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Category Archives: Commentary/Polls

Sunday blog: Living in Ark City, I can say I love the automated trash collection system

Commentary by James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — Arkansas City changed its trash collection to an automated system more than a year ago.

At the time I was as skeptical as anyone. For years I had taken my trash (after the wife reminded me three times) to the alley out back.  We usually just took plastic bags out there and hoped for the best. Sometimes a dog would get into it and make a mess, but usually it worked well.

James Jordan

Then they wanted us to take our trash to the street, and were even going to give us a big container to keep it in. I park on the street too, and that was my big objection.

But a year or so later, I’ll have to admit it is more convenient and parking on the street has never been an issue. Sometimes I park in front of the trash container, but that has never made a difference.

Having a big plastic container is also good. I’ve not had to pick up trash because a dog wanted a snack in a very long time.

Here is the rest of the story on those shameful attack Ads against Rep. Judd-Jenkins

Commentary by Larry Anderson, M.D. — Like many of you in the 80th District, our household just received the sixth glossy “attack ad” from the “Americans for Prosperity” group.  The first four and the sixth “attack ads” fault our Rep Anita Judd-Jenkins for voting to increase Kansas income tax rates but fails to admit that the income tax rates in 2018 will still be lower than what Kansans paid in the years from 1992-2012.  You may remember those 20 years as that time in Kansas history just prior to the “Brownback Experiment”.

A return to near previous income tax rates is essential if Kansas hopes to pull out of the downward financial spiral created by this “experiment”.  An “experiment/debacle” which led Standard and Poor’s to downgrade our Kansas credit rating in Aug 2014 and again in July 2016.

The Fitch Group and Moody’s also made similar downgrades due to what was seen as poor Kansas fiscal policy with inconsistent tax revenue, and especially worrisome was their finding that our elected KS officials were diverting appropriated funds, such as highway funds, and underfunding KPERS to supplement the state general fund balance.  More recently, during the waning days of our recent legislative session, Standard and Poor issued an “alert” as our legislators struggled to gather the bipartisan votes needed to override the Governor’s veto of a second budget.

Culture Cow: Finally… Taylor Swift releases her latest album

Happy Weekend! The whole world stopped turning, the lights went out, and the sirens rang out into the night… Taylor Swift finally dropped her new album, Reputation.  This album is her best to date and despite the frequent changes in style and producers, carries a singular narrative through every song.

Taylor shows her mastery of album structure and changes the listeners mood with a swift transition every song.  The unsung heroes of this album are undoubtedly the producers and co-writers.

Max Martin, Shellback, and Jack Antonoff made as much of this album as Queen T and I’ll commend them for their work track by track.  This album is ripe with double-entendres, hidden meanings, meta 4h  wall breaks, and so much more.  To help you navigate the subtle genius of Reputation, below there is a track by track breakdown of how Taylor Swift reasserted herself as the greatest pop artist on the planet.

Ready for it?

Sumner Newscow weekly poll: The Roy Moore question

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you believe Roy Moore should continue to run for U.S. Senate in Alabama?

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Editorial: Switching local elections to the fall did not increase voter turnout; but that’s not what it is about

Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow – The lie that is the moving of city/school elections from the spring to the fall to increase voter participation, was exposed Tuesday evening.

While voter participation across the state was a mixed bag, including slight increased turnout in Sedgwick County (see story here), voter turnout in counties such as Sumner experienced a voter drop-off from previous city/school elections.

Voter participation in city/local election
  Spring 2015 Fall 2017
Sumner County
Registered voters 13658 13930
Ballots Cast 3,330 2,518
% Voter turnout 24.18 18.08
Wellington
Registered voters 5249 5489
Ballots Cast 1476 1041
% Voter turnout 28.12 19.15

Tracy “Cueball” McCue

Both Sumner County and Wellington saw a significant drop-off from the city/school general election held in the spring of 2015 to the fall of 2017.  Sumner County fell from 24.18 to 18.08 percent, while Wellington alone fell from 28.12 to 19.15 percent

There are those who argue that the 2017 election did not contain as interesting races as there were in 2015. There were several races throughout Sumner County that didn’t have enough candidates for positions available. Wellington’s city election did not have a mayor’s race in 2017 as it did in 2015.

I would contend that is horse manure.

Sunday blog: Not being fit, leads to a find?

