, is off to Austin to interview for a new job. Before leaving, Cauthen denounced suggestions he was a “faceless, heartless bureaucrat” but did offer to consult with community leaders in how to come out in support of Mayor Funkhouser in order to help him find a new job.

Chiefs General Manager Carl Peterson has vehemently denied he was a body-double in those gridiron commercials featuring the Burger King.

Dennis Kucinich encouraged his supporters in Iowa to support Barrack Obama in the caucuses. Some progressives were startled by Kucinich’s support considering John Edwards’ campaign railed against corporate influence in America, both economically and politically, and Edwards’ health care plan would lead to a single-payer system, unlike proposals from Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Obama’s campaign staff is sprinkled with corporate lobbyists and his health care plan has the support of the insurance industry. Of course, Kucinich seems blind to that and may be wanting to shake the perennial presidential candidate charge by seeking a position in an Obama administration. Nothing like a progressive going with a winner!

Meanwhile, the Dennis Kucinich/Ron Paul idea as an independent presidential ticket apparently has died under the suspicion that both congressmen argued over who was taller. Another short politician, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — with way more money than Kucinich or Paul — may step into the third-party circle, which, of course, would lead to a president again being elected with a minority of the popular vote, something Americans are getting use to.

So, as I spin my quarter, drink my beer, fondle my Winston’s, I realize the word “new” might be attached to the word “year,” but not to how this country — or this town — stumbles through history.

And I muse of the day when Klaatu (the robot from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still) returns and renders all our electronics useless once again — except for smoke detectors, of course.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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