Commentary by Robert Escandon, Sumner Newscow — I remember a comedian telling a joke that could have applied to me.  His line was “I don’t feel any less fit, now I am older, than I did when I was a young man!”  Pause for comedic effect, followed by the punch line “Of course, I was very unfit when I was young!”  This could have been me as I was mostly disinterested in sports while at school, mostly because I was not one of those heavily motor coordinated types.  I was more the academic nerd.

Robert Escandon

A few times in my life, I have attempted to achieve some suggestion of fitness but have never kept it up.  Endorphins never found me and I never found them either.  One evening this week I gave myself a pep-talk to the effect that “You can jog one mile if you go at an easy pace!”  With tee shirt, shorts and sneakers I set off to accomplish this goal figuring that a jog is little more than a fast walk.

At least, that was the personal argument I employed.  Since I am unfit and 68 years old it took only a few hundred yards before my decrepitude became apparent and I turned the first corner already wheezing like an old steam engine.

Culture Cow: Now on ‘Thor’sdays… let’s talk Thor, Maroon 5, Sam Smith and more Stranger Things

Commentary by Devin McCue, Sumner Newscow — Welcome to Thursday, the new home of your weekly dose of pop culture goodness courtesy of your favorite Cow on the web.  Monday’s are overrated anyway, Thursday’s are clearly more sensible for deciding what will consume your life over the weekend.  Enjoy!

Before we delve into the slimy underbelly of the American movie and music scene, I’ll ask you to look all the way back to an article from June 28 (click here) where I wrote that Thor Ragnarok would shake away the chains of conventional movies and be the most “comic-booky” comic book movie ever.  I can now conclude that it was 100 percent accurate.

The new Thor movie is one of the closest adaptions of the style of the comic it’s based on.  Each scene is brightly colorful, the dialogue is overly-dramatic and absurd, and best of all, it’s extremely self-aware.  The first line in Ragnarok is as close to breaking the fourth wall as possible and after seeing the success of Deadpool it’s a theme the movie sticks with. 

Sumner Newscow weekly poll: The ‘Did you vote in Tuesday’s election?’ question

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you vote in Tuesday's city/school elections?

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If you didn't vote in Tuesday's election, what best describes your feelings below

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Sunday Blog: Halloween parades, New Orleans Uber drivers and election questionnaires

Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — Sometimes you have to rant…

Last week, I had the privilege to cover a wonderful event called the “Not So Scary Halloween Parade” sponsored by downtown merchants and Wellington Chamber officials like Shawnna Gore and Annarose White at Memorial Auditorium. I hope it becomes a tradition. There were kids games and a costume contest. I had the privilege of taking pictures for the event and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

The new event was a departure from the downtown Halloween trick-or-treat down the street the past couple of years in what was a candy grab for anyone with two legs. Merchants were paying up to $900 in treats.

However, I didn’t realize the new event was a total disaster until I got home and read comments from a few social media warriors on Facebook.

One person had the audacity to say business owners should just allocate $500 in their annual budgets for candy as if it was part of their utility bill or rent.

Special Culture Cow Sunday Edition: Run, don’t walk, to view Stranger Things 2

Commentary by Devin McCue, Sumner Newscow — Stranger Things is back and there’s only one thing to do…binge the whole thing and ruin the rest of the year for yourself as you wait for season 3.

Stranger Things caught like wild fire last year and quickly asserted itself as one of the preeminent Netflix originals.  The science fiction-mystery drama cast in the wondrous decade that was the 1980’s is nothing short of spectacular and will surely reward its creators, the Duffer Brothers, with a heap of awards.

If you had the discipline to resist binging season 2 congratulations, you are a stronger person than I, but you will also want to avoid the tail end of this article because it’s racked with spoilers.  This special-edition of Culture Cow will be broken up into a beginning analysis of everything the breakout Netlfix hit does well without any spoilers followed by a review for those of us who decried sleep is for the week and have already finished all 9 episodes.

There will be a clearly marked point where the spoilers start so no peeking if you haven’t seen the whole season yet.  If you need a refresher on last season here’s Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) rapping a recap on Jimmy Fallon:

Sumner Newscow weekly poll: The ghosts question

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you believe in ghosts and paranormal activity?

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Sunday Blog: Maybe you need to think of the costs involved

Commentary by Robert Escandon, Sumner Newscow — If you’ve read my previous columns you will know I spent some years working for a company that got involved in nuclear engineering repair work.  The jobs were always interesting and fraught with difficulties that would not be encountered in regular engineering work.  Many of the jobs involved inspection of the internals of working reactors as part of their regular  maintenance procedures.

Robert Escandon

Any normal cameras that entered the environment of a working reactor, wouldn’t last very long due to the effects of high intensity radiation on the hardware.  The glass lenses would soon turn opaque and electrical insulation around wires would become brittle and fall off.  As a result, any inspection camera used in a nuclear environment would have to use quartz glass lenses and radiation-hardened insulation around the wiring.

Even metals were not immune from the affects of high intensity radiation and only the very best quality stainless steel would used where the radiation intensity was highest.  What made things especially difficult was the nature of the radiation. 

Sumner Newscow weekly poll: The Trump vs. Wife of Fallen Soldier question

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your opinion of the Trump vs. widow of a Fallen Soldier controversy?

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Culture Cow: Kansas and even, Wellington, gets a shoutout in the new series Mindhunter on Netflix

Happy Monday. Do you like well researched period-dramas with good production value?  Do you like complex characters and interesting subplots?  Are you from Kansas?  If you answered yes to any of the previous questions then you need to watch Mindhunter on Netflix.  Mindhunter takes place in the late 70s and follows a FBI hostage negotiation instructor as he travels around the country to learn the interworking’s of the mind of a serial killer. 

While that sounds like the premise of a serial drama on USA Network or TNT, what makes this show special is its attention to detail and rejection of the basic crime-investigate-solve-reset for next week’s episode, show model.  Mindhunter plays like a biopic following the discovery and evolution of the practice of criminal psychology in a time where no one thought it was useful or even credible.  You might be asking yourself “okay, but where does Kansas fit into in all this?”

First off, great question.  Second off, Kansas is a frequent setting in the show, which is surprising for any Hollywood production.  Additionally, almost every episode is preceded by a clip of a mysterious man with a moustache that lives in Park City who seems to have sinister intents in a show that revolves around real life serial killers… (Side note: Wellington gets a direct shoutout in episode 4!)

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Patton Oswald is back in his latest hour-long standup special for Netflix tilted Annihilation.  Oswald starts off the routine with his trademark blend of nerdy jokes, political satire, and outlandish, yet intelligently told stories.  The tone turns noticeably darker halfway through the performance, however, when he starts talking about the recent loss of his life.  Patton has battled depression throughout his career, a fact he’s talked about in each of his specials, but it feels especially poignant in the shadow of such a traumatic event.

One of Oswald’s best attributes as a comedian is his ability to transform the darkest subject material and spin it into a hilarious story.  Annihilation is easily Patton’s darkest special, but understandably so.  In spite of it all, Oswald still proves he’s one of the sharpest minds in comedy and at the height of his career.

Sunday blog: Education has never been more important than it is now

Commentary by Robert Escandon, Sumner Newscow — Recently, I was waiting at a supermarket checkout with two elderly ladies in front of me.  They were having a conversation and they finally got around to the time honored subject concerning “the youth of today” not being as “hard-working or dedicated as they were in ‘their’ day.”

Robert Escandon

We’ve all heard these types of comments, which are invariably uttered by those who want to feel good about their departed youth.  Those comments are unassailable too, because there is nobody around to argue against them.

It was difficult to keep quiet. I felt like saying “You have no idea of the rise in educational standards over the past few decades.  Today’s students have much more exposure to demanding curricula than ever beset my generation.”

Educational expectations get higher and higher, and they need to do so!  Future jobs will involve more and more contact with computers and with the growing dominance of networked artificial intelligence systems.

Sumner Newscow weekly poll: The Justin Bieber marrying my daughter question

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you had a college-aged daughter who came home with Justin Bieber and said she was going to marry him, what would you say?

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Sunday blog: My early life in a diverse society

by Robert Escandon, Sumner Newscow — I was born in 1949 and lived, until age 16, in a district of West London called Southall.  During the Second World War, Britain had given away passports to people from the (then) colonies who wanted to take arms and fight.  After the war, Britain needed lots of manpower to rebuild the country plus there were many people who now carried British Passports.  The end result was an incredible flood of immigration.  Mainly, these were from India plus some from Jamaica and the Caribbean.  There were a “goodly” number of Irish laborers too.

Robert Escandon

Immigrants did what immigrants have always done, and settled in specific areas of the major industrial cities where work was plentiful.  They soon brought over their families and joined the post-war baby boom.  Almost overnight, my home town became densely populated with Indian immigrants.  There were zero attempts, by governments of that time, to spread the immigrants geographically, which would have encouraged at least some blending with British culture.  Instead newcomers flocked to where their relatives already lived so they would feel comfortable, be supported by a familiar culture and where people spoke their native language.

The immigrants worked hard, prospered and soon became the dominant local culture.  This continues to this day.  To walk through my old home-town is to walk through a facsimile of any large city in India.

Escandon’s old home-town in Britain looks more like one in India.

Going to school was an interesting experience.  Half the classrooms were given over to teaching English to the children of newly arrived immigrants.

Sumner Newscow weekly poll: The Wellington school upswing question

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think the Wellington school system is on an upswing?

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Culture Cow: The first Oldies, but Goodies!

by Devin McCue, Sumner Newscow — Happy Monday. A slow week in pop culture and the fact that I’m on vacation this week means I’m going to be doing something a little different with this week’s Culture Cow.  Let me present you the Oldies, but Goodies edition.

I’m going to take a look at some of the best albums/movies/books/TV shows in no particular order.  If you need your fix for new music however, check out some great new singles from Sam Smith, Maroon 5, Pink, and Ty Dolla $ign.  With that out of the way, let’s get started because, much like rain at an amusement park, you didn’t ask for it, but here it is so try and enjoy yourself.

The first relative oldie I want to shout out is Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper.  It was the young hip hop phenom’s first major project similar to his Coloring Book, every single song is a banger.  You’ll have to check it out on Soundcloud or YouTube, but it’s definitely worth the search.  A surprising bonus to this mixtape is the list of features.  Every artist featured on the project went on to be rising stars in the culture. 

The list includes Childish Gambino, Action Bronson, Ab-Soul, NoName, Vic Mensa, BJ the Chicago Kid, and a couple more fire contributions.  The mixtape stays upbeat most of the time with pumped-up hits like NaNa, Favorite Song, and Juice, but is balanced with Chance’s woke songs like Cocoa Butter Kisses and Everything’s Good.  Acid Rap is one of the best mixtapes ever and if you think I was just waiting for an excuse to write about it… you’d be right.

Next, let’s venture all the way back to the land of VHS tapes for one of the best animated films of all time, Anastasia.  Recently made into an excellent Broadway play (I was in NYC a few nights ago), Anastasia follows the story of the Communist Revolution in Russia in the early 1900s.  When the Bolsheviks rose up and overthrew the aristocratic government, the rounded up the royal family and executed them, but there was a legend that the youngest daughter, Anastasia, escaped and was rumored to still be alive somewhere. 

Two con-men decided to hire an actress to play the part of the lost princess and deliver her to her grandma in France for the reward money.  Once they (and the Bolsheviks) find out they might have the real princess, a fantastic adventure of Disney proportions breaks out.  One of the best and most underrated of Disney’s princesses, Anastasia is a great choice to break the monotony of whatever your kids are currently watching on a loop or for nostalgic millennials.

Sunday blog: The epidemic that is dyslexia

Commentary by Robert Escandon, Sumner Newscow — I am in the “tail-end” of a long working life, roughly two thirds of which has been spent in Engineering and one third teaching math.  Over the years I have developed an interest in dyslexia as a result of observing adults (in the business field) and students (at school) who lack ability to write even simple sentences.  Sometimes I would see text that was so glaringly wrong, that I’d ask myself how it was even possible that the writer couldn’t see such obvious errors.

Robert Escandon

Those same people usually, but not always, had difficulty reading too.  I’ve sat in classrooms many times during periods of “silent, sustained reading,” and watched some students utterly frustrated and terrified that someone will call them out to read in public.  As the students got older, they would “play the game” and sit with a book open at a page but make no attempt to actually read it.

My interest was piqued following a lecture and presentation by a specialist in dyslexia.  It is not just a problem of misspelling or writing letters backwards, it is a far deeper neurologically based condition.  It would appear that a special region of the brain undertakes the task of analyzing phonemes into syllables.  A typical example would be the word “that” which has to be separated into three separate sounds.  Or, consider the three phonemes in “bat,” where each linguistically distinct sound maps to a single letter.  Visual perception can also be a problem. 

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